Bargate shopping centre was one of the main shopping centres in Southampton for years along with The Marlands, until West Quay took over and inevitably the smaller shopping centres suffered. The shops in Bargate were actually pretty good and seemed to all be aimed at a younger market, you could buy such ridiculous stuff in there you wouldn’t believe, mainly from the bondage shop on the ground floor and the legal high shop/tattoo shop next to it haha. It has been closed down for about the last three years with rumours of developers making a start on a multi million pound re-vamp next year in 2017 and fill it with shops again (can’t see it happening). It was originally built in1989 and was unique at the time for having a Sega park on the ground floor, internet cafe, fish therapy salons and bowling alleys! Living here all my life I remember going there loads as a kid, and have loads of memories of the place when it was fully open and busy with shoppers, trouble making kids and the odd drunk stumbling out of the comedy club!
I have been looking at this place since it closed and never really made a great effort to gain access until recently. I had a look at the access areas about two weeks prior to the explore and was met by a grizzly looking security guard and his faithful hound, I wasn’t going to argue so left pretty sharpish. After leaving it a couple of weeks for the recent media attention to die down from a recent video in the Southampton news of a local lad going inside, myself and another 28DL member tried again one early morning. To our surprise and delight there was no sign of any scary man with a dog and no attention from any official looking people, just a homeless guy asleep on the stairs. We struggled to get in for a while and we were about to give up, both a bit disappointed we were so close to getting in but couldn’t make the awkward climb to get in.
Just as we thought about giving up with trying to get in we saw our access, it was staring us in the face right from the start. Once in we then found ourselves in the staff quarters with an alarm beeping and empty rifle cartridges, shotgun shells and grenade and tear gas canisters scattered around! Many of the doors throughout the place had been blown open with door explosives, which made exploring the place considerably easier. Apparently the military had used the place as some sort of urban warfare training ground at one point. Excited and a bit freaked out we then worked our way down through the massive creepy complex. I was absolutely amazed at the amount of stuff left in the staff areas with items such as old school Mac PCs, paperwork and cheque books everywhere as well as safes smashed to pieces and thousands of keys for just about every door in the whole place, all conveniently labelled. It was like the staff couldn’t have got out of the place quick enough and didn’t even bother taking much at all, there was personal stuff everywhere and was one of the oddest things I have ever experienced.
A week later myself, another 28DL member and a non member returned to explore what we thought was the last few remaining shops only to find a massive system of basement tunnels and more levels in the staff quarters containing the security centre, which was incredible. Unfortunately there are no pictures of this due to not having the camera on me on the second visit.