Southampton was an important port in the Middle Ages and from the 1830s grew to be Britain’s principal ocean line terminal. The east docks were constructed from 1836, the west docks, including the Ocean Dock for passenger liners in the 1920s and 30s. It is now one of the United Kingdom’s principal container ports, and also a calling point for cruise liners. The Terminus station of 1839 by Sir William Tite (1798-1873) and the former London & South Western Railway hotel are the principal monuments of the liner services for which Southampton was once famous.
The Sea City Museum celebrates the city’s maritime history. It was built within part of the former Civic Centre, and comprises three pavilions said to resemble ‘prows of ocean liners cutting though Art Deco waves’. It was opened on 10 April 2012, the centenary of the departure of RMS Titanic from Southampton, and one of the pavilions houses a permanent exhibition on the Titanic which features the recorded experiences of First Class stewardess Violet Jessop. The second pavilion describes the city’s role as a gateway to the world, showing the experiences of emigrants seeking a new life in other continents, and those of soldiers and sailors leaving for distant wars. The outstanding artefact displayed is a 7m long model of RMS Queen Mary which sailed from Southampton between 1936 and 1967.