musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Southampton

Farewell Oriana

*Update: 16/08/2019.*

Today Oriana sailed from Southampton under her new name “Piano Land”. Stripped of her new P&O corporate branding she headed off to an uncertain future in China. It is possible she will be very successful in her new role and only time will tell. Fair weather and safe seas for your future Oriana. You will not be forgotten.  

The images below are all courtesy of Steve Carrett and are used with permission. 

Destored and with her new name on her bows, Oriana is ready to leave

Aurora is berthed behind Oriana as she makes ready to sail

That last glimpse of a great ship

Steve Carrett shot this video of her departure.

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* end update*

Ships are strange things, they  are sometimes regarded with fondness by those who sail in them, and there are plenty of examples of that affection. I am sure that nobody really gives a hoot about a mass produced airliner, but a classic ship is a whole different ball game.  Sadly this month sees the withdrawal of one of the few remaining classic cruise ships left. It was announced that the Oriana was to be withdrawn and had been sold for service in China in August.

What makes her special is that she was built as a replacement for the legendary Canberra and incorporates aspects of her design in her structure.  While she does not have the wonderful curves of the Great White Whale, she was a worthy successor, becoming more popular each year and building up a legendary following.

Canberra in Durban

The logic behind her disposal is a puzzling one, and there are a few possible scenarios: she could be mechanically troublesome, she does not fit in with the Carnival Cruises group “image”, she is getting on in years (she was launched on 30 June 1994), there are not enough balcony cabins in her, etc. We are not privy to these decisions, but we sure as heck can condemn them. 

My own association with the ship dates from 1997 when I undertook a short hop from Durban to Cape Town on her and I was also able to work on her as a baggage handler back in 2013. It was never fun to work on board her when doing baggage because you literally worked yourself to a standstill. 

A VOYAGE ON THE ORIANA.
 22-03-97 to 24-03-97. Durban-Cape Town

The announcement that Canberra would be replaced by a new ship was greeted with much dismay by everybody. The concept vessel shown to the media was criticised as being too much like a wedding cake and too little like Canberra. She was built by Joseph Meyer of Papenburg, Germany and entered service in 1995. Soon it was announced that this ship, known as Oriana, would be calling in Durban during her 1997 world cruise. The time had come for us to sail again. I was one of the first South Africans to book the short Durban to Cape Town trip, I phoned as the voyage was made available. Needless to say I took what I could get! The berth that I chose was a shared 4 berth inside cabin. This berth was guaranteed but I would only know my cabin number once the ship arrived, something that would play in my favour once she was in Durban.

Then it was time to wait and watch the exchange rate. The ship was due in Durban on 22 March, arriving in Cape Town on 24 March, a short 1 day and two night hop. By now Rudi had booked as well and we started counting the days.

Postcard view of the Oriana shortly after she entered service

As the sailing grew closer I decided that I would return to Durban on Symphony just for fun and went ahead and booked that as well. Now I had two ships to look forward to and an empty bank account.

Early in the morning, on Friday the 21st we departed on the long drive to Durban. Howard was at the helm and for once we made the trip down in daylight! The problem was that the grotty weather was coming too and we hit the usual rain at Van Reenen and all the way to Durban. Duly arriving we headed off for lunch on board the 40000 ton container ship, MSC Samia. before dropping Rudi and his girl friend off at their sleeping place. The rest of us made for the tug Jannie Oelofsen where we would be spending the night. There were not too many movements on the go and yet they were all very interesting.
 
Our last movement was to a ship which seemed really decrepit, its lines could not reach the quayside and she was having engine problems. On arrival back at the tug jetty we found Ken Malcolm, who joined Neville and Clive Bush on the pilot boat while Howard and I hopped on to the tug. The pilot boat headed out to sea to drop off a pilot at Symphony and one at Oriana. Our tug was allocated to Oriana, and with the weather finally clearing, we awaited our first glimpse of this great ship. Symphony waddled in first, looking as great as ever but she was soon to be overwhelmed by what was astern of her.
Our first sight of Oriana was of a huge white ship which really was not attractive when foreshortened. However, once she was in view and had turned completely then only could we appreciate her. She was huge, dazzling white and perfectly trimmed onto her waterline. Equipped with three bow thrusters, twin screws, twin rudders and a stern thruster, she berthed herself while the tugs stood off in awe. As far as I remember she was the second biggest cruise ship to enter Durban (QE2 was the biggest)
 
Dropped off by the tug we quickly collected the guys and we headed for the ship. There was no doubt that she was big, she towered over everything in sight and made Symphony look like a toy. We headed down to the gangway where I attempted to get the guys on board as Rudi had not organised a ship visit. There was no luck in that department, however I was taken on board to get my cabin number and booked in as well. I now had a boarding pass and could come and go as I pleased. I got off again and we all went around to Symphony to look at her, alas there was no visit organised either. Time was passing, and the smell of food was rather urgent so I said my farewells to everybody and headed for my newest ship….
 
The entrance is on F deck where the reception desk and bottom of the 5 deck atrium is situated. The carpets are a light green colour and a fountain gurgles behind the staircase. One deck up are  the shops with the Peninsular restaurant midships and Oriental restaurant aft. The next deck has a spectacular wrap around promenade as well as the Pacific lounge, Lords Tavern, Harlequins lounge, the casino, Andersons with its club like atmosphere, and the really spectacular Theatre Royal. D deck houses the children’s playrooms, Chaplains Cinema, library, The Crichton complex and passenger cabins.
 
The next three decks are devoted solely to cabins with the Lido deck right on top of all of these. Here is found the conservatory where the buffet is served. The two pools are on this deck as well as the gym. The deck surrounding this area has a jogging track around the ship while the entrance to the Crows Nest is found forward. There are three sets of lifts in the ship and they all work!. The terrace pool is situated on the promenade deck aft and the view from the sun deck down to the stern where this pool is, is really spectacular. The massive buff funnel crowns the whole package and is easily recognisable for miles.
The images below were taken in 2013 with my cellphone and I make no excuses for quality.
Surprisingly enough, the ship, in-spite of its size is relatively simple to find your way around. My cabin was on E deck and the number two staircase was just around the corner. Inside, the cabin was small but neat. There were three other guys in the cabin, one of whom was on his sixth world cruise and who had been on since Southampton. There was a fridge, TV, mini-safe and every other amenity imaginable in that cabin. The missing porthole was not really a problem. Once on deck, I watched Symphony sail and as she passed I could almost look down her funnel. By the time we sailed it was late and the light was failing and it looked like rain was brewing again. The wind howled us off the decks and we all headed below. There was very little vibration or motion on board and it was very difficult to think that you were on board a ship.
 
Being such a big ship, there is never any feeling of crowds of people, in fact I wonder how full she really was? There was quite a bit to do on board, bars to visit, shops to ogle, movies to attend and of course food to scoff. I had eaten lunch at the conservatory and if it was any indication of the standard of service on board then we were really in for a treat. I was not disappointed as we sat down for supper in the Peninsular restaurant.
The service was brilliant with two very articulate and polite stewards catering for our every need. There was food galore, in fact too much food for one sitting as far as I am concerned. However it was dispatched with great gusto and we all retired that night feeling somewhat bloated. More food awaited us at breakfast, again in the conservatory. The place was so big that It never really was crowded and the queues were quite small.
Our next visit was to reception where we enquired whether it was possible to present our World Ship Society plaque to the master. After some phone calls we were told that we would be informed, so off we scuttled, meeting at the jacuzzi. We spent the morning eating ice cream in the jacuzzi with a howling wind around us. On arrival back at the cabin I discovered that our visit to the master was scheduled for 11H30 and it was 11H20 already. Needless to say I could not find Rudi and I had some quick explaining to do to the captain’s secretary. The visit was rescheduled for later that day and off we went for more food! Lunch over, we were introduced to the master and presented our plaque. I was also able to grab a pic from her bridge wing, and as you can see the weather was improving. 
Once we finished off there it was as if we had accomplished all that had to be done and the rest of the time I spent on a deck chair on that glorious promenade watching the sea go by. After all, isn’t that what sea travel is all about?
 
The next morning it was up early to watch the approach to Cape Town. We passed Cape Point around 06H30 but there were clouds around everything and we could not see very much. We entered Cape Town harbour about 08H30, the tugs were spraying water and on the quayside a band played stirring nautical type tunes.
This time Oriana had lines on the tugs and she did not berth herself. A mediocre crowd awaited us as we slowly started our disembarkation. Once off the ship I met up with my lift and we went to drop my luggage before heading out to town. The ship dominated everything and we could see that huge funnel for miles.
That night in cold weather the Oriana took her leave, sailing slowly past us as we stood at the quayside, her lights were all burning and the funnel glowed in the spotlights. As she dropped the pilot I could see the tiered decks that overlooked the terrace pool. I had stood there not too long ago, now it was over and Oriana was on her way home. I had another ship to catch the next day, but would anything ever compare? somehow I doubted it. The Symphony may be a great ship, but she is not in the same league as Oriana was.
 
Southampton 2013.
I saw Oriana many times in Southampton, and the biggest difference that I saw was a “ducktail” that had been added to her stern. It did not enhance her looks at all and you could see it was an afterthought. I worked baggage on her one day and snuck away at lunch time and took the pics you see above. It was like visiting an old friend, she was familiar, but not as familiar. I never thought that I would see her leaving P&O at such a young age and I really hoped that one day I would be able to do another short voyage on her. My shipwatch entry for Oriana may be found here.  
 
Farewell Oriana, long may you still be with us and may you care for those who sail in you the way you always did. Safe harbours and fair weather in your voyages. You will be missed. 
 
 

(1500×797)

DRW © 2019. Created 25/07/2019. Updated 17/08/2019.  Last sailing images courtesy of Steve Carrett. 
 
Updated: 17/08/2019 — 07:09

Scalex Pretoria Castle

It is about time I posted about my newest toy boat. I mentioned her briefly on my other toy boat post some months ago,  and in between then and now I have acquired another one, albeit in a poor condition too. 

The new boat is missing a funnel, masts and some of the lifeboats. The forward bulwark is also broken and that has damaged the foredeck. However, I suspect this ship may be a newer iteration because it does not suffer as much from the warping of the superstructure like the first one does. The funnel and deck in the foreground come from the 2nd boat and it is badly warped so I will remove the deck area and replace it.  The new funnel has been glued but needs more coats of paint.  

So, I have 2 ships that are in need of work, and sailing, although at the moment our weather is as such that there is a lot of water but no way to access it (that may change as flood warnings are in force for Tewkesbury as of today).

This is the clockwork motor (prop shaft leads off to the right), and is wound though the shaft in the centre of the image which comes up into the funnel. 

You can see a slight colour difference in the 2 ships below, which really supports my theory that the one may be much older. 

I may just repaint one of them in UC colours and leave the other in an assembled stated but unpainted. It’s a lot of hull to paint and I do not feel up to doing it. So, at this moment this is where I am at. Once I get some sun I will take more pics. but till then I will continue to work on them both. I will be honest, I really like this pair, they may be somewhat out of scale and warped and generally quite tatty, but they are wonderfully quirky models and I would have loved to have had one as a child. I believe that they were available in SA, but apart from that information know nothing further. 

Alongside a 1/1250 Albatros model of the Pretoria Castle

The real ship looked like this:

The big flood never happened thankfully, although I did get to try out my new ship in the flooded field where I live. Unfortunately the water was full of grass clippings and they kept jamming the prop. It was also very difficult trying to juggle the ship, camera, string and myself so I gave up quite quickly.

Afloat on my local puddle:

And there you have it, a pair of interesting models from a different era. The real Pretoria Castle was acquired by Safmarine and entered service as SA Oranje in 1966 and she went to the breakers in 1975. The models date from either the 1950’s or mid 1960’s. They are almost as old as I am. 

Pretoria Castle box art

DRW © 2019. Created 13/06/2019

Updated: 27/06/2019 — 17:44

Remembering D-Day, 75 years ago

Today, 75 years ago the Allied Forces landed on the coast of Normandy, the first step in the removal of the Axis powers from continental Europe. I was sitting thinking this morning about the courage of those who stepped into the unknown when the ramps of the landing craft dropped, leaving the path open onto the beach. That scale of  invasion had never been attempted before, and the book had to be written on how to do it long before the actual event.

The same level of courage was shown by the 23400 airborne troops who boarded the gliders and their tugs to cross the channel and get in harms way. In fact everybody had a role to play and it was through all their efforts that so many saw the 7th of June. There were 760 gliders and 1370 transport aircraft in use, protected by 3950 fighters. In total  129710 men were involved, supported by 1550 tanks and 12500 other vehicles.  It is not my place to describe the events on the beaches on that day, in fact the only people who could really describe it are the ever dwindling band of men who were there 75 years ago.

D-Day is commemorated in many places in the UK, and this week has seen a number of services and gatherings, and a new memorial was unveiled in France although why it has taken 75 years to happen is beyond me. Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron attended the inauguration of the British Normandy Memorial, overlooking Gold Beach at Ver-sur-Mer. The memorial  honours the more than 22,000 soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who died fighting under British command during D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.

The National Memorial Arboretum  commemorates the invasion at the Normandy Veterans Memorial (301) where there are 5 stones dedicated to each of the landing beaches in Normandy (Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah and Omaha). 

UTAH Beach

JUNO Beach

GOLD Beach

SWORD Beach

OMAHA Beach

Footnote: it is possible that there are other memorials at the NMA pertaining to the invasion since my visit 2015.

The problem that we face today is that history is being watered down so as to not offend some person who seemingly is offended at anything that is not politically correct. In 25 years time will we still commemorate this event? or will we be commemorating something that is unrecognisable as being related to D–Day? The veterans of the event grow fewer each year. All are over 75 years old, and many were in action before they were 20.  

Over the years D-Day has tended to be seen as an all American event, whereas there were men and women from 12 nations participating. We really have Hollywood to blame for a lot of that misunderstanding, sadly it is unlikely that the definitive Normandy Invasion movie will ever be made. 

The one tangible link with the invasion is HMS Belfast that is berthed in London on the Thames. History was made on that ship, and her guns were part of the naval bombardment on the beaches. I have never really found out how much damage was done by the naval bombardment, but I do not think I would have liked to have been a German Gefreiter on the receiving end of a 16″ shell. 

The forward guns of HMS Belfast

The naval contingent was huge and 120 warships, 1260 merchant vessels,  250 minesweepers, 3500 troop carriers, 100 smaller warships and 600 specialist craft took part.

Finally I wanted to make mention of the Port of Southampton.

The acres of harbour and its facilities were vital in the logistical operation of the invasion, and while much is written about the invasion very little is written about the harbour from where so many ships set out from. 

 

The fact remains that so much had to happen to get the men onto the beaches, the fact that they did is testament to the many who contributed to the success of the invasion. The vast cemeteries in France each has a story to tell, and the graves in it are those of real men. Some would loose their lives almost immediately the ramps dropped, others would die later in the drive from the beaches. But once that foothold was made there was no turning around.

On this day we commemorate the success of the Normandy Invasion and the Allied Forces who made it happen. 

 DRW © 2019. Created 06/06/2019. Statistics are sourced from the BBC. 

Updated: 07/06/2019 — 05:30

Remembering the Titanic 2019

Every year in mid April we commemorate the loss of the Titanic.  It is a well known story that has been analysed, filmed, written about, speculated on and done to death. My own interest in the ship came about when I read about the spot where she had gone down, that ships avoided for fear of encountering bodies. In later years I would raid the local libraries for books about the ship and try my best to obtain a model of her.  I have however lost my interest in the ship and now concern myself with other things because realisically there is not much more that I can add to the story of the ship and its people.

The last interesting discovery that I made was in Liverpool where the Transatlantic trade was dominated by the Mauretania and her sister. Titanic and her sisters would not use that city as a base, but rather use Southampton. However, Titanic was registered in Liverpool and there is a memorial to her in that city. 

The memorial commemorates the 244 engineers who lost their lives in the disaster. It was designed by Sir William Goscombe John and constructed circa 1916 and is a Grade II* listed building.

The memorial is inscribed:

IN HONOUR OF

ALL HEROES OF THE

MARINE ENGINE ROOM

THIS MEMORIAL WAS ERECTED

BY INTERNATIONAL INSCRIPTION

MCMXVI 

and

THE BRAVE DO NOT DIE

THEIR DEEDS LIVE FOREVER

AND CALL UPON US

TO EMULATE THEIR COURAGE

AND DEVOTION TO DUTY

More images of the memorial are available on the relevant page at Allatsea

While it is easy to remember the passengers who lost their lives in the disaster; the crew tend to get forgotten, especially the men who remained at their posts right up till the end. Irrespective though, over 1500 people lost their lives on this day in 1912 in a disaster that has somehow become the “poster boy” for maritime disasters, and the only North Atlantic liner that almost everybody knows about. 

DRW © 2019. Created 15/04/2019

Updated: 15/04/2019 — 05:59

Remember the Mendi

HMT Mendi (21/02/1917)

On 21 February 1917, South Africa lost some 607 African volunteers en route to the battlefields of France when their troopship; HMT Mendi, was in a collision with the SS Darro off St Catherine’s Point on the Isle of Wight. The resulting death toll was high; of the 802 SANLC troops on board some 607 men of the South African contingent perished, as did 30 members of her crew.  The 4230 GRT Mendi (Official number 120875), was owned by the British & African Steam Navigation Company Limited. which was part of Elder, Dempster and Company. She was 370 ft long with a beam of 46 ft and was built by Alexander Stephen & Sons, Glasgow. She was fitted with triple expansion steam engines that gave her a maximum speed of 13 knots.

Model of the SS Mendi by Buddy Bacon, in Simonstown Naval Museum. Used with permission.

On 10 April 2013, while I was in Southampton I decided to visit Hollybrook Cemetery and the Hollybrook Memorial to the missing. 
 

 
This particular memorial at Hollybrook commemorates by name almost 1900 servicemen and women of the Commonwealth land and air forces whose graves are not known, many of whom were lost in transports, torpedoed or mined in home waters. The memorial also bears the names of those who were lost or buried at sea or who died at home but whose bodies could not be recovered for burial.  
 
Sadly, all that is left of their lives is their names on a plaque. And I think that in this case, there is a small piece of England that is uniquely South African. They were men that came from the tip of Africa, to participate as non combatants in a war that they knew nothing about, and they died far from their homes, never reaching their destination, but remaining here, far from the sunshine that was now fading as I took my last few photographs. But if I do think about it, these men were never really forgotten, their families remembered them, and their comrades, but they too have passed on, and  that duty has been passed on to us, a generation of ex-servicemen who also served their country. 
 
However, in a shocking newspaper article on the 17th of February it was revealed that “The department of military veterans has withdrawn support for an “imperial” commemoration of a World War 1 shipping disaster in which 646 mainly black South Africans died” 
A retired senior military officer this week described the department’s decision as “abominable and a disgrace”. He said: “This means no military band or guards in fact no formal military presence at a memorial for South Africans who died on service in war.”
(Article in the Sunday Times 17 February 2019 Front page.) 
 
The stance has drawn severe criticism from veterans and organisations, and sadly the Mendi is once again just a porn in a game called political correctness and white washing of history. 
 

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning

We Will Remember Them.


DRW © 2019. Created 18/02/2019. 

Updated: 24/03/2019 — 13:58

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

Updated: 13/08/2018 — 12:51

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

Updated: 13/08/2018 — 12:54

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°.

———————————————————

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

Updated: 23/05/2018 — 12:19

Retrospective: Northwards to Northam

As a follow up to my last retrospective post about Woolston and Weston I have decided to do the equivalent post about the other side of the Itchen bridge towards Northham, St Denys, Swanwick and Bitterne. Bear in mind that this all happened nearly 5 years ago so my memory may be wobbly when it comes to detail. To give you some idea of what I am waffling about; this is what it looks like north of the Itchen Bridge. I did a post about Northam Train Depot way back in 2013 and it is worth having a squizz there too. The pano below shows the view north of the bridge with the Griffon Hoverworks operating by the big structure on the right. (image is 1500×443)

If my memory serves me correctly whenever I did the major excursion in this direction I used the Northam Bridge by St Mary’s Stadium (on the left bank of the river). There are really 4 bridges involved in this area of the river: firstly there is the Itchen Bridge, then the Northam Road Bridge, then a railway trestle bridge and finally Cobden Bridge.  

Northam Road Bridge

Railway trestle bridge

The Cobden Bridge crosses the Itchen and joins the suburbs of St Denys and Bitterne Park. The present bridge dating from 1928, but there has been a bridge on this site since 1883.

Cobden Bridge

On the Bitterne side of the bridge is a triangle and that is where the you will find a monument in the image below that was designed by Kelway-Pope and bequeathed to Southampton by the late, Mrs Henrietta Bellenden Sayers, “In evidence of her care for both man and beast”. After 45 years in its original location in Above Bar it was then moved to its present site in 1934 when roadworks were being carried out in the city centre.  There are two plaques on the clock, as well as a small drinking fountain. The first plaque dates from when it was inaugurated way back in December 1889

Before the Itchen Bridge was built the vehicular and pedestrian traffic across the river was via the Woolston Floating Bridge, it operated from  23 November 1836 until 11 June 1977 but sadly that is now history, and although there is still a chain drawn ferry in Cowes I have still not been on one!

Moving even further back in time there used to be a village at this historic crossing point since before the middle ages, and with it being an important area because of the aircraft industry, it became a prime target for the Luftwaffe during the war and the area was heavily bombed. The end result was that the village was totally devastated and  never restored.   

(1500×869) looking south towards the Itchen Bridge

My one excursion into this area was to photograph South Stoneham Cemetery and I think I caught a train to St Denys as it was close to the cemetery.  The cemetery is very close to Southampton Airport and I had a strange encounter while I was there. One of the graves I was looking for was that of RJ Mitchell, the designer of the Spitfire, I was standing at his grave when I heard an aircraft, it was unlike anything I had heard before and I looked up and flying overhead was a Fairey Swordfish of World War 2 fame. It was  a poignant thing to see while standing in front of the grave of the designer of such a successful aircraft. 

South Stoneham Cemetery also has a memorial commemorating those who were killed at the Cunliffe-Owen aircraft factory on 11 September 1940. 52 people were killed and 92 were injured in this incident. 

When war broke out the factory was used  to produce parts for the Spitfire and as such became a target for the Luftwaffe. Unfortunately the reflections from the glass really makes the Roll of Honour almost impossible to take decent photographs of.  

The cemetery has 66 CWGC identified casualties buried in it from both wars, as well as 79 casualties identified on a screen wall from the former Southampton Crematorium.

And, on a roundabout close to Southampton Airport is a large Spitfire replica on display. 

Southampton is Spitfire territory and I have documented a few of the Spitfire related references in the city. 

Heading back from South Stoneham I could walk along the cycle path that runs next to the railway line heading towards Southampton. The trains to Portsmouth and onwards trace a circuitous route to cross the river at the railway trestle bridge and then head back the way they came but on the opposite side of the river. The next station being Woolston. 

The one discovery I made in my walk was an area that was designated as Chessel Bay Local Nature Reserve, I suspect you would call it a tidal mudflat but I am no real expert. 

(1500×589)

Unfortunately there was not much to see apart from mud and slime and the opposite bank of the Itchen in the distance, although that in itself had some interesting things afloat (or on the hard). 

The other discovery I made was a series of derelict boats on the mud right up against a housing complex next to where the Itchen Bridge meets land. (50.916270°  -1.383975°)  The biggest wooden boat must be quite old, and I was fascinated by her. If only there was a way to find out her history. 

There were quite a few derelict boats visible, and I have to admit I am puzzled why they have seemingly been abandoned, some appear to be in a reasonable condition too, they even have running water in them. The other odd thing I saw on my walks was bicycles that appear to have been dumped into the river. Why? Don’t ask me, but one possibility is that they had been stolen elsewhere and then dumped. Personally I think it is part of the national psyche to throw bicycles, prams, shopping trolleys and traffic cones into bodies of water. In the case below I can imagine a little girl hurling her bike into the water because it was not pink enough!

There are numerous boatyards on either bank of the Itchen and the river is very popular with leisure boaters and moorings extend for quite a distance.  Not everything was abandoned though as I did see a number of boats that appeared to be inhabited, or in regular service. This beauty is called Cymyran Bay  and she is an “Extreme Semi Swath (XSS) Offshore Support Vessel.”

One vessel that caught my eye was this small coaster that probably hasn’t been anywhere in years.

The boatyards on the river were fascinating places but they are also private property so I could not explore them properly, but could only admire them from a distance.

The Northam bridge is not the only bridge on that particular road. There is a nice railway bridge close to the train depot that affords a nice view of trains passing down the line towards to wherever they go, 

This trestle bridge has a makers plate on it from 1908, and was made by “Braithwaite & Kirk, West Bromwich”. In the years when boat trains used to run there is a good chance that this line connected to the pierside platforms. Trains also stop here when St Mary’s Stadium is in use and there is a dedicated line especially for them. 

 

My visit to this area would have been incomplete if I did not include Jesus Chapel in Pear Tree Lane.  It has the unique distinction of being the first new church to be built in England after the English Reformation, and is the oldest Anglican church anywhere in the world. 

It just goes to show how much history is all around if you really go looking for it, or bump into it by accident.  That pretty much covers a lot of my excursions north of the Itchen Bridge. I spent many a hot day up there looking for graves and of course admiring the view. The shipyards and aircraft industries on the Itchen are now history, yuppie pads have taken their place, and what were once working class areas are now the property of the rich, with access to the river rapidly closing as more and more complexes get erected. As I have said before: Southampton has changed; the war bringing about enough disruption that the character of the city was lost, and successive politicians have wreaked havoc on its ancient fibre. Its maritime heritage revolves around a ship that sank on its maiden voyage, and floating blocks of flats have replaced the ships of commerce and migration. It is still a fascinating place to visit though, and if I was able I would quite happily live there, because I consider Southampton to be my home town. 

DRW © 2013-2018 Retrospectively created 02/05/2018

Updated: 23/05/2018 — 12:19

These Two Days in History

Tonight history was made way back in 1912 as the RMS Titanic sailed into disaster and became a legend. The story has oft been told, and so much misinformation and downright untruths have permeated into legend that it is like watching the proliferation of fake news on Facebook.  

The fact remains though, many would loose their lives in the disaster, and so many lives would be altered, interrupted and irrevocably changed that they affected people from all around the world. Maritime safety legislation would be one of the many changes that would benefit from the sinking of the Titanic, although that would be way too late for those on board, but those regulations directly influence cruise ships over 100 years later.  The unimaginable happened in April 1912, but it can happen again in 2018, assuming we don’t all get exterminated in a nuclear holocaust this coming week. 

Titanic Engineers Memorial, Southampton

My own interest in the Titanic ended many years ago. There were too many instant experts that knew everything after seeing the James Cameron Titanic movie. And of course every Tom, Dick and Harry has taken to writing a book, and documentaries abound. There is nothing new to see, move along.

Postal workers memorial

Part of the closure I had came about as a result of seeing the artefact exhibition in the USA in 2000. It really helped to close the door on that chapter of my life, although it had a brief surge of interest when I finally got to Southampton in 2013. It had always been part of my dream to go there, and once I had seen what there was to see I was ready to call it quits. However, every year around about now I remember those events, and those people who never saw home, and those who waited for a loved one to return. It is part of history, you cannot change it, it did happen. Aliens did not sink the ship, an iceberg did the dirty deed. 

Charles M Hayes Memorial, London

So tonight, when I am bedding down after a long days vegging I will know that way back in time a ship was heading towards her end, nothing could change it, and her memory would carry on long after the last survivor passed away.  

Titanic Musicians plaque. St Mary’s, Southampton

She is not forgotten, and the souls who died on her will always be remembered.

Assuming that we don’t get destroyed in a nuclear holocaust first. 

DRW © 2018. Created 14 April 2018

Updated: 23/05/2018 — 12:19
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