IF YOU walk along Bargate Street peering down from the town walls you will see the statue of John le Fleming. According to a plaque he lived from 1295 until 1336. He was Mayor on one occasion and was several times the parliamentary burgess for Southampton. He owned property in the town including a windmill and represented the business interests of Beaulieu Abbey and God’s House. As a merchant he worked with his son and others trading with Ireland and the Channel Islands.

In 1217 a Walter le Fleming was appointed Collector of the King’s Prisage this was the King’s entitlement to claim for himself a percentage of the barrels of wine imported into the town. Walter le Fleming had a son also named Walter who was an important merchant in Southampton as well as Mayor and had a great tenement on the corner of Broad Lane and the High Street then known as English Street. Today you can see the exposed wine vaults of this house on the west side of the bottom of the High Street. Walter le Fleming traded in wool and wine and carried out commissions for the King. This Walter was the great grandfather of John represented by the statue and his descendents and extended family lived and traded in Southampton and on the Isle of Wight. His son John married the very interesting Petronilla Isembard who following her husband’s death became a very successful business woman in her own right. John and Petronilla had two sons Walter and Henry one of whom was the father of the John represented by the statue. The Fleming family shield is among those soon to be restored on the Bargate.

The City’s archives tell of many Flemings active in the town and in 1620 Bull Hall off Bugle Street, was let by the Earl of Southampton to Sir Thomas Fleming. His father, also Thomas and the son of John Fleming of Newport, had been Lord Chief Justice of England and involved in the trial of Guy Fawkes and the other Gunpowder Plot conspirators. He purchased the North Stoneham Estate from the Earl of Southampton and died there in 1618. His tomb is located in the Church of St Nicolas at North Stoneham.

Thomas junior was married to the aunt of Oliver Cromwell and with the Earl of Southampton he represented the Town with the government in London. He had also been MP for Southampton and an honorary burgess. It is his descendents who lived at North Stoneham House. In 1737 the house passed to distant relatives, the Willis family and in 1775 the grounds were landscaped by Lancelot “Capability” Brown. In 1825 a John Fleming bought Chilworth Manor which was completely rebuilt by 1904. The Fleming Estate as it was known extended to around 15,000 acres of land in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight most of which has been sold.

Godfrey Collyer tour guide of SeeSouthampton.co.uk