The University of Southampton’s Highfield Campus holds many hidden and obscure places which, in some cases, have grown to mythical status amongst the few students who are aware of them. This article looks to shed light on some of the known and alleged obscure places at the university’s main campus.
Hartley Library to Union Building tunnel:
A popular rumour among some students is the existence of a tunnel between Hartley Library and Building 42. The entrance to the tunnel in the Union building is said to be near Surge Radio’s headquarters. An embellishment of this rumour is that the tunnel was constructed for some purpose during the Second World War. It’s even been claimed that a former Student Union President stumbled upon it in recent times in a less than sober state.
However, when contacting the university for info and possible access, the existence of a tunnel was flatly denied. Although, they did say that there are service ducts which run from the Union Building to Hartley, so perhaps the ex-Student Union President did wander through a link to Hartley Library.
In my investigations into the possible existence of the tunnel to Hartley, I did receive a tip-off and gained access to the undercroft beneath the Cube in the Union Building thanks to the Student Union.
Hidden beneath an innocuous metal grid hatch, a less than hospitable ladder awaits anyone seeking to reach the undercroft a couple of metres below the Cube floor. Having cleared the ladder and passed underneath a large connecting pipe of some sort, the undercroft then opens up into four aisles.
Over the years, it’s become the storage place for innumerable documents and material related to the Student Union and its activities. These include a pamphlet related to drug advice and old editions of Wessex Scene and the then-pullout section, The Edge, before it left the mothership. One document I came across dated back to 1969, whereas the most recent was a copy of a Wessex Scene magazine from 2015. However, due to the stifling air down in the undercroft, my glance into items held there was very brief, so perhaps there are documents dating back further.
In our appeal on Snapchat for students’ own favourite obscure places at university, the Valley Gardens were a popular recommendation. Located behind the Union building and the old gym, it’s a lovely spot to take a breather from studies or indeed, study outside on campus. The Department of Biology began running the gardens in the 1960s and over the years, it’s accumulated a number of rare plant species. VP Welfare, Sam Higman, picked it out as her favourite hidden place on Highfield Campus, describing it as ‘a lovely place to destress’.
One respondent to our Snapchat appeal picked out a corridor that exists between the Union building and Stags as an obscure place on campus, asserting they’d only discovered its existence after they’d graduated. Considering I wasn’t aware of its existence until researching for this article, perhaps he’s right – not enough people know about it!
Considering Highfield Campus’ history as an educational establishment for over 100 years, it’s no surprise that there are odd doors and rooms hidden within the university.
Overall, the Snapchat responses we received and the personal research I undertook shows Highfield Campus’ nooks and crannies to be multifold, and they have captured the imagination of some students. One can only wonder what hidden rooms and places may lurk at Southampton University’s other campuses…