Our next trip out from Weymouth was an incredible day, where we visited all three cities in Hampshire by train in one day, similar to when we visited the three West Yorkshire cities in a day previously (Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield). We started with the port of Southampton…
Status: City of Southampton Unitary District, Hampshire, City, England
Travel: South West Trains (Weymouth – Southampton Central), First Great Western (Southampton Central – Winchester), South West Trains (Southampton Central – Portsmouth & South Sea), South West Trains (Portsmouth Harbour – Southampton Central)
Eating & Sleeping: Greggs
Attractions: Civic Hall, Southampton Sculpture Trail, City Wall’s, SeaCity Museum, Art Gallery, Library, Parks, Bargate, Itchen Bridge etc
Walking up into the city centre from Southampton Central station, this was the first place we arrived at. The combined Library, Art Gallery, Guildhall, City Council building and SeaCity Museum is a fantastic building, very long and a shining white colour.
It was started in 1930, and finished by 1932. A magnificent Clock Tower stands at one end of the building, also started in 1932. It stands at 156 feet tall (215 steps to stagger up!) and occasionally tours are offered giving sweeping views across the rest of the city.
From here it was only a short walk past the main shopping centres into the very heart of the city, and the great swathe of pedestrianised sections, where we found the most unexpected thing…
When I was thinking about Southampton as we were sat on the train from Weymouth, I had an image of a more modern city, and as it has no Cathedral (one of the many cities that doesn’t in Britain) I didn’t really think there would be many historic sections to it. But I was proved very much wrong.
The above gatehouse is part of the original City Walls, of which various sections survive, but not all connected up. These date from at least the 10th century, and it’s incredible what survives today. They also show you how much the city has expanded since then, as they are known in a seemingly random position in the middle of the city centre.
The gate pictured is known as the Bargate, and was the North Gate into the city. It’s flanked by two iron lions brandishing metal spears. This gate was constructed around 1180, with the archways being added in the late 1700’s. The original city Guildhall was situated in the gate, until the late 1770’s. An Art Gallery is now featured there, and for shoppers there is a nearby shopping centred named after the gate.
This is another section of the walls, which almost connects to the Bargate. Coming from the main West Quay Shopping Centre, there is a tower on the edge of the wall, and going left you cross a modern bridge onto the next section of the walls, and then come down back to ground level near to the gate. The wall breaks after the tower, but looking down the left side you can see more sections of wall stretching off into the distance towards the main port.
Standing on the section of wall heading towards the gate is a bronze figure, looking forlornly over the side at the world going past below. This is John Le Fleming (1295 – 1336), former Mayor of the City, and has been atop the wall since 1991. It was a great opportunity to pose for a picture, so Gemma got a great one of me stood looking over the wall alongside Mr Fleming.
We didn’t wander anywhere near the port as it was quite a long way out from the city centre, but just from the wall we could see a large cruise ship ready to take passengers to Europe and beyond. It’s a very busy port and one of the largest on the South Coast of England.
From the gate and walls we headed through the long pedestrianised section back towards the SeaCity Museum and Clock Tower. Southampton has an impressive array of parks around here, with five of them all connected together:
1) Hoglands Park
2) Palmerston Park
3) East Park
4) Watts Park
5) Houndwell Park
We had a good wander around at least two of these, Palmerston and Houndwell parks. The above statue can be found in Palmerston Park, (per the name of the statue) and is of Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784 – 1865), and most commonly known as Lord Palmerston. He was Prime Minster of the UK twice, 1855 – 1858 and 1859 – 1865. The statue was unveiled in 1869.
The parks are quite extensive and a great place to relax. There is a bandstand on the left hand side out of shot, and the parks are beautifully laid out. When we visited, Southampton was also home to a number of sculptures of a certain animal, and I think there is only one on the pictures I have put up so see if you can spot it. The next post on this blog will tell you all about them, and fans of the Superlambananas might be similarly interested.
We circled back around to the SeaCity Museum and Clock Tower, and the building is just as impressive from this side, with one of the main entrances sat in a large courtyard. It’s amazing how many important features of the town are all situated in one big building. It’s a shame we didn’t have time to explore it thoroughly but we had a few other places to go that day, so we went back to the train station, and got our next train, on towards the historic Cathedral city of Winchester, former capital of England…
We returned to Southampton later in the day to get another train on to Portsmouth, and on the way there we went past the Itchen Bridge (1977, crossing the river Itchen that flows through the city) and I found it very impressive, tracing a great arch over the sky.
There are other things to explore in the city, such as the animal trail that you will find out about shortly, as well as the Custom House, the Wool House Museum in a medieval warehouse near the docks, and the former Maritime Museum artefacts are now in the SeaCity Museum, so there is plenty to explore.
Southampton has great connections, with regular trains to Portsmouth, Weymouth, London, Cardiff and Brighton as well as Southampton Airport serving a variety of international destinations.
It’s a great city, and really surprising for the history it contains, and has some of the finest City Wall’s outside the great medieval cities such as York or Chester, so give it a visit and see what you find. Stay tuned for Southampton’s Sculptures and then onto Winchester!