Poor Southampton – the south coast English port was once a fine medieval city with many pretty buildings but then along came World War II and post-war redevelopment. The Luftwaffe in particular devastated the town centre and it’s amazing that anything is left of its Middle Ages splendour. And yet it is as you’ll see from the picture gallery below.
Few things you may never have known about medieval Southampton:
- The town got raided over and over by the Vikings to the point where King Alfred ordered Hamtun (as it was then called) to use their Roman walls to fortify the place and stand up to the marauding Scandinavians
- However, the treacherous folk of Hamtun declared the Viking chieftan Canute as King of England when he landed there – maybe they didn’t have too much choice in the matter!
- There was an influx of Normans after the victory of William the Conqueror at Hastings down the coast. Most of the Normans seemed to have lived in what is called French Street (how appropriate). There was also once an English Street.
- The local castle and noble houses started out in wood but were then rebuilt in stone as happened in most of England
- Southampton exported wool to the continent and imported a lot of wine from the continent – basically, England clothed France while the French got the English drunk
- In 1338, rather lousy fortifications allowed a force of French and Silicians to creep up on the townspeople while they were in church hearing mass and carry out a massacre. The survivors then tracked down the French and Sicilians and slaughtered them as they fled for their boats.
Winding through car parks, over a main road and through a housing estate is the remains – impressive in parts – of the city’s medieval walls. I took some photos while I was there the other day and they’ve been well maintained. Worth a look if you’re ever in that part of the world.