Queen Victoria’s Changing Views of Southampton

This article originally appeared in the Southern Daily Echo of 2 September 2022. Illustrations for this version were provided by Jacqueline Banerjee, who also added some quotations from Queen Victoria's Journals, and edited and formatted the piece for our own website.

Decorated initial Q

ueen Victoria visited Southampton on several occasions, and left her mark there in various ways, some more lasting than others.

The Royal Victoria Assembly Rooms opened in 1830 – they included a promenade and archery grounds, both close to the water’s edge. The new attraction was visited by the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria aged 11 in October 1830 - her first visit to Southampton. The rooms survived until 1959; the West Quay Shopping Centre now stands on the site. Her visit in August 1831 also with her mother included an excursion to the Isle of Wight. Perhaps this started her love of the Island. In the town, they stayed at The Star inn.

The pier, Southampton. Library of Congress image, photomechanical print, reproduction no. LC-DIG-ppmsc-08849, with no known restrictions on publication.

The next visit was to attend the opening of the Royal Pier on 8 July 1833. It was originally named Royal Victoria Pier, after the Princess. The young Victoria wrote in her journal: "We were towed up to Southampton by the Medina Steampacket. It rained several times very hard, & we were obliged to go down into the cabin very often. When we arrived at Southampton, Mamma received an address on board from the corporation. We then got into the barge & rowed up to the new peer [sic]. The crowd was tremendous. We went into a tent erected on the peer [sic], & I was very much frightened for fear my Cousins, & the rest of our party should get nocked [sic] about; however they at last got in. We then got into our barge & went on board the Emerald where we took our luncheon."

Two illustrations from The Progresses of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.... Left: "High Street, Southampton" (p.3). Right: "The Gallantry of the Corporation of Southampton" (p.4).

In August 1843, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Southampton together for the first time. "An immense assemblage had congregated outside the railway station, and her Majesty and the Prince were received with a loud burst of cheers. Throughout the line of route, the streets were decked with flags and banners, and upon entering High Street from Above-Bar, the sight was very splendid” ("The Progresses of Her Majesty Queen Victoria," p.3). They travelled to the pier, where the Royal Party transferred to a barge, which took them out to the yacht waiting in the harbour. It was raining hard when they embarked; the loyal members of the Southampton Corporation remembered Raleigh, and, as shown on the right above, spread their robes on the ground for the Queen to walk over.

Working with the architect Thomas Cubitt, Victoria and Albert built Osborne House on the Isle of Wight in October from 1845-1851. The royal family stayed there for lengthy periods each year, often travelling from Southampton.

On 19 May 1856, Victoria attended the laying of the foundation stone of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley, built at her suggestion. The railway and pier were used for the Queen's frequent visits to the hospital; she awarded three Victoria Crosses to patients there.

Left: Laying the Foundation Stone of the Royal Military Hospital, painted by William Simpson (Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023. Click on this for more information). Right: "The Queen and the wounded: Her Majesty visiting a ward in Netley Hospital," from a sketch by F.C. Dickinson, drawn by William Hatherell (Wellcome Collection, public domain).

On 21 August 1857, while staying at Osborne House, the Queen and her family went on a sailing trip on board the HMS Fairy. On that day she wrote in her journal, "We went on board the "Fairy" at Trinity Pier, with 2 elder girls and 3 boys &c & at 3 steamed to Netley, where Albert landed, & stayed a short while. The Hospital getting on well. Got back at 8." The watercolour below, showing a view of the Southampton coast, was painted by her during and after the trip.

Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom (1819-1901) Southampton dated 21 Aug 1857. Watercolour, 9.1 x 13.7 cm (sheet of paper), RCIN 980056. Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023.

In 1887, Victoria visited Southampton with her son Prince Edward Albert, as part of the celebrations to mark her Golden Jubilee - the 50th anniversary of her accession on 20 June 1837.

Image from the Geograph website, © Dennis Huteson, reproduced under the terms of the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons licence.

Queen Victoria's Jubilee Memorial Drinking Fountain (seen on the right here) was erected near the Salisbury Arms on Shirley High Street a little later, in 1889. It was moved to the opposite side of the street in the 1920s, as its original site was needed for the tram terminus. It was moved again in the 1970s, and now stands in the Shirley Shopping Precinct, near Redcar Street.

On 26th July 1890, Victoria arrived in the town to open the Empress Dock, the largest dock in the world at the time. It went off well, despite a hitch at the beginning. As the Queen wrote in her journal that day, "Went rapidly up Southampton Water & entered the new Dock, but unfortunately missed seeing our cutting the rope which was suspended across the entrance, & on which there was placed a crown of flowers, which fell on to the deck." Nevertheless, in the end, it she seems to have enjoyed the occasion, writing:

Empress Dock, from Britain from Above website.

We then steamed round the Dock, & went alongside the West Quay, where a Guard of Honour of Marines was drawn. The shore & pier were crowded with people, who cheered very much. The Arch Bishop of Canterbury held a very short service, offering up a prayer & pronouncing a benediction. The Bishop of Guildford was with him. Ld Knutsford, as Minister in attendance, came on board & introduced the Chairman & Director of the Dock Company, who presented an Address, to which I replied. The Chairman, Mr Mc Naughten, had in 69, lent me his cottage at the Invertrossachs, where I spent a week. I also received an Address from the Mayor of Southampton. The whole thing was well arranged & a very pretty sight.

However, it is rumoured that Southampton Corporation sent her a bill for the red carpet laid down for her at the ceremony, and that because of this, she never visited Southampton again!

Several streets in Southampton were named after the Queen. Most have vanished, or experienced name changes. Victoria Court stood on the west side of French Street; Victoria Terrace was on the north-west side of Duke's Road, and was also the name of a terrace in Northam Road. Victoria Villas was a terrace in Oxford Road; Victoria Brewery was situated on the north side of Commercial Road at Four Posts. South Front, Beatrice Road and Chatsworth Road were all once named Victoria Road.

Two more photogrpahs from the Geograph website, reproduced under the terms of the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons licence. Left: The Prince Consort pub, Netley, © J. Thomas. Right: The Victoria pub, Woolston, © Rob Candlish (cropped).

But the street that kept the name is Victoria Road, running south from Portsmouth Road in Woolston, and then along the coastline to Netley and Netley Hospital, though with a number of more recent breaks and changes of name. It was said to be the route that Victoria took to open the Hospital: certainly the west end is marked by the Victoria Pub in Woolston, and the east end by the Prince Consort Pub in Netley!


The Progresses of Her Majesty Queen Victoria and His Royal Highness Prince Albert.... London: William Frederick Wakeman, 1844. Google Books. Free to read.

Queen Victoria's Journals (open access for readers in the UK).

Created 29 October 2023