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History of Town Quay Park

Located at the southern end of Southampton Old Town, Town Quay Park is now an oasis of calm, although its history is less peaceful.

Medieval times

In mediaeval times Southampton had become one of England's most important cities, thanks to its trade with France. Still surviving are the Wool House, Canute's Palace and  the huge vaults over which rich merchants' houses were built. In the vaults goods were stored either for export or sale and distribution. Carts would have rumbled over the rough roads to and from the shore, where ships waited for cargo. Noisier still would have been the infamous 'French Raid' in 1338 when French pirates ruthlessly attacked the area, killing many Southampton citizens, including those seeking sanctuary in St. Michael's church.


History of Town Quay Park

The twentieth century

By the early 20th century the Town Quay area had lost its richer residents and was a crowded hotchpotch of narrow streets and sunless alleys, edged by pubs and boarding houses that served the crews of the bigger ships and liners using the docks.

All this changed on November 30th, 1940 when, in the worst night of the blitz, German bombs almost obliterated the city centre. Direct hits destroyed  the buildings above the vaults where people were sheltering. Many lives were lost, including some who drowned when a shattered water main caused one vault to flood.

For years after the war a generation of children, some of whom still live locally, played on the flattened bomb site. However, in 1964, in line with the Council's vision of a greener and healthier city, funding was found to create Town Quay Park, and for the conversion of the Wool House into the Maritime Museum.


History of Town Quay Park

The Park Today

Based on plans made in the 50's, the park has colourful shrubs, lawns and paving. It provides a quiet space for local residents and tourists to enjoy the green space and views of the water and picnic in lovely surroundings.

Its proximity to the cruise terminals enables people to watch liners arriving and leaving. Its history and archaeology make it  a regular stop for guided tours of the Old Town and its different levels provide an ideal site for the street theatre presented every summer by the Sarah Siddons Fan Club.


History of Town Quay Park

The Huguenots

In one corner there is a small garden dedicated to the Huguenots who came to Southampton seeking sanctuary from religious persecution in France and the Netherlands.   A Mulberry tree, which is a symbol of the silk industry brought to the city by the Huguenots, shades plants of French origin.   A nearby plaque donated by the Women's Gas Federation for its opening in 1985 explains the garden's history. FTQP have worked with the Huguenot Society to refresh the garden. The original mulberry tree was damaged in a storm in 2012 and has been replaced by a new, healthy mulberry tree – kindly sponsored by a local family..


History of Town Quay Park

Recent events

In the last few years the eastern Lower High Street area has been intensively developed, bringing many new residents to Old Town. This has made the Park even more important as a green space in a densely populated area.

In early 2010 the Council announced its plan to sell the Park to developers for building many more flats. Old Town residents, new and old, united to try to protect their cherished community open space, and to look for creative ways of enhancing this historical and archaeologically important environment. They set up The Friends of Town Quay Park (FTQP) in order to both improve the park and to protect it so that future generations can have a greener and healthier city.

During the summer of 2014 the park’s future as an open space was finally secured and FTQP continues to work with the Council to improve the park and make better use of the historic monuments within and on the border of the park.


History of Town Quay Park

Get involved

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  • Help improve the Park, preserve the Park, organise events, share your ideas - contact us.
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