Southampton has a rich medieval, maritime and aviation heritage which has shaped the city and its people. There are plenty of areas that maintain the historic ambience with original architecture, cobbled streets and classic feel.
Telling the story
Based at the heart of Southampton, SeaCity Museum tells the story of the people of the city, their fascinating lives and the historic connections with Titanic and the sea. Learn about Southampton’s Titanic Story, which includes exhibitions on the crew members as well as a 1.25 scale interactive model of the Titanic. The museum also tells the story of Southampton as the gateway to the world from the Roman traders, Saxon settlers and Victorian industrialists. You can discover the full story of aviation in Hampshire at Solent Sky. The Museum tells the story of twenty-six aircraft companies, the largest flying boat operation in the world and in particular the legendary Spitfire designed at Supermarine by R.J.Mitchell in the heart of the city of Southampton. In the Old Town, Tudor House Museum reveals over 800 years of history. The imber-framed building facing St Michael’s Square was built in the late 15th century. Explore the delightful gardens and learn about characters from the building’s fascinating past. St Michael’s Church is the oldestbuilding still in use in the city having been founded in 1070. Underneath the church in the northwest corner is a late mediaeval vault which is a scheduled ancient monument.
If you prefer to hear more about the history as you go then Southampton Tourist Guides Association (STGA), is the longest established tourist guiding association in the City. They offer a variety of walks on a range of topics. Throughout the year, you can join a Medieval Walls and Vaults walk every Saturday and Sunday, leaving from the Bargate Monument at 11:00. This informative nd entertaining walk lasts 1.5 hours and costs £5.00 per person, (accompanied children are free). If you’re visiting Southampton as part of a group, pivate walks can be arranged. Topics include Jane Ausen (2017 marks the 200th anniversary of her death), The Titanic Trail, Southampton during World War II, Medieval Churches and the Friary.
If you are looking for some historical fun the kids
> Fun hands-on activities in the family room at Tudor House.
>> Family friendly tours at SeaCity museum and interactive displays.
>> Make a brick at Bursledon Brickworks in Bursledon.
If you are looking for somewhere to eat or drink with a little character and a glimpse of the past…
Several of Southampton’s restaurants are housed in some of the city’s most historic buildings and have utilised the historic past so you really feel like you’re dining in history:
>> The Dancing Man Brewery resides in the Wool House build after the French raid of 1338.
>> The Duke of Wellington was originally built upon Norman vaults and cellars in 1220.
>> The Grand Café in a Grade II listed building on Canute Road.
>> Henry V marched his troops through the Westgate (still standing) to sail for France and the battle of Agincourt.
>> In 1620 the Pilgrims Fathers chartered The Mayflower to sail to the New World to escape religious oppression in England. They also bought a smaller boat the Speedwell, which was originally built in Southampton, to use permanently when they reached America.
>> Old Town today still contains a wealth of historical attractions – the 800 year old Bargate was originally built as the main gateway to the medieval city.
>> The city has the longest stretch of unbroken medieval defensive walling in England.
Southampton is just one of several, but possibly the most surprising of all, venues in Hampshire getting ready to mark the 200th anniversary in 2017. Jane Austen spent three periods of her life in Southampton, as a schoolgirl, as a young woman and as an adult when she, her mother and sister lived with her brother Frank Austen in a house near Southampton Castle.
Jane’s family moved to Southampton following the death of her father and they eventually settled in a “commodious old- fashioned” house in Castle Square. This is believed to have inspired the lines from Mansfield Park – “the effects of the shadows pursuing each other on the ships at Spithead and the island beyond, with the ever varying hues of the sea, now at high water, dancing in its glee and dashing against the ramparts …” At that time, Southampton was an old seaport with medieval streets tumbling down to a quay. It was also reinventing itself as a fashionable spa town – in much the same way that the city is currently undergoing a major transformation to bring it up-to-pace with the 21st century demands of its current day residents and visitors Austen fans will be fascinated to learn the family house was believed to stand where the Juniper Berry pub can now be found in Upper Bugle Street.
The Austens took boat trips on the River Itchen to see warships being built at Northam and the Gothic ruins of Netley Abbey. The Dolphin Hotel is where she celebrated her eighteenth birthday and often visited dances in the upstairs rooms. The décor may have changed over the years but you can still stand in the be The Mercure Southampton Centre Dolphin Hotel as it is known today and soak up the atmosphere of days gone by.
Celebrating Jane Austen… The Stinking Fish of Southampton
In one of her early pieces of writing she declared “Beware of the unmeaning luxuries of Bath & the stinking fish of Southampton….” Perhaps because Jane lived down wind of the fish market on St Michaels Square! So did Southampton have more to offer and inspire the budding writer than the waft of herring? The Southampton Jane Austen Festival ‘The Stinking Fish of Southampton’ aims to answer that question.
To kick off the festival the redoubtable ‘Sarah Siddons Fan Club Theatre Company’ [named after a contemporary of Miss Austen] will take the audience on a theatrical perambulation of Southampton Spa where you will get the chance to meet the Austens, their friends and neighbours and find out what Nelson really got up to when he popped ashore!
Over the summer, every Sunday from 2 July to the 27th August 2017, there will be a different themed walk around old Southampton and old Netley including: ‘Jane Austen & Southampton Spa’, ‘Trafalgar Days’ The Bits Jane Left Out’, ‘Officers & Gentlemen’ and ‘Literary Netley’. For those who liked walking as much as Jane’s heroine Elizabeth Bennet, you will be able to follow in Jane’s footsteps as g route from her house in Castle Square to Peartree and back. And if you are looking for Mr Darcy the culmination of events in Southampton end with a weekend of walks, talks, exhibition, display, workshops and a Regency Ball at the Dolphin Hotel.
Southampton’s Maritime Southampton has a long associated link with the sea, from the celebrated White Star shipping line which moved its headquarters to the city, to the continuous developments and investment from Associated British Ports (ABP) Port of Southampton to welcome and cater for the world’s largest cruise vessels afloat. It is also well known for being the home port for world famous vessels such as Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, and regularly hosts cruise industry occasions such as the launch of the UK’s biggest-ever purpose-built cruise ship, Britannia, Royal Caribbean’s second Quantum-class ship, Anthem of the Seas, and the return of Royal Princess.Proud of its Cruising industry the Port of Southampton has been named the UK’s Best Departure Port for the eighth year running.
> Southampton is also home to the oldest active cargo-passenger steamship in Europe, the SS Sheildhall, with a cruise programme running between May and September.
> From Town Quay, you can pick up the Hythe Ferry to the waterside village of Hythe via the famous Victorian pier and the world’s oldest working pier train. The Hythe Ferry passes alongside the QEII Terminal offering a unique and close up experience of the magnificent liners.
There’s nothing quite like watching those big ships when they are in port. Mayflower Park is the place where you can get up close to the liners with special events taking place throughout the year to celebrate the naming and arrival of new ships.
The promenade at Hythe is among the best vantage points for viewing the ships. Enjoy a leisurely stroll around the Marina with its distinctive ‘fishing village’ style development and sit and watch the ships, yachts and boats out on the water.
Weston Shore looks out across Southampton Water and is a popular site to watch the shipping movements and also provides a great start for walks along the water’s edge. Further east is Royal Victoria Country Park where the beach at the park offers an ideal vantage point for viewing cruise liners before they pass Hamble Point and head towards the Solent.
Stuck out into the Solent, Calshot Spit is a great spot to wave off those lucky cruise passengers. Maritime life in Southampton isn’t just about the big ships, however. The city’s waterfront developments and marinas offer wonderful opportunities to sit back and relax and watch the sumptuous yachts go by.
Ocean Village has outstanding recreational facilities for yachtsmen as well as trendy bars and restaurants beside the water. Further upstream on the River Itchen is Shamrock Quay, a bustling marina steeped in history.