Sunday, 3 July 2011

I have been to ... Southampton and Winchester

It was my wife's birthday earlier in the week, and we decided to go away this weekend as part of the celebrations. We chose Southampton because we have driven through it many times over the past few years on our way to board or disembark from a cruise liner ... but we have never stopped and looked around the place. Another reason is because a branch of my wife's family lived in Southampton and one of them – Charles Kennell – was a member of the crew of the 'Titanic', and died when she sank.

We stayed at the Chilworth Manor Hotel, which is situated near the village of Chilworth, just north of Southampton. The hotel was originally a private home, but over the years it has been the head office of an engineering firm and Halls of Residence for the University of Southampton. The University later converted it into a residential conference centre, and when they sold it, it became a hotel.

We arrived at the hotel just before 5.00pm on Friday afternoon, and after unpacking and having a drink on the terrace, we had a walk around the hotel's extensive grounds before returning to our room. We ate an excellent meal in the restaurant, and after yet another drink, we went to bed.

On Saturday morning, whilst on our way to breakfast, we became aware that a helicopter was flying very low overhead. In fact, it was landing on one of the lawns near the terrace. We stopped and watched its arrival, and after a wait of some ten minutes, a family that had been staying overnight boarded it, and it took off.

As the photographs show, the space in which the helicopter landed was only fractionally larger than the span of the rotor blades, and the lawn had a slight slope. Despite this, the helicopter seemed to have little difficulty getting in and out of the available space. I asked one of the staff who was acting as a safety officer whether this was a common occurrence, and he told me that on some days that had three or four helicopters land and take off from the hotel's grounds.

Once breakfast was over, we drove into Southampton. It took us less than thirty minutes, and we parked in the West Quay multi story car park. From there we went out into the main shopping area. After a spell of 'retail therapy', my wife and I walked northward to visit the Titanic Engineers Memorial, which is located in East Park.

From there we crossed over the road to the junction of Cumberland Place and London Road, which is where the Titanic Musicians Monument is fixed to the wall of a rather anonymous modern office block.

The original Monument was destroyed when the building that originally housed it was demolished, and the existing Monument is an exact replica of the original.

We then walked south through the East and Houndwell Parks on our way to the Southampton Maritime Museum. Our walk took us past Holy Rood Church. The church was damaged during the Southampton blitz, and now houses various monuments devoted to the Merchant Navy. The largest of these monuments is in memory of the Titanic's Stewards, Stokers, and other Crewmen.

Having paid our respects at this monument, we completed our journey to the Maritime Museum. This is a small museum, but the ground floor area contains several excellent ship models as well as a large model that shows what Southampton Docks looked like in the late 1930s. The upstairs floor is dominated be a huge scale model of RMS QUEEN MARY. This was made by the ship's builders, John Brown Shipbuilders, and depicts the ship 'as built'.

The rest of the gallery is made over to two exhibits. One is devoted to the history of the Ordnance Survey; the other tells the story of RMS TITANIC from the perspective of her relationship with Southampton. The exhibition is quite small, but does contain some interesting and unusual exhibits, including a watch that was found on the body of a dead crewman from Southampton and copies of 'Presumption of Death' certificates that were given to the families of 'missing' crewmen.

We then made our way back to our car and drove back to the hotel, tired but feeling that we had had an interesting day. We ate another excellent evening meal at the hotel, and after sitting on the terrace watching the sun slowly disappear, we went to bed and slept well.

On Sunday we decided not to drive straight home, but to make a short detour so that we could visit Winchester. Once we had eaten breakfast and checked out of the hotel, it took us about thirty minutes to drive to Winchester. We parked as close to the city centre as we could, and after a break for a drink in the local branch of Costa Coffee, we made our way uphill towards the area of Winchester where the museums are situated.

As our time was limited, we chose to visit the Royal Green Jackets Museum (which is also known as the Rifles Museum). The other military museums on the site are the Gurkha Museum, the King's Royal Hussars Museum (which is also known as Horsepower), the Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum, and the Adjutant-General's Corps Museum.

The entrance to the Royal Green Jackets Museum was guarded by two cannons. They were originally operated by the Egyptian Army and were captured by the Mahdists. After they were re-captured at the Battle of Omdurman, they were presented to the Rifle Brigade by General Kitchener.

The museum tells the story of the various infantry regiments that were the antecedents of the Royal Green Jackets, and includes sections on their involvement in the numerous wars fought by the British Army from 1741 onwards. The largest single item in the collection is a diorama of the Battle of Waterloo that has over 20,000 figures. This has a recorded narrative and light show that describes and illustrates the course of the battle.

Our visit to the museum lasted over one and a half hours, and had not time been pressing we could have easily spent longer looking at its exhibits. We will certainly try to re-visit this museum when we return to Winchester to visit the other military museums situated there. Our journey home from Winchester was uneventful, and we are both determined to return to the Chilworth Manor Hotel, Southampton, and Winchester as soon as we can.


  1. Bob

    Can't say much about Southampton, which I find dull but Winchester is a gem. The regimental museums plus the Cathedral and old town are very interesting. One of my favourite towns in the UK.


  2. Peter Douglas,

    I must admit that Southampton would not have been my first choice to visit, but the family connection for my wife was a strong one and it was not as bad as I expected that it might be.

    As to Winchester ... well it has everything ... and what it has is within walking distance of the centre of the city. Definitely somewhere we will need to revisit as soon as possible.

    All the best,


  3. Bob

    By pure coincidence my wife and I were in Winchester this weekend, I had some free Southwest Rail tickets which had to be used or lost so we decided to take a day out. Winchester is only an hour from Waterloo by train and it meant that I didn't have to worry about having a drink with lunch! We arrived on Saturday to find the City was hosting it's annual Hat Fair, so was very crowded with lots of street theatre acts performing all day. We headed for the Cathedral first and spent an hour and a half touring it, it's full of memorials to members of the Rifle Brigade and every block of stone just breaths with age.

    After the Cathedral we headed for the museums, stopping off to ascend the West Gate, we visited the Horsepower Museum which is dedicated to the 10th and 11th Hussars, it is a small exhibition but well worth a look around. By this point we were drooping with culture overload so decided to leave the other four museums for another day.

    Best wishes, Brian

  4. Bob,
    Southampton - which I have only passed through en route to the docks to board cruise ships - may not be the most beautiful or interesting of cities, but its great claim to fame for us wargamers is as the long-time residence of Donald Featherstone!

  5. Arthur1815,

    Don't forget that it was also the home of Miniature Figurines until relatively recently

    All the best,


  6. Brain Carrick,

    When we arrived on Sunday, the Hat Fair was only just beginning to get started; hence the streets were not too crowded. By the time we had visited the Royal Green Jackets Museum, the streets were very crowded and we were quite pleased to get back to our car!

    In fact the number of street performers in Winchester on Sunday reminded me of a line spoken by Edward Woodward's character in the film 'Hot Fuzz' ... 'If we don't come down hard on these clowns, we are going to be up to our b***s in jugglers!'.

    All the best,


  7. By sheer coincidence I'm off to UK and Winchester tomorrow - my daughter is attending a taster day at the sixth form college. I was going to 'do' the second hand bookshops but might try and squeeze in one of the museums. Thanks for that heads up (another americanism that sometimes grates).
    All the best.

  8. Jfidz,

    There is enough history in Winchester to keep someone busy for days. Enjoy your time there; you will probably want to go back again at some time in the future just to see the things you missed during your first visit.

    All the best,



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