Some unexpected guests in Marlands

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23 August 2016

Eventually I managed to drag CJ away from the slot machines and we headed for the Marlands. In medieval times this area, including the land the Civic Centre stands on, was the site of the Magdalene Hospital for Lepers and the fields around it were called Magdalene’s Fields. The name Marlands is a derivative of this and has lived on to this day, although many people don’t realise its origin. These days it’s difficult to imagine a leper hospital just outside the town walls but, back then, lepers begging outside the Bargate must have been a common sight. 

“When I was young this used to be the entrance to the bus station,” I told CJ as we crossed the road. “In fact I had my first Saturday job there, in a cafe. I was actually only thirteen but I lied about my age and they never checked. It was hard work, on my feet all day, and sometimes I could hardly walk to the bus stop at the end.”

The bus station entrance
The bus station entrance

CJ found it hard to even imagine what a bus station must be like. There hasn’t been one in the city since 1987 when it was closed and demolished before the Marlands Shopping centre was built. The bus station was opened in January 1933 by Sir Reginald Ford. Back then the road was much wider and the rose garden stood in the centre. When the Marlands Shopping Centre was built, the rose garden was eaten up and the fountain that had pride of place in the middle was moved to the front of the art gallery where it still stands.

This was the row of shops where I worked
This was the row of shops where I worked

We entered through the doors on Portland Terrace and straight away came face to face with our next zebra. We’d found The Trojan Zebra, painted by Simon Chadwick and sponsored by Oxygen Freejumping. He is modelled on the wooden horse of Troy and his stripes are like windows looking inside. Rather than being filled with soldiers though, he’s filled with lions doing all sorts of fantastical things. We spent rather a long time looking at them and laughing at their antics.

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When it opened, in 1991, the shopping centre was the largest in the city. These days, of course, it’s dwarfed by WestQuay. Where the latter is always packed and busy with huge mainstream stores, Marlands is quieter and filled with smaller, more interesting shops, much more my kind of place. Right now, it’s packed to the rafters with zebras big and small and it wasn’t long before we found some more. A quartet of baby zebras were lined up at the bottom of the escalator under the big mirrors that I hate going past.

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There was Zena the Zebra, painted by the children of George Abbot School in a pretty pink with a flower power theme.

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Next to her was Hope, inspired by the flags of the countries where Grevy’s zebras live with hand prints of all the children of Rosewood Free School to show they want to lend a hand to save the zebras.

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Berry wood Primary School’s zebra Sunshine and Showers came next. The children used their finger prints to capture the changing seasons with rain drops,  flowers and even lightning bolts.

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Finally there was Patterns of the Plains, painted by the children of The Henry Beaufort School. He’s a riot of colour with batik style prints and interesting patterns inspired by Africa.

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The escalator zebras distracted us slightly and we found ourselves going upstairs even though we knew the majority of the zebras would be downstairs where the Zany Zebras headquarters was. The first thing we saw at the top of the stairs were two baby zebras in the window of Rockbottom Toy Store.

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Once this was a favourite shop for my boys to spend their pocket money. CJ still looked as if he’d like a wander round. The zebra painted by Testwood Sports College is bright yellow, as you’d expect with a name like Daffodill. Her plinth seems to be growing her namesake flowers too. Beside her, in dark blue contrast, was Starblast, painted by The Crescent Primary School with a galaxy of stars. Sadly, the glass didn’t make for good photos and it was almost impossible to get a good view from inside the shop.

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Actually going upstairs turned out to be a very good thing because we stumbled upon some unexpected guests. The first was Skittles, sponsored by Foreman Homes and painted beautifully by Sophie Green.

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Skittles was the zebra who was supposed to be standing by the bandstand in Palmerston Park. On the night Ticket To Ride was stolen, poor Skittles was also ripped from his plinth and dumped in some bushes. Thankfully, he didn’t look too much the worse for his ordeal and was looking very happy in his new home in the Marlands.

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He’s painted to look like a fairground horse using the colours of the flags of Ethiopia and Kenya where the Grevy’s zebras originate. Seeing him was a pleasant surprise.

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Close by we found Zebraversity, another unexpected guest. This was the zebra missing from the Queen’s Peace Fountain in East Park, sponsored by University of Southampton, he was painted by Smock and Ballpoint with all of the endangered species in Britain. He’s lovely and I’m glad to see him unharmed, but it’s sad to see so many creatures in danger of extinction on our own little island.

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In the Market Gallery we knew there were baby zebras. The app told me there should be three. We spotted the first, stRIPes, right away. He was staying by the till with his snazzy red and yellow stripeed coat. The leaves on his back represent the tree based class names at Romsey Primary School, where he was painted.

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Nearby we found Mr Small, painted by the children of Sinclair Primary and Nursery School. He’s actually named after a teacher at the school and he’s a multi media zebra with painted hand prints, chalk, glue and even ribbons.

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Number three was not quite so simple. CJ and I split up to search the shop. This was not a good thing for me as it’s the kind of place I could spend a fortune, filled with crafty stuff to tempt me. When we’d scoured every corner of the shop and come up empty handed we ended up back at the till.
“Maybe he’s another one like Zinger, the one we found in East Street when the app thought he was in the library?” I said.
We were just about to leave the shop when I spotted him. He was by the till like the other two baby zebras but a little further back and so well camouflaged amongst all the shelves of colourful stock we’d completely missed him. Actually, he was a she. Her name is Alice and she was painted by the Yellow Dot Nursery in Fair Oak. The splashes, splatters and stripes were the handiwork of all the children.

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The next two zebras we found were in My Pottery, a shop that has long interested me because you can paint your own pots, cups and ornaments and get them glazed and fired in the shop. Snap Shot is covered in photos of the children of Sticky Fingers Pre School. What a lovely idea.

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Beside Snap Shot was Savannah, painted by youth group Eastleigh Young Carers. She’s a zebra of two sides. From outside the window we saw a sunset scene, from inside she was moonlit. Both sides were beautifully painted and we even managed to get out of the shop again without buying or painting anything, although it was touch and go.

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The next zebra was in a very tempting location too, standing in the doorway of Stakks Pancake House.  We zipped in and out as fast as we could, snapping a picture of Children of the World, Banister Primary School’s baby zebra and avoiding the pancakes. The school is a very multicultural one, with staff and children from forty one different countries and Children of the World shows this with her colourful flags.

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As we hurried away from the tempting smell of pancakes we stumbled upon Splash, a veritable Jackson Pollock of a baby zebra painted by the children of Fairfield Infant School using fluorescent paints.

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Splash was the last upstairs zebra and he led us nicely to Costa for a little coffee break to gather our thoughts before the zebra fest ahead of us downstairs. Well you knew we’d end up there didn’t you?

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Published by

Marie

Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

8 thoughts on “Some unexpected guests in Marlands”

  1. I cannot believe they have done so many zebras large and baby! How many in all? But what a wonderful idea – I can’t see our town doing such a big thing although they did have a go at reminding people we had a little zoo at one time. Children made clay drawings and they have been set in the pavements near where it used to be. There are some chainsaw animals as well from trees that needed chopping, we keep having to remind people that there was a zoo but much better gone. Now only pictures and sculptures to remind us of the bad old days.

    1. There are 198 zebras in total, more than the rhinos last time. It’s been wonderful fun finding them all and seeing the looks on the children’s faces as they find them too.

    1. Every time I look at them I end up with another favourite. So much work has gone into all of them. I was very taken with all the lions on The Trojan Zebra, I could have spent all day looking at them.

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