Southampton, England, is Cunard’s main base for all of its ships and has been since the beginning, I think, when it merged with the White Star Line. There were wonderful options for excursions on our day in port—Bath, Stonehenge, The New Forest, etc. but in all our stops here, we’d never actually explored the port city. As usual, we did our pre-cruise research online and discovered several self-guided walking tours outlined for us. We chose the Titanic Trail which would take us to several memorial spots and places significant to the Titanic story.
The Queen Mary 2 berthed at Dock 4 and we should have reversed order on our walk and started at the gate to our Dock area but that is hindsight now. Instead, we got on the shuttle bus that took us to the West Quay shopping area which was near the Civic Centre, the start of the walk. Our Titanic Trail gave us great opportunity to see a lot of the city and tempted us to return for other historical aspects we found there.
Here is the trail we followed:
1. In the Civic Centre is the Titanic Postal Workers’ Memorial, a plague on the wall next to the Council Chambers. It commemorates three American and two British postal workers on the Titanic all of whom died. The Civic Centre itself was an impressive building inside and had several other models and memorabilia on the second floor along with the plaque.
2. As we walked through St. Andrew’s Park to get to the second memorial on our list, we actually came across the third, the Titanic Engineer Officers’ Memorial. It is a large stone and bronze (I think) structure featuring an angel with outstretched arms. The carvings represent the engineer officers on the ship, all of whom died.
3. Across the intersection near the Engineers’ memorial, we could see a the Paris Smith building where the plaque for the Titanic Musicians’ Memorial is located. The musical inscription is the hymn, “Nearer My God To Thee.”
4. We went back to the Engineers’ memorial and walked behind it through St. Andrew’s Park all the while enjoying sunny warm weather and the beautiful spring blooms the park had to offer. This was a bit of a long walk before we got to the Bargate, a large stone structure and then on to High Street where we walked past the Star Hotel and the Dolphin Hotel to find the remains of the Holy Rood Church. There, inside, is a memorial to the crew, stewards and firemen. There is a “talking post” in front of it with recorded accounts of various events of the Titanic’s journey.
5. We found our way down toward the waterfront and the street labeled Town Quay. Near the Red Funnel Terminal (a ferry service) and across the street is an old stone building with a red roof. That is the Maritime Museum. It is a small museum but on the second floor has some memorabilia from the Titanic and accounts of some of the people who were aboard. The museum is opened most days from 10 to 4 and has a small entrance fee.
6. At this point in our journey, lunch was suggested but it was a bit too early for us. Apparently we had walked a little faster than the author of our tour had allowed. But our map that we had picked up from the shuttle bus showed Oxford Street as the place for sidewalk cafes and since that was the area we were to explore next, we decided on getting there and having a mid-morning cup of tea and a “sit” as the Brits might call a rest. Oxford street was a little tricky to find but we managed and sat down at a café across from The Grapes Public House which was the next on our list to see. Four members of the Titanic crew stayed here too long on the morning of the ship’s departure. They arrived at the docks too late to board the ship.
7. Refreshed and ready to walk again, we headed down Oxford to where it ends and crossed over Terminus Terrace to see Stanley’s Casino which was originally the Former Docks Railway Station. At the back of the casino is a roofed-in covered area where the railway platform used to be. Across from it is the South Western House which was where many passengers stayed the night before Titanic left Southampton on its Maiden Voyage.
8. We traveled along Terminus Terrace to Canute Road and turned left to find a large yellowish building that once housed the London and South Western Railway Company. Next to it is the Canute Chambers, the building that was the headquarters for the White Star Line in 1912. It was here that the people of Southampton gathered when they heard the news about the Titanic. The names of survivors were posted outside front of the building.
9. As we continued back toward the Dock area, we passed the other side of the South Western House. There is a large relief above the main entrance that features the head of Queen Victoria and symbols of industry during her reign. On our left was the Union Castle House—former headquarters of Union Castle Line—and next to it the Royal Mail House, reminders of the great shipping lines that used the port of Southampton in the past.
10. At this point, we found ourselves back at Dock 4 where the QM2 was berthed. There was supposed to be a memorial plaque just inside the gate but the traffic was horrendous at that point and we were too tired to try to dodge it and ask permission of the security guard to see the plaque. Instead we stood and waited on a bus to take us back to the shopping mall where we needed to pick up a few things. The correct bus didn’t arrive at the scheduled time so we braced ourselves, told our feet they could make it, and trodded on back to the West Quay Mall. All-in-all not a long walk.
The plaques and memorials we saw that day all had flowers placed by them from historical groups. We were there just shortly after the anniversary of the Titanic disaster and were about to board a ship to sail transatlantic over the same path the Titanic. A bit daunting but thanks to those who were involved in the Titanic’s loss, ships have been made safer. As I write this, we are nearing the Titanic’s resting place. I’m sure we will take a few moments to remember. (Note: We passed over the Titanic's resting place during the night but here is a memorial service from a previous crossing.)