The English city of Southampton
A simple glance at a map gives some idea of the naval strategic importance of Southampton, which stands on a triangular peninsula formed where the Rivers Itchen and Test flow into Southampton Bay, eight miles from the Straits of the Solent. Not surprisingly, Southampton was involved in many tumultuous events – it witnessed the victory of Henry V’s army at Agincourt, the sailing of the Pilgrim Fathers aboard the Mayflower in 1620, and the first voyages of such ships as the Queen Mary and the Titanic.
Unfortunately, since the bombing of the city by the Luftwaffe and some devastating postwar planning, a city with a thousand years of history has changed beyond recognition. Now this big city with its suburbs easily bypassed by freeways will be at the bottom of the list of places you’re going to visit in Southern England. But if you find yourself passing through here on your way to the Isle of Wight, you’ll find enough places of interest to keep you busy for two hours while you wait for the ferry.
Arrival and accommodation in Southampton
Trains from London Waterloo arrive at two hourly intervals at the central train station in Blechynden Terrace, just west of the Civic Centre. The bus station is immediately south and north of the Civic Centre. The tourist office is located at 9 Civic Centre Road. Southampton is not a particularly attractive place to stay, but there are plenty of downtown business hotels and commercial inns, including the solid Elizabeth House guesthouse at 42-44 The Avenue, and the Linden north of the train station, on Polygon (no credit cards accepted), a hotel that has more modest but no less bright rooms at a worthwhile price.
Along the same lines is Argyle Lodge at 13 Landguard Road, a family-owned Bed and Breakfast guesthouse on a quiet road close to the station that offers evening meals. For a more stately atmosphere, try the Star Hotel, a 400-year-old building, or the somewhat younger Dolphin Inn. Both hotels are halfway down the High Street away from downtown and provide lodging with all the antique amenities. There’s also not much choice in terms of food in town. Next door to the art gallery is Buon Gusto on 1 Commercial Road, an attractive and inexpensive Italian restaurant (closed on Sundays).
But you’ll find more choices and more specialties at Oxford Street establishments: The Olive Tree, 29, which serves Mediterranean dishes in a pleasant setting, with sidewalk seating and live music on Sundays. Or Oxford Brasserie, 35, where you can relax and eat French baguette, salad and pasta, as well as denser evening dishes. You can go to Charlie Chan’s, 59, which offers great Chinese food at reasonable prices. As for pubs, the tiny Platform Tavern on Winkle Street, at the south end of the High Street, and the 12th century Red Lion, with its minstrel gallery at 55 High Street, are alternatives to the bars in the Star and Dolphin hotels.
Sightseeing in Southampton
It is said that King Cnut may have stopped the waves in front of Southampton, but not so much to exaggerate the power of his might, as legend claims, as to lord it over his subservient courtiers. But whatever his motives, such a task would probably have been particularly difficult here, since Southampton, like other ports in the Solent Strait, faces the factor of “double tides”-an extended period of high tide on the channel first swells the west side of the Solent and then, two hours later, collapses back onto Spithead.
This means that only exceptionally large vessels can anchor here. But even though ocean liners are a rarity here these days, large ships will certainly pass nearby, either on their way to the Eastern Docks at the edge of the Cape or to the Western Docks, home to the largest commercial dry dock in England. The heart of the modern city is the Civic Center, easily reached on foot east of the train station.
Its clock tower represents the most distinctive feature of the skyline. It houses an excellent art gallery with especially many works by 20th century British artists such as Sutherland, Piper and Spencer. The Western Esplanade, turning south from the station, runs along the best-preserved walls of the Old Town. Reconstructed after the French attack in 1388, these walls have towers with exceptionally “cold” names – Windwhistle, Catchcold and God’s House Tower.
The latter, on Winkle Street at the southern end of the Old Town, houses the Museum of Archeology. Of the city’s seven gates, the best preserved is the Bargate, at the other end of the Old Town at the beginning of the High Street. It is an elaborate structure with lions, classical figures and loopholes (defensive openings through which projectiles could be thrown). It used to be the meeting place of the guild and was also once the seat of the court. Other ancient buildings have survived, in the gradual redevelopment of the High Street area.
To the west of the High Street is the oldest church of St Michael, with a twelfth-century font of black Tournai marble. Nearby, in Bugle Street, is the Tudor House Museum. It’s an imposing, timbered 17th-century building, with a magnificent banqueting hall and a reconstructed Tudor garden. The museum brilliantly displays a variety of Georgian, Victorian and 12th-century social history exhibits, including an Ackland motorcycle made in 1923.
On the opposite side of the High Street, as a memorial to the victims of the Merchant Marine who died in the bombing of World War II, lie the ruins of Holy Rood church with a large cross with a sculptural depiction of the crucified Christ on it. The church also has a fountain commemorating the crew of the Titanic. Many of the crew members were residents of Southampton. Further away from the center, in the southwest corner of the Old Town, on the beach, is Wool House, a beautiful 14th-century stone warehouse formerly used as a prison for Napoleonic prisoners of war and now home to the Martitime Museum.
The museum tells the story of the golden days of ocean liners. There is a huge model of the Queen Mary and various Titanic items. The museum also provides an opportunity to listen to the taped voices of Titanic survivors as they recount their experiences and impressions. Those who are particularly interested in the tragedy can take a walking tour around Southampton on the Titanic’s “footsteps” – ask at the tourist office for a free brochure on the subject. If you’re into aviation, you should visit the Hall of Aviation on Albert Road South, next to the car ferry terminal.
Dedicated to local aviation designer R. J. Mitchell, this hall displays 16 of his flying machines, including the Spitfire, the Sandringham Flying Ship and the Super Seaplane, which won the 1931 Schneider Award for circling the Isle of Wight at an average speed of 340 miles per hour. Check with the tourist office before you go there, as there are plans to move the exhibits to a new location, Marchwood, on the west side of Southampton Bay, just off the A-326.
There are several easily accessible places in the vicinity of Southampton worth visiting by bus. In Netley, three miles southeast of Southampton Bay, are the picturesque ruins of Cistercian Abbey (open during daylight hours; admission free), as well as the Solent Fortress and Queen Victoria Country Park, which is a good picnic spot overlooking the expanse of water. Ten miles east of Southampton (accessible by bus #7) you can explore the ruins of the medieval residence of the Archbishops of Winchester at Bishop’s Waltham Palace, near the village of Bishop’s Waltham.
On the second floor is an exhibition devoted to the Bishops of Winchester – most of whom were fabulously wealthy. Romsey, 10 miles northwest of Southampton (bus #8 or #15 from Southampton), offers a mostly pristine, main Norman abbey church, built in 1150 and bought by city officials a few years after Confiscation.
To the south of the town is Broadlands Castle, a Palladian mansion on the River Test where Lord Palmerston was born and lived (his statue adorns Romsey’s main square) and where Lord Mountbatten also used to live, who is buried in the Abbey and his family still resides in the house. Four miles north of Romsey, the Mottisfont Abbey House and Garden has a fine location by the River Test. The house of this former Augustinian monastery is notable because its living room is painted by Whistler.
There’s also a medieval cellar. But the real attractions are the gardens, especially the old-fashioned collection of roses, which are really good in June. Mottisfont can be reached by train from Southampton – get off at Dunbridge, which is a 15-minute walk away. You can also take a bus from Romney. Amateur gardeners will be interested in Houghton Lodge, 5 miles north of Mottisfont.
Many people are familiar with the city of Southampton, located in Great Britain. It’s sung by the classics, though it’s hard to guess if you study it on your own. At first glance, it seems like the most ordinary port town. However, if you dig deeper, it reveals another side of Southampton.
The city has been around since the Romans, making it one of the oldest settlements, and a strategically important one for England. You can see why it is so important by looking at where Southampton is located. It is located on a triangular peninsula formed by the confluence of the rivers Itchen and Test at the confluence of Southampton Bay. It is in this area that one should look for Southampton on a map of Britain.
Throughout its history the city has been involved more than once in tumultuous events. It “saw” the victory of Henry V at Agincourt, the sailing of the Mayflower with the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620. It was from the port of Southampton that such ships as the Queen Mary and the Titanic took to the high seas.
Alas, life has not only given amazing events, it has also dealt painful blows. The country lost the former Southampton to Luftwaffe bombing and destruction after military planning. A few historical landmarks do survive.
Southampton is the owner of a simple postal code: its zip code is SO15. Depending on the area, you must add two letters and 0 (0AB, 0AD, etc.) to it.
What to see in Southampton?
As in any city, exploring is worth starting in the center. One of the most pleasant routes runs from Bedford Place (north of the city) to the coast. The best way to get there is on foot.
At the Civic Centre, the clock tower jutting into the sky is worth a look. At the Western Esplanade, which runs south of the train station, you can see the best preserved walls of the Old Town. The towers of the walls are given “cool” names: “Windwhistle”, “Catchcold”.
If walking tours are a drag, then you can rent a bike. There are several bicycle trails in the city. They are not well connected but all lead into the center. The terrain in Southampton is mostly flat, although hills sometimes occur.
In Southampton, a must-see game of the local soccer club – its home ground is St. Mary’s Stadium.
Sightseeing in Southampton, England
The first thing to pay attention to in the center should be a structure from past centuries – Bargate. It is a miraculously surviving part of the city wall. Bargate was once the main gate through which merchant caravans passed every day. Today the restored building has been renovated and given to a gallery of contemporary art.
Southampton is a city in England that boasts a large number of good art galleries:
- Millais, which organizes temporary exhibitions of contemporary artists;
- John Hansard Gallery, opened in 1980 at the local university; it houses photography and contemporary painting;
- The city’s art gallery offers an overview of more than 3,500 pieces of art from the last six centuries.
Interesting local attractions include the following:
- The Medieval Market House , which has fully recreated the atmosphere of the mid-14th century. It is one of the few surviving buildings of its kind.
- The oldest church of St Michael, with a 12th century baptismal font of black Tournai marble, is just west of the High Street.
- Museum of Archaeology , which shows the development of the city from the Roman to the Victorian period. The building itself has a historical value. God`s House Tower was the first artillery fort in England.
- The Maritime Museum contains audio recordings of survivors of the Titanic wreck. The facility occupies a beautiful stone building, a 14th-century warehouse.
- Museum dedicated to British aviation , Solent Sky. It features 15 aircraft of local aviation designer R. J. Mitchell.
Hotels and Restaurants
Southampton has plenty of commercial hotels and business hotels:
- The Hotel at the Polygon features modest but bright rooms at a reasonable price.
- The Bedand Breakfast, a family-owned guesthouse, offers evening meals.
- The Star Hotel is 400 years old, so it stands out for its majestic atmosphere.
As for food, the town offers little choice. Inexpensive Italian restaurant Buon Gusto is located at 1 Commercial Road, only it’s closed on Sundays. There’s a wide variety of specialties on Oxford Road.
Southampton eateries worth checking out include:
- The Olive Tree, 29. Here you can sample Mediterranean fare with live music on Sundays, or take seats outdoors.
- Oxford Brasserie, 35. Serves dense evening fare.
- Charlie Chan’s, 59 – A reasonably priced and tasty Chinese place.
Pubs worth choosing from include Platform Tavern and Red Lion.
Where is Southampton?
The local airport is quite small, so it mainly receives flights from other British cities and only a limited number of flights from European countries. Russia is not one of them.
So it is worth to go from Heathrow Airport by train or bus. The same transport links Southampton with Gatwick airport. From London it is more convenient to get by bus from the main bus station Victoria, travel time – 1.5 hours. The bus service also works in the opposite direction.