HOME PAGE of The Book Shop in Lee-on-the-Solent
Hive HOME PAGE of The Book Shop in Lee-on-the-Solent

Local Information

A turn of the century postcard of Pier Street. Both buildings are still standing.

A turn of the century postcard of Pier Street.
Both buildings are still standing.

The town of Lee-on-the-Solent is on the south coast of Hampshire, almost directly across the Solent from Cowes, on the Isle of Wight. Since 1928, Lee has been part of the Borough of Gosport.

Before Lee-on-the-Solent came into being, the area was called Ly, Le Breton, or Lee Brittain. Indeed, the oldest building in Lee-on-the-Solent is called Le Breton Farm, and dates from the fourteenth century. Although it is now a private home, further along the ancient track leading north from the coast (now Pier Street and Manor Way) is another ancient farm house, now a pub called The Bun Penny, named after a well known coin of 1860-1894 depicting the head of Queen Victoria.

A view of Pier Street
Pier Street
Lee-on-the-Solent, as a town, was really the vision of one man, Charles Edmund Newton Robinson, who persuaded his father (Sir John Charles Robinson, director of the Victoria & Albert Museum) to create a limited company to buy up largely unused land for the development of a resort, in 1884. The Marine Parade was constructed first, followed by the construction (1885-1888) of a 750ft long Pier, with regular steamer service to Southsea. The (still standing) terrace of shops and balconied apartments on the east side of Pier Street was part of that development. In 1894, a railway connection was built, the terminus of which still stands, now used as an amusement arcade. (Rail service was discontinued in the 1930s.)

In 1905 the Lee-on-the-Solent Golf Club was formed at a meeting at the Victoria Hotel (now the Bun Penny), the Lee-on-the-Solent Sailing Club in 1908, and the Lee-on-the-Solent Tennis Club followed in 1911. 1918 saw the opening of RAF Lee-on-the-Solent, which was later greatly expanded to become, in 1938, HMS Daedalus. It became HMS Ariel 1959-1965 and later, again, HMS Daedalus. It is now closed, and the future use of the site is uncertain.

Looking down the Hight Street
High Street
The 1930s were a decade of great change for Lee-on-the-Solent, as evidenced by the Art Deco block of flats and shops still standing on the Marine Parade and the row of Art Deco houses on Milvil Road, one of which has been charmingly restored as a stylish B&B. 1935 saw the construction of the Lee Tower complex, a local and regional landmark with a cinema, a ballroom, a restaurant, lounge, and saloon bar - all topped by a striking white tower and clock, with a 120 ft high observation deck, described by Nikolas Pevsner's architectural guide to Hampshire as "a good piece of second-rate inter-war modernism of the slightly jazzy sort, constructed of concrete when concrete seemed very up-to-date". He descibed the white tower as looking "rather like an elongated cigarette lighter". The tower complex was comandeered by the military during WWII. An attempt to revive its sagging fortunes was made in 1964, when the interior was reconfigured (the cinema was turned into a bowling alley). In 1971, the decision was made to demolish the complex. The Pier, too, had a long period of decline. In 1932 a fire destroyed the popular pavilion at the far end of the pier, which was never rebuilt. In 1939, like so many other British piers, it was "breached" by the military in the interest of coastal defense. At war's end, alas, the damage was never repaired and the remaining pier structure was demolished in 1958.

Recent developments in Lee-on-the-Solent have seen the withering of the remaining tourist infrastructure (the last of the large hotels has now closed, although there are still many fine Guest Houses and B&Bs), the construction of many retirement flats and, more recently, the development of hundreds of new family homes in the Cherque Farm area of east Lee. Although its days as a "resort" may be past, Lee-on-the-Solent continues to attract hundreds of visitors drawn by the pleasant High Street, seaside location, and leisure opportunities.



Gosport Tourist Office

Lee-on-the-Solent Library


The Book Shop

The Book Shop
142 High Street
PO13 9DD
(023) 9255 6592

See map

21 October 2018
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