Retrospective: The Old Southampton City Walls (1)

Getting back to the city walls.

Cast your mind back to 1450 for a moment, and imagine that you were approaching Southampton by pigeon or seagull or UFO, and this is what you would be looking at (more or less). Use this image as a reference when trying to understand this post. 

Surprisingly a lot of the old walls still survive in the city, although it is a hit and miss thing because age, progress, bombers, politicians and n’er-do-wells have all left their marks on the remains. In some places there are ruins that are identified as being a specific feature of the walls and in this post I am going to try to make some sort of coherent exploration of the the town walls. A lot of of time has passed since I was last in Southampton so I do not really remember too much. However, the map below may be of use to somebody interested in them.  I have had to split this post into two separate pages as it has grown quite a lot since I started trying to create a coherent record of what I saw. This page deals with the western half from the Bargate to the High Street

Key to image above:

1 – Bargate, 2 – John Le Fleming, 3 – Arundel Tower, 4 – Catchcold Tower, 5 – Castle East Gate, 6 – Medieval Boat Building,  7 – Westgate, 8 – Pilgrim Fathers and Stella Memorial, 9 – Yacht Club, 10 – The Wool House, 11 – Watergate, 12 – God’s House Tower 13 – Round Tower, 14 – Friary Gate, 15 – Polymond Tower, 16 – York Gate,  

The most obvious remnant of the walls is the Bargate. 

The Bargate (North side)

The Bargate sits plumb in the middle of High Street that originates (or terminates) at the shoreline, and at one point the road ran through the main gateway and it is quite odd to see images of a bus poking its nose out of there. Eventually the roads were diverted to either side of it but that meant that portions of the city walls were removed. Nowadays the area around it is pedestrianised but there were not too many viable businesses left in the shops around it.  

The other side of the Bargate (South side)

“During the 12th century the northern entrance to the medieval town was a single round archway. In the 13th century two round towers were added and early in the 15th century the North Front was extended. The Guildhall was formerly the town’s administrative centre and used for public functions and for performances by companies of strolling players” (text from a plaque on the Bargate). 

The building has seen use as a prison, Guildhall, police station, museum, storeroom and probably other things that I do not know about. Unfortunately when I was in Southampton no part of it was accessible, which was really quite disappointing. 

1- Bargate, 2 – John Le Fleming, 3 – Arundel Tower

Looking at the map above, to the left of the Bargate is a feature of one of the walls that I covered in a previous blogpost called “Someone is watching you”

That someone is John Le Fleming, former Mayor of Southampton from 1295 till 1336, and I suspect he may be looking with distaste at the consumerism that happens at the nearby West Quay. The Bargate is in line with this set of walls and and you can see one of the lions outside it just behind the lamp post. If you turned around and walked away from John Le Fleming you will cross a bridge and this is the view you get after the bridge and you can see the Bargate in the distance.

Arundel Tower

The next major structure in the chain of wall is called “Arundel Tower”

Arundel Tower and old city walls heading south (1500 x 646)

“Arundel Tower may be named after the magical horse of Sir Bevois, one of the founders of Southampton. Legend has it that Arundel was so fast he could outfly swallows. When Sir Bevois died the horse flung himself from the tower in sorrow. 

Sir John Arundel, a knight and keeper of Southampton in 1377, could also be the Tower’s namesake.

In 1400 you could have looked out from the tower and heard the lapping of the water below. The Tower’s open back design prevented attackers from laying siege, while the wall, running south along the shore of the River Test, protected the town from sea raids” 

Arundel Tower and Orchard Street)

The above text and image comes from an information board at the tower.

In the image below, the tower is on the left and it matches up reasonably well with the painting above, although at the time I took this the area was a car park.  Apparently the round tower to the right of Arundel and in front of the office building was called Catchcold Tower. It is always possible the men standing guard there coined the phrase because of their exposed position.

Catchcold Tower

The view from Catchcold Tower looking South is very different now to what it must have been so long ago. The high building in the image may be the one mentioned in the information plaque for the Castle East Gate as standing on the site of the former Southampton Castle.

The Castle East Gate

It provided access into the town from the Castle’s Inner Bailey and while no longer connected to the wall it is surviving portion of the original Southampton Castle.

Unfortunately I did not photograph the information plaque, but the transcription reads:

“The remains of the drum towers flanking the principle gateway to Southampton’s Medieval Castle were discovered through archaeological excavations in 1961. the castle itself formerly stood on the site now occupied by a 20th century block of 12 storey flats. the twin drum towers, now partially restored, were added to the defensive bailey wall of the Royal Caste during the late 14th century and were originally over 20 ft high.”

Blue Anchor Lane

One of the gaps in the walls is at Blue Anchor Lane. “It was used to take imported goods from the Quayside into the medieval town and the Market at St Michael’s Square. The stone arch forms part of the town walls. The Portcullis slot is still visible. In the 1330’s Blue Anchor Lane was known as Wytegods Lane after John Wytegod, the owner of the property now known as King John’s Palace which stands to the south..” (Information board transcription)

The Arcades,  West Gate and West Quay

I did not take many photographs of these, which is a pity because I believe they are quite rare. The arcades closed  off access to West Quay other than through the newly built Westgate. I will be honest though, I do not really understand how this area comes together because it has an inside and an outside aspect to it. The original West Quay jutted out into the water near here. 

The image below is the back of the Westgate (town side). On the image above this gate would be on the right hand side of the white building (“The Pig”)

The information plaque on the outside wall reads:

“This important west gate led directly to the West Quay which for many centuries was the only commercial quay that the town possessed. The grooves of the portcullis gate and the apertures through which the defenders of the town could harass attackers may still be seen. Through the archway marched some of the army of Henry V on their way to Agincourt in 1416.

The Pilgrim Fathers embarked here from the West Quay on the Mayflower August 15th 1620.”

On the inside wall there is a somewhat mysterious plaque that really needs some research on.

Medieval boat building

If you followed this wall southwards along the Western Esplanade you will come across an area set up to display the long lost art of Medieval boat building, and the information plate credited the display as being funded by the Southampton International Boatshow. Personally I liked the display, but sadly it was being vandalised by the time I left the city at the end of 2013. I only photographed it twice when I was there, which with hindsight is a pity. 

There was a general information board that covers various aspects of ship (or boat) building the old fashioned way, and I am reproducing it here, unfortunately it will not really be legible as it is a large board on a small screen.

The arched area that you can see in the image above is called “The Arcades” but I did not photograph it. The White building is “The Pig” and the Westgate is the arched doorway next to it (closest to the camera) 

The boat above is a replica medieval cargo vessel and it would have been used in the 14th century to export wool and import wine and other goods.  This boat suffered the most vandalism as some bright spark made a fire inside it (or possibly tried to set fire to it). That is why people can’t have good stuff! 

You really have to view these items as part of a much bigger picture of Southampton so many years ago as opposed to the glitzy West Quay development nearby. As I mentioned before the city was walled and very different then to what it is now.  The current Western Docks required the reclamation of 400 acres of mudflats between Western Esplanade and Millbrook shore. It was the largest reclamation scheme ever undertaken in the country at that time and the work started in 1928 and was completed by 1934. Way back in the 14 century the shoreline was in a totally different place, even lapping at the quays that may have existed in front of these self same walls. 

Western Docks (1500×402)

Further down from the boat building and just before the Stella and Pilgrim Fathers Memorial are another short series of arcades.

The image below was taken from the battlements of this structure and you can see the Pilgrim Fathers Memorial behind the tree.

The arcades are really the last stretch of high walls on this western side of the city, from here onwards the wall is quite low and interrupted by the very beautiful former Yacht Club building that was standing empty during my time in the city.

While the building next door to it was the site of the former Maritime Museum before that moved to the Civic Centre Complex (and became a Titanic Museum and not a Maritime Museum). The building is actually called “The Wool House”

These two properties are prime real estate because they face onto the waterfront (actually the Red Funnel Ferry Terminal) and the length of street in front of them is a very busy one. Just after the old museum there is a grassed open area and the walls do not exist as a contiguous structure. The area around Porter Lane has ruins as opposed to walls. 

The only real part of the wall that exists in this area is known as “The Round Tower” and it is indicated by the red arrow below. This area is the southern entrance to the city and is also known as the South Gate.

 

From behind and in front.

There is also a Jane Austen plaque affixed to the stonework.  Like so many places Southampton, tries to grasp at straws from her life, and frankly I do not really see the connection too much. I will however allow you to make your own decision. As I have said before, the city I was seeing was very different to the one that was around in 1912 when the Titanic sank, or during the Victorian era and the Middle Ages. 

The Watergate (not related to Richard Nixon) was in this area. Although logically the land has been extended outwards from this point because the current Town Quay is no longer butting onto the edge of the city. As far as I can see the period quays were really where the Town Quay Road is today. 

Customs House and Town Quay

This area also has one of the main roads (High Street) into the city and the bus from Town Quay travels up this road to get to the station. If you follow the road on foot you will end up walking into the back of the Bargate.

Town Quay from High Street

That concludes the walls on the western side of the city, we will cross High Street on the next page. Use the arrow to turn the page. 

forwardbut

Acknowledgements.

There are probably much better sites out there that can give a more coherent picture of the walls, and one of these is CastlesFortsBattles.co.uk that has a whole page dedicated to the ancient fortifications of the city.

Wikipedia has a few pages dedicated to various parts of the wall, the Town Walls Page is a good place to start

Don’t panic! The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Earth Edition has a good write up on the walls  too

Sotonopedia has a searchable index that is quite helpful too

There is a very nice PDF available for download at at discoversouthampton.co.uk

The Southampton City Council also has an 1870 Ordnance Survey Map of the city available

Much of the information here is from the numerous information boards and plaques provided by the Southampton City Counceil that relate to specific places in the walls, and they are a mine of information as well as useful images. I do not know who did the original artwork that I have used and would love to credit them accordingly. 

DRW ©2013-2018. Created retrospectively 11-16/05/2018

Retrospective: The Old Southampton City Walls (2)

Continuing where we left off. 

I have attached the map from page 1 into this post too because it is relevant to the information below.

Key to image above:

1 – Bargate, 2 – John Le Fleming, 3 – Arundel Tower, 4 – Catchcold Tower, 5 – Castle East Gate, 6 – Medieval Boat Building,  7 – Westgate, 8 – Pilgrim Fathers and Stella Memorial, 9 – Yacht Club, 10 – The Wool House, 11 – Watergate, 12 – God’s House Tower 13 – Round Tower, 14 – Friary Gate, 15 – Polymond Tower, 16 – York Gate,  

Across High Street.

If you manage to get across High Street without being flattened by a car/bus there is not all that much to see until you get to the corner of the block, in fact there is very little left of the walls from here onwards, although there are a number of interesting structures that may or may not be connected to the original city walls.  (Don’t you love the name “Winkle Street”?)

God’s House Tower

This building is probably not part of the original fortifications judging by the stonework, but it is not a recent addition either. There are 2 plaques affixed to this building. The first identifies the building as “God’s House Tower“, and an inevitable Jane Austen reference is added in just for information. I believe that part of the building used to be the Museum of Archaeology but it had closed in 2011.

The area behind the archway looks like this

And this area is quite interesting too is it contain the only other remaining substantial part of the original hospital, the Church of St. Julien,  I was really curious about this building but never pursued it. From what I heard it was very difficult to get a visit to. 

and of course just outside the gate is the Old Bowling Green, the oldest bowling green in the world which dates back to at least 1299 and of course Queen’s Park with the General Gordon Memorial

The map below really shows the context of this area quite well. 

John Speed’s map of Southampton 1611

In it you can see the spur that is Town Quay at the bottom and the West Quay jutting out on the right and God’s House Tower with the green line heading upwards which where the Town Ditch is/was. The shoreline at that point was where the street is now, and if you know Southampton you will understand how much land reclamation has happened over the years. 

Round Tower and Friary Gate

The town ditch area looks like this now (as at 2013). The small gated area in the distance to the right  is called the Round Tower and is explained in the plaque and image below it.

From here on upwards it is difficult to find a part of the wall that has some sort of identifiable feature left, probably because not much has survived over the years. The city outgrew its walls and once the land reclamation happened the walls became a feature instead of an integral part of the ebb and flow of the city. The walls occupied space and that space could be used for revenue earning things instead. 

This gateway is known as the Friary Gate, named after the Franciscan Friars that settled in Southampton around 1224 and occupied the south-east quadrant of the town. In 1373 the town wall cut off their access to Newton and they successfully lobbied for Friary Gate to be added. Permission was granted as long as they defended it themselves. Once the city started to grow eastwards the gate became moot anyway. The Friary was closed by Henry VIII in 1538, during the Dissolution

The Friary (John Hodgson 1986)

Yuppie pads now look out over the remnants of the eastern walls, although these have been incorporated into the area. In 200 years time the walls may still be here but the yuppie pads would have probably fallen down or been overtaken by bigger and more expensive yuppie pads or hovercar parking, or maybe a space port?

The Eastgate

There are no remnants of the East gate that probably stood at the end of East Street and to the east of Back-of-the-Walls. The Eastgate was one of the earliest gates in the medieval town (along with the Bargate), and was built around 1110 and demolished in 1774. It was originally just a free-standing tower with a gateway through it and ramparts on either side. 

York Gate and Polymond Tower

Apart from a very short stretch of wall near East Street the next major section of the wall is up by York Walk. Polymond Tower is the hooked piece on the right of the image below.

I do not really remember this area very well, in fact it is really just a section of wall and not much else.

  

The yellow car is parked by what is known as the Polymond Tower, and by some strange miracle I have a photograph of the information plate.

In the image above there is an opening to the right of the wall, and if you walked through that opening you would be passing through what was once known as York Gate, although it is now just a gap in the wall leading into the Bargate Shopping Centre entrance.

The Bargate Shopping Centre was closed when I was in Southampton, but one of the entrances led out into the pedestrian area surrounding the Bargate. 

That more or less concludes my retrospective of the walls surrounding Southampton. Surprisingly I managed to get images of a lot of it, but they are somewhat disjointed because of the often haphazard way I discovered things. I am NOT an expert on them and it is probable that my understanding of them is not always correct. I may relook this post at some point and change it all; it has taken long enough to actually complete as it is!

Acknowledgements.

There are probably much better sites out there that can give a more coherent picture of the walls, and one of these is CastlesFortsBattles.co.uk that has a whole page dedicated to the ancient fortifications of the city.

Wikipedia has a few pages dedicated to various parts of the wall, the Town Walls Page is a good place to start

Don’t panic! The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Earth Edition has a good write up on the walls  too

Sotonopedia has a searchable index that is quite helpful too

There is a very nice PDF available for download at at discoversouthampton.co.uk

The Southampton City Council also has an 1870 Ordnance Survey Map of the city available

Much of the information here is from the numerous information boards and plaques provided by the Southampton City Counceil that relate to specific places in the walls, and they are a mine of information as well as useful images. I do not know who did the original artwork that I have used and would love to credit them accordingly. 

DRW ©2013-2018. Created retrospectively 11-16/05/2018

Retrospective: The Pilgrim Fathers Memorial

There is one memorial in Southampton that I never really investigated (actually there are two, so I am including it here too), and this memorial will explain why there is a Mayflower Cruise Terminal. To know the context of the memorial we have to go way back to the Mayflower and the Pilgrim Fathers, and her voyage across the Atlantic way back in 1620. 

The ship by the standards of today was a small one, probably about 100 foot long with a 25 ft beam, and she had a crew of about 30. Why the uncertainty? because the measurement standards back then were different to what they are now, and of course there does not appear to be a set of blueprints to check with. We could also put it like this: Shieldhall is 81.69 m (268 ft) with a beam of 13.56 m (44 ft 6 in), she makes the Mayflower look small in comparison. 

The story of the Mayflower and her companion “Speedwell” is not for me to tell, there are places that can give a much better description than I can.  But once they sailed from Southampton they were effectively out of sight; until such times as somebody brought back word of their success in crossing the Atlantic or not. Speedwell did not live up to her name though, as she had to turn back because of persistent leaks.  The voyage took just over a month and it must have been a very crowded ship. As we know today the voyage was a success and Mayflower sailed home after delivering her passengers. She was probably broken up 4 years later, although even that is uncertain. Unlike so many of those sailing ships from back then, the Mayflower sailed into history, even though we know very little about her. We probably know more about those that made that long journey to a new world, and their epic voyage and history is what this memorial is about.

I managed to photograph two plaques and an inscription on the memorial:

There are other inscriptions on the memorial but I did not photograph those as far as I can tell from my images. The tip of the memorial is capped with a nice sailing ship representation, but I never considered photographing it from close up because there was nowhere around that would have given me the height to get a close up of her. 

The memorial from the old city walls nearby

The Google Earth co-ordinates for the memorial are:  50.897951°  -1.406901°.

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Memorial number two is one I want to include even though I do not have decent images of it. The story is quite a complicated one and needs to be read in the context of its time. The memorial is known as the Stella Memorial (previously known as The Rogers Memorial and before that The Stella Stewardess Memorial Fountain) and is located on the Western Esplanade in Southampton, and is in close proximity to the Pilgrim Father’s Memorial. 

To my dismay I only have one photograph of the memorial, and it is a poor one. Judging by the filename I took this image when the Rotterdam was in port

I did photograph the plaque though.  It reads: 

“In memory of the heroic death of Mary Ann [e] Rogers Stewardess of the “Stella” who on the night of the 30th March, 1899, amid the terror of shipwreck aided all the women under her charge to quit the vessel in safety giving up her own life-belt to one who was unprotected. Urged by the sailors to makes sure her escape she refused lest she might endanger the heavily-laden boat. Cheering the departing crew with the friendly cry of “Good-bye, good-bye.” She was seen a few moments later as the “Stella” went down lifting her arms upwards with the prayer “Lord have me” then sank in the waters with the sinking ship.

Actions such as these – revealing steadfast performance of duty in the face of death, ready self-sacrifice for the sake of others, reliance on God – constitute the glorious heritage of our English race. They deserve perpetual commemoration, because among the trivial pleasures and sordid strike of the world, they recall to us forever the nobility and love-worthiness of human nature.”

The memorial was unveiled on Southampton’s Western Esplanade by Lady Emma Crichton (daughter of the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire) during the morning of Saturday 27th July, 1901. Mary’s sister, son and son-in-law were also present. 

By her bravery Mary Anne Rogers earned herself a place at the GF Watts Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice. in London. I visited there in 2013 and it was a very interesting place too and is really worthy of being restarted. 

The sinking of the Stella was the subject of a Board of Trade enquiry on 27th April, 1899 and concluded  “…. the SS Stella was not navigated with proper and seamanlike care.” While the wreck was discovered in June 1973, by two Channel Islands divers. It lies in 49 metres (161 ft) of water south of the Casquets which lie 13 km northwest of the island of Alderney. The tragedy is sometimes referred to as ‘The Titanic of The Channel Islands

Mary Anne Rogers went down with the ship, and as such became yet another statistic in the toll of the sea. Nobody dreamt that in 1912 an even larger catastrophe would affect Southampton, and it would relegate the bravery of this stewardess to the back pages of his history. Fortunately her story has not been forgotten and there is a very good resource that tells the story so much better than I do, If ever I return to Southampton both of these places are on the list to revisit. 

DRW © 2013-2018, Created 05/05/2018