At one time or another, Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans have all settled in Southampton. You can visit the Saxon canoe, the Bargate and St Michael’s Church, to see evidence of the various influences.
In the 1200s, Southampton was an eminent trading port: French wine was imported and wool exported to Flanders and Italy. Saintonge jugs and pottery came from France. There is some debate about whether these jugs were used to serve wine or simply used to indicate great wealth. Other luxury items, such as a Barbary ape, salt and spices, also made their way to England. These can be seen in theTudor House and Seacity Museums.
In 1338, French and Genoeve pirates pillaged Southampton stealing all the town’s silver. One pirate called Grimaldi was an ancestor of the current royal family of Monaco.
Later records show that Henry VIII visited the Italian fleet in Southampton and that Queen Catherine of Aragon also visited this bustling town. It is possible that the double-entry book-keeping system was introduced by the Italians at this time.
In 1554, Philip of Spain landed in Southampton on his way to marry Queen Mary in Winchester, and Southampton was granted the monopoly of sweet wines for the celebration.
In 1572, the Huguenot French Protestant refugees settled in Southampton. Today it is possible to visit St Julien’s Church and a small garden in Town Quay Park, where they lived.
More recently, as part of the D-Day landings, three and a half million troops embarked from Southampton docks. Over two million of these were Americans heading to war.
In the 1950s, thousands of Pakistani nationals came to Southampton after partition, followed by many Indian families, adding to the cultural, social, religious, linguistic and gastronomic life of Southampton. In 2004, when Poland joined the EU, many Polish citizens moved here, and today there is a thriving Polish community.
Today, millions of tourists, arriving by land, sea and air, visit Southampton each year. Southampton is truly an international and multicultural city.