Above Bar
This medieval description was applied to the whole suburban district lying north of the Bargate (i.e. outside the walled town). The name was sometimes used as an abbreviation for Above Bar Street which was the only street of note in the area.

Above Bar Street
This street is a continuation of the High Street north of the Bargate. The modern street runs north from the Bargate to Cumberland Place / Brunswick Place. This combines a number of stretches of street that were formerly named separately. In early medieval documents the name ‘Bouebarrestret’ seems only to refer to the southern stretch (a solitary reference to 'Bonelavesrete', in the calendar of the cartulary of St. Denys Priory, says it is outside the north gate, and therefore appears to be a misreading for ‘Bouebarestrete’). The next stretch northward was ‘Hundswell Stret’ while ‘Winchester Way’ was applied to the northernmost part. In the medieval period the street was the thoroughfare leading in and out of the town, and consequently there probably were houses along both sides for some way north.

Above Bar Fair (or St Mark’s Fair) was held in the street for 3 days in April each year. The cattle pound was situated in the middle of the street together with the Pound Tree (image 3) to shade impounded cattle. The pound itself was moved when it became a hindrance to traffic, but the tree survived for many years until it was cut down in 1843. An early 19th century print of Above Bar Street shows the tree on the east side of the street.

As the town’s population grew and exceeded the capacity of the walled town, the suburbs to the east and north of the town expanded to accommodate the overspill. By the early 17th century the buildings reached beyond Canshut Lane (Regents Street) on the west side, and beyond the lane to Houndwell (Pound Tree Road) on the east side. There were at least four inns in this relatively short stretch of street, including the Bear Inn on the south corner of Canshut Lane, the George Inn, the White Horse Inn and the Catherine Wheel. Skelton’s print of Above Bar Street in c.1827 (image 1) shows the street to be still essentially residential, but in the next 20 or 30 years the character of the street changed markedly. By the mid century it had become one of the town’s main business thoroughfares, with three coach-building premises, the Royal Hotel on the west side, the Royal York Hotel and Music Hall on the east side and numerous shops and offices along its length. Brannon’s print of c.1849 (image 2) shows the street in its Victorian heyday. In the latter part of the 20th century and early 21st century the street has taken over from the High Street as the city’s main shopping area.

1. Above Bar Street, c.1828

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A view of Above bar Street drawn by G. L. Lee and lithographed by T. H. Skelton

2. Above Bar Street, c.1850

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Philip Brannon’s view of Above Bar Street, c1850.

3. Above Bar Street, c.1820

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An early 19th century view of Above Bar Street showing the pound tree.


Businesses and buildings in Above Bar Street included:


Further reading:

Georgian and Victorian Southampton, by A. J. Brown, p22. (HS/h)
Southampton Occasional Notes, by ‘Townsman’, p35-38. (HS/h)
Southampton Occasional Notes(2nd Series), by ‘Townsman’, p12 (HS/h)
Medieval Southampton, by Colin Platt, p9, 50, 53, 266. (HS/h)
History of Southampton, Volume 1, by A. Temple Patterson, p104-105. (HS/h)


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