Southampton Walk – 31.08.2013

On this fine last August day, I decided to explore the port of Southampton. In the past this was regarded as a “Fashionable Resort” by the likes of Jane Austen and George III, when it was a popular seaside town. This was when a mineral spring was discovered nearby and people flocked to “take the waters” for its healing properties! Southampton is not known for its seaside, more for the docks full of grandiose Cruise Liners, which I was hoping to catch sight of! As I started out, I was struck by a huge art deco tower that soared into the bright blue sky. This large concrete clock tower forms part of a 1930’s art deco building, which originally formed part of the Magistrates Court. The building is no longer the court but Southampton’s “Seacity Museum”. The Museum opened on 10th April 2012 to mark the launch of the Titanic from Southampton. I turned away from the museum and started to walk towards the busy centre.

Just beyond the large shopping Arcade I spotted what seemed to be some ancient stone buildings. I strolled across to investigate what I had found, these were the “Southampton Walls”. Edward III, commanded these walls to be built, mostly out of anger when he felt that the townspeople had let the French plunder the town, stealing his wine and goods. Stones for the walls were brought across from the Isle of Wight to construct the walls, it took many years for them to be complete. The first tower that I came across was the last tower that was added, this was the “Catchold Tower”. It was built in C15th when it was used for a gun placement for defence purposes. I am still not sure why the the tower has earned such a name, but my first thought it was probably where you could “Catch a Cold” LOL. Just beyond Catchcold there was the opportunity to climb the inside of another of the “Towers”.

From 2013 – 31.08.2013 – Southampton Walk

Once I had ascended the spiral staircase, I was treated to a lovely view across to Southampton dock and a glimpse to one of those Cruise Liners I mentioned earlier 🙂 I had just climbed the “Arundel Tower”, which has 2 ways it could have earned it’s name. One being after Sir John Arundel, a Knight and Keeper of Southampton during the C14th, the other being a much more interesting tale… that of a magical horse! Sir Bevois one of the founders of Southampton had a horse which supposedly could fly and was so fast could out fly Swallows, his name was “Arundel”. The sad tale of this horse says that when Sir Bevois passed on Arundel leapt off this tower hence its name 😦 . From the tower the walk took me across a brand new bridge which was to take me into Southampton’s Market area. I began to wander through the stalls, when a very large building loomed in front of me! My first thought was “What is a Castle doing in the middle of this high street??!”, this is was Southampton’s “Bargate”.

This magnificent structure acts as a gateway so you are able to walk right underneath it! Originally this huge building was a single entity in C12th when it was one of the entrances to the Medieval town. Over time it has been altered and extended, the first floor of the building has been used for the Guildhall. During the WWII, when enemy air raids destroyed so much of Southampton, local men and women serving their country far and wide would write home asking “Are you all safe?”, often followed by “Does the Bargate still stand?” It is reported to be the finest Gateway in England 🙂 . Walking behind this immense building I could see how visitors to the town in years gone by would have been impressed by these gates. Gunners would have kept watch here to ensure that the town was defended in the event of an attack. A warning watch bell still exists in the building and which has the inscription “In God Is My Hope” 1605.

From 2013 – 31.08.2013 – Southampton Walk

I continued on away from the Bargate and on along Southampton’s High Street. Along the way, I spotted an abandoned building had been decorated with details about the “QE2”, the Cruise Liner. This luxurious ship was built in 1964 and was launched in 1967 by Queen Elizabeth II. Over the years it sailed from Southampton, even having her own cruise terminal! The ship achieved many feats throughout it’s history, such as serving as troop transport during the Falklands War and clocking up over 5 million sea miles! The ship has now been officially retired and is based in Dubai as a tourist attraction, what a fate for an amazing liner. The original anchor however for the QE2 remains right in Southampton on the QE2 Mile :-). Just behind where I was standing there was a shell of a church.

These remains are of “Holy Rood”, which was originally built in the C14th, but due to bombing in WWII was sadly devastated. During the late 50’s what was left of the Church was restored, this is particularly noticeable when the clock chimed the hour :-). It now stands as a memorial to Merchant Navy as it was known as the “Church of the Sailors”, it also has a memorial to those who lost their lives on the Titanic 😦 The Bench just outside the church, had a inscription which was just right for the “Church of the the Sailors”, –

“Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;” – Alfred Lord Tennyson, Crossing the Bar

Strolling on from the Church I came across a huge construction site, or so I thought. In fact the whole area was being excavated and the scaffold was there to protect the site. This whole area was the “Medieval Mayors Wine Vaults”, which would have sat beneath a Manor house, during the C15th. It would have been full of Italian and French wine, from historical records one of the Mayors bought over £400 worth of Italian sweet wine in one go! Just past the vaults was “Town Quay Park”, a small green space, surrounded by historical buildings. I noticed that one of the small gardens is where a small Mulberry tree has been planted in memory of the Huguenots refugees who fled into Southampton to escape persecution in France during the reign of Louis XIV.

From 2013 – 31.08.2013 – Southampton Walk

Overlooking the park, there was a large stone tower, this was the “Watergate”. The gate was originally one of Southampton’s Quay’s where ships from all over Europe would land bringing in exotic goods into England. During the C15th it was here that the ship “Grace Deiu”, part of Henry V naval fleet was built, it was renown to be the largest warship in Europe! The Quay also had a famous literary visitor in the early C19th when Jane Austen and family docked here to visit some Friends for afternoon tea 🙂 , it was recorded by her delightful niece that –

“Mama to everybody’s astonishment was of the party not at all sick”

Slightly past the Watergate, was “King Canutes Palace”, but contrary to it’s name was not connected to him! In the early C19th Sir Henry Englefield suggested that this Norman building was connected to this ancient King of England and the name stuck ever since. King Canute reigned in the C11th and claimed to be “king of all England, and of Denmark, of the Norwegians, and part of the Swedes” and being so powerful he sat on his throne on the shore ordering “tide to go back”! Unfortunately for him the sea did not turn back, it just lapped at his feet! Beyond Canutes home, was the “Wool House”, constructed in the C14th for the use of the storage of Wool before exporting to the continent but during the Napoleonic Wars, it was used to accommodate prisoners of War! Since the late 1960’s the building now houses a museum.

I continued my walk past the Wool House and onto Cuckoo Lane. I am not quite sure why it gained this name, however I don’t think it is to do with Cuckoo’s being bred here! I had reached Westgate, which was built in 1338, which was at one time an another entrance to the town. It was where Henry V sailed from England to France to his victory at Agincourt and the Mayflower sailed through on its way to America in 1620. Across the way was a building where a Walter Taylor and his son were pioneers in Machine Tool industry in C18th when they created many inventions for the Royal Navy 🙂 I wandered away from the gate and spotted “Medieval Merchants House”, which was built for the Merchant John Fortin, who traded with France in goods such as Wine and Fabrics in C15th. The house is now owned by English Heritage, it was shame I could not take a look inside!

From 2013 – 31.08.2013 – Southampton Walk

Along from the house was where Southampton’s Theatre Royal once stood, it was known that Jane Austen attended the theatre here and even wrote a couple of plays just to entertain family and friends. I returned to back to the gate and walked underneath it just as many had done in years gone by. To my surprise I found a large replica wooden medieval boat on the other side 🙂 from here I decided to follow “Blue Anchor Lane”. At the end of the lane was the “Tudor House and Garden”, another Southampton Merchant’s house, it seems this town was full of wealthy traders in Medieval times! Opposite the house was St Michael Church which contained the oldest brass lectern in England! Although the church’s stained glass windows are beautiful, they have all been put into the Church during C20th in order to replace the ones that were shattered due to the bombing in WWII. I left the Church behind and made my way down the back streets of Southampton once again.

Along the road I came across the “Duke of Wellington pub”, I didn’t stop for a tipple but it a lovely C15th building to look at. Apparently a building has been here since the C13th, when it was occupied by the Mayor of Southampton. However the building was damaged in the French raid in C14th, a brewer decided to take over the building, it has been a tavern ever since. It gained the name Duke of Wellington soon after the Battle of Waterloo! I finally reached the sea front so I was able so take a stroll down the jetty so I could look at the ships that were docked the harbour, it looked very serene to me. I really did wish that I was on one of those Cruise Ships! I stopped for a while at the park for a very late lunch just to rest my feet after all the exploring that I had done 🙂

From 2013 – 31.08.2013 – Southampton Walk

Soon after I resumed my walk, I discovered that I had been walking in some of Ms Austen footsteps. When Southampton had been at its height as a spa resort Jane Austen and family often used to walk along shore to take in the sea air, which would be highly unlikely today when it is mostly roads and docks! My walk was then to take me past “God House tower” and on past the “Museum of Archaeology”, following the Southampton Walls. I came across the “Round Tower”, so called as it started life as a place for a Dovecote!! Although demolished some of the nest boxes are still visible 🙂 At the end of the alley there was a mural which commemorated the fact there was a friary in here the C13th, as with other Monasteries that I have come across on my walks, it suffered at the hands of Henry VIII and was closed in the early C16th. The building itself remained intact until it was bombed in early C20th.

I turned away from the walls and walked back down the high street towards the sea. I decided to continue my walk beyond Southampton and walk across the immense “Itchen Bridge”. The bridge gave me an amazing view across the Harbour, it made the cruise ships look quite small! I eventually came into the very small village of Woolston, firstly I came into their tiny Millennium garden, but did not have time to sit and enjoy it. I carried on along the high street when I spotted an old cinema for sale. It was an amazing building, built in the early C20th it seems such a shame that it is no longer open :(. I walked to Woolstons small seafront just to gaze over the river, it was really lovely to be able to look over at Southampton from the other side. It was here I officially ended my walk. However, I did have to walk back into Southampton to catch my train home, but I did make a quick stop to wave the cruise ships off before I left 🙂

The photos for this walk are available by clicking on the photo below 🙂

2013 – 31.08.2013 – Southampton Walk

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