Southampton’s rich history is set to come alive once again as the city’s most important historic attraction re-opens its doors to the public after being closed for nearly ten years.
Tudor House was built towards the end of the 15th century when Southampton was a very different place. Over the years the building has been home to some of Southampton’s most important residents while kings, queens and governments have come and gone. More recently the historic venue housed a much-loved public museum.
Surveys in the late 1990s revealed that the structure of the building was deteriorating and needed substantial renovation to secure its future. A Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £3.5m, as well as £1.8m from Southampton City Council, meant the final phase of the sensitive restoration of the house and garden could finally be completed.
Tudor House and Garden will be officially opened by the Mayor of Southampton on July 30. On the opening weekend a whole raft of entertainment and events will be bringing Southampton’s Old Town vividly to life. There will be Tudor entertainers, costumed interpreters and musicians, free activities and stalls in St Michael’s Square, guided tours around the medieval walls and vaults and family trails and activities within the house itself.
Councillor John Hannides Cabinet Member for, Leisure, Culture and Resources for Southampton City Council, said, “It has been a true labour of love restoring this 500 year-old building to its former glory. I’m sure many Southampton residents can remember visiting Tudor House at one stage or another in their lives – it really is part of the fabric of the city.
“Now, thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the continued investment from Southampton City Council in our Old Town, future generations will be able to enjoy a new and improved museum of the 21st century for years to come.”
The restoration was approached in two phases. Firstly, it was essential to make the building watertight and structurally sound. This included:
- Inserting a large concrete wall into the core of the house which tied all the structural elements of the house together, to prevent further movement of the structure.
- Some of the oak on the frontage of Tudor House has been replaced. A range of domestic artefacts were also uncovered from excavation work on site, shedding light on daily life in the house.
- More graffiti was discovered on the wall in the house which dates back to around 1570 and 1620. At the time, the house stood near the waterfront and belonged to ship owners. There are over 25 ships pictured on the wall, as well as caricatures of people, animals and more echoing Southampton’s daily life 400 years ago.
The second phase of the project was focused on improving access to the building to parts of the building that the public cannot see or were unable to access. These included an elevator installed on the first floor fully accessible for the very first time. In areas where the house has no public access, such as the attic and cellar, a computer-generated tour of these areas is available for visitors to view on the ground floor.
Visitors will be able to relax and enjoy a view of the newly landscaped garden from the new café, which serves locally-sourced produce. The garden now features a bronze ‘Touch model’ of the Old Town, enabling visitors to get a sense of how the house fitted into the street scene of the town. New fully accessible toilets have also been installed. The house also feature top the of the range technology to help improve the visitor experience, including display panels.
The House and Westgate Hall are now fully licensed, and are available for hire for a range of events from weddings, meetings, talks, and conferences. For further information and updates on Tudor House visit www.southampton.gov.uk/tudorhouse or call 023 8083 3007
Source: Southampton City Council