James Mason and other urchins

When I think of the Victorian era, the images in my head are torn between the splendour of the architecture and grandeur of the upper classes, and the destitution and squalor of the poverty-stricken lower classes. Southampton in the Victorian age had both, from the impressive South Western Hotel that catered for society’s finest, to…

The Battle of Cobden Bridge

Cobden Bridge opened in 1883, and was built by the National Liberal Land Company (NLLC), who had just constructed the brand new Bitterne Park housing estate nearby. The bridge was named after Richard Cobden, the liberal politician who had died in 1865, and it linked the new estate with Southampton, spanning the River Itchen and…

William Mintram: Convicted killer on the Titanic

There were over five hundred households in Southampton that lost a family member or lodger when the Titanic sank in April 1912. The town had of course experienced maritime losses before, but nothing quite on this scale. For many poor families, ships like the Titanic provided much needed work and income, and this is why…

The Opening of the King George V Graving Dock

In 1927, construction had started on the new Western Docks, where 400 acres of land was reclaimed and a 1.4 mile long quay was created. At its most western point was to be a new dry dock, and when complete, it would be the largest in the world. The dock was actually complete in 1934,…

Southampton and D-Day

D-Day is known the world over as the epic opening phase of the liberation of Europe, the beginning of the end for Hitler and his regime. The largest seaborne invasion the world has ever seen has been immortalised in film and television, and everybody knows the scene – the landing crafts riding the waves to…

The Dock Strike of 1890

It was the same year dockers in London famously secured a pay rise with their ‘Docker’s Tanner’ that a Dockers’ Union branch was founded in Southampton. Membership steadily grew, as did the pressure on employers in Southampton docks to grant a pay rise to the men who worked there. The following year, in 1890, the…

The 1837 Fire

I was walking down the High Street recently and stopped to look at Holyrood Church. I’ve been inside many times, but have never really stopped to look at the details on the outer walls of the bombed out ruins, upon which are displayed two memorial tablets dedicated to the memory of twenty two men who…