With the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic upon us I was racking my brains about what to post for the occasion. When I shut my allatsea blog down I moved a lot of the material to Musings, and you can find the following if you know where to look:
There is also a post about the “Forgotten Titanic” as well as a visit to the grave of Wallace Hartley and information about a Titanic related grave in South Africa, as well as South African Connections to the Titanic, and of course the Captain Smith statue in Lichfield.
However, it only struck me today that there are other Titanic related places in Southampton that I never really documented. One of the most obvious one is the former South Western Hotel in Southampton.
The former hotel is located within sight of Dock Gate 4, which leads down to the Queen Elizabeth II Terminal and Berth 44 from where the Titanic departed on 10 April 1912.
The hotel was designed by English architect John Norton and was completed in 1872 as the Imperial Hotel. The building is situated on a corner plot on Terminus Terrace and Canute Road. The hotel was renamed South Western Hotel in 1882 following its purchase by the London and South Western Railway and in 1912 it was one of the most important hotels in Southampton. Guests at the hotel who later boarded the Titanic included her designer Thomas Andrews and Managing Director of the White Star Line Joseph Bruce Ismay.
The hotel closed in 1939 and became HMS Shrapnel, a military intelligence establishment. After the war it became known as South Western House and was the local base, first of Cunard, and later of the BBC. In 1997-99 it was converted by Berkley Homes into flats and renamed Imperial House.
An surprisingly unassuming building, it was used as the company offices of White Star Line and housed the administrative functions, provided ticket sales and assisted with customer inquiries. Constructed in 1893, it was taken over by White Star Line in 1907 and used by them until 1931. Relatives of the Titanic crew members congregated outside the building to hear news of their loved ones.
The Grapes gained fame as the last drinking place for John Podesta, William Nutbean, Bertram, Tom and Alfred Slade. When the time came to rejoin their ship a train approached via the level crossing. Podesta and Nutbean ran in front of the train whilst the 3 Slade brothers waited for it to pass. By the time the Slade brothers had reached the dockside it was too late and they had missed their boat. Podesta and Nutbean, survived the sinking. The pub is not as close to the berth as you would expect, neither does it look out on the docks.
Docks’ Post Office and Telegraph Office
The former Docks’ Post Office and Telegraph Office was built at the turn of the 20th century, and is situated next to the approach road to Dock Gate 4. It was here that Titanic’s mail was sorted before being loaded on to the ship. It too has been converted into flats. The Postal Worker’s Memorial may be found on the first floor inside the south block of the Civic Centre in Southampton. The memorial commemorates the two British Sea Post officers and their three American colleagues, who died when the ship went down. The plaque is made from a spare propeller donated by Harland & Wolff. The plaque was originally located in Southampton’s main Post Office.
The “Test Quays” and Berth 43.
The docks in Southampton have changed considerably over the years, passenger liners have been replaced by cruise ships and car carriers are the main users of what is Berth 43 and 44 and part of what used to be known as the “Test Quays”. Queen Elizabeth II cruise terminal stands at the spot where the Oceanic and New York were double banked when the Titanic moved past, drawing the New York away from the Oceanic, snapping mooring lines and delaying the Titanic’s final departure. It was said to be an ill omen and unlucky, but the maiden voyage went ahead. Encyclopedia Titanica has a description and photographs of the incident.
In the image below the Queen Mary 2 is berthed opposite the spot where the Titanic was moored. I believe that the black painted bollard is supposed to indicate the space.
If you stand on the landward side and look towards Southampton Water, Berth 43 is on the left and the Ocean Terminal on the right (where the QM2 is moored in the other image). Titanic berthed bow outwards and then turned to Port (left). It is strange to stand at that spot and try to imagine the Titanic moving away from the berth, attended to by the tugs. It is the old black and white image thing again. It does not seem real when viewed in a modern context. The other thing that struck me about this area was how narrow it was. A large ship on either side of this berth would have made maneuvering very difficult. Ships were not equipped with bow thrusters and multiple tugs would have been used to haul them away from the quayside and then tow them backward or forwards to turn in the swinging grounds off the berth. Nowadays ships back into the berth and move alongside using their own thrusters. No tugs required.
Modern Southampton has also treed to cash in on the legend. Just up the road from where I lived was…
and it is very close to…..
This is a newish area, and it could be that it is land cleared after the war. The railway line that runs into the docks is just behind this area, and it comes out alongside berth 43 and runs up to QEII Terminal which would have been the Test Quays in 1912. The boat train probably traveled along this railway line to pull up alongside ships berthed at 42, 43 and 44, I suspect there must be a branch out to where the Ocean Terminal is today (Berth 46 and 47) Carpathia Court is also very close to the harbour, but again it is on a newish development.
And on the subject of the Carpathia, Captain Arthur Rostron used to have a house up in West End, and there is a close named after him.
His house also has a plaque in his honour.
Sir Arthur Rostron is buried in nearby West End Parish Cemetery.
There was also a Titanic themed housing development, and it too has been branded with the Titanic. A very nice mural adorns the one wall of the flats, sadly, a guy with a strange hat also adorns the parking lot…
The QE2 Mile has a number of plaques referring to historical events set into the pavement, two of them relate to the Titanic.
Close to the SeaCity museum is the Millvina Dean Memorial Garden. Millvina was the youngest Titanic survivor, as well as the last living one. She passed away on 31 May 2009
The biggest piece of “Titanica” in the city is the SeaCity Museum with its overly large Titanic display that dominates any other reference to the maritime history of the city. And if you like that sort of thing then so be it. For me the most meaningful part of the city and the long lost liner is the berth that she sailed from in the Eastern Docks.
It is hard to visualise the city over 100 years ago, the ships then looked very differently from what they do today, and they did not have the ability to berth and unberth without the aid of tugs. There would also be a pall of smoke over the docks from all the coal burning ships and trains. Yet there are elements of it from 1912 that still survive, especially amongst the older buildings, and of course the old city walls. The big change probably came as a result of the Blitz, when portions of the city were destroyed by bombing.
Unfortunately Southampton is more renown as being the place where the Titanic sailed from as opposed to the premier port where North Atlantic liners sailed from, or where the Union-Castle mailships used to sail from.
And that concludes my brief look at some of the Titanic landmarks in Southampton. Some of these images may change as I root through my collection.
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