A city in the centre of the south coast of England, Southampton sits at the place where two rivers (the Test and the Itchen) join to form Southampton Water and the Solent. A Roman settlement called Clausentum lay on the eastern side, but a later Saxon settlement named Hamwic, between the two rivers, forms the basis of the current city.

Just south of Southampton lies the Isle of Wight with the Solent on either side. This geographical arrangement means that Southampton has four tides a day, as the sea rises from one side of the Solent and then the other. The extra tides, and the depth of the water, have allowed Southampton to be a successful trading port through most of its history.

In Medieaval times the city was raided by the French and almost destroyed. This prompted the building of extensive city walls and fortifications, many of which are still visible in the city today. Trade by sea was important to the city, with goods arriving and leaving for destinations around England, mainland Europe and Scandanavia. A few buildings from this time, including a Tudor merchants hall, still survive. The northern gate to the city walls, the Bargate, still stands and forms a distinctive landmark in the centre of the modern shopping area.

When the Pilgrim Fathers made their voyage to America in the Mayflower, Southampton was one of their final ports of call (I believe they also stopped at Plymouth). There is a large memorial on the waterfront where they sailed from, and many aspects of the city are named to commemorate the voyage (Mayflower Park, the Mayflower Theatre).

In the 19th century, when the railway arrived, there was significant land reclamation and the old waterfront, just outside the city walls, disappeared. In its place were built modern docks, loading facilities and warehouses, all connected to the railway network. Southampton became an important port for trade and transportation within the British Empire.

Sea travel became popular and the famous shipping lines like P&O and Cunard grew with it. Southampton was the embarkation point for transatlantic voyages on the luxury liners. It was possible to travel by train from London right to the dockside and join the ship. In 1912 the Titanic sailed on her maiden voyage from Southampton. There are two memorials in the city that remember the disaster, one for the crew and one for the musicians who lost their lives.

During the second world war Southampton was an important strategic location. As well as a port, there were shipbuilding facilities and major industrial sites. The Supermarine Spitfire, the fighter aircraft sometimes credited with winning the Battle of Britain, was designed, tested and built in Southampton. In 1944 Southampton was a major embarkation port for the D-day landings, along with most other ports along the south coast of England.

Because of its importance, Southampton received lots of enemy attention in the war and was heavily bombed. Large areas of the city centre were destroyed. The ruins of one church have been preserved as a memorial. The remaining areas were redeveloped, giving the mixture of mediaeval, old and modern buildings that exist today.

There are many parks, public gardens and open spaces in Southampton and a strong tradition of monuments and public works of art that are still being commissioned today. Southampton's main war memorial is called the Cenotaph and was used as a model for the national war memorial in London, also called the Cenotaph. Each year in November, wreaths are laid and the dead are remembered.

I have lived in Southampton for 15 years and am always seeking to learn more about my home. Southampton is currently home to around half a million people.