And across French Street, which was named during the Huguenot immigration because so many of them lived there, we have a remains of an old mediaeval corn store, before we move round to the 13th century Wool House; which has seen many uses over the years, from the Wool trade in the Middle Ages, to housing French prisoners during the Napoleonic Wars. It is now a hugely popular and thriving Micro Brewery.
And volunteers from the Friends have more than kept their side of the bargain, as Town Quay Park has improved out of all recognition since 2011. In their place we have new paving and wheelchair friendly entrances, and a mass of new planting of trees and shrubs, and we are one of the few parks outside the perimeter of the Civic Centre that actually has flowers!!
We also have a new Labyrinth, one of only two or three in Hampshire and two new Memorials. The plaque with the ships near the bamboo commemorates the 21,000 British PoW’s who survived the Japanese camps in S E Asia in WW2 and returned to Southampton in 1945 on the ships listed on this plaque. The Asian garden alongside it was largely donated by FEPOW organisations.
And on the other side of the FEPOW wall is the new Memorial to the 4000 Basque Children, who came to Southampton on one small ship in 1937, to escape the Spanish Civil War after the bombing of Guernica, and was unveiled by the Spanish Ambassador, a representative of the Basque government – and Southampton’s first Lord Mayor in October 2022.
This really is a Park of refuge and long may it continue to be so.
In British usage today, the experts say that a labyrinth has one path and a maze has more than one path. (In other times and places the words may be used the other way round.) To get to the central space involves only patience in a labyrinth; but it involves choices in a maze and perhaps getting lost.
The oldest labyrinths and mazes go back as much as 4000 years, and traditional designs can be found in many places going back 2000 or 1000 years. Some were for decoration and quite small, both indoors and outdoors. Others were big enough for walking – for entertainment, or for a small local journey giving time and space for reflection on life (perhaps for those unable to go on a long walking pilgrimage to a special place). The word ‘mizmaze’ seems to be a local word for turf labyrinths (perhaps 1000 years old) in Hampshire and Dorset. Other ancient turf mazes in other parts of the country have different sorts of local names.
In Hampshire we have two local turf mizmazes – St Catherine’s Hill in Winchester, and Breamore near Fordingbridge. The Breamore mizmaze has the same pattern and was installed about the same time (1200 AD) as Chartres Cathedral labyrinth in France. The Chair of the Friends of Town Quay Park, with Southampton Council, chose a simplified version of the Breamore pattern for installation, finally completed in May 2022. We call it a labyrinth because it is not an ancient turf construction, and it has just one path from the entrance to the centre and back out again. There are numerous other indoor and outdoor labyrinths near Southampton (e.g. Romsey).
This small garden is dedicated to the Huguenots who came to Southampton in the 1560s seeking sanctuary from religious persecution in France and the Netherlands. Huguenots brought their knowledge and skills in silk making to Britain. To symbolise this, a large Mulberry tree (symbol of the silk industry) shaded plants of Frencyh origin in the garden. Sadly the original mulberry tree was badly damaged in a storm in 2012 so a replacement mulberry, kindly sponsored by a local family, was planted. A nearby plaque donated by the Women’s Gas Federation explains the garden’s history.
FTQP, with the Huguenot Society are in the process of fully restoring the garden. For more information on Huguenots see here.
Near the French St entrance sits a stone memorial to 22,000 men, women and children, who were repatriated to Southampton in November 1945 after being held as prisoners of war in the Far East. Beds surrounding the commemorative stone have been planted with bamboos and grasses to evoke a sense of the Far East from where the ships departed. Names of these 22 ships are listed on the memorial. Spring and summer bulbs add colour and symbolise hope as they bloom each year.
The Far East Prisoners Of War Memorial (FEPOW) memorial was unveiled in October 2013 in front of 200 people including civic leaders, the local community, St John’s School, veterans and family members of those who are part of the FEPOW community. Since then FEPOW has held an annual ceremony in thanks for those who did return and in memory of those who did not. FTQP are proud to work with FEPOW, to help with the annual commemoration event and to keep the FEPOW memorial and beds well maintained.
Although Town Quay Park is hidden away it is well used by people of all ages from the local community, city-centre workers, and the many tourists and visitors to the area. FTQP keep the park looking as attractive as possible through co-operation with the City Council Parks team and through the many volunteer hours contributed by our gardening volunteers.
As well as regular maintenance the gardening group have planted fruit trees, created raised herb beds, planted spring bulbs, colourful flowering, and a woodland glade. To find out more about their work or about joining in click here.
FTQP very much encourages use of the park as a public space for events that bring people together. A regular feature is the annual picnic with jazz band, games and a chance to meet others. Since 2017 a summer picnic has been part of the Great Get Together, a national event in celebration of murdered MP Jo Cox’s belief that we have more in common than that which divides us.
You can view other upcoming and past events in the Events page.