Tag Archives: Southampton

A Norman House, Southampton

There are two mainly Norman houses in Southampton. One has been described as “one of the finest examples of Norman domestic architecture existing in England” (Peberdy). The other came second in an argument with a German bomb. Access to the first is via the garden of the Tudor House Museum, which plans to reopen in June. Until then, we’ll have to be satisfied with this photograph of one of the exterior walls (the bit with the windows). This is the romantically-named Blue Anchor Lane, leading to a gate in the fourteenth-century wall.

The lesser of the two buildings is in Porters Lane. It was the house of a merchant, whose name is not known, and was built around 1170 to 1200. It was for some time (and still is occasionally) referred to as Canute’s Palace. Since Cnut died in 1035, this is unlikely, although he might have had some kind of place there or nearby, as he was often in Southampton during his reign. It’s possible that it was from a shore in Southampton that he demonstrated his inability to keep the tide from coming in. The town is famous for its double tides, so it would have been an ideal place to make the point.

When it was built at the end of the twelfth century, there was probably nothing other than a beach between the house and Southampton Water, unseen on the left in the photograph above. In the fourteenth century it lost its sea view when the South Wall was built in front of it.

It’s thought that the ground floor of the building was a warehouse and that the living quarters were on the floor above. There was a hall and at least one smaller private chamber. The ground floor might also have been a shop. It’s hard to know all these centuries later. The house has suffered a great deal of damage over the years, but is still very impressive.

Sources:
Historic Buildings of Southampton by Philip Peberdy
Collected Essays on Southampton edited by J B Morgan and Philip Peberdy
Medieval Southampton by Colin Platt

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

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God’s House Tower and Gate, Southampton

At the south eastern corner of the medieval town are God’s House Gate and God’s House Tower. The gate was built in the early fourteenth century following the construction of a new quay here at the end of the thirteenth century. The gate provided access to the town from the quay. The gate was protected by two portcullises, but I’ve only photographed the grooves of one.

The tower dates from the fifteenth century, probably the reign of Henry V. It protected the sluices controlling the flow of water into the tidal moat along the eastern side of the town. I think the water ran under the archway you can see around the woman in my photograph.

God’s House Tower

Soldiers and the town’s guns were kept here. When we get to some of the other towers dotted around the walls, we’ll see how progressive Southampton was in the use of cannon. The guns in the tower were used in 1457 when a French fleet threatened the town. They were effective and the fleet sailed further round the coast.

God’s House Gate from within the walls

The tower served as a prison in the eighteenth century and was used for storage and as a mortuary in the nineteenth. For fifty years at the end of the last century it was a museum of archaeology and now it’s a space for the visual arts.

Most of these photographs were taken from outside the medieval town. Where I stood to take them would have been on the quay or a beach in the fourteenth century. I’m not sure which. Today it’s reclaimed land and there are docks and a quay opposite the gate and tower.

The oldest bowling green in the world

This building looks very modern, and it is, but the fence surrounds the oldest bowling green in the world. It has been here, just outside the medieval walls, since at least 1299. I should probably qualify that by saying that it’s the oldest bowling green still in use, as there’s a record of one in Chester in 1294.

The tower and the gate were called after God’s House, a hospital, which was nearby. God’s House itself was on the left of the photograph below. It was built at the end of the thirteenth century by Gervaise de Riche. Yes, his surname does mean that he was rich. There’s very little of God’s House left, mostly St. Julien’s church, and it was heavily ‘restored’ in the nineteenth century. It was used by French Protestants from the sixteenth century until 1939.

St Julien’s Church

God’s House was built as an almshouse for some of the sick and old who could no longer work. It also gave hospitality to foreign pilgrims on their way to the shrines of St. Swithun in Winchester and St. Thomas Becket in Canterbury. Probably its most famous guest was Marguerite d’Anjou who stayed in 1445 on her way to marry Henry VI.

The hospital was supported by the gifts of the wealthy men of the town, at least for the first hundred years or so. The gifts would have been of money and of property. Rents on the properties would have provided a regular income to maintain the hospital. By the middle of the fourteenth century the town was in a bad way financially, as a result of a raid by the French in 1338 and the Black Death in 1348 to 1351. It was only at the beginning of the fifteenth century that the hospital began to receive the money it was due again.

In the early thirteenth century the staff comprised a master, two priests, a clerk, two to three brothers, three to nine sisters and two to three indoor servants. It didn’t take many people to manage a hospital in the Middle Ages.

In the first post in this series, I mentioned the conspirators against Henry V who were executed outside the Bargate in 1415. One of them, Lord Scrope, was buried at St. Julien’s, apart from his head, which was displayed above one of the town gates at York.

Sources:
Historic Buildings of Southampton by Philip Peberdy
Collected Essays on Southampton edited by J B Morgan and Philip Peberdy
Medieval Southampton by Colin Platt

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

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The Wool House, Southampton

The Wool House

The wool House is an imposing building at the southern end of the medieval town. It was built during the fourteenth century, although the buttresses at the side are a little later and the front has been altered considerably. The doorway is original.

As the name suggests, it was used as a warehouse for wool. Wool was England’s main export in the Middle Ages and Southampton was one of the main ports through which it passed. I’ve written a post about how important wool was to the economy of fourteenth-century England. From Southampton it went mainly to Flanders in the fourteenth century and to Italy in the fifteenth. In the fourteenth century Genoese carracks arrived in Southampton carrying alum, woad and dyes for the English cloth industry and left carrying wool to Flanders. In the fifteenth century it was Florentine and Venetian galleys that came with luxury goods for the Mediterranean, retuning to Italy with the wool.

It’s not clear who built the warehouse. It might have been Thomas Middleton who became mayor in 1401. He was wealthy enough to build a new quay with a crane at the Watergate, which was very close to the Wool House. Another possibility is that the monks at Beaulieu Abbey built it. Since a very large portion of the sheep in England were owned by monasteries, this is the explanation I prefer.

In the eighteenth century the Wool House was used to hold French and Spanish prisoners during the Napoleonic Wars. Later it reverted to being a warehouse, then it was a shop for a while. In 1966 it became a maritime museum, but more recently it has become the home of a microbrewery and restaurant.

We rarely think of such mundane buildings as being important historically, but the Wool House is probably the only remaining medieval purpose-built warehouse in Europe.

Sources:
Historic Buildings of Southampton by Philip Peberdy
Collected Essays on Southampton edited by J B Morgan and Philip Peberdy
Medieval Southampton by Colin Platt

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

TheHeirsTale-WEB
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Holy Rood, Southampton

Unlike the church in last week’s post, Holy Rood, less than 200 yards away, didn’t survive the Second World War unscathed. On the night of 30th November 1940, it, along with most of the town centre, was destroyed. The ruin was dedicated to the Merchant Navy and there are memorials inside to seafaring Sotonians who lost their lives at sea, including one to members of the crew of the Titanic.

What’s left of the current building was built in 1320, replacing a church that stood in the middle of English Street. The tower is fourteenth century, but the nave, aisles and chancel were rebuilt in 1849-50. The Victorian rebuilding was a lot more sympathetic to the medieval original than many such projects and more people were able to fit inside the church and make use of the building, which was of benefit to the parish.

The site of the present church was given to St. Denys Priory by Thomas de Bynedone, probably the richest man in the town at the time. The old church was more or less exactly where the new water conduit needed to be to bring fresh water into the town from a spring outside. Thomas de Bynedone’s intention was that there would be a cemetery as well as a church, but the town’s mother church, St. Mary’s, objected. Burials of the town’s inhabitants were only to take place in St. Mary’s cemetery and none of the churches within the town’s walls had burial grounds. St. Mary’s was just a few hundred yards outside the medieval town and I’m not entirely sure how it came to be its main church. Perhaps we’ll visit some of the buildings outside the town walls later. The church was reached through the town’s East Gate. The gate is no longer there, but the road that led to it is still called East Street. Although Thomas de Byndone’s plan for a cemetery failed, he was given the right to be buried within Holy Rood itself.

At the height of the Black Death, three separate vicars were appointed to the parish on 12th March, 22nd April and 20th September 1349, their predecessors having succumbed to the plague. The whole town, which hadn’t even started to recover from a raid by the French in 1338, was badly affected by the Black Death and took a long time to regain its former wealth. For centuries it was thought that Southampton was the place where the Black Death entered England, but it’s now believed that this was Melcombe, a few miles round the coast in Dorset.

During the fifteenth century Holy Rood became the church of the wealthier inhabitants of the town, who tended to live in the southern part of the parish. At this time, the church’s bell was rung to wake the town and to announce the curfew each day.

Possibly the most important visitor the church has welcomed was Philip II of Spain. When he arrived in Southampton in 1554, he heard Mass here, then rode to Winchester to marry Mary Tudor.

Sources:
Historic Buildings of Southampton by Philip Peberdy
Collected Essays on Southampton edited by J B Morgan and Philip Peberdy
Medieval Southampton by Colin Platt

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

TheHeirsTale-WEB
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St Michael’s Church, Southampton

St Michael’s is the oldest church in the town and the only one within the medieval walls still in use. It’s in French Street. In the Middle Ages what is now called High Street was called English Street and the two ran parallel to one another. English street, leading as it did to the Bargate, was the main street of the town. The names of the streets reflect the two different communities that inhabited the town after the Norman Conquest.

Most of the town’s shops were in English Street, but there were some in French Street. One of them remains in the form of the Medieval Merchant’s House, managed by English Heritage. We won’t be visiting it on this tour, as I wrote a series of posts about it and all the rooms inside here. A market took place in the area in front of the church and it’s still an open space today.

Medieval Merchant’s House

St Michael’s was originally built by the Normans, shortly after 1066 and named after the patron saint of Normandy. The tower is Norman and the spire dates from the eighteenth century. It’s said that the German bombers during the war were careful not to destroy the church as the spire was a landmark on their raids.

The front wall of the church that you can see in the photograph above is Norman, but the door and window are from the fifteenth century. Inside there are Norman arches, but we can’t go inside at the moment. When we’re able, we’ll have to return to St Michael’s to see the treasures it contains.

For many centuries until the mid-1830s the mayors of Southampton took their oath of office inside the church.

In the mid twelfth century Henry II gave control of the churches within the town walls to the Augustinian priory of St. Denys to the north east. I’m not sure how he was able to do that, but it meant that the parish priests would be monks from the priory rather than secular priests who lived in their parishes. Although the arrangement held for centuries, the priory stopped supplying priests quite quickly.

A document of the mid thirteenth century tells us that the parochial churches in the town were to receive tithes from the sales of fish by their parishioners, from the two windmills between the town and the leper house just north of the town, and from the piglets within the town walls. This last made me pause for thought, as the town walls were about a mile and a half all the way round. I wondered how many piglets there could be in such a small area. There can’t have been many to share between the five parish churches. [Edit 28th May 2021. Since I wrote this I have discovered that everyone in towns kept pigs. They didn’t need much looking after and could be fed on household scraps. The piglet tithe would have been fairly valuable.]

Sources:
Historic Buildings of Southampton by Philip Peberdy
Collected Essays on Southampton edited by J B Morgan and Philip Peberdy
Medieval Southampton by Colin Platt

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

TheHeirsTale-WEB
TheHeirsTale-WEB

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The Bargate

Like everyone else, I haven’t been getting out much lately. To some extent, I rely on being inspired by medieval sites I visit for this blog, although a lot of inspiration comes from my reading. I realised recently, though, that there are still some medieval buildings I can get to whilst keeping within the current restrictions. When you’ve grown up in a town that has plenty of medieval remains, it’s easy to stop noticing them, or at least to think that there’s nothing unusual about them. There is, of course, so we’re going on a virtual tour of medieval Southampton.

Since I can’t get out to purchase anything more up-to-date, I’ll be relying mostly on Historic Buildings of Southampton (cost one shilling and sixpence) and Collected Essays on Southampton (cost six shillings). Last month saw the fiftieth anniversary of decimalisation, so you can work out that I’ve had both books for some time.

We’re starting with the Bargate, the most iconic building in the city. It identifies Southampton so much that it’s part of the council’s logo and can be seen on the council’s buildings, vehicles and stationery.

The Bargate was the main gate of the medieval town. It was in the northern wall of the town and the road that led away from it went to Winchester and on to London. The photograph at the top of the post shows how it would have looked to someone approaching the town and in the photograph below you can see what a medieval inhabitant of the town would have seen, although the statue of George III portrayed as a Roman wasn’t there then and the windows were also added much later.

The original gate was built in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. I’ve marked the photograph below so that you can see the two main stages of building. The two round towers and the walls date from the early thirteenth century and there’s a Norman arch from the end of the twelfth century just visible beyond the early fifteenth-century extension. There was a portcullis in the gateway. In a good light you can still see its grooves.

It was a well-fortified gate, but the main threat to the town in the Middle Ages was from the sea, not from the London road. There was also a moat along the north wall, which meant that the town walls were more or less surrounded by water, since there as a marsh to the east and a river estuary to the south and west. The two lions date from the eighteenth century, as do the heraldic shields above the gate. One of the more famous events that took place here was the execution of the conspirators in the Southampton Plot probably not far from where I stood to take the photograph. The plotters wished to kill Henry V and his brothers and make someone they thought had a better claim to the crown king. This was shortly before Henry V marched part of his army through the gate and on to ships that would take them to France where he would triumph at Agincourt.

The ground floor of the Bargate was used on and off as a prison and the upper floor was the Guildhall. It was used for meetings of members of the Guild Merchant. Much later it was where the Town Assembly met. It eventually became a museum, but is only open on very special occasions.

You will note that the Bargate is very symmetrical, something that was lost on me as a child. I always assumed that German bombs had detached it from the walls that enclosed the medieval town, as they had destroyed most of the buildings for some distance north and south of the gate, but that wasn’t the case. The Bargate sits halfway along the main shopping street in the city, Above Bar and Below Bar to locals, but officially known as Above Bar Street and High Street. Shops on either side were built right up to the gate and all the traffic on the town’s main road had to go through the arch. It’s a very narrow arch, while Above Bar and Below Bar are very wide. By the late nineteenth century it was obvious that there was a problem, but it wasn’t tackled until the 1930s, when Southampton Corporation demolished the medieval walls on either side in 1932 and 1938. For many years the Bargate sat in the middle of a roundabout. Somewhat ironically, cars were banned from the area in the 1970s.

Sources:
Historic Buildings of Southampton by Philip Peberdy
Collected Essays on Southampton edited by J B Morgan and Philip Peberdy
Medieval Southampton by Colin Platt
Cursed Kings by Jonathan Sumption

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

TheHeirsTale-WEB
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Medieval Dovecotes

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Dovecote Tower, Barnard Castle

A few months ago I mentioned dovecotes in the Anatomy of a Castle series. At that time I had seen the remains of one dovecote, but didn’t have any photographs. In the space of a couple of weeks in April I photographed two. One was part of a castle and one wasn’t. Both were incorporated into towers.

Dovecote Tower at Barnard Castle in County Durham is shown in the photograph at the top of the post. The holes are nesting boxes.

A similar arrangement is found in the Round Tower in Southampton. The dovecote was partially demolished to make way for a wall a century or so after it was built, so there’ not much of it left. As you can see, the cleaner doesn’t get down there very often.

Round Tower, Southampton

Round Tower, Southampton

I’m not sure who the dovecote in Southampton belonged to. It’s close to the friary, so it might have belonged to the friars.

The dovecote at Barnard Castle was built in the early twelfth century, the one in Southampton dates from a century later.

Pigeons, as well as doves, were housed in the dovecotes. Both were used for food. They were a good source of fresh meat during the winter. Their eggs could also be eaten. Pigeons and doves don’t lay many eggs a year, especially when compared to chickens, but a large flock would produce a few that weren’t used for breeding.

As we’ve seen, bird dung was often used for medicinal purposes. It was also used during the tanning process. I don’t have a date for that, though, so it might have been later than the fourteenth century. Feathers could be used to fill pillows and mattresses.

Collecting live birds, eggs, dung and feathers would have involved the use of ladders or scaffolding within the tower. There wouldn’t have been much light for the person doing the collecting, as I’m assuming this was carried out during the night while the pigeons and doves slept.  I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be in there when they were awake.

Sources:

Barnard Castle by Katy Kenyon

 

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

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Thomas Telford and St Mary Magdelene

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I was in Shropshire earlier in the week and had intended to visit some of the castles in the Welsh Marches. The weather was dreadful, so I gave up on that plan and spent a day in Bridgnorth instead. This is the parish church of St Mary Magdalene, designed by Thomas Telford. As you can see, it’s rather unusual if you’re used to English churches from earlier or later centuries. It was built in the 1790s and is not at all in the Gothic Revival style of the majority of English parish churches erected in the nineteenth century. In the late eighteenth century it wasn’t yet fashionable to ape the Middle Ages and the churches designed and built then reflected that time’s obsession with all things classical. The church that Jane Austen attended when she lived in Southampton was built around the same time and was built in a similar style with four columns at the front and a clock tower.

Telford was a Scot who left his mark all over Shropshire where he was Surveyor of Public Works and the new town in the Wrekin district of the county is named after him. Born in 1757 in Glendinning in Dumfriesshire, he died in 1834 in London and was buried in Westminster abbey, which wasn’t bad for the self-taught son of a shepherd. He had little formal education and was apprenticed to a stonemason at the age of fourteen. He learned as he worked and became very successful.

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Telford’s other contribution to Bridgnorth is a bridge over the Severn. There had always been a bridge over the Severn here, hence the name, but flooding was, and still is, common, and the bridge was frequently damaged during the eighteenth century. Heavy floods almost destroyed the bridge in the 1790s and many plans were offered for a new bridge or for ways to repair the bridge. In 1812 the bridge was repaired to Thomas Telford’s plan. There were further repairs later in the nineteenth century and the bridge was also widened.  He built about 40 bridges in Shropshire alone.

I can still remember a school project on Telford over forty years ago, which involved me writing up the findings of my small group for display, because I was the only one who could write in a straight(ish) line on unlined paper. The associated fear of complete humiliation should I fail to do so has lived with me ever since and ensures that I have never forgotten Thomas Telford. The project was about the toll roads that were beginning to be built all over England in the eighteenth century. Tolls had been charged for the upkeep of bridges since the early Middle Ages. Most bridges replaced ferries for which a fee was payable and paying to cross the bridge was acceptable, especially if its users could see that improvements were being made. There were also tolls to enter towns and ports. In the late eighteenth century tolls were being used to improve the roads in order to increase the speed of travel. Telford’s contribution was on the London to Holyhead route along what is now mostly the A5 and was originally (from London to Wroxeter) the Roman road known as Watling Street.  This improvement also included the building of the Menai Suspension Bridge across the Menai Strait, which is between Anglesey and the mainland.

There are also tollhouses all over the country based on Telford’s design. They were made fairly comfortable, because the owners of the road wanted to attract the right sort of toll-collector, i.e. one who would collect the tolls honestly and pay them to their employer. They’re easy to identify, as they’re usually very close to the road. About 100 of them still exist in Shropshire, but you can go into the one at Blists Hill Museum and see how the family of the toll-collector would have lived. There is a picture of it here. The last time I went there there was a fork upright in the garden as if the toll-collector had just been called away to collect a toll. There were 300 tollhouses in Shropshire alone.

Telford wasn’t just prolific, his experience was also broad including bridges, canals, churches, aqueducts, viaducts, roads, harbours. He built bridges over the Severn at Montford (his first bridge) and Buildwas; the Ellesmere Canal; the Caledonian Canal; over 1,000 miles of road and 120 bridges in Scotland. He also wrote poetry. He was a founder and first president of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

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Jane Austen lived here: Part Five

Return to Castle Square

Medieval Merchant's House

The Austens had barely arrived in Southampton before they were thinking of leaving and they received the happy news that a house would be made available for them towards the end of 1808. The house was a property owned by Jane Austen’s brother, Edward, in Chawton, fifteen miles away from where she had grown up in Steventon. Edward had been adopted by a distant cousin as a child and had inherited Chawton House in Hampshire and Godmersham Park in Kent.

In Southampton the Austens were far from cut off from their family, even after Frank and his wife went back to sea. Austen and her sister Cassandra went often to Godmersham Park. Usually they visited alone and it is to this that we owe Austen’s letters during their time in Southampton. She wrote frequently to her sister either to or from Southampton. Her eldest brother, James, was the rector of Steventon, the post formerly held by their father. James and Edward visited Southampton often. Another brother, Henry, a banker at that time (for he had a number of careers), lived in London and the sisters usually visited him on their way to and from Kent. The youngest brother, Charles, was, like Frank, making a successful career at sea. Along with the brothers came sisters-in-law and various nephews and nieces. When Edward’s wife died while Cassandra was visiting Godmersham Park, two of his sons stayed with their Aunt Jane and their grandmother in Southampton. Austen’s letters told both of their morning and of the things she had done to entertain them, as well as asking if Cassandra had seen their sister-in-law’s body.

As they had been wherever they lived the Austen were busy. Austen’s letters tell about altering dresses and bonnets. They walked almost every day in the Spa Gardens, by Southampton Water which was doubtless very bracing. They visited friends, although, knowing that their stay in Southampton was not permanent, they did not make a great effort to make new friends. They visited locally, taking ferries across Southampton Water to the New Forest and across the Itchen to Northam. As we have seen, they attended balls. As well as in the Dolphin they danced in the Long Rooms, which were even closer to Castle Square. Dances were held there four nights a week. Nothing remains of this building. Its location would have been in the road by the second lamppost in this photograph.

View from the bottom of the garden

It’s very easy to forget that there was a very real fear of invasion at the time. The invasion of Britain had long been one of Napoleon’s aims, although the threat had diminished greatly after Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar in 1805. Southampton was very much involved in the war. Austen talks in her letters about seeing warships being built. With two brothers in the navy, she would have taken an interest in this. As well as being a port, Southampton also had shipyards and ships were also built on the other side of Southampton Water at Bucklers Hard. Until shortly before the Austens arrived the town had been a busy garrison.

The Austens also went to the theatre. The Theatre Royal was in French Street, a few minutes’ walk from their house in Castle Square. It was a few yards past the Medieval Merchant’s House which is [pictured] at the beginning of the post. It, too, is no longer with us. The Austens loved amateur dramatics and the theatre must have provided them with much entertainment.

It was this very busyness that probably kept Austen from writing as much as she would have wanted while she lived in the town. Even though the Austens could not afford to keep a carriage, there was a wealth of diversions within walking distance. The Austens left Southampton in July 1809 for Chawton, where they lived very quietly. There was little to distract Austen from her writing and she entered her most productive period.

Due to the RNA Conference and a concert there will be no post next week.

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Jane Austen Lived Here: Part Four

Other Delights

This week I’m looking at some buildings within the Southampton town walls that Jane Austen would have known well.

St Michaels

Not far from Castle Square is the medieval church of St Michael. It dates from 1066-1076 and is the oldest church still in use in Southampton. It stands a couple of hundred yards from Castle Square. The spire dates from 1732, so the Austens would have been familiar with it. The church was built over several centuries, with new sections being added to the original structure and different styles can be seen in different parts of the church. As with the cathedral in nearby Winchester, building was interrupted by the Black Death. Unlike the cathedral, where the temporary west front, put up because it was clear that the plans were never going to be completed, has lasted six hundred and sixty years, work on St Michael’s was resumed, resulting in a change of building style. This was the norm for medieval churches, which were rarely built in a single style.

St Michael’s was the church of the French population of the town shortly after the Conquest. At that point Southampton was approximately two thirds French and one third English. This division is shown in the names of the roads; French Street was to the west and English Street (now the High Street) was to the east. It was ironic, then, that it was in this church that a massacre took place during the French raid on the town in 1338. The building was reconsecrated a year later.

The church escaped the bombing raids of 23rd and 30th November and 1 December 1940 with minor damage. It was said the German pilots were told to avoid destroying the church, since the spire was used by them as a landmark, together with the clock tower of the Civic Centre in the centre of the town.

Tudor House

On the other side of St Michael’s Square is Tudor House. Now a museum, it is a late fifteenth century timber-framed building. It backs onto the same stretch of walls as the Austens’ garden. Built by Sir John Dawtrey, who was Southampton’s Member of Parliament, it contains graffiti from Tudor sailors and privateers.

It was almost demolished in the 1880s, but was purchased by a philanthropist, who refurbished it and sold it to the town for a museum. During the Second World War the wine cellar was used as an air raid shelter. At the beginning of this century it was closed for almost a decade for significant structural repairs.

Bargate from High Street

The Bargate is the most famous building in Southampton and is the symbol of the modern city. It was the main gate out of the town to the north, going to Winchester and London. Jane Austen would have seen it almost every day. It was at the top of the High Street, which was the main shopping street of the town. It is a hundred yards from All Saints’ Church which the Austens attended. This is the view that they would have seen. The statue in the middle of the four windows is George III in Roman dress.

It dates back to the end of the twelfth century and is the earliest of the town’s fortifications. The earliest part is the Norman tower enclosed in the north front. The first floor was built in the fourteenth century.

Bargate from Above Bar

Henry II arrived in Southampton from the continent in 1174 to put down a rebellion. Realising that the rebellion was seen as just retribution for his part in the murder of Thomas Becket, Henry decided not to go north to quash the rebellion, but east to Canterbury, to do public penance. He set off through the Bargate. Those responsible for the Southampton Plot (the Earl of Cambridge, Lord Scrope and Sir Thomas Grey) were executed in front of the Bargate at the beginning of August 1415. Henry V then set sail for France and Agincourt. The Southampton Plot was a plan to replace Henry V with Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March. The latter had a better claim to the throne than Henry V. Over the centuries thousands of soldiers have marched under the arch to join ships taking them to fight, mainly France.

This has nothing to do with Jane Austen, but is a rather wonderful film taken from a tram passing through the Bargate in the 1900s. Because of the shape of the arch, special trams had to be built to pass through it. The film shows the tram pass from the High Street, which was well-known to Austen, into Above Bar, which was an area that was being built up in her time. In Jane Austen’s time there were buildings on either side of the Bargate. These were demolished in the 1930s. This a photograph of a road which runs parallel to Above Bar and contains some Georgian terraced houses and were close to the Spa Gardens where Austen walked most days with her mother.

Portland Terrace

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