Southampton, England

Some trivia about Southampton:  the Mayflower  originally sailed from here before calling in at Plymouth; Jane Austen spent time here and there are wall plaques to commemorate her travels (photo); the city’s name is sometimes abbreviated to Soton and the residents are known as Sotonians; French settlers arrived during the Norman Conquest in 1066 and established a community with a church dedicated to St Michael, patron saint of Normandy (see photo of one of its stained glass windows); the town used to be walled though only half of the walls remain and only six of eight gates ( see photo of Bargate); the Titanic sailed from here and there are several memorials around the city (photos of engineers memorial and one to the passengers and crew).

Most of the passengers took tours today, the most popular being to Stonehenge.  I saw it before it became a big tourist attraction complete with a fence, a gift shop and acres of parking so I decided not to go back.  I walked into the city.  Most of the buildings in the old town have disappeared due to an early 20th century slum clearance program and then the Blitz during WWII.  The Holyrood Church was a victim of the blitz (photo).  An old Medieval merchant’s house remains but it is only open on Sundays so I only have a photo of the outside.  However, there is a fine example of a Tudor House (photo) which was saved from the slum clearances by a local citizen who set it up as a museum.  Recently it was feared that it was in danger of collapse and it was dismantled and completely restored, and a video shows how this was done.  The visit starts with a multi-media presentation in the form of a sound and light show in the main banqueting hall.  The “ghosts” of past residents tell you of the history of the house.  You then proceed on the tour with the use of an audio guide which is supplied free. The gardens were also restored with herbs that would have been grown in the Tudor era (photo).  The rooms were also furnished appropriately and the audio guide is excellent, telling you about the house, the previous occupants and the local history. At the end of the garden  are the ruins of an old merchant’s house called erroneously King John’s Palace (photo.)  At the time it was built, the sea came up to the house and trade goods, mostly wine, would have been unloaded directly into the basement of the house. This museum is really worth a visit.  It also has a very nice, inexpensive cafe for lunch.  Afterwards I visited some of the city parks and the City Art Gallery which is small but claims to be internationally renowned.  Tomorrow we visit Plymouth.

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