THE award-winning Town Quay Park may be one of the newest in Southampton but is one of the most important.

Situated mainly between the Lower High Street and French Street, the park is steeped in local history.

In 2010 the Friends of Town Quay Park formed, to prevent the development of the site into flats. It was agreed that if the Council designated the park as an ‘open space’ the group would maintain and improve the park.

The ruins of one of the main fortified entrances to the town, the Watergate stands at the eastern side of the park.

Canute’s Palace in Porter’s Lane was so named by Henry Englefield in 1805. However, it was built around 150 years after the Danish king’s death in 1035 and largely destroyed during the Second World War. Opposite, Geddes’ warehouse dates from 1866.


On the western side of the park stands the Wool House, a reminder of Southampton’s source of wealth from the mediaeval wool trade. Since then it has had many uses, including housing French prisoners during the Napoleonic wars. It is now the thriving micro-brewery the Dancing Man.

A raised area at the eastern end marks the site of an outer rampart of a former Saxon settlement. Also under the park lies mediaeval wine vaults, of which Quilter’s is the most evident, standing partially above ground on the lower High Street. Wine storage was a major reason for the town’s great prosperity during the Middle Ages.

In 1415,local residents may have witnessed Henry V’s Welsh archers departing through the Westgate for Agincourt.

In August 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers would have walked past the area, leaving for the New World in the Mayflower and Speedwell.

Southampton later welcomed Huguenot refugees who fled France and Holland. A mulberry tree, symbolic of the famous Huguenot skill with silk and lace production, stands close to Canute’s Palace. The original mature tree was struck by lightning in 2012.

Daily Echo: Town Quay Park.

The Huguenot chapel of St Julien still exists in Winkle Street. The beheaded remains of the Earl of Cambridge, one of the conspirators in a failed plot to overthrow Henry V in 1415 are rumoured to lie beneath the altar of this chapel. St Julien’s is holding its annual public service in English at 3pm on Sunday July 24.

Jane Austen would have known the Town Quay area when she lived in the Old Town from 1806-1809 and took regular walks along the waterfront.

Just over 100 years later in 1912 the world’s largest ship Titanic left her berth near the Quay on her ill-fated maiden voyage.

During the First World War, around 1.1 million wounded men returned through the port, many on their way to the Royal Victoria Military Hospital in Netley.

Daily Echo: Town Quay Park.

In 1919 a flying boat service left Town Quay for Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. It expanded with Imperial Airways flying to Africa and beyond. Some think that it was Southampton's Town Quay that gave us the name AirPort but this was first used for Atlantic City airport in 1910. The flying boat service ceased in 1958.

In the two decades between 1920 and 1940 Town Quay would have seen the famous trans-Atlantic liners taking Hollywood stars to and from our shores.

In late November 1940, the Town Quay area was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe. The site lay abandoned until 1964, when the Council developed it into an open space.

A plaque to the side of the Dancing Man, commemorates local people who lost their lives in the blitz.

Daily Echo: Town Quay Park.

Another plaque remembers the 22,000 surviving Far Eastern prisoners of war who returned to Southampton in 1945 and the 28 ships that brought them home.

A plaque and dove sculpture to remember the 4,000 Basque child refugees who arrived in Southampton in May 1937 will be unveiled soon. This will happen on Monday 19 September at 12.00pm in Town Quay Park, exactly 85 years since the last Basque child left the transit camp at Stoneham.

The memorial will be a polished marble tablet with images of the children by Marie Pinto.

Next to it will be a sculpture called Picasso’s Guernica Dove by Anthony Padgett. A dove crying out just one tear in anguish is central to Picasso’s famous Guernica painting of when the Luftwaffe destroyed the town.

The Friends of Town Quay Park number around 100. If you would like to find out more they are having a Picnic in the Park on Sunday July 17 from 1pm.

Daily Echo: SeeSouthampton logo

Martin Brisland is a tour guide with .

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