National Geographic : 1940 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE " Abbotts* o Io I SAnn STATUTE MILES . Stockbridge Wilton Salisbury Winchester WILTS Beauworth S* 'Fox and Somsey. Hounds S. HAMP HIRE Ru Southampton Hambledon. Stone+ W~oolston Ridley New N\1y S d Sou.thoarmpton Fareham a:§ Forest wat-er o ' Burley ortmouth • Tyrrell 'sFord Gos Kins n ,Sway S Christchurch ote* - etlouth WIGHT ENGLISH CHANNEL SOUTHAMPTON-LONDON'S SHORT CUT TO THE SEVEN SEAS Midway along the coast of the English Channel, but protected from its choppy waves by the Isle of Wight, lies this nerve center of British shipping, at the head of Southam'ton Water. Ocean liners reach its miles of docks and quays from two channels, the Solent on the west and Spithead on the east. The great harbor is the terminal for most transatlantic passenger ships and hundreds of freighters, because it is only 79 miles from London by rail but 248 miles by water. France's important river, the Seine, has much to do with Southampton's prosperity. In A. D. 43 Romans realized the possi bilities of the locality and built a fortress, called Clausentum, to defend their capital, Venta Belgarum, which lay about twelve miles up the River Itchen. At the fall of the Roman Empire the original British peoples regained their lands, but were soon driven out by the Saxons, who settled in Venta Belgarum (now Winchester),* with Clausentum, or, as they renamed it, Ham tune (later South-ham-tune), as their serv ing port. These two towns ultimately became the center of the great Kingdom of Wessex, which had considerable influence over the early prosperity of England. Since then, Southampton's progress has been governed by many whims of fortune and war. In 938, for instance, the town was of sufficient importance to possess a royal mint. A few years later, King Canute took up permanent residence here, a fact which gives foundation to the tradition that it was on the shores of Southampton Water he rebuked the advancing tide to prove to his courtiers that he did not possess mirac ulous powers.' In 1338 a combined French, Spanish, and Genoese army, arriving in a fleet of 50 galleys, sacked the town and burned the palace, but were driven out the next day by a rallied force of Southampton citizens, who thereupon strengthened the city wall. Remains of some of these galleys are still brought up by dredgers. HERE THE "MAYFLOWER" MOORED Only when I walked to the end of the docks did I realize their amazing size (page 109). The actual quaysides are nearly six miles long, and because these are lined with some 45 miles of railway sidings, a multi tude of cranes, storage sheds of every de scription, and seven dry docks, the effect is remarkable. As I watched big pipes sucking moun tains of grain from a ship's hold and in a few seconds transferring them to impos ing flour mills standing on land which, a few years ago, was a muddy waste, I en deavored to picture the ancient town quay against which the little Mayflower and Speedwell moored at the beginning of the Pilgrims' New World adventure. It will be remembered, no doubt, that the little band originally started from Holland, but put into Southampton before striking across the Atlantic. They stayed in the port for about a fortnight, until, on August 15, 1620, a favorable breeze fanned them down Southampton Water. Before they left the English Channel, however, it was decided that the Speedwell was unfit for so long a voyage, so she was left at Plymouth and the Mayflower sailed alone.$ A memorial commemorating their association with Southampton stands on the exact site of embarkation (page 95). I walked more than half a mile around the 20-foot-thick lip of King George V graving dock without reaching my start * See "Cathedrals of England," 16 dry-point engravings by Norman Wilkinson, NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE, December, 1939. t Bosham is also the reputed scene of Canute's encounter with the waves. Although both Bos ham and Southampton maintain that the incident occurred at their water fronts, available facts can not prove either to be the place. This rivalry in claiming historic locations is frequent in the British Isles, as elsewhere. t "Pilgrims Still Stop at Plymouth," by May nard Owen Williams, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE, July, 1938.