Tuesday, 26 April 2011


The last time I visited Southampton we were due to depart on a cruise from one of the city’s three cruise terminals. Southampton is such a major departure point for cruises that it is not unusual for several cruise ships to depart on the same day. In fact, the day we went out, we were the first of a convoy of four ships leaving Southampton, which made an impressive sight as we gazed backwards from the deck of our ship. For this reason, anyone visiting Southampton would do well to avoid the docks area on a day such as this, because the traffic generated by the cruisers-to-be causes a big tailback through the town. Happily, our ship made it safely back to Southampton a week later, which is more than can be said for the most famous ship ever to depart from there. The ill-fated Titanic left Southampton on 10 April 1912, having been declared “unsinkable”. I don’t need to remind you how misguided that description turned out to be. Next year the centenary of the disaster is due to be marked with a series of events.

Like Plymouth, Southampton suffered badly from bombing during World War II. However, there are glimpses of the city’s past still on view: the towers of the 14th century town walls, the 12th century Bargate building and the 15th century Tudor House. The city needed its walls, having been on the receiving end of a succession of attacks. The first fortifications were established following the Viking raids of the 9th century. In the 14th century the town was sacked by ships operating under Charles Grimaldi, the proceeds going towards the establishment of the Principality of Monaco. The city was an important centre for shipbuilding, including Henry V’s ship HMS Grace Dieu. Speaking of Henry V, a group of plotters were tried and executed for their part in the Southampton Plot, just before Henry’s departure for the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. The trial took place in what is now the Red Lion pub in the High Street, and the executions took place outside the Bargate. Back in the present, alongside the luxury yachts moored at the waterfront development Ocean Village is the SS Shieldhall, built in 1955, the last working coastal passenger and cargo steamer, which is open to the public.

For events in Southampton, see here.

Map of the area.

File:Southampton Docks - geograph.org.uk - 1721650.jpg
Photo by Rod Allday, via Wikimedia Commons

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