Southampton is a major commercial city, with its own international airport at Eastleigh. It is a great seaport, with a history stretching back for centuries. The Romans occupied Bitterne and King Canute was offered the crown of England here in 1016. Southampton has played an important part in all matters connected with the sea. The Pilgrim Fathers set out from here on the Mayflower in 1620, to start a new life in America. The ill-fated Titanic, sailed from Southampton on its maiden voyage to New York. It hit an iceberg and sank.
In the eighteenth century, Southampton was a fashionable resort, which received many distinguished visitors, including Jonathan Swift and Horace Walpole. Jane Austen lived in Castle Square from 1806-1809, but the house no longer exists. The City suffered heavy damage during the Second World War and much of the building is new. The major shopping complex of West Quay attracts thousands of visitors.
Southampton is situated on a peninsula and was open to attack. City walls were built for protection. The south and west walls faced the River Test and the east and north walls were moated. Much of these walls survive and make an interesting walk from West Quay to Town Quay on the seafront. Bargate, a fine town gate, survives. It dates from Norman times. On the first floor, the old Guildhall is a museum. Many interesting houses can be seen adjacent to the City Walls. The Wool House is early fourteenth century and Canute’s house is twelfth century. Perhaps the most interesting is the Tudor House, where Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn stayed. A panelled banqueting room and minstrel’s gallery can be viewed.
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