Posted in Activity, Event, Exhibition, Film, History, Maritime History, Museum, TV Programme, World War One, World War Two

RMS Titanic – Southampton Remembers

The old South Western Hotel (now South Western House), Southampton, in 2012.

The Centenary of the sinking of RMS Titanic is fast approaching and the popular culture juggernaut is gathering pace. A plethora of new books have been published and television documentaries airing almost nightly. In my view, the best documentary so far has been BBC 1′s Titanic With Len Goodman, the second episode was shown Sunday night (8th April) at 6pm and there is one more to go. The only criticism that I have, is at 30 minutes per episode, it is just too short! The series looks at the lifelong impact of the liner’s sinking on the victims’ families as well as those who survived.  For every one of over 1,500 souls lost, the repercussions for those left behind to pick-up the pieces of shattered lives, was immense. Episode one begins by examining the deaths of eight men lost during the construction of Titanic at Harland & Wolff’s Belfast shipyard. One of these unfortunate gentleman, a worker called James Dobbins, lost his life on Launch Day, 31st May 1911. He had been shoring beneath the hull, was knocked-out and wounded by one of the falling timbers. He died of his injuries in hospital later that day. On Sunday 15th April, 4.50pm, BBC 1 will be showing Titanic – Southampton Remembers. Presented by Bernard Hill, the actor who played Captain Smith in James Cameron’s film Titanic (1997), the documentary will examine the effect of the tragedy on the city of Southampton.

Replica of the Musicians' Memorial which is now located on the corner of Cumberland Place and London Road, Southampton. The original Memorial having been unveiled by the Mayor of Southampton, Henry Bowyer, on 19th April 1913. The Memorial was subsequently destroyed during a bombing raid in World War II. This replica was erected in 1990.

Sunday 8th April at 8pm on Discovery Channel (UK) the documentary Titanic The Aftermath premiered.  The programme examined what happened during and after some of the victims were retrieved from the sea. The MacKay-Bennett recovered 306 bodies. Body identification was extremely difficult. Many of the corpses were so badly decomposed or sea ravaged that they could not be brought back to shore and had to be recommitted to the sea on the same day they were found.  In total, 116 of the bodies recovered by the MacKay-Bennett, were returned to the sea. New techniques in forensic science were also developed to aid the identification process.  The MacKay-Bennett returned to Halifax, Nova Scotia on April 30th.  The first bodies to be brought ashore were the crew members, then second and third class passengers, the latter having been sewn into canvas bags.  The first class passengers were the last to be off-loaded, having already been embalmed and placed in coffins whilst in transit aboard the MacKay-Bennett. The Mayflower Curling Rink in Halifax was used as a temporary morgue.

Tuesday 10th April at 9pm on Yesterday (UK), Titanic: And the Band Played On, is a documentary that explores the heroic band of musicians aboard Titanic who remained in post, playing on deck to calm the terrified passengers and sacrificing their own lives in the process. The programme is aptly presented by Madness frontman and musician, Suggs.

Detail from the Musicians' Memorial which shows at the bottom musical notation for the opening bars of hymn, 'Nearer, My God, to Thee' by Sarah Flower Adams.

There have been several TV dramatisations of the tragedy, including ITV’s four-part mini-series, Titanic, by Downton Abbey’s creator Julian Fellowes. I have yet to make-up my mind about Fellowes’ offering. In all honesty I have found the acting to be a bit of a mixed-bag in places and not quite up to the standard of Downton Abbey. Titanic comes across as theatrical rather than cinematic. However, production values are high, which one would expect from a drama with a budget of £11 million. I will stick with it and have a feeling that the best way to enjoy the drama, given its narrative structure, will be to view all four episodes back-to-back.

SeaCity Museum, Havelock Road, Southampton. Opens on Tuesday 10th April 2012.
SeaCity Museum, Southampton.

Southampton’s new £15 million SeaCity Museum opens at 1.30pm on April 10th. The official opening has been chosen to coincide with the exact time, one hundred years ago, that RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton on its doomed maiden voyage. The Museum will tell the story of the people of Southampton and the city’s historic connection with the sea. The permanent Titanic exhibition, within the Museum, will focus on the lives and families of the crew that were affected by the tragedy and a 1:25 scale interactive model of the ship will also be on display. The enduring fascination with the Titanic will be explored in a special temporary exhibition, ‘Titanic the legend’, which remains in place until 2013.

Entrance to SeaCity Museum, Southampton.
Architectural detail featured over the main entrance to SeaCity Museum, Southampton.

Artworks created by local artists and inspired by events surrounding Titanic are on display until 29th April at Southampton City Art Gallery. The 300 works form part of ‘Retracing the Unsinkable – Open Exhibition 2012’ and feature work created by artists resident in Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Wiltshire and Dorset. I was really impressed by the standard of the entries and some of the works will stop you in your tracks. A moving tribute to those who lost their lives.

Memorial Fountain plaque. The Memorial Drinking Fountain is now erected in the ruins of Holy Rood Church, High Street, Southampton. The Memorial is dedicated to the crew, stewards and fireman who lost their lives aboard Titanic. Today, there is a 'talking post' next to the Memorial and you can hear aspects of the story of Titanic and how it affected Southampton city residents.
Memorial Drinking Fountain, Holy Rood Church, High Street, Southampton.
Detail of the Memorial Drinking Fountain, Holy Rood Church, showing RMS Titanic at sea.

British artist and Fine Arts graduate (UWE – University of the West of England, Bristol) Mary Rouncefield was inspired by Titanic to create a series of prints after discovering a familial link to the ship amongst some old papers belonging to her late grandmother. Mary had previously been unaware that her grandmother’s younger brother, Edward Harris (18) and fiancé, Michael Rogers (27), were crew members aboard Titanic.  Both perished in the sinking, their bodies were never recovered. The Harris family, together with Michael, lived in Greenhill Avenue, Winchester, Hampshire. Edward was the fourth son of Thomas Harris, a part-time Prison Warder in Winchester. Even at the tender age of 18, Edward had already crewed on the maiden voyage of the RMS Olympic, Titanic’s sister ship. Edward signed-on to work as an Assistant Pantryman Steward on Titanic on 4th April 1912 and his wages are recorded as being £3 15s. Edward joined the ship on the evening before sailing day. Michael Rogers was born in Dublin and had also signed-on to work as crew on 4th April 1912. He was a Saloon Steward to the Marconi Department of Titanic and had previously served on the Adriatic and the Olympic. Michael’s job was to serve meals to the wireless operators and postal works on C Deck. Mary Rouncefield has created aquatint etchings and screen prints inspired by her discovery. The Noble Maritime Museum, Staten Island, New York will exhibit (15th April to the end of 2012) six of the etchings and the Etching Guild in Riga, Latvia, will exhibit (14th April – 14th October 2012), thirteen etchings and screen prints. To find out more about the artist and these exhibitions CLICK HERE.

Grave of George B. Ede, located in the Grade II listed Old Cemetery in Southampton. George was a third class Steward aboard Titanic and died in the sinking, aged 22. He had signed-on to the ship on 4th April 1912. He died in the sinking, his body was never recovered. His grave is a marker, erected like so many in the Old Cemetery Southampton, by family members.

As the Centenary fast approaches, I believe it is important to remember the lives lost and we should not be clouded by all the film and tv productions that often tend to glamorize and mythologize this horrendous maritime disaster. The exception to this comment is the docudrama film adaptation of Walter Lord’s book, A Night To Remember (1958), recounting the final night of Titanic. This cinematic offering, by Director Roy Ward Baker, is a fitting tribute to the tragedy. (Please see end of article for special screenings of the film at Harbour Lights Picturehouse, Ocean Village, Southampton)

Before continuing to read this article, you might like to pause for a few minutes and watch a short video, created by Southampton City Council, about Southampton’s historic connections with RMS Titanic and the impact that the tragedy had on the city’s residents. The video also contains several images of The South Western Hotel during the Edwardian era, which may help bring some of my text to life. To view the video, please CLICK HERE.

The Grapes Public House, Oxford Street, Southampton. A favourite haunt of Titanic's crew. Four crew members drank far too much at The Grapes on the morning of 10th April 1912 and as a result were too late to board the ship and were refused entry to the quayside. A drinking session that saved their lives.

From the city of Southampton 550 residents, both crew and passengers, lost their lives on Titanic.  It is important to quantify this statistic as it is often misquoted and without context. I am grateful to Vicky Green from the Local Studies Collection at Southampton City Library for clarification of these figures. Vicky is an authority on Titanic’s Southampton crew and one of the expert’s featured in BBC 1’s Titanic With Len Goodman documentary. The figure of 549, sometimes quoted, represents the crew and 12 passengers who were registered to a Southampton address.  However, this statistic does not include Mr James Jukes (35) of Moorgreen Road, West End, Southampton who was a ship’s greaser. In 1912, West End was not considered to be within the boundaries of Southampton city. Therefore, strictly speaking the figure of 549 is correct for the purposes of Edwardian reporting but is not correct if you are reporting today, where the figure of 550 should be used.  The figure of 538 city residents, that you will often see quoted variously, relates to the total number of crew who lost their lives and Mr Jukes is included in this figure. The total number of crew deaths, regardless of geographical location, was 685.  As with all data these statistics are a moveable feast and as more scholarship comes to light these figures may be subject to further change.

One  woman in the city lost eight relatives, her husband, a son, two brothers and four cousins. Two thirds of the Titanic’s crew were Southampton men. In one school in the Northam area of Southampton, one hundred and twenty-five children alone lost their fathers. In an edition of the local newspaper, Southampton & District Pictorial (Wednesday 24th April 1912), a photograph was printed of these unfortunate youngsters. The image carried the title ‘Toll of the Titanic’ and underneath the caption, the following, poignant, text was printed:

‘These groups indicate as no words can express the far-reaching extent locally of the Titanic disaster. Everyone of the children pictured above has lost a relative or relatives by the foundering of the vessel, and they all attend Northam School. Several of them are left orphans, others have lost fathers, brothers, uncles and cousins. There are something like 140 all told in this one school who will never forget the great ocean tragedy. The groups were specially arranged for the Pictorial photographer by Mr Long, headmaster of Northam Boys School.’

A large number of seamen and their families in the city had already suffered considerably prior to the tragedy of Titanic. The National Coal Strike of 1912, which only just ended on the 6th April, had forced a number of ships to remain in Southampton docks. This of course meant a large number of local men had been unable to work since February of that year and as a result many families were on the brink of destitution. The city did its best to alleviate the social and financial impact of the sinking, particularly among local households who had lost their main breadwinner. The Mayor of Southampton, Henry Bowyer, set-up a room in the Guildhall where money from the Southampton Titanic Relief Fund was distributed to the most needy. Local Southampton resident, Miss Ethel Maude Newman (36), was appointed sole ‘lady visitor’ and Assistant Secretary to the local branch of the COS (Charity Organisation Society).  She earned an annual salary of £100 plus travelling expenses. She would ride around the neighbourhood of Southampton on her bicycle together with her large dog, visiting families who were in receipt of monies from the Southampton Fund, checking on their ongoing welfare.  She died in 1940, having served twenty-eight years on the local administration Committee.

Miss Ethel Maude Newman's grave located in the Old Cemetery Southampton. Ethel was an important woman in the history of Southampton's response to the Titanic disaster. Her role was varied but primarily it was to check on the welfare of the families who received monies from the Mayor's Southampton Titanic Relief Fund. She died in 1940, in her early 60s.

The Seaman’s Friendly Society on Bridge Road near the Docks, also did their bit to support the struggling families affected by the tragedy by handing out bread, milk and meat to starving families. The mood in the city was one of somber reflection and as one journalist observed after being sent to Southampton to report on the tragedy:

‘The agony of the disaster is concentrated in Southampton. The town is as if widowed. I got my first impression of what it means when I saw from the railway carriage as the train neared the station old Union Jacks at half-mast in the dingy back garden of the Sailors’ quarter. Flags hang at half-mast over all the public buildings, the pillars of the Guildhall are draped in crape, and nearly every man and woman you meet is wearing black.’ (20th April 1912)

South Western Hotel (now South Western House), Southampton, view from the Park, along Terminus Terrace, 2012.

In 1912, Southampton was a bustling port and for many a gateway to a new life overseas, usually somewhere in the British Empire. A large number of passengers and some crew stayed in local hotels the night before boarding Titanic on the morning of 10th April. Sadly for many, this turned-out to be the last night they would ever spend alive on the mainland. The South Western Hotel (now known as South Western House) was the hotel of choice for first class passengers and is still as magnificent today as it was one hundred years ago. The hotel rightly deserved its nickname then as ‘the Ritz of the South’. This Grade II listed building has such a fascinating history which I have thoroughly enjoyed researching.

South Western Hotel. Designed by John Norton in the French Renaissance style.

The building, designed in the French Renaissance style by architect John Norton of Old Bond Street London, opened in 1866 under the name of The Imperial Hotel. The long side of the building is situated on Canute Road and the short side on Terminus Terrace. Constructed using red brick overlaid with stone and stucco embellishments with the ground level being entirely rusticated.

Pediment details of the South Western Hotel, showing Queen Victoria.

The Canute Road exterior has a rounded pediment with a portrait of Queen Victoria positioned within a rosette motif.   The portrait is surrounded by winged figures and small emblematic pieces suggesting railways and the sea, symbols of industry during her reign. The Hotel’s prime location, right in the heart of the docks, made it an attractive option for the wealthy ocean-liner passenger. ‘The building is a decided ornament, architecturally speaking, to the town; its height and size render it a conspicuous object from Southampton Water.’ (The Hampshire Advertiser, 7th September, 1867)

The South Western Hotel (now South Western House), Southampton as it looks today.

The interior did not disappoint and offered guests wall-to-wall luxury. All the furniture and soft furnishings were supplied by Messrs Blyth & Sons of Finsbury, carvings by Messrs Farmer of Westminster, Mr Jennings provided all the bathroom fixtures and fittings and Edwards & Sons fitted the kitchens. The kitchen was at the top of the building so that the smell of cooking did not permeate throughout the hotel offending the noses of the well-to-do. Local firm Buchan & Sons provided all of the painting, graining and imitation marble in the main coffee and ante-rooms. The fit-out cost £100,000. On the first floor the salle a manger was just one example the hotel’s many lavish interiors.  Measuring 80 ft long by 35 ft wide. The main windows overlooked the platform and the side windows offered an unrivalled view of the docks and liners that were in port. One side of the building had iron castings that supported part of the building, underneath which the railway carriages ran. The cornices of the windows were carved and gilt, surmounted by the Imperial crown and rich drapery framed each of the openings. Between each window there was an architectural arcade filled by large-sized mirrors with gilt frames and the whole room was lit by one chandelier of fifteen lights and two chandeliers of ten lights. In addition, at night a series of five light chandeliers were used. The Imperial hotel originally had one hundred bedroom suites, private sitting-rooms, dining-rooms, ladies’ coffee rooms and a billiard room. Electric bells were installed throughout and wide stone staircases made for spectacular entrances by the rich guests. The supports of the principal staircase balustrades were formed of bronze Caryatids in the same fashion as those designed by the then Prince Consort for Windsor Castle. Guests were greeted by liveried footmen and porters in their splendid bright red uniforms.

The Terminus House Station building, Southampton which today is a Casino.

The main station building, adjacent to South Western House, still exists today and is a Casino. The Terminus House station building is the earliest surviving example of railway architecture. It was designed by Sir William Tite and opened on 11th May 1840. A three storey, stuccoed Italianate design with well-detailed cornice and quoin pattern and small cupola. The projecting ground level colonnade features rusticated round arches and balustrade. The station was closed to passengers on 5th September 1966.

Old railway canopy, linking the Terminus House building to the left and the former South Western Hotel to the right.

In 1882, The Imperial Hotel was acquired by the London and South Western Railway Company, who re-named it The South Western Hotel. Between 1894 and 1900 the Hotel underwent extensive modernisation and refurbishment, the latter was carried out by the exclusive, London-based decorating firm, Maples & Co, at a cost of £28,000. The gas light fittings were replaced by electric ones and in 1895 an American elevator company installed electric passenger lifts to all floors. The Hotel was now a monument to the very best that late Victorian interior design and technology could offer. The main entrance hall had brass and marble columns erected, wall panelling, ornate lift doors, frescos and an intricately moulded, 18 ft high ceiling with chandeliers. The Titanic’s Grand Staircase, which was used by first class passengers and descended five levels aboard ship, from the Boat Deck to the D Deck, is thought to have been inspired by the one in situ at The South Western Hotel. At the turn of the 20th century a 40 ft mural on canvas, depicting the Pilgrim Father’s voyage to America, was designed by A. Scott-Moncrieff and displayed in the Summer Dining Room. The Pilgrim Fathers were berthed in Southampton in 1620 before making their unscheduled stop in Plymouth en-route to the New World. Also at the turn of the century, ‘a time ball’ was fitted to a mast on the roof of the hotel and at exactly 12 noon every day, the large, 5 ft, black ball would be dropped down the mast so that ships in the docks and the Solent could verify their chronometers.

By 1912, The South Western Hotel had its own garage and the interior had gone through yet another re-decoration. All of the ornamental panels were re-painted blue and gold. One contemporary advertisement declared that: ‘The Advantage offered by this Hotel: position; cleanliness; elegance; comfort; moderate charges; all combine to render it the most desirable hotel in Southampton.’ Another advert boasted that all of the liners, on approach to Southampton Docks, would have a wire sent from Hurst Castle (further around in the Solent), which would give the hotel advance notice of arriving passengers so that staff could be put on immediate standby.

The passengers arriving for the Titanic’s maiden voyage would usually have travelled down to Southampton docks by ‘boat-trains’ from London Waterloo. These trains stopped right outside the hotel, at the Terminus Railway Station. There were two boat trains arriving in Southampton most sailing days, one at 9.30am for the second and third class passengers and one at 11.30am for the first class passengers. It was also possible for hotel guests, that were continuing their journey on the liners, to check-in for their voyage at the hotel itself. On the morning of a sailing, another train would take the passengers from their hotel into the docks and right up to their ship. This is exactly what happened on the morning of Wednesday 10th April 1912, when Titanic sailed from Berth 43/4 of the Ocean Dock.

Ocean Dock Titanic Memorial, located at Berth 43/4 of the former White Star Line, Southampton.

Some of the first class passengers we know stayed at The South Western Hotel on the night of Tuesday 9th April 1912, include: White Star Line’s Chairman – Joseph Bruce Ismay together with his valet and secretary, Chief Designer at Harland & Wolff – Thomas Andrews Jr and The Countess of Rothes (née Lucy Noël Martha Dyer-Edwards, 1878-1900) along with the rest of her party.

The Countess of Rothes travelled with her cousin – Gladys Cherry and her personal maid – Miss Roberta Elizabeth Mary Maioni (known as “Cissy”). Miss Cherry and The Countess had one of the Staterooms aboard Titanic, Cabin B-77. The Countess, her maid and Miss Cherry were on their way to Vancouver. All three were rescued in lifeboat no. 8 and after their arrival in New York, having eventually been rescued by the Carpathia, stayed at the luxurious, Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue. The Countess is a very interesting woman and her actions have been reported in a number of contemporary accounts on the sinking of the Titanic. One description I particularly like was given by an able-bodied Seaman travelling alongside her in lifeboat no. 8.  He said of The Countess: ‘I knew she was more of a man than any aboard, so I put her in command at the tiller.’

Mr Ismay (Cabins B52, 54 and 56) survived but unfortunately his valet, Mr John Richard Fry (Cabin B102) died in the disaster, his body was never recovered. Mr Ismay’s secretary, Mr William Henry Harrison (Cabin B94) also died, his body was recovered by the MacKay-Bennett. Mr Thomas Andrews Jr (Cabin A36) died aged 39 and his body was never recovered.

During The Great War the South Western Hotel closed for a while and re-opened on Tuesday 4th April 1916. Advertisements posted by the Hotel around this time were aimed at attracting Officers stationed in Southampton prior to leaving their leaving for the Western Front. One advertisement read: ‘The Hotel is luxuriously equipped in every respect and is the most convenient rendezvous in Southampton for Officers proceeding to the Front and their friends.’

Showing the extension of the South Western Hotel, built in 1921 and 1927
Ground level view of 1920s extension of South Western Hotel. The Grand Cafe bar, bistro and restaurant is located in this part of the building.

In 1921 and 1927 new wings were added to the hotel including a stone clad, eight storey extension which provided a further one hundred bedrooms, meeting passenger demand created by the ever popular ocean-liner travel. The Wedgwood Ballroom, so-called due to its blue and white colour scheme, was located in this extension. The Ballroom is now a bar, bistro and restaurant called Grand Café and some of the original interior features can still be seen today (please see end of article for further details of a special Commemorative Dinner being held as part of the Titanic Centenary).

During World War II, the Hotel became a military focal point and underwent another change of name, to HMS Shrapnel. The building had been named after Major General Henry Shrapnel who was the inventor of anti-personnel weapon technology, who died in Southampton in 1907. The building didn’t go to sea, as its name suggests, but remained a Royal Naval shore base and training centre for military electrical units until 1944.  In a series of public rooms on the first floor of the former hotel, it is reported that Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower planned the D-Day invasion.  In September 1946, HMS Shrapnel was officially ‘paid-off’ and the hotel de-requisitioned. The building, re-named South Western House in April 1957 in order to stop people continually writing in to make reservations, is no longer open to the public and has been converted into luxury apartments and penthouses by Berkeley Homes and Bayview Homes. From 1961 until 1991, South Western House was home to BBC South. On the 6th January 1961, the BBC’s Director General Sir Hugh Carleton Green, broadcast the first programme of the local TV news service for the South, ‘South at Six’. BBC South moved to new, purpose-built studios in the city centre in 1991.

Over the many years that the building operated as a first class, luxury hotel, its guest register reads like a ‘who’s who’ of the upper echelons of society and popular culture. A few of the hotel’s guests have included: Laurel and Hardy; Charlie Chaplin; Rex Harrison; Amelia Earhart and Empress Eugenie. The Empress said goodbye to her only child, Napoléon, Prince Imperial as he departed Southampton to take-up his commission as a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery during the Zulu War.  He did not return and was killed on 1st June 1879 at the tender age of 23. His death dashed all dynastic hopes that the famous Bonapartes would be restored to the throne. On a much lighter note, the American film actor Tom Mix is said to have once ridden his horse, Tony, through the Hotel’s foyer to check-in.

The former Atlantic Hotel, Southampton, now converted into apartments. 2012.

The city had many other hotels and lodging houses that provided accommodation for second and third class passengers on the night before Titanic sailed. The Cornish Hotel, Orchard Place, near to the docks, catered for the White Star Line’s West Country and Cornish passengers and emigrants. In 1894, John Doling opened his lodging house and ‘Emigrants Home’ in Albert Road. The establishment attracted passengers for whom Southampton was the starting point of a new life in America and other parts of the British Empire. In 1908 the building was converted into a four storey block and named The Atlantic Hotel and many of Titanic’s steerage passengers stayed here. John Doling’s wife, Ada Julia Doling (née Bone) (34), his sister Elsie Doling (18) and their travelling companion, Henry Price Hodges (50) were all second class passengers aboard Titanic. Ada and Elsie were due to visit Ada’s mother, Julie Bone, in New York.  Henry, a musical instrument seller from Highfield Lane, Southampton, was on his way to Boston, Massachusetts. Ada and Elsie survived, rescued by the Carpathia. Unfortunately, Henry died, his body recovered by the MacKay-Bennett and buried at Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Henry Price Hodges.
Hodges' family grave, the Old Cemetery, Southampton. The body of Henry Price Hodges recovered by the MacKay-Bennett, is buried in Fairview Cemetery, Nova Scotia. However, Henry is acknowledged here on the family headstone in Southampton.

The Atlantic Hotel continued to trade up to 1916 when the British American Tobacco Company took over the building until 1926. The building was vacant in the late 1920s and in 1930 became a Ministry of Labour Employment Exchange. The building is still standing today but has been converted into private apartments.

The Alliance Hotel, now The White Star Tavern, Oxford Street, Southampton.

The Alliance Hotel (now The White Star Tavern) in Oxford Street was another popular hotel for third class Titanic passengers. The building was originally constructed in the mid 19th century as three properties. But in the  early 20th century these separate buildings were knocked through to make one. Mr Lewis Richard Braund (29) and his extended family, Owen Harris Braund (22) – brother, Samuel Dennis (22) – distant cousin, John Henry Perkin (21) – distant cousin and John Hall “Henry” Lovell (20) – distant cousin, were all third class passengers. The group was destined for a new life on a farm in Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan, Canada where Lewis Braund’s brother, Jim, had already emigrated and worked there as a farm labourer. All of them stayed at The Alliance Hotel the night before sailing on Titanic.  John Lovell sent a postcard, on 10th April from Southampton, to his uncle, William Wivell, telling him that they had arrived in the city at 7.30pm the previous evening and that he had not managed to sleep at The Alliance Hotel the night before boarding ship. All of these men died in the sinking and their bodies were never recovered. Also accompanying the group was a neighbour and family friend, Miss Susan Webber (37), travelling to Hartford, Connecticut where she planned to emigrate and live with her nephew. Miss Webber stayed with the group at The Alliance Hotel but travelled second class aboard Titanic, in Cabin E-101. Miss Webber was rescued in lifeboat no. 12 and remained in Hartford, Connecticut for the rest of her life.

The former Sailors' Home, Oxford Street, Southampton. 2012

The Southampton Sailors’ Home, in Oxford Street, was built-in 1908 and has been run by The Salvation Army since 1969. The Home was for orphans who were specially trained to go to sea. In 1912, a third floor was added to the building. Titanic had seventeen crew members who gave the Sailors’ Home as their Southampton address, including: Joseph Beattie (35) – Greaser from Belfast; John Haggan (35) – Fireman/Stoker from Belfast; S. Webb (28) – Trimmer. Out of the seventeen crew who stayed at the Sailors’ Home remarkably only two perished, Beattie and Webb, whose bodies were never recovered. The Home had a major extension on the west side in 1930 and during World War II, the Ministry of War and Transport commissioned the building for the purposes of housing seamen prior to the invasion of Europe.

The grave of Henry Bowyer who was Mayor of Southampton at the time of the Titanic disaster. He helped set-up the Southampton Titanic Memorial Fund which raised the equivalent in today's money of £85 million. His grave is located at the Old Cemetery, Southampton.
Henry Bowyer's grave, the Old Cemetery, Southampton, April 2012.

Titanic Related Events in Southampton

  • Grand Café, South Western House, Southampton – A wonderful bar, bistro and restaurant located in what was the Wedgwood Ballroom of the former South Western Hotel.  There will be two Titanic themed Commemorative Dinners.  One on Sunday 15th April, which sold-out within four weeks of tickets going on sale and another on Tuesday 10th April. At the time of writing there were only a couple of tickets available for the one on the 10th. The ticket price is £75 and the dress code is Edwardian period costume.  I have spoken with Mr Denis Bundy at Grand Café, who assures me that the aim of these two dinners is to remember and reflect upon those who lost their lives on Titanic, in particular crew and passengers who were from Southampton. At the start of the evening, all guests will be given the name of one of the passengers who sailed on Titanic and before they leave guests will discover the fate of that particular passenger. Although the event promises to be an unforgettable evening, with attention to detail experienced in superb (and apt) surroundings, respect will be shown for the occasion that is being commemorated.  For further information on this event please CLICK HERE.
  • A Night To Remember (1958) – Two special screenings of this must-see film recounting the final night of the RMS Titanic, are being shown at Harbour Lights Picturehouse, Ocean Village, Southampton, on Thursday 12th April at 7pm and Sunday 15th April at 7pm. I cannot think of a better place to view this film than at this lovely cinema right on Southampton’s historic waterfront.  Why not allow yourself some extra time and just around the corner from the cinema you will be able to view, from the outside, a number of the buildings I have discussed above.  For further information on this event please CLICK HERE.
  • British Titanic Society Annual Convention  – ‘Titanic – A Time to Remember – 100th Anniversary Convention’ – Will be held this year at the De Vere Harbour Hotel, West Quay Road, Southampton from Thursday 12th April until Sunday 15th April. The Public Open Day will be Saturday 14th April, 9-4pm.  To attend on Saturday 14th, you do not have to be a delegate or even a member of the Society.  The entrance fee for the 14th is £3 (£2 concessions).  For full programme details please CLICK HERE.
  • SeaCity Museum, Havelock Road, Southampton – Opens at 1.30pm on the 10th April. Open 7 days a week, 10-5pm, including Bank Holidays. Entrance fees apply. If you are planning to visit the museum during its opening week, then you will need to pre-book your tickets in order to avoid disappointment. The contact number for pre-booking is: 023 8083 3007.  After the first week, pre-booking will not be necessary.  For further information please CLICK HERE.
  • Southampton City Art Gallery, Civic Centre, Commercial Road, Southampton – The exhibition, ‘Retracing the Unsinkable – Open Exhibition 2012’ continues until 29th April. For further information please CLICK HERE.
  • St Marys Church, St. Marys Street, Southampton – 100th Anniversary Commemorative Service led by Reverend Dr Julian Davies and accompanied by the Bishop of New York, The Rt Reverend Mark Sisk will take place on Sunday 15th April at 2pm.
  • Titanic Cultural Day, Avenue Campus Building, University of Southampton, Avenue Campus – This event, on Saturday 21st April, explores the cultural history of the retelling of the ship’s story in literary and cinematic form and across many different cultural contexts. Fees apply. For further information please CLICK HERE.
  • Blue Funnel Harbour Cruises – Titanic 100th Year Anniversary.  Boarding at Ocean Village, Southampton on Tuesday 10th April, 10am, sailing 10.30am, returning at 1pm. The website description of this cruise reads:  ‘Boarding at Ocean Village on Tuesday 10th April from 10:00hrs, Sailing 10:30hrs – 13:00hrs. We will join the flotilla as it departs from 47 Berth Ocean Dock to the new Ocean Terminal where a memorial service is being held from 11:15hrs with images shown on a big 55ft screen shore side. Wreaths will be laid at 12pm then a procession of vessels will follow the Calshot Tug as she follows the same route out of Southampton as the Titanic. We will be part of this procession until we return to Ocean Village at 13:00hrs This excursion includes a lunch of Soup and Sandwiches freshly prepared by our Chef. Bars open from boarding. Ticket Price Adults £24.95      Child £14.95′. For further information please CLICK HERE.

Further Resources

  • Oxford Street, Southampton – Website covering the historic Oxford Street area of Southampton. For further information please CLICK HERE.
  • The Friends of Old Southampton Cemetery – I can thoroughly recommend their Titanic Grave Walks.  The Old Cemetery is a Grade II listed Cemetery. For further information please CLICK HERE.
  • Encyclopedia Titanica – A superb website that is invaluable for anyone wishing to research RMS Titanic.  In particular, there are full crew and passenger lists which include, in many instances, lengthy biographies.  There are also deckplans of the ship, articles to enhance your research and much, much more. For website please CLICK HERE.

    The Titanic Engineer Officers' Memorial, East (Andrews) Park, Southampton.


Social historian, based in the UK.

6 thoughts on “RMS Titanic – Southampton Remembers

    1. Dear Neil,

      Thank you so much for your super review of my blog ‘Come Step Back in Time’ and for awarding me the Liebster Blog Award. I am really thrilled and pleased that you enjoy my blog so much. I will be posting a proper blog entry on the Liebster Award shortly but just have to finish writing-up a large piece of research at the moment. So please do forgive me if there is a short delay in responding properly to this lovely award. I also enjoy reading your blog on British Food History and it is nice to see that we both began our respective blogs at about the same time last year. There will be some more articles coming-up that relate to the history of British food but the next couple of postings will be on the interiors of RMS Olympic and then there will be a rather substantive article on 1950s Britain which does include a section on food. I wish you and all my readers a great day, although it is dark, hailing and pouring with rain here at the moment. Perfect weather for writing I think.

      Thank you and kind regards. Em.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m glad you’re so glad! It’s a good feeling knowing that one’s blog is being not only read but also enjoyed. I’ll keep an eye out for food-related posts. Onwards and upwards!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Thank You.
    This is the blog I have been trying to write – I have some words and similar photos on my files – but you have done it so well with such good photos too.
    The Titanic is such a big part of our history in Southampton – you have done it justice.

    Liked by 1 person

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