Holy Rood Church, Southampton

The Holy Rood Church (aka Holyrood Church) in Southampton is well known because of the link to the Titanic that exists within the ruins.  And it was through that connection that I first took a look at the building, or what is left of it. The church was one of the original five churches serving the old walled town of Southampton and was built in 1320, and unfortunately destroyed by enemy bombing during the blitz in November 1940.

Period postcard

Period postcard

During the night of 30 November 1940, the centre of Southampton was the target for the German Luftwaffe, and high explosive bombs and incendiaries were dropped on the town centre. By the morning, the church was a smoking ruin and St. Mary’s church nearby was gutted, although nearby St. Michael’s survived unscathed, reportedly because it was used as an aiming point by the incoming bombers that were targeting the dock area.  Following the destruction of the church during the blitz, the only parts that are still standing are the tower at the south-western corner and the chancel at the eastern end, together with large parts of the north walls.

The history of the church is laid down at  https://historicsouthampton.co.uk/holyrood/

The church also serves as a memorial to the Merchant Navy.

It is difficult to know how large a graveyard the church had, and where the graves are today, given that the bombing may have caused a lot of damage to the graveyard, but there are still chest tombs in the area of the church, and it is possible that there are graves still intact under it. 

Parts of the exterior walls of the church are still standing, and have been stabilised. They really form part of the remains of the ancient city of Southampton, although much of the maritime heritage of the city has been lost.  

The spire still houses the clock and church bells, which feature pre-1760 Quarter Jacks (small figures that strike the quarters of each hour.)

However, the big drawcard to the church is the Titanic Memorial Fountain.

Originally sited on Southampton Common, it was relocated to the church in the 1970’s. The Memorial is not the only one in Southampton either, it is one of eight Titanic related memorials in and around the city. The fountain is not the only one I spotted in Southampton, there were at least two other public fountains in the city that I know of.

Fountain on Asylum Green

Fountain on Asylum Green

and the other is on the way to Shirley

Fountain near Milbrook and Shirley Roads

Fountain near Milbrook and Shirley Roads

Recently a plaque commemorating Captain Charles Fryatt was unveiled at the church and it joins the many other plaques that adorn the walls of this Memorial. More about Captain Fryatt at http://sotonopedia.wikidot.com

The plaques at Holy Rood Church.

The plaques above relate to the 1837 fire that ripped through a warehouse on the corner of the High Street and Gloucester Square, roughly three hundred yards away from the church. Those who lost their lives were commemorated in the church.  More about the fire at https://historicsouthampton.co.uk/1837-fire/

Holy Rood Church is as important to Southampton as the Bargate and the Civic Centre. It has been a part of the city long before anybody dreamt about the Titanic and the bombs from the sky. It has stood in that spot for a long time, and I certainly hope it will continue to do so long after the chrome and glass shopping malls are a thing of the past.  Along with St Michaels it will always be there to remind us of a city that was once a sailor’s city and the place where they came home to from the sea

DRW © 2016-2022. Retrospectively created 19/11/2016, updated 14/12/2021

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