In 2021, we committed to investing over £6m to preserve many of our important heritage assets in Southampton for current and future generations.
Traditional Stone Restoration is currently carrying out phase one of this project. Their team will be repairing and conserving many of Southampton’s fantastic and much-loved historic monuments during 2023.
Work started in June and includes high-profile monuments such as the Town Walls and St Mary’s Churchyard wall.
Forty Steps near Western Esplanade have repaired and reopened. Castle Bailey Wall next to Castle Way, has been repointed and given a turf capping, and St Mary’s Churchyard Wall is nearing completion.
Work will continue for some weeks on the Town Walls and the Tudor House Museum. Roof repairs in Quilters Vault, the Westgate and the Bargate will take place this autumn.
The heritage sites included in phase one of the project are:
Town Walls SHOW
The Town Walls include:
- Town Wall: Section 75 yards west of Bargate to Arundel Tower
- Forty Steps
- Garderobe Tower
- Section from Garderobe Tower to Castle Hall
- William Nicholl Tower
- William Nicholl Tower to Westgate
- Section from Westgate to South Arcades
- Section from Simmel Street to Blue Anchor Postern to William Nicholl Tower
The Town Walls largely date back to the 14th Century, built to protect the medieval town of Southampton from attack by the French. Construction of the rampart defences was started around 1202-3 and they were added to over the following three hundred years. Englefield’s 1805 book ‘A Walk Through Southampton’, gives the total circuit of the walls as 2,200 yards or 1.25 miles, around half of which are still standing today.
The Norman town of Southampton was only protected on the landward (north and east) sides, and these fortifications would have taken the form of banks and ditches. By around 1200 two gateways had been built - the earliest part of the Bargate in the North Wall and the Eastgate (which was demolished in 1775) in the East Wall. The North and East walls were likely rebuilt in stone beginning towards the south in the early 13th Century and completed during a period of extensive building works between 1260 and 1290, protecting the town from landward attack.
The earliest section of sea-facing walls is that which made up Southampton Castle walls, built during the 12th Century. Following the French raid of 1338, Edward II ordered improvements to the town’s defences including the building of stone walls on the west and south sides of the town, so that by the late 14th Century the town was completely enclosed by stone walls. The majority of this was newly built walls, but one section of the western wall, which now forms The Arcades, was originally a series of merchant’s houses constructed in the 12th and 13th Century. During this 14th Century rebuilding the windows, doors and lanes between the houses were infilled - evidence of this can still be seen in the walls - and arcading constructed on the seaward side of the wall to support the machicolations. Two sections of arcades exist today - one between
Simnel Street and King John’s Palace, and the other to the southwest corner of the town walls, just north of Cuckoo Street.
The completed walls featured twenty-nine towers, of which thirteen survive, and eight gates from which you could enter or exit the medieval town, of which six survive. The walls were backed by an earth rampart, and incorporated a wall walk in some parts.
From the 17th Century onwards, the town walls became less important as a defensive structure, and parts of the wall began to be demolished or fell into disrepair. Several of the towers and gates were altered to fit new purposes. In 1853, the ‘Forty Steps’, also known as Albion Steps, were built to allow the public down onto the foreshore following its reclamation and the construction of the Western Esplanade Road. In the late 19th and early 20th century further sections of wall were demolished to ease congestion and allow new access routes into the medieval town.
Southampton Castle SHOW
Southampton Castle includes:
- Castle Bailey Wall North
- Castle Gate
- Castle Bailey Wall South
- Castle Eastgate, Castle Lane
Southampton Castle was built by the Normans as a motte and bailey type castle overlooking the western Town Walls. By the late 12th century, it had been almost entirely converted to stone. The castle fell into disrepair throughout the 13th century, but with the imminent threat of French invasion King Richard II had the castle restored and improved. From then on the castle thrived with visits from many notable royalties. The castle declined again throughout the 16th century and after 1518 no further money was spent on repairing the castle. During the late 19th century and early 20th century much of what remained of the castle was lost due to redevelopment and bombing during the war.
Castle Bailey Walls
The walls formed the perimeter defence to the original castle. The northern wall was built around 1250. Originally the long arcade of stone arches was encased in an earth rampart and the wall was considerably higher than that which stands today. The arches became domestic air raid shelters during World War II.
Castle gate is formed of the remains of two drum towers from the original principal landward gateway to the castle. They were discovered in 1961 as part of an archaeological dig. The twin drum towers were added to the defensive bailey walls of the Royal Castle in the late 14th Century and were originally over 20ft high.
The 12th Century Watergate connected the Castle to the Castle Quay. Built originally of Quarr featherbed stone it was refurbished after the French raid in Isle of Wight greensand. It was restored in the 1980s with Tisbury stone.
Built in the middle of the 13th Century at the southern end of Castle Hall, the Garderobe would have been a long narrow room with a row of simple wooden seats over a deep trench with smooth walls and floor of close fitting flagstones. The Garderobe was flushed by the rising and falling tides.
The largest remaining building of the castle, Castle Hall was built sometime between 100 and 1150 as a ‘first floor hall house’. The gaps in the wall for the original floor timbers can still be seen in the east wall. The building was heavily altered in the 13th Century, with the first floor timber removed and a stone vault constructed in its place. Two large doorways in the west wall of the vault allowed wine to be brought in from the Castle Quay. The doorways were blocked after the 1338 French raid and converted to gun emplacements.
Castle Vault was built in the late 12th century to the north of Castle Hall and is the only part of the Castle buildings to have survived intact up to the present day. Originally there was also an upper storey and roof, albeit this has now been lost. It was built with eight ribs supported on sixteen waterleaf decorated corbels. The ribs have been removed but four of the corbels are relatively intact. The vault served as secure storage for the King’s wines, the ‘King’s prize’, by which the king collected 10% of all the wine imported into England. The king’s butler in Southampton curated the wine and dispatched it to the various royal castles and palaces where it was needed. During the 13th Century the vault was known as ‘King’s Cellar’ or ‘King’s Vault’. The vault was then blocked up for many years until the original Norman doorway was unblocked around 1890. During World War II it was used as an air raid shelter for up to two hundred people and had brick blast walls and a toilet added which have subsequently been removed.
Medieval Vaults SHOW
Four Medieval Wine Vaults at 95-98 High Street (114)
These vaults are located beneath the former Fleming Tenement, a medieval building which was destroyed during the 1940 Blitz. At this point, the four vaults were backfilled, this was removed during archaeological excavations between 1986 and 1991. Three vaults were subject to consolidation work, after which they were covered by a scaffold and a tin sheet roof.
This thirteenth-century stone wine vault that opens onto the High Street has been closed to the public for a number of years because of concerns about the condition of the vaulted ceiling. Various tests have now been carried out to check the strength of the structure that was built over it in the 1960s. All that remains to be done is for the stonework to be repointed and some cracks filled. Once this has been completed later this year, visitors will be welcome to explore this vault again.
Quilters takes its name from Eliza Quilter, the landlady of the Royal George Hotel during the 1800s. The hotel was built over this vault and another to the south, not least because the medieval wine vaults were ideal for storing beer. Many of the original medieval features have survived in Quilters Vault, such as the niches in the side walls that could be used to hold candles and impressions in the mortar on the ceiling of the planks used to construct the vaulting. There are also traces of a central wall that once divided the space into two, allowing the merchant who owned it to rent out the other half.
St Mary’s Church, Churchyard Boundary SHOW
St Mary's Church is the principal Anglican church in Southampton, located outside the town walls. The largest church in Southampton, it descends from the church of Saxon Hamwic, in the Middle Ages. The present church is the sixth to be built on the same site, and dates back to the 1950s following the destruction of the site during the Blitz. This rebuilding retained the steeple and some external walls of the late 19th Century church.
The current churchyard boundary wall dates back to the mid-19th century. An engraving of the wall by artist Philip Brannon from 1847 shows the proposed design of the wall and iron railings, which is very similar to what was built. It was funded by public subscription and led by a committee of local clergy and prominent citizens.
The committee outlined the need for the wall, because "The disgraceful appearance of this Chuchyard has long been a subject of remark and regret amongst all classes of the inhabitants of Southampton, and the unprotected state of the walls and footpaths has rendered the burial place of the dead the resort of the idle and the profligate for evil purposes of every description".
Designed by local architect and Borough Surveyor Josiah George Poole, the wall is built largely of Purbeck stone, with dressed stone of Caen and some other fine limestones. Some of the later repairs use igneous rocks. The railings were likely removed in WWII to be melted down, the holes in the coping stones remain.
Tudor House, 59 Bugle Street (The Cottage) SHOW
Tudor House Museum (40)
Tudor House, located on the corner of Bugle Street and Blue Anchor Lane, was originally three separate medieval tenements along Bugle Street, as is evidenced by the surviving cellars, with further sub-divisions along Blue Anchor Lane. The western block on Blue Anchor Lane - known as the Barn - is likely the oldest above-ground building remaining, possibly dating to before the 1440s. The tenements on Bugle Street were combined into one property - possibly by 1454 - and underwent significant changes in 1491/2 by Sir John Dawtrey, a very wealthy merchant and landowner. At this point, the buildings along Blue Anchor Lane were probably used as a service wing, and the large banqueting hall was added to the west of the house.
After Dawtrey’s death the house remained in wealthy hands, and by 1628 it was owned by cloth manufacturer and mayor John Clungeon, who made significant changes to the property. This included refronting the property and the earliest iteration of the Georgian wing. By the early 18th century, the status of the house was declining, and it was re-divided into multiple tenancies, which included a brewer. Landscape artist George Rogers brought the properties back into single occupancy by 1763 and made several alterations. During the 18th century there were major changes to the banqueting hall, the Blue Anchor Lane wing including the Barn, and to the Georgian Wing.
In the 19th century, after the death of George Rogers, the house was again subdivided, and remained that way until 1886, when William Spranger bought Tudor House. Spranger undertook extensive work and restored the house according to what he believed a Tudor mansion would have looked like. It was at this point that the building was sold to the council, who opened it as a museum in 1912. The museum was closed to the public in 2002 due to major structural problems, and it remained closed for nearly ten years, during which time a large concrete structural wall was inserted, and a cafe, toilet block and lift were constructed.
59 Bugle Street (The Cottage) (57)
An outwardly 18th century cottage, 59 Bugle Street lies south of Tudor House, and dendrochronology analysis shows it dates to approximately 1462. The building would originally have been a hall house, open to the roof internally, the first floor being inserted in 1631, at which point a brick flue was also added.
The Cottage was largely rebuilt in the 18th century, and further alterations, including the addition of a rear wing, took place in the late 18th and early 19th century. It was altered again when William Spranger was undertaking his renovation of Tudor House in the late 19th century, and part of the footprint of The Cottage was incorporated into Tudor House to allow for the insertion of a new staircase and access corridor. The Cottage at this point became accommodation of the museum custodian and his family.
There is a stone vault beneath The Cottage, this likely also dates to around 1462, or possibly earlier, as it is footprint doesn't match the house above. In WWII it was used as the family air raid shelter.
Works to Tudor House
The Tudor House Museum was extensively refurbished as part of a Heritage Lottery funded project prior to reopening to the public in 2012. A decade later, the building is generally in a sound condition but some of the finishes, inside and out, are now showing signs of wear and need to be replaced or redecorated before they worsen. Externally, some of the decorative details of the timber frame have deteriorated and the rendered infill panels are beginning to crack. At the back of the house, overlooking the garden, many of the window frames need an overhaul and the render needs a good clean and redecoration. We are also working to reduce the amount of water seeping into the stone vault that was used as an air-raid shelter during World War II, so that visitors can explore that aspect of the house’s history once more.
The Westgate, and the town walls either side of it, were built after the French Raid of 1338 to provide access to West Quay, one of the busiest parts of the medieval port. It is first mentioned in the documentary records in 1434. Inside the tunnel gateway there are two slots for a double portcullis, which was taken down in 1744/5 after it had sunk down and was causing an obstruction to carriages going through the gate. There are also six square holes under the arch through which hot water, other liquid or objects could be dropped on unwelcome visitors. Like other defences built after the French Raid, the Westgate was fitted with guns. On the outside of the gate you can see the remains of four gun-ports, two of which have been turned into windows.
The Westgate has a two-storey tower above it containing two rooms. These are reached by an external staircase to the south, the only surviving example of the medieval stairways built for defenders to climb on to the walkway along the top of the walls. For most of its history these rooms were let out to tenants who lived in them. At some stage a pyramid roof was added with the crenellations forming windows to an attic storey. The roof and a chimney were removed when the building was restored in about 1938. The building was refurbished and decorated in the 1970s for museum use and is now used by See Southampton for a temporary exhibition on the provisioning of the Mayflower.
The core of the Bargate dates from the Norman period, likely between 1180 and 1200. The Bargate at this point would have been a two-storey stone gate tower that formed the principal north entrance into the medieval town. Inside the central gateway can be seen the original rounded arch.
Initially Southampton used a defence system of ditches and earthen banks around the landward (north and east) sides. In the 13th century stone walls were added to the banks around the landward side, and in the 14th century stone walls were built around the seawards (south and west) sides. At some point during the late 13th century, the Bargate was extended and largely rebuilt, possibly while the northern town wall was built. It was at this point that two drum towers were added and a large first floor hall was created. This first floor hall was used as the Guildhall from that time until 1888. Possibly at the same time, the Bargate was extended to east and west, the east part eventually functioning as the prison.
In the late 14th century, after the French raid, the Bargate was extended to the north, projecting further than the earlier drum tower extensions, and with a higher parapet featuring crenellations and machicolations. Many further extensions and alterations were carried out in the centuries since. The bell in the top south west corner of the building was added in 1605 and was used to signify curfew and alarms. In the late 18th century pedestrian routes were added to either side of the main gateway, each with their own arches, and there are many Victorian renovations and restorations to the building.
The section of the town walls to the west of the Bargate was removed in the early 20th century to accommodate a police station. Due to an increase in traffic and the introduction of trams, the police station and a section of the town walls to the east of the Bargate were removed in the 1930’s, with only a very small section of wall now still attached on either side. In 1951 the building became the Bargate Museum. While the museum itself has now closed inside the building are the wooden statue of Queen Anne, which once sat where the statue of George III now stands, and two large oak panels depicting Sir Bevois and the giant Ascupart, which likely date from around 1594 and were once attached to the buttresses on the north elevation.
From 2005-2012 the building was leased by ‘a space arts’ who fitted-out the first floor to create the Bargate Monument Gallery, the internal partitioning from this period was removed in 2022.
Here is a list of most of the heritage assets to be repaired or regenerated, as announced in the 2021 mid-year budget.
Keep up-to-date with current projects: