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THE town of Southampton is situated in the county of the same name, or, as it
is more frequently called, Hampshire. It is built on a point of land at the confluence of
the river Itchin with the estuary called the Anton, but which more is generally known as
Southampton Water. The origin of the name of the town — which has unquestionably
given its name to the county — does not appear to have been satisfactorily ascertained;
some writers supposing it to be composed of the Saxon words, ham and tun or ton —
which are nearly synonymous, and each equivalent to the modern English town — with
the prefix South to distinguish it more emphatically from Northampton. Others, however,
consider that the name has been derived from the river Anton, on the banks of which
the town is situated. “The town of Andover,” says Sir Henry Englefield, “the village of
Abbot’s- And the farm of Northanton, and the hamlet of Southanton, both near Overton,
and not far from the eastern source of the river Anton or rather Ant, are abundant proofs
of the probability of this etymology.”

Southampton, as a chartered borough, may rank with the oldest in the kingdom.
Madox, in his Firma Burgi, says that Henry II. “Confirmed to his men, or burgesses of
Southampton, their guild, and their liberties and customs by sea and land; he having
regard to the great charges which the inhabitants thereof have been at in defending the
sea-coasts.” From a grant by the same king to the priory of St. Dionysius, it appears that
there were then four churches in Southampton. While the English were in possession of
Guienne, the merchants of Southampton carried on a considerable trade with Bayonne,
Bordeaux, and other towns in the south of France.

In 1338 the town was assaulted and burnt by a party of French or Genoese; and
in the next year an act was passed for its better fortification. Whatever injury the town
might have sustained from the attack of the French or Genoese, it would seem that
its trade as a port was not diminished by it; for, nine years afterwards, Southampton
supplied twenty-one ships and four hundred and seventy-six mariners to the great
fleet of Edward IIL In consequence of another attack by the French, in the reign of
Richard II. the fortifications were further strengthened. In 1415 the army of Henry V.,
destined for the invasion of France, assembled at Southampton, where, previous to
their embarkation, the Karl of Cambridge, Lord Scrope, and Sir Thomas Grey, were
executed for high treason. The result of this memorable expedition was the victory of
Agincourt. While the English continued to hold possession of part of France, the trade
of Southampton appears to have been very flourishing, and the port was one of the

principal in the south of England for the import of wine. Camden, writing about 1586,
describes it as a town famous for the number and neatness of its buildings, the wealth
of its inhabitants, and the resort of merchants; “but now,” adds Camden’s translator,
writing about a hundred years afterwards, “it is not in the same flourishing condition as
formerly it was; for having lost a great part of its trade, it has lost most of its inhabitants
too; and the great houses of merchants are now dropping to the ground, and only show
its ancient magnificence.”*

For the last fifty years the trade of Southampton, as a port, has been gradually
reviving; and at present there is no port in the south of England in a more flourishing
condition. The arrival and departure of the numerous large steamers belonging to the
Oriental and Peninsular and the West India Mail Packet Companies, give it an air of
activity and importance very different from the character given of it in the preceding
paragraph. The splendid docks, and the facilities afforded by the railway, have induced
the government of the day to select it as an eligible point for the embarkation of a
largo portion of the emigrants sent out with free or assisted passages to the Australian

* Camden’s Britannia. Translated by Bishop Gibeon, vol. l, p. 213.

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