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Southampton's Shift from Making to Moving through the story of one site

Pop-up museum launching in April 2018

A team of Southampton volunteers are busily researching Southampton’s shift from ‘making’ to ‘moving’ through the changing uses of the former Ford site in Swaythling. The community history project entitled Transition: from fields to Ford and beyond launched in March 2017 with a £70k grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Southampton's Shift from Making to Moving through the story of one site

Since 1939, the 44-acre industrial site has seen production of aircraft parts, motor parts and the iconic Ford transit van. As production grew the site became gridlocked by rail, road and airport, and The Ford Assembly Plant closed for good in 2013. The site was taken over by Mountpark and is now reopening as a state-of-the-art logistics park, home to businesses attracted by Southampton’s excellent land, sea and air connections.

The evolving story of the site will be shared through a pop-up museum, launching in Swaythling in April 2018. An accompanying website for schools will use the site’s transformations as a case-study to explore the challenges of technological change in post-war Britain.

Since the project’s launch more than 200 people have taken part in project activities. Over the summer holidays 150 Mansbridge residents enjoyed coach trips to Milestones Museum, the Watercress Line and The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, learning about Southampton’s rich transport manufacturing heritage. A dedicated team of volunteers have led workshops and memory sharing sessions in the Round About community café, sheltered housing schemes and Mansbridge Primary School. More than a dozen people have shared their memories of working at Ford, Briggs Motor Parts or Cunliffe Owen Aircraft, which manufactured spitfire parts at the site during the Second World War. The factory was fatally bombed in 1940 with the loss of 52 lives.

In October, Ford women workers shared their stories in a talk at Mettricks café as part of Southampton's So To Speak festival. Machinists at Ford Dagenham won equal pay, but in Southampton women won the respect of the men they joined on the factory floor.

Now Heritage are working alongside Radian Housing Association, Cosmic Carrot production company and the oral historian Padmini Broomfield in delivering this project. Activities are rooted in the heart of the Swaythling community.

We hope that by involving the whole community of Swaythling in discovering, exploring and sharing the story of the area’s extraordinary industrial heritage we will not only inspire well-deserved local pride, but we will also succeed in raising the national profile of Swaythling, highlighting its significant status in the cultural landscape of the city and its contribution to the industrial heritage of Britain.

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