The Tudor House is the most charming historic building in Southampton, England. The timber-framed building facing St Michael’s Square is the main tourist attraction, situated in the heart of the Old Town. After a recent restoration, the house and the beautiful garden are once more opened for the public.
The earliest part of the site was built in the 12th century as a home for the Normans. This part is known as King John’s Palace, although there is no evidence that he ever visited the house. From 1348-1369, the wealthy merchant and Mayor, John Wytegod lived at the property
In 1338, The French and Genoese raiders attacked and destroyed most of Southampton. This was the time when the Black Death started spreading and in 1358 it arrived in the town. In 1360, to protect Southampton from the raids, the town wall was built. After the dark period, merchants from foreign lands started arriving and the town got back to its normal lifestyle.
In the 15th century, Walter William inherited the Tudor house from his father. He was proclaimed Sheriff and a Mayor of Southampton. However, later, he was labeled a traitor and to avoid punishment he fled to Beaulieu Abbey, where he died shortly after.
The new King, Henry Tudor pardoned the dead William and his wife Jane became the new owner of the Tudor House – she married Sir John Dawtrey, who was a merchant coming from a wealthy family from Sussex.
Dawtrey was a major landowner and owned three houses on the corner of St. Michael’s Square in Southampton. He joined the houses, into one much larger and modern. Dawtrey received a great amount of money from Henry VIII to provide food for the navy in the defense of the French attacks.
After Dawtrey’s death, his widow Isabel married Sir Richard Lyster, one of the richest men in Southampton in 1528. The Lysters’s decorative garden consisted not only of flowers but also herbs used for cleaning and cooking.
It is believed that Lady Lyster was preparing medicines and was making perfumes from the flowers and herbs in her garden. Even today, the plants are of characteristic types that would have been found during the Tudor period. During the 16th and 17th century the house was owned by a wealthy merchants and ship owners.
The artist George Rogers owned the Tudor House in the 18th century and he made remarkable changes to the house such as building a Georgian wing, complete with two large sash windows. Also, the façade at the front of the property had been plastered and repainted.
In the 19th century, the Tudor House was a residence for many businesses such as bookbinders, dyeworks, and even served as architect’s office. By the end of the 19th century, the local philanthropist William Spranger bought the house and he also was to make important changes like installing a ‘minstrels’ gallery in above the banqueting hall.
He led a campaign to turn the house into a museum, and after twelve years he succeeded – the museum was opened on 31 July 1912. The latest restoration began in 2002 and the museum was closed to the public for nine years.
The Tudor House is connected with paranormal activities. Locals believe that Anne Boleyn, the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, who was once a guest in the house hasn’t left the place.
The interior and the lovely garden gives a vivid picture of the lives of people in Southampton, perhaps best demonstrated by its respective owners.