As Woolston is regenerated from a forgotten backwater, passed without a second thought by drivers taking the Itchen Bridge which was opened back in 1977, I hope it will remember its fascinating history. As I research Woolston, this little suburb of Southampton, the more fascinating the history becomes in my mind.
I’m not old enough to remember the first flight of the Spitfire, like my father, or the famous Schneider Trophy winners taking off from Woolston and practicing off Calshot along Southampton Water watched by my grandfather and great grandmother, but I do remember the hovercraft. In fact the last flight out of Woolston, from the River Itchen was neither a flying boat nor a sea plane, but a hovercraft.
There was a regular hovercraft service from Woolston to Cowes in the Isle of Wight which began in 1962, with its terminal just over the Floating Bridge linking Portsmouth Road Woolston with Southampton before the Itchen Bridge was built, but there is still a hovercraft service from Southsea, Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight today.
The fact which most excited me recently was finding out that there is a company who works in the development of hovercrafts still thriving in Woolston called Griffon Hoverwork Ltd, based at Hazel Road close to the site of the original Supermarine Works.
If you would like to know more about this strange mode of transport with a skirt where you fly on water, it’s worth visiting the only Hovercraft Museum in the world only along the coast towards Portsmouth at Lee on Solent. Amongst more serious craft you will see the hovercrafts used by James Bond in ‘Die another Day’ in 2002.