The infamous passenger liner RMS Titanic struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage to New York City and sank on 15th April 1912. She hit the iceberg four days into the crossing, at 11:40pm on 14th April 1912, and sank at 2:20am the following morning – resulting in the deaths of 1,517 people in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.
Southampton has become synonymous with the Titanic and with good reason. The ill-fated ship set sail from here on 10th April 1912 with 2,223 people on board. Of the 1,517 that lost their lives, 549 of them were from Southampton.
Here we provide a short, self-guided walking tour from Ocean Village which takes in many of the places associated with the Titanic. Ocean Village is a perfectly-situated start/end point with plenty of parking and many eateries in which to relax after your tour. See here for directions to Ocean Village. A number of places of relevance are not included in this tour because they are a little further away; these are detailed at the end should you with to venture further afield.
Tour Route Map
The walking route is shown in pink, with featured calling points shown with blue pins. Ocean Village is marked with a red pin and blue perimeter and other related points of interest for Titanic enthusiasts are shown with green pins. Click on any image to enlarge.
Leave Ocean Village, via the main entrance on Ocean Way (by Tesco Express) and turn left onto Canute Road. As you leave take a moment to notice the old Canute Hotel Building. At the time of the Titanic this was a busy local hotel. Continue walking along the left hand side of the road. It won’t be long before you reach:
This was the office of the White Star Line and as news came though of the Titanic disaster anxious relatives of crewmen gathered here to wait for information.
Initially, conflicting rumours and telegraph messages were received before the awful truth and scale of the disaster became clear. When the names of the survivors were received, they were posted up on large black boards erected outside the front of Canute Chambers. For many, the only remaining hope was the alteration of names wrongly posted up in the confusion. Of the crew, 724 lived within the Southampton area and only 175 returned home to their friends and families. Many households lost their only bread-winner and had to rely on hand-outs from the Titanic Relief Fund which was set up after the disaster for the benefit of the widows and orphans. On the gate pillar there is a memorial plaque commemorating the disaster.
Canute Road, Canute Hotel, Canute Chambers, what’s this all about? Did you notice the plaque on the Canute Hotel, it’s inscribed with “Near This Spot A.D. 1028 Canute Reproved His Courtiers”. King Canute was crowned here in Southampton and it is said that his courtiers flattered him incessantly and told him his powers knew no bounds. Before the docks were built the coastline ran roughly along this stretch of road and it is said that to prove his courtiers wrong, he came here to the water’s edge and ordered back the waves. Of course the tide came in regardless.
Carry on walking along Canute Road and cross the road at the pedestrian crossing. You will soon come to a railway crossing. Trains operated by the London and South Western Railway Company, bringing the passengers from London to the Titanic on 10th April 1912, crossed the road here and went on to stop very close to the ship. This line is still in use today and carries freight to the docks. Next to this you will find:
Here on the corner of Terminus Terrace and Canute Road, you’ll find South Western House. While it is now luxury apartments, this was once a grand hotel catering to first class passengers of cruise ships and liners prior to their departure. The ‘boat trains’ from London would stop right 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. The hotel, designed by John Norton and heavily influenced by the French Renaissance, opened in 1872 and it is claimed that the main staircase was the inspiration for the grand staircase on the Titanic.
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.
What else can you tell me about South Western House? When war broke out in 1939 the hotel was used as offices by both the military and the BBC. Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower planned the D-Day invasion from here. Over the Years the hotel also has many famous guests including Laurel and Hardy, Elizabeth Taylor and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
A good way to view the interior of the former hotel is to visit the Grand Café restaurant – though it should be pointed out that this is actually in the side extension built in 1927. This restaurant occupies what was once the Wedgewood Ballroom. If you ask nicely, and they’re not too busy at the time, a member of staff might even be able to give you a tour of some of the rest of the building.
In the James Cameron film Titanic (1997) you can see South Western House in the background when the Titanic is in Southampton.
Immediately adjacent to the hotel is the old Southampton Docks Station, also called Terminus Railway Station – which is today a Casino. This station was the prototype for the style of local London and South Western Railway stations into the 1860s and forms one of the earliest surviving pieces of railway architecture in the country. Numerous passengers for the Titanic would have arrived here and, depending on their wealth, either spent the night in South Western House or in one of the many other neighbouring hotels.
Walk up Terminus Terrace until you reach front of the Mint Casino. Turn left here into Oxford Street. In 1912 this area around the Terminus Station was a busy and prosperous area. Walk down Oxford Street until, on your left, you come across:
The Grapes Public House
One of Southampton’s most historic public houses and, famously, a backdrop to the film Titanic starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslett. Back in 1912 this was a busy pub popular by firemen (the men that fed the coal into the boilers) and engine room workers. Legend has it that six crew members of the Titanic, including three brothers named Slade, were drinking in the pub before setting sail and, after a few pints of ale, lost track of time. As they all raced off towards Dock Gate 4 just before noon, a train approached heading into the docks. Three of the men dashed in front of the train and made it onto the ship. The Slade brothers on the other hand, having held back to let the train pass, arrived too late and as a consequence missed the Titanic.
In the meantime the gangplank was pulled up and, fortunately for them, they missed the Titanic and lived to tell the tale. Numerous pictures and memorabilia of the time adorn the walls of the pub including a framed blueprint of the ship. The Grapes is a welcoming pub so pop in and take a look.
The Alliance Hotel, now the White Star Tavern
Turn around and, almost opposite The Grapes towards the next intersection, you will see the White Star Tavern. Back in 1912 this was the Alliance Hotel. Mr Lewis Braund of Devon and his extended family, all travelling third class, spent the night here before setting off on the Titanic the following day. Accompanying them was their neighbour, Susan Webber, who had opted to travel second class. They were emigrating to Canada to join Lewis’s brother and chose the maiden voyage of Titanic for their Transatlantic crossing. Lewis and his family did not survive. Their neighbour Susan did and lived in Hartford, Connecticut for the rest of her life.
Bonus: a little further along Oxford Street is the Seaman’s House (it’s a red brick building and “Sailor’s Home” is embossed in stone along the top). Today it is run by the Salvation Army but it was once a home for orphans specially raised to go to sea. Seventeen of the crewman on the Titanic gave this address as their home. Fortunately only two perished on the Titanic.
Turn left off Oxford Street into Latimer Street. Cross the pedestrian crossing and into the tree lined street opposite and then bear right into Queen’s Park. Continue along the pathway until you reach the General Gordon Monument in the centre. If you’re lucky, you may spot a cruise ship in the distance berthed at Ocean Terminal.
Who was General Gordon? British general Charles Gordon was a 19th century national hero for his exploits in China and his ill-fated defence of Khartoum against Sudanese rebels. As governor general he crushed rebellions and suppressed the slave trade. He is often remembered as ‘Gordon of Khartoum’, after the city in the Sudan where he was killed in 1885. He is also is commemorated on the family tomb in Southampton’s Old Cemetery but he is not buried there as his body was never recovered
At the monument, the path splits and you will want to take the path that heads off to the right. When this path meets the road at the large apartment block, Oceana Boulevard, cross over into Briton Street and follow this road until you hit the T junction with High Street (the Co-op is at the end of this road). Turn right into High Street and follow the road. Shortly on your right, adjacent to the historic Red Lion pub and now an Indian restaurant, you will come across what was once:
Oakley and Watling
Oakley and Watling were once a high-class fruit and vegetable supplier providing all the great liners with fresh provisions for their Transatlantic crossings. Look up at this point and you will see the embossed ship and fruits on the facade representing their trade.
Continue to walk up the High Street until it meets with Bernard Street. Here you will find:
Holyrood Church and the Titanic Stewards Memorial Fountain
Holyrood Church was built in 1320 and was one of the original five churches within the old city walls. On the night of 30th November 1940, during Word War II, air raids resulted in 800 high explosive bombs and 9,000 incendiaries being dropped on the town centre. The medieval church of Holyrood was hit and significantly damaged. While many damaged buildings were quickly demolished the ruins of Holyrood remained for many years untouched. Since the church had always been known as the “Church of the Sailors”, in 1957 the shell of the church was dedicated as a memorial to the sailors of the Merchant Navy. A restoration project started during 1995 further preserved the ruins and created a memorial garden within the inner space. A plaque here reads “The church of Holyrood erected on this site in 1320 was damaged by enemy action on 30 Nov 1940. Known for centuries as the church of the sailors, the ruins have been preserved by the people of Southampton as a memorial and garden of rest, dedicated to those who served in the Merchant Navy and lost their lives at sea”.
Appropriate then that just inside the church you will find another one of Southampton’s Titanic memorials. This one is the Titanic Memorial Fountain and it is dedicated to the firemen, stewards and crew from Southampton. This was paid for by the family and friends of the crew. It was originally erected further North on Cemetery Road, as a drinking fountain, on 27th July 1915 and moved to its current location in Holyrood Church on 15th April 1972 – the 60th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.
A metal audio post nearby allows the visitor to press various buttons and hear the recorded testimonies of a selection of local people alive at the time of the disaster.
Now it’s time to turn around and retrace your steps back down the High Street. When you return to Briton Street continue on past it. Shortly afterwards you will see a small park on the right. This is Town Quay Park. While you’re passing by take a look at the medieval vaults. The houses of rich merchants were originally built over these and their goods were stored below. Air raids during World War II destroyed the buildings above. Continue to the end of the High Street. You will see Town Quay and the Isle of Wight ferry terminal opposite and the remains of Watergate on the right, the seaward entrance to Medieval Southampton. We’re going to turn left at the traffic lights. But, before we do…
Did you notice the rather interesting white building across the road, the one with the domed roof? Today it is a restaurant known as “Kuti’s Royal Thai Pier” and the actual pier behind it is in ruins, destroyed by fire in 1987. When the Titanic set sail in 1912, there was a pier here but this building was not. The pier was first opened on 8th July 1833 by Princess Victoria, just before she became queen. It was made of wood and built to accommodate passenger steamers. In 1892 the wood was replaced by cast iron and the pier grew to become the largest of its kind in southern England. This distinctive white building, the gatehouse, once described as “wedding cake” architecture, was not added until 1930. However, did you notice the six cast-iron lions on top? These survive from an earlier gatehouse which was here when the Titanic sailed and were incorporated into this building.
We are going to head back towards Ocean Village to take in the remaining sites. When you reach the end of the High Street, turn left and follow the main road (A3057). On your right is the old Harbour House, now a Casino. As you round the bend you will find:
The Platform Tavern
If you had stood here in 1912 and looked out to your left across the docks, you would have been able to see the Titanic dominating the view, sitting as she was in Berth 44 of the Ocean Dock. The Platform Tavern would then have been a very busy place frequented by dockers and seamen, some of whom would have lodged here.
One such seaman was James McGrady, aged 27. When he signed on to the Titanic on 6th April 1912 as a first class steward, he gave his address as the Platform Tavern. He did not survive the disaster; his body was pulled from the sea on around 25th May 1912. His was the last body to be found, nearly six weeks after the tragedy. His body was listed as number 330 but only 328 bodies were actually recovered. He was buried, along with many others from the disaster, at the Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
If you’ve ever watched the James Cameron film Titanic (1997) then you may recall that Jack (played by Leonardo Di Caprio) wins his ticket in a game of poker in a tavern. That tavern is the Platform Tavern.
Today the Platform Tavern prides itself on providing a warm and friendly atmosphere and eschews fruit machines and juke boxes in favour of regular live music.
You will need to continue in the same direction to follow the main road (A3057). However, you must first cross this busy road as there are very few places for pedestrians to cross safely. So head back a few paces and cross at the pedestrian crossing towards Maxim’s Casino and the large dome-roofed building with the clock face. Head left, following the main road in the same direction as before. You will pass the Medieval God’s House Gate and Tower on your left. Part of the city walls, this two-storey building with a three storey tower was built in 1417 and was one of the earliest forts built specifically to carry cannon. Continue walking along the footpath and keep Queen’s Park on your left and follow the road. You are now passing in front of the historic Eastern Docks. On your right you will see a large imposing red brick building which is:
Now converted into apartments, this was once the main post office for Southampton docks and all mail going overseas from Southampton would have gone through this building. Back then much of the post was actually sorted on the ships during the journey. You may be surprised to learn that the RMS Titanic carried mail, but this was an important role for the ship and the ‘RMS’ in her full title stands for Royal Mail Ship. There were 1,300 bags of mail on the Titanic and five postal workers, three Americans and two British, were on board to sort it. They all died trying to rescue the sacks of post from the rising water.
After the sinking, a Titanic survivor said: “I urged them to leave their work. They shook their heads and continued. It might have been an inrush of water later that cut off their escape, or it may have been the explosion. I saw them no more.”
Sidenote: a memorial to the five postal workers cast from a spare Titanic propeller, donated by the shipbuilder Harland and Wolff, was for many years displayed in the main Southampton Post Office on the High Street. When this closed it was transferred to the Civic Offices where it can still be viewed.
Our next destination is very close, right next to Admiralty House in fact. Here you will find Dock Gate 4, the entrance to the Eastern Docks and the home of both the:
Dock Gate 4 Titanic Memorial and the Titanic Berth
This memorial is located just inside the entrance to the docks on the left. Ordinarily, unless you have a legitimate reason to enter the docks such as travelling on a cruise ship, public access to the docks is not permitted. However the port security guards are usually sympathetic to those wishing to visit the Titanic Memorial and, since they can keep an eye on you from the gate, they will normally let you through for this specific purpose. This memorial was created by Associated British Ports, The British Titanic Society, among others, and was unveiled on 10th April 1993.
A sign here indicates the location of Berth 43/44 from where the Titanic set sail. Now known as the Ocean Dock it was originally known as the White Star Dock and was specifically built to house the three great Olympic-class liners built by Harland and Wolff, the Titanic, the Britannic and the Olympic. Unfortunately it is not possible to wander off and visit the berth from here because the port is a working port. However there are some great alternative ways to view the actual berth. The easiest is to take a harbour tour from Ocean Village with Blue Funnel. Seeing the berth from the sea is a great way to appreciate it and, if you are lucky, the QM2 or another cruise ship may be docked opposite at the new Ocean Terminal. Another option is to take the ‘Sea the City’ open-top bus tour as they have special permission to access the docks and can take you to the berth.
On leaving Dock Gate 4 turn right and follow the road. You will soon be back at South Western House. Here on your right is the Union-Castle House. Also now converted into apartments, this was once the office of another major shipping line in Southampton, the Union Castle Mail Steamship Co Ltd. Walk past this and follow Canute Road until you return to Ocean Village.
You want more?!
There are several other Titanic memorials in Southampton which are slightly further afield, if you would like to continue your Titanic tour of the city. Of particular interest are the Old Victorian Cemetery where many of the survivors from Southampton were ultimately buried and many of those lost at sea were also commemorated on numerous gravestones, the Musicians Memorial on the corner of Cumberland Place and London Road, and the imposing and recently restored Engineers Memorial in East Park (also known as Andrews Park).
Southampton also has a fantastic new visitor attraction which will also be of particular interest to Titanic buffs… The Sea City Museum has a great Titanic exhibition and is located close to the Civic Centre, not far from Southampton Central train station.
Titanic facts and figures
To finish off the tour here are some Titanic facts and figures:
- Registered dimensions: length: 852.5 feet, length overall: 882.75 feet, breadth: 92.5 feet, depth: 59.6 feet
- Registered tonnage: gross: 46,329, net: 21,831
- Passenger capacity: first class: 735, second class: 674, third class: 1,026
- Number of lifeboats: 20, capacity 1178 persons
- Engines: 2 triple-expansion 8 cylinder engines and 1 low pressure turbine, 29 boilers, registered horsepower: 6,906, total horsepower: 46,000
- Speed: service speed: 21 knots, estimated top speed: 23/24 knots
- Number of decks: 7
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