The church of Holy Rood in Southampton has stood on its present site since 1320. Now, left ruined by the Luftwaffe, it’s a place to come to quietly remember the destruction of World War Two and to honour the lives of those who gave their all on the seas.
Southampton – A City Bombed
Like Belfast in April and May 1941, Southampton suffered devastating Nazi Luftwaffe blitz raids. On 30th November 1940, German bombers dropped 9,000 incendiaries and 800 high explosive devices. Explosions tore the city centre apart.
The Luftwaffe struck twice within a week. Two hundred and fourteen people lost their lives and over 500 properties were completely destroyed. Holy Rood Church was one such building. While the nearby church of Saint Michael stood unscathed, Holy Rood became a smoking ruin.
The church of Holyrood erected on this site in 1320 was damaged by enemy action on 30 Nov 1940. Known for centuries as the church of the sailors the ruins have been preserved by the people of Southampton as a memorial and garden of rest, dedicated to those who served in the Merchant Navy and lost their lives at sea.
Merchant Navy Memorial – Holy Rood Church, Southampton
In 1957, the ruins and rubble of the old church were restored and scheduled as an ancient monument. The south-west tower, eastern chancel and a section of north facing wall are all that remain. The monument now stands as a reminder not only of the blitz but as a lasting memorial to the men and women of the Merchant Navy.
Holy Rood’s Titanic Memorial
The bonds between Belfast and Southampton exist beyond the scope of the Second World War. On 2nd April 1912, the infamous liner RMS Titanic left the Harland and Wolff shipyards bound for the English port. It was from Southampton, she would begin her ill-fated maiden voyage.
This one moment in history solidified the relationship between the two proud maritime cities. Belfast’s City Hall boasts a new Titanic memorial garden in memory of 1,500 lives lost. Holy Rood Church in Southampton houses a memorial fountain. The fountain first stood on Cemetery Road on Southampton Common where it remained from 1912 until its removal to the current site.
It now stands alongside the other memorials and ruins of Holy Rood; a stark reminder of the often tragic history shared by Belfast and Southampton.