Our itinerary through west-central Hampshire has not included that little known fragment of the county that lies to the west of Romsey and is a district of commons and woods, part of the great forest-land that we shall hurriedly explore in the next chapter. The chief interest here, apart from the natural attractions of the secluded countryside, is a simple grave in the churchyard of East Wellow, a small by-way hamlet about four miles from Romsey. Here is the last resting place of Florence Nightingale who lies beside her father and mother. The supreme honour of burial at Westminster, offered by the Dean and Chapter, was refused by her relatives in compliance with her own wish. So East Wellow should be a pilgrim’s shrine to the rank and file of that weaponless army whose badge is the Red Cross.
[Illustration: Bargate, Southampton.]
SOUTHAMPTON WATER AND THE NEW FOREST
Bitterne is now a suburb of Southampton on the opposite side of the Itchen, but it may claim to be the original town from which the Saxon settlement arose. It is the site of the Roman Clausentium, an important station between Porchester and Winchester, and when the Saxons came up the water and landed upon the peninsula between the two rivers they probably found a populous town on the older site. This conjecture would account for the name given to the new colony—Southhame tune—ultimately borne by the county-town and the origin of the shire name. It is as the natural outlet for the trade of Winchester and Wessex, standing at the head of one of the finest waterways in Europe, that Southampton became the present thriving and important town.
To-day its commercial prestige, if not on a par with Liverpool, Hull or Cardiff, is sufficiently great for the town to rank as a county borough. The magnificent docks are capable of taking the largest liners, and as the port of embarkation for South Africa its consequence will increase still more as that great country develops. On the banks of the Itchen many important industries have been established during the last quarter of a century and, as a result of this and the inevitable disorder of a great port, Southampton’s environs have suffered. But more than any other town in England of the same size, have the powers that give yea or nay to such questions conserved the relics of the past with which Southampton is so richly endowed. The most famous of these is the Bargate (originally “Barred” Gate), once the principal, or Winchester, entrance to the town. It dates from about 1350, though its base is probably far older. The upper portion, forming the Guildhall, bears on the south or town side a quaint statue of George III in a toga, that replaced one of Queen Anne in stiff corsets and voluminous gown. The various armorial bearings displayed are those of noble families who have been connected with the town in the past.