The final room in the Medieval Merchant’s House is the most important – the shop. The wine merchant didn’t just live in the house, he also worked there. The shop was the centre of his business. Today this room is the visitors’ shop run by English Heritage who manage the building. The goods on display above are theirs.
There was almost nothing left of the original building in this room, so this is a complete reconstruction. The window looks out onto French Steet, which was the second most important street in the town for centuries. English Street (today’s High Street) was the most important. Even today it’s the main shopping street.
Not only did customers come into the shop, but the shop could be extended into the street. The windows of the shop were unglazed and were shuttered by boards which could be let down to make a serving counter. The shutter can be seen in the photograph below, as can the entrance to the undercroft beneath the house.
The undercroft is not sound enough strucuturally to allow visitors to enter it, but some barrels are visible from the top of the steps, giving an impression of what it used to contain. It runs the length and width of the house, demonstrating the scale of the merchant’s business.
The shop takes up the front room of the ground floor. Its floor is just beaten earth. There would have been no other floor covering.
At the moment there is an exhibition in the shop of fourteenth-century pottery fragments which were dug up locally.
The Medieval Merchant’s House is at 58 French Street, Southampton, SO1 0AT. Details of opening times are on the English Heritage Website.