Maritime History

RMS Titanic

Undoubtedly at the heart of Southampton’s maritime history, Oxford Street has played host to over a 100 years of international trade and war. Both have left their mark in the form of historic architecture and a wonderfully cosmopolitan atmosphere.

See Oxford Street Southampton Then & Now

In 1907, the transfer of White Star Line’s transatlantic express service from Liverpool to Southampton established the city as England’s premier passenger port and by 1912 Southampton was the homeport to around 23 steamship companies including Royal Mail, Union Castle and American Lines.

April 2012 saw the 100th Anniversary of the ill-fated maiden voyage of RMS Titanic, which left Southampton from Berth 44 on 10th April 1912. Five days later in the early hours of 15th April she sank with great loss of life after striking an iceberg. The disaster made headlines across the world and had a devastating effect on the people of Southampton.

Most of the crew lived in the town and over 500 households lost at least one family member.

Captain Rostron, Captain of the RMS Carpathia that rescued the survivors of the RMS Titanic

At the end of the street and to the left, where Oxford Street meets Terminus Terrace is The London Hotel, which was built in 1907 although a map from 1846 shows a premises called the Railway Hotel on the site. In 1909, the landlord was Stanley Claude Lewis and his father, Arthur Ernest. Reed Lewis was a steward aboard the Titanic and is said to have survived.

Continue to the corner of Bernard Street and you will find The Flying Dutchman. In 1912, the building was Parkers Hotel, owned by Arthur Oakley. The night before the Titanic sailed, American postal clerk Mr Oscar Scott Woody stayed at Parkers Hotel. He was one of the five postal clerks who perished on the Titanic and died on his 44th birthday.

On the other corner of Oxford Street and Terminus Terrace is Royal Mail House, originally a hotel called Radley’s Hotel dating back to the 1840s when George Radley was the owner. The hotel closed in 1907, and the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company which was established in 1840, after signing a contract with the UK Admiralty for shipping mail overseas moved into the building. In 1904 the company’s first ship to transport passengers was the Solent, which became the first of many. After the Titanic disaster, the company bought White Star Line making it the largest shipping group in the world.

Opposite Oxford Street is Southampton Terminus which was the main railway station built by the London and South Western Railway in 1839. It provided superb access to the docks and liners.

Crowd awaiting Titanic Survivors

Next to the former station on the corner of Terminus Terrace and Canute Road, is South Western House, previously the South Western Hotel. Close to the docks, this was the hotel of choice for many wealthy passengers. Bruce Ismay (Chairman of the White Star Line) and Thomas Andrews (the Chief Designer at Harland and Wolff) both stayed here before boarding the Titanic for her maiden voyage. While it is now divided into luxury apartments, many of the First Class passengers on the Titanic would have spent a night here before embarkation. From their bedrooms many would have looked out with excited anticipation at the ship in the dock. Check- in for the Titanic took place at the hotel itself and, on the morning of the sailing, another train took the passengers from the hotel into the docks and right up to the ship. The ‘boat trains’ from London would stop outside the hotel, the first class passengers alighting onto platforms, which once stood at the rear of this building just beyond the glazed canopy (now the car park) at the adjacent Terminus Station. Here they would be met by porters to assist them with their luggage.

Along Canute Road are The Canute Chambers, which was the location of the White Star’s Line Southampton Office. It was here that crowds flocked upon hearing the news of the sinking of Titanic. Philip E. Curry was the manager of the White Star Line offices. After the disaster it fell to Curry to oversee the release of information to the press and public as news of the disaster and its aftermath came through. Of the crew, 724 lived within the Southampton area – only 175 returned home to their friends and families.

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