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Southampton Area Guide

Bargate, Southampton. Image courtesy of Flickr user Pimlico Badger

The largest city in Hampshire, Southampton is a significant port city along the south coast of England. It was a crucial city during the war, as the port handled much of the country's commercial and industrial imports and it was where the Spitfire was developed. As a result, it was specifically targeted during the bombing raids of World War II, and many of its historic buildings were damaged or destroyed. The city was rebuilt during the 1950s, and today the port is used mostly for cruise liners and for freight.

Almost 30% of jobs in Southampton are in the health and education sectors, and just over 27% are in financial, property, scientific and other professional sectors. The wholesale and retail sectors are also big employers, as about 13% of jobs are in those areas.

Southampton has 16 wards. East of the River Itchen are Bitterne Park, Harefield, Bitterne, Peartree, Sholing and Woolston. Through the middle of the city are Swaythling, Portswood, Bevois and Bargate, and to the west are Coxford, Bassett, Redbridge, Shirley, Millbrook and Freemantle.

Wards in the east, like Bitterne Park, Peartree and Sholing, are residential areas with open parks and green spaces. Centrally, Bargate encompasses both the city centre, the trendy Ocean Village and Southampton Solent University, and Portswood is home to the University of Southampton. To the west, most wards are a mix of housing from terraced houses to tower blocks, with parks and play areas dotted around. Major housing estates are found in the wards of Bassett, Woolston, Bitterne and Harefield.


Southampton currently has a population of 236,900, and its demographics are largely in line with England as a whole, with few variations. As of December 2012, Southampton's unemployment rate was 3.2%, slightly lower than the 3.7% in the entire UK.

Like England, Southampton is somewhat diverse: over 13% of the population describe their ethnic background as something other than white or white British. Across England, 14.5% of the population describe their background as such. Like in England, the largest ethnic minority group is Asian or British Asian, with 6.4% of the Southampton population and 7.7% of the English population being made up of people of that ethnicity. Proportions of the populations which are white and white British are also similar between Southampton and England. Almost 87% of Southampton's population describes their ethnic makeup as white or white British, and almost 86% of England's population do the same.

There is one area where Southampton deviates quite remarkably from England. The city has a larger proportion of those who are of working age. Just over 71% of Southampton's population is aged between 16 and 64, compared to almost 65% in England. This is reflected in the percentages of the Southampton population which are aged 15 and younger (15.8%) and aged 65 and over (13%). The proportions of these ages are larger in England, with almost 19% of the English population aged 15 and younger and 16.4% aged 65 and over.


The vast majority of primary schools are rated satisfactory or good by Ofsted, but there are a number of schools rated outstanding. These include Highfield Church of England Primary School, Harefield Primary School and Portswood Primary School, which has recently converted to academy status.

Outstanding secondary schools in Southampton are slightly harder to find, though Bitterne Park School and Redbridge Community School are rated outstanding. Besides these schools, most secondary schools are either rated good by Ofsted or are independent schools.

There are three colleges in Southampton: Southampton City College , Tauntons College and Itchen College. The city is also home to the University of Southampton and Southampton Solent University.


The M27 skirts around the outside of the city as it runs along the coastline, and the M271 connects the city centre with the M27. The M3 connects Southampton with London.

Most public transport relies on the city's bus services. Run by six different companies, the buses have regular services throughout the city, making travel by bus both comprehensive and confusing.

The main railway station is Southampton Central, which has services to Portsmouth, London, Bournemouth and Cardiff. There are also stations at Swaythling, St Denys, Millbrook, Redbridge, Bitterne, Sholing and Woolston. Swaythling, St Denys, Millbrook and Redbridge stations are on the South Western Main Line, going from London Waterloo to Weymouth. Sholing, Woolston, Bitterne and St Denys are on the West Coastway Line that connects the city with Bristol. Millbrook and Redbridge are on the Wessex Main Line, which also connects Southampton with Bristol.

The city is served by one airport, Southampton Airport, just north of the city in the town of Eastleigh. It has flights to destinations within the UK and in Europe.

Amenities and Shopping

Partly because of the large number of bars and clubs, Southampton was named one of the best cities to be a single person between the ages of 18 and 30, but there are also plenty of things for other people to do as well.

Museums and Galleries

The SeaCity Museum has the consolidated collections of several now-closed museums from around the city, so its exhibits range from archaeology to the Titanic. Medieval Merchant's House was restored to its mid-14th century appearance and is maintained by English Heritage. The Tudor House Museum is a historic house built 800 years ago and has a large collection of historic items. The Solent Sky is a museum dedicated to the history of aviation, and in particular the Spitfire.

The Southampton City Art Gallery has a collection of paintings spanning six centuries. The Millais Gallery at Southampton Solent University focuses on contemporary art, as does the John Hansard Gallery at the University of Southampton. The Art House Gallery and Café aims to promote local visual, musical, performance and other artists.

Theatres and Venues

The main theatre, the Mayflower Theatre has hosted West End shows, the Welsh National Opera and English National Ballet. The Nuffield Theatre features touring companies and shows by local groups like the Southampton Operatic Society, the Maskers and the University Players.

There is a large music scene in Southampton. The Mayflower Theatre has many big shows, and The Guildhall has hosted rock and pop acts like Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Amy Winehouse and The Killers, as well as classical concerts. The Joiners has been played by The Manic Street Preachers, Coldplay, Radiohead and Oasis. Smaller venues include the Brook, The Talking Heads, The Cellar and the Turner Sims Concert Hall.


Southampton Film Week is a celebration of films, and the Southampton Mela Festival is a free world music festival. The Access Festival has local bands playing in Mayflower Park for charity, and Power in the Park is the largest free open-air concert in the south. The International Boat Show is also hosted at Mayflower Park, and it includes boat displays and a gala dinner. One of the newest festivals is the Digital Arts Festival, an eight-week long showcase of modern digital art by local and international artists.


Southampton F.C. are perhaps the most successful sports team in the city, playing in the Championship League. The Southampton Hockey Club is one of the largest in the county. Rugby is popular, with several amateur teams playing in the city, including Trojans RFC, Tottonians, Southampton RFC and Millbrook RFC. Yachting and water sports are very popular in the many marinas along the coastline.

The city has several of its own leagues. These include the City of Southampton Sunday Football League and the Southampton and District Sunday Football League, and the Southampton Evening Cricket League has four divisions of six to eight teams.


Southampton has three shopping centres. The biggest shopping centre in the area is the WestQuay Shopping Centre. It has more than 150 shops, including major brands and independent boutiques. Marlands Shopping Centre is a fully enclosed shopping centre with 60 shops.

Bargate is the heart of Southampton's retail industry, and the Bargate Shopping Centre, with its 35 specialist shops, is in the middle of it all. Bedford Place in the Bargate area is where many of the city's upmarket, independent boutiques are located.

Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure the above information is up to date, some inaccuracies may occur. If you notice any inaccuracies please contact

All information was correct at time of publication and is provided in good faith.

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