Southampton: A Gem on the South Coast of England

Peter B. GiblettStarred Page By Peter B. Giblett, 22nd May 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Europe>England>Hampshire, Dorset & Wiltshire

The south coast of England has some intriguing history and is a wonderful place to visit and Southampton can be your launching point for a superb time as there are many places to see in and around this historic city. It is overall a clean city surrounded by lush English greenery.

The Launching Place for a Thousand Journeys

Southampton has for centuries had a proud maritime history, providing a major trade route out of Wessex and the southern counties of England to both Europe and beyond, it has been a thriving port for more than a thousand years and provides not just a nautical history but has a lot to offer the potential visitor, including:

  • Art galleries
  • Sports
  • Exploring and leisure
  • Maritime history
  • Aviation history
  • Historic sites
  • Universities

Southampton became a city in 1964, having first had its application refused in 1929, so it is a modern city founded on an historic town.

My Life in the City

Despite being born in London I spent many years as a child in Southampton, attending Millbrook Secondary School and Richard Taunton 6th Form College, the latter providing a great cycle ride across the Southampton Common from the Freemantle district of the city and avoiding cars for the majority of my route, including the infamous London Road.

When I was young I loved cycling, playing football, and cross-country running, but we always retained ties with London (where I and both my mother and father were from).

One of our local shops was Terry Paine's Green Grocers - Mr Paine was a local football hero, being a part of England's World Cup winning side in 1966, although sadly he did not play in the final against Germany. For some time during the 60s and 70s knew some of the players and management staff (through my mother) at Southampton FC.

My first job was in the city, working for an engineering design company called Structural Dynamics as a computer programmer/operator and one unique thing we had was a computer room with a genuine Robert Adam fireplace (sealed to protect the computer of course), when I left this company I also moved away from the city, but have continued to follow the local sports teams (Southampton FC, and Hampshire County Cricket Club).

Maritime History

Southampton has a unique feature of its port, shared by only one other city in the world (Le Havre), the double-high tide that occurs due to refraction of tidal waters around the Isle of Wight which means the high tide lasts between 4 and 8 hours longer that most other ports. This has made it a very popular port over the years as a merchant port of call.

The Mayflower picked up passengers at Southampton, before departing for the Americas from Plymouth in 1620, and in the centuries since has had as many famous departures. Being only 75 miles from London it was possible to travel by boat-train from London's Waterloo Station to catch an ocean liner from Southampton's Ocean Terminal an hour and ten minutes later. Many grand ocean liners departed the city to New York and a variety of other destinations around the globe, this was also at one time the start and finish point for the 'Round the World' yacht race. in April 1912 was also the departure point for the ill-fated journey of the Titanic.

In the early part of the twentieth century the city was the home of Vickers Supermarine, who were victorious in many of the early Schneider Trophy sea-plane races that took part along the Solent, this was the same company that produced the Spitfire, one of the major fighter planes used by the RAF during the second world war. in the 1960s Sir Frances Chichester started and ended his record breaking, single-handed around the world yacht trip.

Southampton, along with Portsmouth and other south coast ports were the launching point for the D-Day Landings, that ultimately ended the second world war's conflict in Europe.

City History

If you are interested in history then Southampton has much to show you, but most is related to its maritime pedigree, the foundation for the medieval walled city. Starting out at the Bargate, on the High Street, at the northern limits of the medieval city, you can walk to many historical locations, including the castle (now mostly in ruins), Tudor House and Gardens, Wool House and others.

The castle was built soon after the Norman conquest of 1066, it seems King William took a liking to the area, creating the New Forest as a royal hunting preserve, and national forest, and recognising the importance of the port to trade. By the 12th century the castle and city walls were completed, providing defensive positions on the Test and Itchen rivers, although few of the eastern defences remain today because of the development of the old port.

Town Quay has much local interest close by - at the end of the A33 is the Holiday Inn (this used to be called the Skyway Hotel) and close by is the Mayflower Park from where it is possible to relax and take in the whole area, from Southampton Water to the south, the new docks to the west and the old docks along the other end of Town Quay, the Pier used to be a place we frequented much in our youth, but today seems deserted apart from a Thai restaurant. Across the road is Solent House, part of the city's maritime heritage, nearby Wool House which was a medieval store house that today houses exhibitions. Close by are the Red Funnel Steamers, which regularly take cars and passengers to the Isle of Wight, close by the International Yacht Club Headquarters, where the start and finish lines to the 'Round the World' yacht race used to be.

Nestled down here is also the Southampton Old Bowling Club, formed in 1299 and perhaps the oldest continually operating sports club in the world, the greens here are the same as those used when the club was formed, but had been in use since 1100ad.

Further along the old port which for much of the twentieth century was the mainstay of commerce in the city.

Other Places to see

Inside the city there are plenty of places to visit that will satisfy a number of tastes:

  • Solent Sky Museum - demonstrating the air history of the city.
  • Southampton Common.
  • Civic centre - Guildhall - Art Gallery, all in the same central location.
  • Holyrood Church - Built 1320, bombed during the Blitz in 1940.
  • Joiners Arms - Live music venue.
  • Mayflower Theatre - a Grade II listed theatre home to many shows over the years.
  • See the Saints at St Mary's Stadium.
  • See Hampshire play at the Rose Bowl.

I am unable to vouch for any eating places in the city because it has been a long time since I have been there.

Day Trips from the City

There are a few places around Southampton that are worth seeing, including:

  • The New Forest - a wonderful place to explore.
  • Lyndhurst - the town at the heart of The New Forest.
  • The cobbled streets of Lymington.
  • Beaulieu National Motor Museum.
  • Historic Salisbury - Cathedral city and historic wool centre.
  • Stonehenge and other ancient locations.
  • Visit Thomas Hardy's Wessex
  • The ancient capital of Winchester - home of King Arthur's round table.
  • The seaside city of Bournmouth
  • Nelson ship HMS Victory at the Navy Shipyard in Portsmouth.

The New Forest was created by King William soon after the Norman conquest of England, it was set-up as a hunting preserve for the king and is an area of outstanding natural beauty and at the heart of many a Thomas Hardy tale.

The Sports Rivalry

There are many rivalries in sports but few as bitter as those between the cities and fans of Southampton and Portsmouth, neighbours by 19 miles of main road. This is a bitter and viscous feud that probably goes beyond the game of football and possibly has more to do with the fact that the port in Portsmouth was owned by Southampton for more than 800 years, only becoming independent in 1835, and industrial disputes in both cities ha meant that workers from one city have broken port and sea strikes in the other city.

Yet live in one city and the other almost becomes a no-go zone. More than a hundred years ago a referee was murdered by aggrieved fans and today team buses are regularly attacked by opposing fans when visiting the city.

Southampton FC is slightly older being formed in 1885 while Portsmouth FC was formed in 1898, the sides have played each other less than 40 times in the league (because they have been in different divisions as they are today), but when they clash it is a bitter rivalry. Southampton may be the better side today, being 7th in the Premier League, but they have never won the league title, which Portsmouth did in 1949 and 1950.

Players that have played for other rivalries such as Arsenal v Tottenham or Manchester United v City, and even the infamous Celtic - Rangers rivalry in Glasgow have commented about the depth of the rivalry between the fans in these two cities and the longer the gaps are between playing each other the more bitter the rivalry and few players (or managers) have managed to play successfully for the two teams.

Images and Pictures

  • Southampton Civic Centre by Peter Giblett
  • Old Tauntonians Badge (my old school)
  • Queen Mary by
  • Wool house and Solent house in Southampton
  • Schneider trophy winner Supermarine S.6B
  • Stonehenge sunset by Peter Giblett
  • Matthew Le Tissier by the Daily Echo

Other Items of interest?

This article was in part inspired by Mark Gordon Brown's suggestion that we write about our own town from a tourist viewpoint, this is an article I have been planning for some time, just needed the encouragement to complete it.

The author, Peter Giblett, writes on a variety of topics and you may be interested in some of his recent publications.

Wikinut is great a place to share some of your own personal wisdom by adding a comment or becoming a writer, join Wikinut and write.


Bargate, England, Grand Ocean Liners, Maritime History, Medieval Walled City, New Forest, Sir Frances Chichester, South Coast, Southampton, Sports Rivalry, The Mayflower, Thriving Port, Titanic, Town Quay, Tudor House, Viscous Feud, Wool House

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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author avatar Retired
23rd May 2015 (#)

Great share.

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author avatar Shamarie
23rd May 2015 (#)

This is a great post, Peter! I would love to visit Southampton sometime this summer! Thanks for sharing!

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
23rd May 2015 (#)

I have not been to the UK at all, but Southampton sounds great. Thanks for telling us about this area.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
23rd May 2015 (#)

Mark I have been thinking about writing about places that I have once lived in from a tourist viewpoint - your article gave me the trigger to make it happen.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
24th May 2015 (#)

Worth a visit away from busy cities and the milling crowds with lots of places to visit too. Thanks Peter for this share - siva

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author avatar Ptrikha
25th May 2015 (#)

Have you been to England before?

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
24th May 2015 (#)

There are places where Southampton is very busy - I concentrated on the more relaxed places.

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author avatar Ptrikha
25th May 2015 (#)

Great place to see. In 2005 and 2006, when I toured England on official visits, I was in Aldershot and Camberley. I toured to London and even till Reading. I thought of Southampton also, but it seemed far and slightly out of budget. Yet after reading your article, I feel that I being an avid follower of history and historical places should have visited this place too. Well, If I get a chance to visit England again, I will surely try to visit here.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
25th May 2015 (#)

Sir, I am sure you saw a lot of interest in those areas as well.

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author avatar Retired
25th May 2015 (#)

It's a part of the world I know very well, having been brought up in Poole. I used to enjoy shopping trips to Southampton with the family when I was a child - my mother and sister would shop for clothes while my father and I headed for Gilbert's bookshop!

We sometimes left the car at Hythe and took the ferry - a wonderful way to enter the city!

By the way, the double tides are noticed quite a way down the Channel - certainly at Poole and even as far as Weymouth, although the level of the second high tide diminishes the further along you go.

I also know many of the other places you mention - I lived at Salisbury for five years when I worked at the Technical College there.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
25th May 2015 (#)

John, I knew we had something in common. My maternal grandmother lived in Swanage and we often went through Poole, via the sandbanks ferry to see her. Remember Gilberts well.

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author avatar Retired
26th May 2015 (#)

Peter, If you are ever in the Tamworth area - south Staffordshire - I can recommend a second-hand bookshop that will remind you very forcibly of Gilberts!

I shall be in Poole soon to celebrate my mother's 100th birthday - we're having a party at the RNLI headquarters in July.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
26th May 2015 (#)

John, I may be travelling to England soon and will be in Leicester & Southampton to sort out family affairs.

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author avatar Retired
26th May 2015 (#)

Peter, If you happen to be in Leicester, we might be able to meet for a coffee and a chat! Do you know your dates?

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
27th May 2015 (#)

I don't yet know when we are going - there are many variables we have to work out including the post-op appointments before I can leave Canada.

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