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Oxford Street Southampton, old home of Martins Rubber

Oxford Street Southampton, old home of Martins Rubber

During our long history, Martins Rubber have always been within a few hundred yards of the same spot in Southampton, and it was a great pleasure to be invited to walk around our previous premises in Oxford Street recently. This was a walk literally down memory lane for Pauline Hooper, our Chairman, and Joe Kijanski our longest serving employee, who both have very strong memories of working in 11 & 12 Oxford Street during the early 1950’s. Prior to joining Martin’s in the early ’50’s, Pauline remembers as a young girl standing on the balcony of 11 Oxford Street to see the King & Queen returning from the royal tour of Canada in 1939, waving to the crowds while driving back up Oxford Street in an open top limousine on the way to take the Royal Train back to London. Moving from room to room in 11 Oxford Street on our visit, she recalled the layout, the narrow stairs and the first floor front room where her father and mother worked from their desks administering the business. She also recalled that every nook & cranny of the building was filled with rubber hose, rolls of rubber sheeting, gasket materials, and many strange fittings and fixtures. Likewise, Joe recalled being interviewed by Bert Campbell for a job with Martin’s in 1950, although Joe was already working for a business a few doors up the street as a dental technician. Bert persuaded Joe to join the company as he could see the value of the engineering skills that Joe had, and installed him in the basement that would become his workshop. Joe insisted that the untidy room was cleared of offcuts & stock to give him room to work, and he wanted it painted to brighten it up. Bert duly arrived later that week to paint the workshop as agreed, but Joe was somewhat alarmed to see that he had come armed with his pump up garden weed sprayer filled with whitewash in an attempt to do the job more easily! Sure enough, Bert got more paint on himself than he did on the walls, and after losing his temper with the equipment, retreated upstairs to clean himself up while Joe and his colleague Eddie Rideout finished the job properly with paint brushes – this was an early introduction for Joe on the foibles of working with Bert; innovative ideas but not always thought through…. It was fascinating for me to hear these and other stories and experience the building for myself with so many of the original features still in place, and we re-enacted as nearly as we could the one picture we have of Martins Rubber in 11 & 12 Oxford Street Southampton, re-taken with myself, Pauline Hooper and Joe Kijanski on the steps of Number 11. You can see the original 1950’s picture of Bert and Nita Campbell outside the same building here on our History page. We are most grateful to the current owner of the property, Dan Hope, for giving us the guided tour, and the chance to reminisce and learn more about the long history of Martins Rubber. Dan was himself most interested to hear about our experiences in number 11, and although it is once again a private residence, its part in the history of our company will be long remembered.

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