The History of Southampton

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From our pre-sessional magazine, a brief history of Southampton.

The City of Southampton

Southampton’s first major mention is an important coastal trading port during the medieval period. Sadly, however, during the 16th and 17th centuries, it became a decaying port and the town itself was became neglected.

Later during the 17th century, members of the royal family and other upper class families began to visit Southampton again, due to an interesting idea that bathing in seawater could heal many diseases that were common at the time. At the same time, Southampton started to recover to once again become a popular trading port. Later during the 1700’s, places such as the Common and West Quay started to become developed.

Southampton, also, has important heritage in terms of aviation and military. King Henry V’s troops marched through Southampton to sail for France where the famous Battle of Agincourt occurred. The Titanic, also, set sail from Southampton on its famous voyage to New York City.

During the 1800’s Jane Austen – author of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and many other novels – visited and stayed in Southampton. The cottage where she lived during this time is now open for visits, where you can see artefacts from when she herself lived there. There is, also, a Jane Austen trail through the old town.

In 1838 the first hospital in Southampton was built and in 1840 the railway station was, also, added to the town. Southampton’s first electric street lights were turned on in 1889.

World War II in particular severely affected Southampton. 631 people were killed by bombs, with 4,000 houses being destroyed as well as many shops at the time. After the war, there was a severe housing shortage. Eventually though, throughout the 1950’s more and more houses were built and the city started to recovered from the war; so that in 1964 Southampton was officially named a city.

In the 21st century, Southampton has continued to flourish, with the large shopping centre West Quay opening in 2000. The population today is 236,000.

The University of Southampton

Henry Robinson Hartley was the heir to a family of wine merchants. He was a reclusive man and after turning his back on the family business, he left his estate to the Corporation of Southampton to promote study and the advancement of science and learning. The result was the Hartley Institution, formed in 1862. Within three years, the Hartley Institution had a membership of almost 700 people.

During the 1900s, the Institution gained an impressive reputation. It became a University College in 1902 and won national grants for its work in Chemistry and Engineering. In 1952 it was granted full University status. There was, also, a rapid intake of students in the 1950s; which led to the expansion of the Highfield campus.

The 21st century has seen the University of Southampton become renowned for its research-driven teaching and it now has well over 20,000 full time students.

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Sub-Editor for the Wessex Scene 2016/17. English and History student

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