Sir Henry Englefield was a famous antiquarian and astronomer who wrote A Walk Through Southampton in 1801.

Rather than being just another general guide to the town, Englefield takes us round as if on a guided tour. He gives detailed descriptions of streets, ancient buildings and other antiquities, together with many fine drawings and plates - all his own work.

He made many suggestions about different aspects of the Norman town, especially details of the walls.

One lasting gift was the naming of Canute’s Palace in Porters Lane, behind Ennio’s Restaurant. He himself suggested that it was a flight of fancy, and indeed it was, as it is a Norman House from a later period. But the name stuck!

He was also one of the first to record the study of the Clausentum Roman Town and to attempt a drawing of the site as it was in Roman times. Another illustration was of the Ancasta Alter found there, dedicated to what is assumed to be a local goddess, possibly associated with the nearby River Itchen.

In view of later destruction and development, his book is indispensable to everyone interested in Southampton. Although it contains many technical and archaeological details, it is still easy to read. Indeed there have been few, if any, books about the City that have added so much to an understanding of the City’s heritage.

Henry was born in 1752, the eldest son of Sir Henry Englefield of Whiteknights Park, at Earley near Reading.

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His mother was Sir Henry‘s second wife, Catherine Buck. Henry spent most of his childhood at Whiteknights but as an adult he moved to Mayfair in London.

He was never married and devoted his life to studying in many fields.

His scholarship earned him election to most of the learned societies in London and in 1778, at age of 26, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was made appointed as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries the following year.

On the death of his father in 1780 Henry inherited the title, Whiteknights Park and the family’s Wootton Bassett estates.

In 1781 he joined the Dilettanti Society, a group of noblemen and scholars that sponsored the study of ancient Greek and Roman art and the creation of new works in those styles. He acted as its secretary for fourteen years.

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He undertook a number of tours in England and Wales, and some of the sketches he made on these journeys still survive.

Between 1797 and 1813, The Society produced a series on English Cathedrals, to which Henry contributed those on Durham, Gloucester, and Exeter – both words and illustrations.

Besides those studies he carried on research in chemistry, mathematics, astronomy and geology.

Henry’s discovery in 1804 of a durable red colour pigment, produced from the extract of the root of the madder plant, won him the Gold Medal of the Society of Arts.

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His interest in science led him to devise improved instruments for travellers, including a portable mountain barometer and a compact telescope.

He was close to Charles James Fox, the politician commemorated by the Obelisk in Mayfield Park, erected by William Chamberlayne. It may well have been this connection that led to his interest in Southampton and the production of his book.

During his last years, Englefield’s eyesight failed.

He died at his house in Tilney Street, London, in 1822 and is buried in Englefield Churchyard, Berkshire.

The poet William Sotheby, in an eulogy, mentions, “his patronage of artists, the kindness of his heart, and the warmth of his affections”.

He also talks of his friends benefitting from “the sunshine of his temper, the variety, extent and accuracy of his remarks, the spirit and vivacity of his conversation, his flow of fancy, and his gift of memory”.

Englefield Road in Bitterne Manor is named after him.

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Jack Wilson is a tour guide with .