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Southampton in 1841

SOUTHAMPTON, a town within Hampshire, though forming a county of itself, situated on a point of land between the river Alre, or Itchen, on the east, and the Test, Teese or Anton on the west. These rivers here unite to form the estuary called ‘Southampton Water.’ Southampton is 70 miles in a direct line south-west of the General Post-office, London, or 79 miles by the London and South-Western Railway.

The Roman town of Clausentum, though not on the exact site of Southampton, may be regarded as its predecessor. Clausentum was on a point of land formed by the winding of the Itchen, on the left or east bank of that river, about a mile north-east of Southampton, now occupied by Bittern Farm. The present road from Winchester to Southampton, as far as the village of Otterbourn, coincides with the line of the Roman road from Venta Belgarum (Winchester) to Clausentum ; at 0tterbourn the Southampton road diverges a little to the right, while the Roman road may be traced along the hills running straight onward towards Bittern. (Ordnance Survey.) There are at Bittern the traces of a fosse and vallum, which defended the place on the land side ; and fragments of Roman bricks and pottery, also urns and coins, have been found in abundance. Within the enclosure is a farmhouse, built partly from the ruins of a castellated mansion formerly belonging to the bishops of Winchester.

The foundation of the present town is ascribed to the Anglo-Saxons. There is reason to believe that. the castle was early erected by the Saxons. The town was attacked, but without success, by the Danes, A.D. 837 ; plundered by them A.D. 980 ; and again occupied as their winter-quarters A.D. 994. It is said to have been the scene of the memorable rebuke which Canute administered to his courtiers. In the Saxon Chronicle the town is called Hamtune and Suth-Hamtun ; in ‘Domesday,’ Hantone and Hentune. In the reign of Henry II it had four churches. Lelend and Grose have supposed the Southampton of this period to have been at St. Mary’s, a little to the east or north-east of the present town, which they suppose to have removed to its present site after the sack of Southampton by the French or Genoese fleet, A.D. 1338. But Sir H. C. Englefield (Walk round Southampton) has given good reason for doubting the correctness of this opinion. The year after this disaster the de fences of the town were repaired and strengthened. Richard II rebuilt the castle. It was at Southampton that Henry V embarked in his first invasion of France (AD. 1415), at which time the Earl of Cambridge, Lord Scrope, and Sir Thomas Grey were executed 1n the town for conspiring against him. In the war of the Roses a smart skirmish took place between the partizans of the rival houses, in which the Lancastrians were worsted : several of them were executed by order of Edward IV. In A.D. 1512 the marquis Dorset, who was sent to the support of Ferdinand the Catholic in his war against France, embarked with 10,000 men at Southampton ; and in 1522 the earl of Surrey, admiral of England, sailed from this place with a considerable fleet, with which he escorted the emperor Charles V (who had been visiting Henry VIII), on his return to his dominions, and afterwards attacked the French coast. Philip II of Spain landed here A.D. 1554, when he came to marry Queen Mary.

The county of the town comprehends the whole of the point of land between the rivers, and extends along the bank of the Itchen about three miles ; its area is 1,970 acres ; the population, in 1831, was 19,324 ; in 1841, 26,900, including 800 or 900 persons employed in constructing the docks ; it is rapidly increasing. The town is on a gravelly soil, somewhat elevated on the bank of the Anton, which washes it on the west and south sides. The principal street (High Street) runs north and south, and is divided into two parts by an ancient ‘bar’ or gateway belonging to the old town wall, considerable portions of which, with the west gate, and south gate, are still standing. That part of the street which is south of the bar was included in the town, and is about half a mile long ; the remainder, distinguished as ‘High Street above bar,’ or ‘Above-bar Street,’ belonged to the suburbs. The room in the upper part of the gateway forms the town-hall, which is small and ill-constructed. The other streets or lanes lead from the High Street at right angles or are nearly parallel to it. The principal streets are well paved and lighted ; but several of those which consist of smaller tenements are not paved or lighted, and are in a very disorderly state. On the south side of the town is fine quay, near which, at the south-western corner of the town, is the pier, a structure of considerable extent and elegance, erected some years since, and called Victoria Pier, after her Majesty, by whom, before her accession, it was opened. At the east end of the quay is a raised walk or causeway along the shore extending about half a mile. On the platform or battery near the quay is a singular gun of the time of Henry VIII. In the more modern part of the town, comprehending Above-bar Street and the adjacent streets, are some handsome ranges of building. The Winchester road is adorned by a fine avenue of elms, after leaving which it passes through an extensive field of open ground, beautifully wooded, called Southampton Common, affording delightful walks, drives, and rides. High Street is a handsome street throughout. The eastern side of the town is occupied by the poorer class of inhabitants ; and a new road from the southern part of the town to the Itchen leads to the floating bridge which forms the communication with Fareham, Gosport, and Portsmouth.

Southampton has five parish churches. Holy Rhood church, a large and ancient structure, consists of a nave with side aisles and a choir or chancel ; it has a tower and spire at. the south-west angle, and a colonnade or portico, which occupies the whole front. The church contains several stalls of neat workmanship, a wooden screen of the time of Elizabeth or James I, a neat Gothic font, and some fragments of fine painted glass in the windows. St. Lawrence’s church is small, and almost choked up with the surrounding houses. For ecclesiastical purposes this parish is united with that of St. John. All Saints’ church is of Grecian Ionic architecture, and has been much admired; it contains the monuments of Carteret, the circumnavigator, and of Bryan Edwards, the historian of the West Indies. These churches are all in High Street. St. Michael’s, the most ancient of any in the town, is in the west part of the town, in a square (formerly the fish-market) of which it forms the east side ; it has a tower between the nave and chancel ; there are several Norman portions and some of later date ; the windows are chiefly of perpendicular character. This church has an ancient font of Norman character, and the monument of Chancellor Wriothesley. St. Mary’s church in the suburbs, east of the town, was rebuilt in the last century on the foundations of the older structure, which yet appear a few feet above ground: its large burial-ground is the principal place of interment for the town. There is a proprietary episcopal chapel (St. Paul’s) in All Saints’ parish, erected a few years since ; the architecture is Gothic, and the ‘Clergy List’ contains a notice of the chapel of the Holy Trinity and of Jesus’ free chapel.

There are several dissenting places of worship, including one each for Independents, Baptists, Quakers, Roman Catholics, and Wesleyan Methodists.

The corporation have, besides the Guildhall, a handsome audit-house, a borough gaol, and a debtors’ prison. There are several places of amusement, a theatre, and two sets of assembly. rooms, a racecourse, a subscription reading-room, circulating libraries, billiard-rooms, and bathing-rooms ; and a botanic garden. There are scarcely any remains of the ancient castle, but a tower has been erected on the site and from the materials of the ancient keep.

Southampton was anciently a place of great trade ; wool and tin were exported ; but it declined very much when the export of wool was prohibited, and at the beginning of the eighteenth century was reduced to a very low ebb. During the eighteenth century it revived ; but the improvement, though considerable, was not to be compared with its increase during the present century, in which it has trebled its population. It is much frequented as a watering-place. The harbour, which is secure, affords good anchorage. Ship-building is extensively carried on, though the vessels built are chiefly small ; and considerable docks are in course of construction. Timber is imported from the Baltic and from America ; coals, of which a great quantity is sent up the country as far as Salisbury, from the north of England ; stone from the western counties ; and wine and brandy from Spain, Portugal, and France. There is a considerable Irish trade. There are a custom-house and four banking establishments. The port of Southampton extends to Christchurch westward, and nearly to Portsmouth eastward. The customs produced £60,000 in 1830, and £78,000 in 1840. The vessels inwards from foreign ports with cargoes in 1830 were 336, tonnage 31,000 ; outwards 184, tonnage 15,000 : in 1841 (first 11 months), inwards 520, tonnage 83,036 ; outwards 247, tonnage 50,444. In December, 1841, the mail packet steam-ships to the West Indies commenced running, of which 14, admeasuring from 1,800 to 2,000 tons each, are destined for this service. They are expected to lead to a considerable extension of the commerce of Southampton, already the largest packet-port in the kingdom. Passengers to the East embark here, there being a direct communication to India once a fortnight, as well as weekly, by steamers, to Vigo, Oporto, Lisbon, Cadiz, and Gibraltar, and daily to the Isle of Wight, France, and the Channel Islands.

The trade of Southampton is promoted by the Andover Canal, which follows the valley of the Anton, and by the navigation of the Itchen, which extends to Winchester. There are general markets on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday ; a fish-market every day ; and two yearly fairs, at one of which a great number of cattle are sold.

Southampton is a very ancient borough : the earliest known charter, which is simply confirmatory, is of Henry II. The borough limits, which are coextensive with the county of the town, include the six parishes of All Saints, Holy Rhood, St. Lawrence, St. John (united for ecclesiastical purposes to St. Lawrence), St. Michael, and St. Mary, and the tithing of Portswood, in South Stoneham parish : it has one sheriff and two coroners, besides numerous other corporate officers. Quarter-sessions are held : a court-leet from time to time by adjournment, and a civil court for mixed and personal actions of unlimited amount. Under the Municipal Corporation Act the borough was divided into five wards, with ten aldermen and thirty councillors. The revenue of the corporation, arising from rents, a proportion of the harbour dues, fines, and other sources, amounts to about £1,500 per annum. The borough returns two members to parliament, which privilege it has exercised ever since the time of Edward I ; the number of voters in 1835-36 was 1,226, viz. 581 ten-pound householders, 20 burgesses, 540 scot and lot voters, and 85 persons possessing more than one qualification ; in 1841-42 the number was 1,570, viz. 1,301 ten-pound householders, 29 burgesses, 460 scot and lot voters, and 214 persons having more than one qualification. The court of election for the southern division of Hampshire is held at Southampton, which is also a polling-station.

The living of All Saints is a rectory, of the clear yearly value of £400, with a glebe-house ; that of Holy Rhood, a vicarage, of the clear yearly value of £379 ; that of St. Lawrence, a rectory, united with the vicarage of St. John, of the joint clear yearly value of £148 ; that of St. Michael, a vicarage, of the clear yearly value of £145 ; and that of St. Mary, a rectory ; all, except the last, which is a peculiar of the bishop of Winchester, are in the archdeaconry as well as in the diocese of Winchester.

There were, in 1841. three infant-schools, with 150 children ; an endowed grammar-school, founded by Edward VI ; another endowed school, with 40 scholars (boys), 10 of them on the foundation ; three national schools, with about 300 boys and girls ; one Royal British school, with 250 boys and 100 girls ; the Holy Rhood parochial school, with 20 girls ; a school in the workhouse ; and an adult school, attached to Holy Rhood church, with from 17 to 20 scholars. The school of the Military Asylum has been removed to Chelsea ; its place is occupied by the Surveying and Mapping department of the Ordnance Office, since the late fire in the Tower. There are about 70 private boarding or day schools, and 13 Sunday-schools attached to various places of worship.

There are several ranges of almshouses, a penitentiary or refuge for destitute females, a dispensary, and several other charities. Dr. Isaac Watts was .a native of this town, and was educated at the grammar-school.

There is a Mechanics’ Institution, which comprises about 300 members, and has a library, reading-rooms, and museum attached to it. Lectures are delivered every week during the winter. There is also a Literary and Scientific Institution, which has its museum and rooms, where lectures are delivered weekly during the season. An Infirmary has been established, which is conducted by a committee of gentlemen, who are making strenuous efforts to enlarge it. An Harmonic Society, composed of amateurs, is well supported.