Before the 27th August 2013 Southampton was just somewhere the train went through on it’s way to Poole and, later, a city with a tragic association with the Titanic (I’d been to see Southampton’s Titanic Story at the SeaCity Museum the previous year http://www.seacitymuseum.co.uk/?page_id=229), but there is a lot more to Southampton than I gave it credit for.
It turned up that grade II listed The Civic Centre, which incorporates The SeaCity Museum I had visited the year before, does not sit in splendid isolation (as it appeared to me as I approached it from the train station). In fact it’s a stones throw from the shops “Above Bar” and some beautifully parks (it was a sunny day and a sunny day always shows a park off to its best advantage). The City was also in the middle of a rhino themed public arts event, which deserves a write up of its own in my opinion. Below the Bar, a gateway that sits in the middle of the pedestrianised High Street, you’re into the historic heart of Southampton and it’s straight down to the harbour and the Isle of Wight ferry – but not yet.
Tucked away between Bugle Street and the City wall is The Tudor House and Garden. This isn’t a history lesson, so if I had to compress 800 years of a buildings history into one sentence I’d say; The Tudor House has been around. To elaborate; the house has been home to Southampton’s Tudor elite, both mercantile and civic, as well as the centrepiece of one of Southampton’s worst slums, before becoming a museum and some how surviving the Southampton Blitz of 1940. Since then it went into decline again only to be extensively renovated to its present condition. So when I visited it was probably looking as good as new; if not a bit better! The house has a lot of character and I think people have noticed that over the years and thought, “This is a place we need in our lives”, whilst other buildings have been dismissed and demolished around it.
If history doesn’t interest you, head straight to the garden at the rear of the property. Walk around the knot garden like it’s the 1500s, look at the grapes dangling from the vines (a big surprise, although it probably shouldn’t have been, as The Old Bishop’s Palace in Lincoln is a lot further North and they have grapes or at least they did at one point) and listen to the water fountain gently trickling away.
Oh… and the most important thing; get yourself a pot of tea and a slice of Victoria sponge cake and some friends to sit and enjoy the views of the garden with. The Tudor House Café is worth a visit in its own right, in fact, I viewed the house on my own and my travelling companions waited in the café for me (not because they thought the house would be dull, but because they’d visited it before).
A great place to visit (incorporating a refreshing brew and nice slice of cake).
You can read more about The Tudor House and Garden here: http://www.tudorhouseandgarden.com/