City of Southampton
Status:Unitary, City (1964)
Region:South East England
Ceremonial County:Hampshire
- Total
Ranked 301st
49.84 km²
Admin. HQ:Southampton
Grid Ref.: Template:Gbmaprim
ONS code:00MS
- Total (2003 est.)
- Density
Ranked 52nd
4,435 / km²
Ethnicity:92.4% White
3.8% S.Asian
1.0% Afro-Carib.
Southampton City Council (
Leadership:Leader & Cabinet
Executive:Liberal Democrats
MPs:John Denham, Sandra Gidley, Alan Whitehead
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Southampton is a city and major port situated on the south coast of England. It is the closest city to the New Forest and lies at the northern-most point of Southampton Water approximately halfway between Portsmouth and Bournemouth.

Although historically a part of the county of Hampshire, the city became an independent unitary authority in local government re-organisations on April 1, 1997. This makes Southampton an administrative county in its own right though it remains part of Hampshire for ceremonial purposes and in common usage. Under the name of Southampton there are several districts within the city, including Woolston, Bitterne, Portswood, Bassett, Shirley, Freemantle, Millbrook and Swaythling.

In common with many British towns and cities, such as Coventry and Plymouth, it was heavily bombed during the Second World War. Many historic buildings were lost as a result but the old city walls remain, as does the Bargate, formerly the main gateway to the city, located at the northern end of the walls. There are numerous large parks in the city centre. The Bargate is often seen as a symbol of the city, and is the logo of the city council. Most of Southampton's municipal services, including the library and the well-endowed art gallery are to be found in the Civic Centre.

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Bargate, Southampton

The city is home to the University of Southampton, Southampton Institute and West Quay shopping centre. It is also the headquarters of Ordnance Survey.

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Bargate, Southampton, looking south

Southampton has always been strongly tied with maritime history and developments. In particular, it is a primary port for cruise ships, its heyday being the first half of the 20th Century, and in particular the inter-war years, when it handled almost half the passenger traffic of the UK. Today it remains home to many luxury liners, as well as being a very important container port.

The outstanding harbour means it is the principal port on the south coast, and one of the largest in the UK. Sailing is a popular sport here.

Southampton Football Club (a.k.a. the "Saints") is also based here. It was a Southampton team member, Charles William Miller, who founded Brazil's first football club.



There are three members of parliament for the city: John Denham (Labour) for Southampton Itchen (constituency for the east of the city), Dr Alan Whitehead (Labour) for Southampton Test (the west of the city), and Sandra Gidley (Liberal Democrat) for Romsey (a small portion of the north of the city).


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The medieval city wall
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Although Stone Age settlements are known to have existed in the area, the first permanent settlement was established by the Romans. Known as Clausentum, it was an important trading port for the large Roman towns of Winchester and Salisbury.

The Anglo-Saxons moved the centre of the town across the River Itchen to its present location, and it remained an important port. At the time, it was centred around what is now the St Mary's area, and the settlement was known as Hamwic. This name was later to evolve into Hamtun, and later still to Hampton.

The Viking King Canute the Great is supposed to have defeated the Anglo-Saxon King Ethelred the Unready here in 1014 and his fabled attempt to "command" the tide to halt took place in Southampton. However, its prosperity was assured following the Norman Conquest in 1066, when it became the major port of transit between Winchester (then the capital of England) and Normandy.

By the 13th Century, Southampton had become a leading port, and was particularly involved in the wool trade. The Wool House is Southampton's oldest surviving building, built in 1417, as a warehouse for the medieval wool trade with Flanders and Italy. This building is today used as the Maritime Museum, and can be found near Town Quay.

It was sacked in 1338 by the French, including the pirate Grimaldi, who used the plunder to help found the principality of Monaco. After this attack, the city walls were built, some of which remain as ruins today. The city walls include God's House Tower, built in 1417, the first purpose-build artillery fortification in England. Today, it is open as the Museum of Archaeology.

During the middle ages, shipbuilding became an increasingly important industry, which was to remain for centuries to come.

The Second World War hit Southampton particularly hard, because of its strategic importance as the major industrial area on the South Coast. Pockets of Georgian architecture remain, but much of the city was levelled. The accuracy of the locally-based Ordnance Survey's maps did not go unrecognised by the Luftwaffe: the German bomber pilots used them to bomb Southampton.

Southampton was awarded city status in 1964 following a royal charter.

Southampton has had a few significant impacts on global history...

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The dockyards on the River Test
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The memorial to the engineers of the Titanic.
  • It was the original point of departure for the Pilgrim Fathers aboard the Mayflower. A memorial may be found on Town Quay.
  • In common with most of the luxury liners of the time, the Titanic sailed from here, and it is still an important ocean liner port frequented by luxury ships such as the QE2, the Oriana, and most recently the Queen Mary 2. A memorial to the crew of the Titanic may be found in Andrews Park, on Above Bar Street. There is a memorial to the musicians who played on the Titanic just opposite the main memorial.
  • The ahead-of-its-time Supermarine Spitfire was developed and initially manufactured in the suburb of Woolston. A memorial plaque to its designer, Reginald Mitchell, may be found in Russell Place in the suburb of Highfield. Mitchell grew up in Stoke-on-Trent, then had a house in the suburb of Portswood near the university. The plane was a direct descendant of experimental aircraft built by Supermarine that competed in the Schneider Trophy in the 1930s. Supermarine was taken over by Vickers in 1928. Mitchell's short life is documented in the film The First of the Few. On Sept 24th 1940, the Woolston factory was bombed, killing 100 workers, though not damaging the factory. Two days later, the factory was heavily damaged by bombing, and thirty more workers died, which interrupted production of the Spitfire for many weeks at a critical time of the UK's survival.
  • There were many aircraft companies based around Hamble, to the east of the city, from the 1930s to 1950s, including Folland Aviation, started by Henry P Folland, the former chief designer of Gloster Aircraft. Folland was taken over by Hawker Siddeley in 1960, and later as British Aerospace, the factory built the Hawk and Harrier. The history of the area's contribution to aviation is celebrated at the Southampton Hall of Aviation, near Itchen Bridge, and opposite to where the Woolston Supermarine factory was.
  • The city was the birthplace of hymn writer Isaac Watts. The Watts memorial in the city's West Park - also known as the Watts Park - was unveiled in 1861. Just across the road from there, the city's Civic Centre (the first building to bear that name) has a clock which plays a Watts hymn (O God Our Help In Ages Past) every four hours.
  • The painter John Everett Millais was born in the city. The Southampton Institute's art gallery is named Millais Gallery [1] ( in his honour.
  • BOAC had a flying boat base in the docks serving British colonial possessions in Africa and Asia in the 1930s and 1940s. It closed in 1950 when land based aircraft became dominant.
  • The city is home to Sir Edwin Lutyens' first permanent cenotaph, a memorial to the city's dead of World War I. When it was unveiled on 6 November 1920, it was 1800 names, later raised to 2008. It can be found in West (Watts) Park, opposite the Titanic memorial.
  • Nearby, Calshot Spit was a base for the military flying boat services.
  • It was the birthplace of comedian Benny Hill, who lived in nearby Eastleigh.
  • Another famous comedian, Tommy Cooper lived here for many years.
  • Southampton is home to the world's oldest surviving bowling green

Nearby towns and villages

Nearby rivers

Twin towns

Southampton is twinned with:

External links

Districts of England - South East England Flag of England

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Administrative counties with multiple districts: Berkshire - Buckinghamshire - East Sussex - Hampshire - Kent - Oxfordshire - Surrey - West Sussex


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