Hidden underneath the bustling city of Southampton rests an elaborate network that plays a vital role in our daily lives - the intricate sewer system that dates back to the Victorian era.

Despite its less-than-glamorous reputation, these ancient passageways continue to serve the needs of more than 254,000 residents and countless workers in the city today.

With each flush, a fragment of the past, originating from the year 1871, is set into motion once again.

Daily Echo: Victorian Southampton

Southampton owes its gratitude to the Victorians for much more than just the sewerage system though.

The docks, university, Common, and convenient connections to London are among the many contributions they made to the city's development.

Upon a swift survey of the urban landscape, one cannot help but notice myriad dynamic and animated components that were integrated into the fabric of the city during the era of Queen Victoria's rule, spanning from 1837 to 1901.

In Southampton, the unmistakable imprint of the Victorian era is evident.

During the significant transformation and expansion of the city, at the time a humble town, it experienced a remarkable surge in both progress and population. The population shot up from 27,000 in 1841 to nearly 105,000 by 1900.

During the 1840s, Southampton, just like many other towns in Britain, was plagued by filth and disease.

Daily Echo: Victorian Southampton

There was an alarming situation of excessive overcrowding and unsanitary conditions consequently emerged. These included overflowing privies that had not been emptied for 15 years.

In the year 1865, the town was struck by a devastating outbreak of cholera.

The Board of Health named James Lemon as the borough engineer in 1866, having previously worked on London's drainage system.

Moving to Southampton from the capital, he was instrumental in improving the sewers in the town and building the fundamentals of the system we still use to this day.

James – who went on to enjoy two spells as mayor of Southampton – gave the town its first flushing toilets and he was knighted in 1909.

Following his death in 1923, Sir James was buried in Southampton Old Cemetery.

Daily Echo: Victorian Southampton

Another extremely important introduction to Southampton by the Victorians was the docks, which began operating in 1838.

In the year that followed, the establishment of the Royal Mail Steam Ship Company took place. This renowned company, equipped with a fleet of 14 steam ships, successfully secured the government contract. Their operations were primarily centred in Southampton, and it was a pivotal moment that propelled the town's burgeoning industrial standing.

During the Crimean War, the docks experienced significant expansion as they became the central hub of embarkment for equipment and troops.

Continental shipping lines relied on the docks which were later expanded to accommodate deep-water docks and dry docks.

During the 1800s, an extensive network of railway links was established.

 These railway systems played a crucial role in ensuring the efficient distribution of goods, upon which the functioning of the docks heavily relied.

Daily Echo: Victorian Southampton

But it was the opening of the railway line connecting Southampton and London in 1840 that truly catalysed Southampton's growth and development.

During that era in Southampton, the horse tram was the sole means of public transportation available.

These were introduced in the 1870s and were followed by electric trams in 1901, shortly after Queen Victoria's death.

Despite the ravages that Southampton experienced during the Second World War, where 900 buildings were obliterated by bombing raids, a handful of Victorian buildings managed to endure and stand tall till now.

These include the Royal Southern Yacht Club, the old County Court, Portland Terrace, South Western House and the old Post Office.

During the late Victorian era, a remarkable addition emerged - the Royal Pier.

Daily Echo: Victorian Southampton

It was inaugurated in 1892 by the Duke of Connaught, son of Queen Victoria, signifying a pivotal moment in our history.

This grand structure was constructed to ensure Southampton remained on par with other towns

The city is also well-known today for universities and, until recent decades, its department stores. Both were introduced by the Victorians.

A groundbreaking establishment emerged on Above Bar Street in 1896 - Plummers, Southampton's first department store.

The original building was destroyed during Second World War bombing and a new building was opened in 1965. Southampton Solent University’s Sir James Matthews building now stands on the site

In the city of Southampton, there exists a deep-rooted connection between the local university and the Victorian era. Over a century ago, a cultural hub known as the Hartley Institute emerged under the auspices of Lord Palmerston. Its doors were opened in 1862, marking the beginning of its significant impact on education and the arts. As time progressed, the institute's teaching responsibilities expanded, leading to its transformation into Hartley College during the 1890s, then the Hartley University College in 1902.

Daily Echo: Victorian Southampton

It is now Southampton University, based in Highfield.

We also owe thanks to the Victorians for our city’s green spaces.

Since the Middle Ages, the central parks have served as communal spaces. However, it was a transformation of status in 1844 to public parks that guaranteed their, and Southampton Common's, existence until now.

The Victorians transformed the Common into a scenic oasis by bringing forth the creation of three magnificent lakes, each showcasing its own unique charm.

During the era of Queen Victoria, the streets of Southampton witnessed a significant increase in the number of gas street lamps. These lamps had already made their appearance before her reign, but it was during her time on the throne that their presence became more prominent.

In an era where darkness dominated, the glow of gas lighting brought a sense of security to the streets. Breaking the mould of tradition, Southampton stood as a pioneer in 1821 by embracing this new form of illumination, a move intended to discourage the presence of highwaymen.

It is said the gas cooker was invented in Southampton by the manager of the gas works at the time.