Southampton Stories

This exhibition marks the start of the Southampton Treasures project which will showcase the City’s rich and diverse maritime, local history, archaeology and archive collections. The exhibition ties in with the NPO project, which is funded by Arts Council England.

Focusing on different aspects of the City’s history, the exhibition features topics such as the docks, working life, sport and leisure, Southampton during wartime, and the City as a Spa Town in the 1700s.

You’ll learn about life on board the great ocean liners, as well as the creation of the New Docks in the 1920s and 1930s.

Stories include the tale of William Wyatt Fisher, awarded the George Medal for his brave actions in Southampton Docks during the Second World War and William Shawyer, the last man hanged in Southampton in 1785.

On display will be ship models, maritime ephemera, historical costume, artworks, photographs and much more.

Current Areas include:
New Acquisitions area
Featuring objects and archives that have been recently acquired into Southampton’s collections, including a cannon ball and sword taken into the archaeology collection.

Historical Section: Spa Town
In the hundred years from 1700, Southampton developed from a quiet town in decline to a thriving leisure resort. The population grew from less than 3,000 in 1700 to more than 8,000 in 1801. The catalyst for the development was mineral springs, discovered around 1740, north of the Bargate.

Southampton at War
First World War: More than 2,000 Sotonians died in WWI and the port witnessed the embarkation of more than 8 million troops, with their horses, supplies and equipment.
Second World War: The importance of the docks in WWII made Southampton a target for heavy bombardment and much of the city centre was badly damaged during the blitz in November and December 1940. The damage was immense and its effects are still visible around Southampton today.

Sport & Leisure
Covering Power boat racing: In the 1920s and 1930s, Cycling and Southampton Football Club which has been an integral part of city life since its foundation in 1885.

Ships & Shipping
From the launch of the first great ocean liners at the end of the 19th century to the rise of the mega-cruise ships of today, Southampton has been at the centre of the liner industry. Hundreds of ships have travelled thousands of journeys, beginning or ending in Southampton, nicknamed ‘Gateway to the World’.

The Docks
The first dock opened in 1842, enabling larger ships to berth and soon many shipping routes opened, linking Southampton with destinations across the world. As the size of ocean liners continued to increase, Southampton Docks needed more quay space and a deeper dock. The Itchen Quays were opened in stages between 1875 and 1892, Empress Dock in 1890 and in 1910 White Star Dock was opened.

A Working city
This section will include objects relating to large and small businesses, such as Day and Summers, The Yacht Laundry: based in Freemantle, and Walter Taylor: an engineering inventor and entrepreneur.

A Trading port
Southampton has served as a point of arrival and departure for goods, passengers and troops over the centuries. From Saxons to the Tudors, to becoming Britain’s second largest container terminal.

Daily Life
As a port city, Southampton has always had a changing population, with seafarers and others from far and wide visiting or settling in the town. Looking at shops, shopping, council estates and more.

Community Project
This is an area within the exhibition that will feature a display of objects picked by a specific community group. The first display will be a selection of maritime ephemera picked by volunteers from the Arts Society Southampton who have worked one day a month since the beginning of 2017 to catalogue more than 3,000 items from the collection. They have focused on the menus in the collection.