As a local person, I often find that visitors to Seafaring Southampton - think that "shopping" is the main activity in this venerable city. There are however at least three Unmissable Historic Sites In the port of Southampton. Like many port cities, Southampton has a rich and varied maritime history, but some of the ships that have set sail from Southampton harbour are so famous (or infamous) their names are known across the world.
The very name of the Mayflower is inextricably linked with the founding of a new, free colony in what was to become known as the United States of America. The ship that carried the Pilgrim Fathers from the Old World to the New set sail from the city of Southampton on 27th July, 1620.
A few English towns and cities claim to have waved the Mayflower off on her trip to the New World, which seems controversial, but in fact, the ship stopped at different ports along the south coast of England before her final trip across the Atlantic. Southampton was certainly one of them, and a replica of the ship now sits atop of a memorial, on Town Quay, to mark the Pilgrims’ departure point. Southampton has certainly embraced this moment in history, with the Mayflower Park and the Mayflower Theatre both being popular attractions in the city.
Although built in Ireland, the ill-fated Titanic began her maiden (and only) voyage in Southampton. She pulled away from the White Star Dock on 10th April 1912, to make it just 5 days into the voyage before sinking, with tragic loss of life. The majority of the ship’s crew were from Southampton, and over 500 of the city’s households lost at least one family member that day.
There is a memorial to the Titanic, and the crew who lost their lives, located within the ruins of Holy Rood Church in the city centre. You can also visit the site of the old Hotel where first class passengers would have spent their last night on land. At the SeaCity Museum, visitors can find out more about the ship, the disaster, and the impact it had on Southampton. Exhibits include the Disaster Room, with oral testimony from survivors, an audio visual show about the British inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic, and a 1:25 scale interactive model of the ship.
Southampton was also the home port of the QE2. Named for Queen Elizabeth II, the former Cunard flagship called at Southampton more than any other port during her active seafaring career. The ship has now been controversially sold off to a real estate developer in the United Arab Emirates, but her history lives on in Southampton. One of her huge steel anchors, weighing 13 metric tonnes, is now set as a landmark in front of Holy Rood Church, forming part of a walking path that links many of the city’s historic landmarks, known as the QE2 mile.
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