The Park Today
FTQP’s goals and activities are based on wide consultation with the local community, Council, local businesses and city-wide amenity and heritage groups. People described Town Quay Park as a a ‘hidden gem’ and ‘an oasis of tranquility in the busy city centre – a vital space that contributes to their health and wellbeing. What they wanted to preserve is the uniqueness of the park with its
- Open space and nature in a built up area
- Medieval ruins and history
- Views of Southampton Water and the comings and goings of the docks
Building on this, over the last few years our team of gardening volunteers have transformed once neglected areas into a vibrant, colourful space. With support from the Council’s Parks team, we have cleared eyesores, created a fruit tree and lavender bed, herbs beds, displays of spring bulbs and summer flowers – aimed at attracting pollinators and wildlife.
Our ambitions don’t stop at this. We’ve also partnered with the City Council to draw up plans for reshaping, resurfacing and restoring the whole park. The first part of the plan was completed in 2016 when the Council refurbished the west side – restoring the crumbling Mound, adding seating, rocks for informal play and new colourful beds.
Our current focus is on developing a woodland glade at the High St end of the park and full accessibility at the French St entrance. In the longer term we hope to raise funds to complete the park restoration. This will bring improved picnic facilities, more seating, and a resurfaced area surrounded by walled beds making a performance/ activities arena with the surrounding heritage buildings as a backdrop.
Activities in the Park
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 project is under way. 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 the 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.
Features of the Park
Town Quay Park is surrounded by historicalbuildings from the medieval Wool House (now housing the Dancing Man brewery) at Bugle St, to Quilters Vault on the lower High St, and Canute’s Palace on Porters Lane. You can find out more about these in the Story of Town Quay Park (below).
The park itself is a mix of grass lawns surrounded by trees, Mediterranean planting, fruit trees, herb beds, colourful bulbs and flowers. At the High St end a large tarmac area is often used as an arena for performance and arts events In a corner of this area lies a small Huguenot garden; at the French St end there is the FEPOW memorial; and alongside the Mound, on the opposite side of French St, lie remains of an old corn store.
The Huguenot Garden
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 hoping to raise funds to fully restore the garden. For more information on Huguenots see here.
FEPOW (Far East Prisoners of War) Memorial
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 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.
The Story of Town Quay Park
Although Town Quay Park is one of the city’s smaller and newer parks, it is steeped in history like no other. It was created in 1964 on a site made derelict after the Luftwaffe raids of November 1940 destroyed the waterfront buildings that covered the area.
Surrounding the Park are reminders of its older history. At the High St end lie remains of a Saxon rampart, defensive walls and gates, medieval wine vaults and the striking ruins of ‘Canute’s Palace’ and ‘Quilter’s Vault’. At the opposite end sits the medieval Wool House, now operating as a microbrewery. As well as storing wool, on which Southampton’s wealth-generating trade was based, the Wool House also housed French prisoners during the Napoleonic wars.
Town Quay would have witnessed the Welsh archers leaving for Agincourt in 1415, and later, in 1620, Pilgrim Fathers departing for the New World in the Mayflower and Speedwell. Later in the 17th century Southampton experienced an influx of Huguenots fleeing France after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, commemorated in the Huguenot Garden in the park. St Julien’s, a small Huguenot chapel from this time still exists in Winkle St, a small side street off the lower High St.
Jane Austen would have been very familiar with the Town Quay area in the early 19th century, and just over 100 years later in 1912 the Titanic left her berth just opposite Town Quay on her ill-fated maiden voyage.
During the Great War Southampton served as the primary military port seeing over 8 million men and 1 million horses embark for the conflict zones. 1.1 million wounded men returned through the port. During the Second World War 3.5 million Allied troops moved through the port and it played a major role in the D-Day landngs. the city was heavily blitzed in 1940 and a tree in the Mound area of the park commemorates the ensuing loss of life of residents who lived on the site that is now Town Quay Park.
The FTQP committee
FTQP members elect a Committee of up to 12 people at each Annual General Meeting. If there are fewer than 12 Committee members others may be co-opted during the course of the year.
The Committee meets 4 to 6 times a year to manage and administer the affairs of FTQP on behalf of members. All FTQP members are welcome to become actively involved with current activities. Anyone interested in joining the Committee or finding out more please contact the Chair
May 2018– May 2019 Committee members
- Chair – Irene MacWilliam
- Secretary – Ginnie Lambert
- Treasurer – Catherine Curtice
- Philippa Taman
- Roger Townsend
- Jenny Hughes