FROM the Clash of the Titans in Greek Mythology to the legend of Robin Hood in English Folklore – each country in every civilization has fictional tales engrained in their history.

But often towns and cities can have myths of their own too – including Southampton.

An urban myth specifically is an often repeated story which many people believe although it is probably not true.

They can be hard to prove or disprove and get repeated even though there may be no definitive evidence to support them.

Here are five of our favourites:

1. The Legend of Sir Bevis and the founding of Southampton

Legend has it that the wife of Guy, the Count of Hampton, asked a former lover to kill her husband. Fearful of vengeance from her young son, Bevis, she ordered his death only for Bevis to be saved by his faithful tutor.

Bevis was sold to pirates and had many adventures, including defeating the 30-feet-tall giant Ascupart in battle.

After being passed on to the Armenian King, and falling in love with the Muslim Princess Josain, Bevis returned to his homeland and founded Southampton.


Echoes of the legend survive today in Southampton’s place names such as Bevois Mount, Josain Walk and Ascupart Street.

The Bargate’s newly refurbished lion sculptures represent the lions which Bevis is said to have slain to protect Josain.

In reality Sir Bevis was a mythical character emanating from the 13th-century Anglo-Norman poetic romance, Boeve de Haumtone.

2. The 1415 Southampton Plot

This was a conspiracy to replace King Henry V with Edmund Mortimer, fifth Earl of March, by three men who were subsequently caught, trialled and executed.

The Red Lion Pub claims to be the site of the trial and it is here that some have witnessed a ghostly, mournful procession leaving the pub and heard the sound of heavy boots stomping in the cellar.

Daily Echo: The interior of the Red Lion.

Shakespeare in his play Henry V sets the scene of the trial at the Red Lion.

However, due to the lack of trial documentation this cannot be proved.

A more likely venue would have been the nearby Southampton Castle.

3. Anne Boleyn’s Ghost at Tudor House Museum

The museum is supposedly occupied by a ghost who turns lights on in the night and creates shadows in the windows, triggering police calls about intruders.

A medium has said that an occupant ghost was bored and left a ball for it to play with. The ball disappeared and the building immediately became more peaceful.

Daily Echo: Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn

Some claim a female figure to be the ghost of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII, who may have visited the house with the king during that year’s Royal Procession around September 30, 1535.

The house was then owned by Sir Richard Lyster a royal favourite and Lord Chief Justice.

4. St Michael’s spire was left as a navigational aid to aid enemy bombers in the Second World War

The oldest parts of the Grade 1 listed church date from 1070 making it the oldest Southampton building still in use.

The spire was first added in the fifteenth century and reconstructed in 1732.

In late 1940 a series of air raids devastated much of the area around the church and nearby Holy Rood was badly damaged.

Daily Echo: St Michaels Church.

Today’s planes can bomb with great accuracy but Second World War raids were not so precise.

It was probably luck that St Michael’s was not hit.

A bomb did explode nearby blowing out all of its windows except in the Lady Chapel.

5. A ‘toll free’ Itchen Bridge

An enduring story is that the Itchen Bridge toll would be removed once its initial cost was paid for.

The bridge was officially opened on July 13, 1977 by Princess Alexandra replacing the Floating Bridge service which charged a toll.

Daily Echo: Itchen Bridge Tolls.

It seems that debates over its cost go back a long way, as an Echo article from July 16, 1970 quotes Councillor Reynard as saying: “if it is not a toll bridge, it will mean an extra sixpence in the pound on the rates (council tax)” and this would cost the average householder “£2 10 shillings (£2.50) a year”.

Today a car is charged 80p at peak and 70p at off peak times.

Martin Brisland is a tour guide with

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