Weekly City Spotlight: Southampton


Aerial View of Southampton

Southampton provides the ideal location for a city break, situated in the South of England close to both Portsmouth and the New Forest it is famous for its association with the Titanic, as well as the starting point of the Pilgrims’ voyage to the New World aboard The Mayflower, and the creation and debut flight of the iconic Spitfire.  Rich in maritime heritage, there is also a wealth of historic attractions across the city with the chance to explore the Western Wall and Vaults, the Tudor House and Garden and the Clock Tower providing amazing views of the remarkable city.

Historic Southampton
Southampton’s town walls date back to the 13th and 14th centuries with the Normans constructing a castle as well as gatehouses, towers and walls in order to protect the city against invasion, building upon early defences created by the Romans and Anglo-Saxons.

It was during the Middle Ages that the area became known for its shipbuilding and the docks would play an important role during both World Wars in the repair and buildings of vessels.  In 1620 The Mayflower famously departed from Southampton, with the Pilgrim Fathers setting sail for the New World, which would see new colonies established in North America, initially in the area now known as New England.

RMS Titanic is famously associated with Southampton, having departed from the port on its maiden voyage on the 10 April 1912.  The magnificent Titanic was the largest ship in service at the time of its departure carrying 2,224 passengers. On the 15th April the ship tragically struck an iceberg on its way to New York, and with the sinking of the vessel over 1500 lives were sadly lost.

On 5 March 1936, Southampton was the location for the historic maiden flight of the Supermarine Spitfire, the high performance interceptor was the design of R J Mitchell, and became one of the most iconic aircraft in history.  Mitchel was Chief Designer at Southampton based Supermarine Aviation Works, and was responsible for the creation of the aircraft including the famous elliptical wings which facilitated higher speeds than the Hawker Hurricane.  The first sight by the public of the aircraft was on the 27th June 1936 at RAF Hendon and the Spitfire would go on to play a crucial role throughout the Second World War including the Battle of Britain, when its prominence took over that of the Hurricane in the RAF Fighter Command fleet.  With numerous variants manufactured celebrations took place in Southampton in 2011 to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Spitfire’s first test flight, with Carolyn Grace the only known female Spitfire pilot in the world taking to the skies to re-create the test flight around Southampton Airport which was then known as Eastleigh Airfield.

In February this year, Southampton also began celebrating 50 years of City Status with a number of activities scheduled to take place throughout the city this year marking its Golden Jubilee.

Popular Culture
Southampton is a historic and cultural city and as such has also been a focus in popular culture.

Films & TV
Diamonds are Forever (1971) Sean Connery starred as James Bond in this action adventure alongside Charles Gray who played the evil Blofeld. This classic was filmed in various locations including Southampton.

Carry on Cruising (1962), this carry on comedy starred the usual culprits including Kenneth Williams, Sid James and Kenneth Connor and featured countless shots of the Southampton Docks.

The Reckoning (2002) this short horror film was written and directed by Chris Barfoot who was born in Southampton.  The cast includes Mark Chapman and Mark Hill and was shot on location throughout the city.

Titanic (1997) the romantic drama, which followed Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet on their ill-fated journey aboard the Titanic, features the city as the Ship commences its maiden voyage from Southampton.

Rollover (2012) by James Raven is a crime novel set in Southampton, and features a gripping tale of murder and intrigue following the suspicious death of a lottery jackpot winner.

Talk of the Town, For the Love of a Soldier and Family Affair are all novels written by local author June Tate, who has set these and many of her other stories in the city of Southampton.

Social Media
Additional information on Southampton can be found on its official website Discover Southampton as well as its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Famous Faces
Matt Cardle was the winner of the seventh series of The X Factor, and went straight to number one with When We Collide, the success of which would make it the second biggest selling single of 2010. Cardle also achieved two top ten Albums with The Fire and Letters. Cardle was born in Southampton on 15 April 1983.

Chris Packham hails from Southampton, born in the city on 4 May 1961.  Packham is best known for his television presenting work, with the naturalist fronting popular nature programmes such as Springwatch and The Really Wild Show.

Ken Russell was born in Southampton on 3 July 1927, the TV and film Director’s award winning works include Women in Love, The Who’s Tommy, The Devils and Altered States, as well as biopics for composers such as Elgar and Tchaikovsky.



Southampton’s Bargate

In Norman times, the Bargate was constructed providing the main entrance to the walled city that is Southampton.  As well as being a Scheduled Monument and Grade I listed building, the construction features a statue of George III in addition to a sun dial. In the past the Bargate has been used as the City’s Guildhall, as well as a police headquarters and prison, and more recently an art gallery.

SeaCity Museum
Southampton’s SeaCity Museum forms the west wing of the Civic Centre and can be found on Havelock Road.  It was built in 2012 marking RMS Titanic’s centenary departure from Southampton Docks and comprises of 3 main exhibitions, The Southampton Titanic Story, Gateway to the World and with a third space for temporary exhibitions which includes Ship to Shore Art and Lure of the Sea until 4th May 2014, due to be followed by Wild Planet: Celebrating Wildlife Photographer of the Year. The modern design of the building is the work of Wilkinson Eyre Architects.

Tudor House and Gardens
At over 800 years old, the Tudor House is located in the Old Town and is regarded as one of the most historic buildings found in Southampton, providing a unique insight into the lives of various Southampton residents.  A family ticket to explore this landmark attraction is just £13.50, providing the ideal opportunity to learn more about the city’s history including that of King John’s Palace, the Westgate Hall and arts and heritage collections.

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