Within the upper chamber are two ancient paintings
said to represent the legendary Sir Bevis, whose sword
is preserved at Arundel, and his squire Ascupart.
Sections of the town wall may be found in several
places, but the most considerable portion is on the
north side of the Westgate, where, until the middle
of the last century, when Westernshore Road was made,
high tides washed the foot of the wall. The arcading
of this portion is much admired, and deservedly so.
So far as the writer is aware, no other town in England
has medieval defences of quite this character remaining.
The picturesque Bridewell Gate is at the end of Winkle
Street and not far away is all that remains of “God’s
House” or the Hospital of St. Julian, “improved”
out of its ancient beauty. The chapel was given
to the Huguenot refugees by Queen Elizabeth; a portion
of the original chancel still exists and within the
Anglican service continues to be said in French.
The house known as “King John’s House,”
close to the walls near St. Michael’s Square,
dates from the twelfth century and is therefore one
of the oldest in England. Another old building
in Porter Lane called “Canute’s House”
is declared by archaeologists to be of the twelfth
century, but Hamptonians, with some degree of probability,
claim that the lower walls are certainly Saxon, so
that the traditional name may be right after all.
In that part of the town nearest to the docks are
several stone cellars of great age upon which later
dwellings have been erected, in some cases two buildings
have appeared on the same sturdy base. A particularly
fine crypt is in Simnel Street, with a window at its
east end. At the corner of Bugle Street is the
“Woolhouse,” said to belong to the fourteenth
century; very noticeable are the heavy buttresses
that support this fine old house on its west side.
Another old dwelling in St. Michael’s Square
may have been built in the fifteenth century.
Tradition has it that this was for a time the residence
of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
[Illustration: THE ARCADES, SOUTHAMPTON.]
The reference to Canute’s House brings to mind
the tradition, stoutly upheld by Hamptonians, that
it was at “Canute’s Point” at the
mouth of the Itchen, and not at Bosham or Lymington,
that the king gave his servile courtiers the historic
rebuke chronicled by Camden. By him, quoting
Huntingdon, we are told that “causing his chair
to be placed on the shore as the tide was coming in,
the king said to the latter, ’Thou art my subject,
and the ground I sit on is mine, nor can any resist
me with impunity. I command, thee, therefore,
not to come up on my ground nor wet the soles of the
feet of thy master.’ But the sea, immediately
coming up, wetted his feet, and he, springing back,
said, ’Let all the inhabitants of the earth
know how weak and frivolous is the power of princes;
none deserves the name of king, but He whose will
heaven, earth, and sea obey by an eternal decree.’
Nor would he ever afterwards wear his crown, but placed
it on the head of the crucifix.” There
is little doubt that Southampton was one of the principal
royal residences during the reign of the great Northman,
and nearly a hundred years before, in Athelstan’s
days, it was of sufficient importance to warrant the
setting up of two mints.