The old Audit House occupied the former site of Holy Rood Church in the middle of the High Street in front of the current Holy Rood Church. The original church was demolished and rebuilt on the present site in the early 14th century, with the Audit house being built on the church’s original site, probably in the late 14th century. In 1549 Leland described it as “a faire house builded in the middle of the streat”. Not very much is known about the old Audit House except that it housed a market and shops in its lower storey.

By the mid 18th century the building had fallen into disrepair, and in 1771 a new site on the west side of the lower High Street, consisting of the house and garden of Alderman Purbeck, was acquired by the council for the purpose of building a new Audit House. The first stone was laid in the presence of the mayor Edward Noble on September 27th 1771. The architect was John Crunden of London.

The New Audit House, opened in October 1773, housed all the town's markets (except for corn and grain) in its open lower floor, which extended from the High Street back to French Street, while the upper floor housed the town's municipal offices (image 1). The Audit House was the home of local government until being superseded by the Civic Centre in the 1930s. The Audit House was entirely destroyed by bombing during the Blitz in 1940.

1. The Audit House, High Street: Interior

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Photograph of the council chamber in the Audit House, c.1920

2. The Audtit House, High Street

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Photograph, c.1920

3. The Audit House, 1842

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An engraving from a drawing by W Carpenter showing crowds outside the Audit House in January 1842 on the occasion of the christening of the Prince of Wales.

see also

Further reading:
Southampton Occasional Notes (2nd Series), by ‘Townsman’, p15, 62. (HS/h)
History of Southampton, by Rev. J. S. Davies, p125-128. (HS/h)
History of Southampton, Volume 1, by A. Temple Patterson, p52. (HS/h)
History of Southampton, Volume 2, by A. Temple Patterson, p50-1. (HS/h)
Public Life in Southampton, Volume 1, by James Lemon, p98-103, 111, 123-4. (HS/l)
'Architecture of Southampton' by A E R in the Architectural Review, February 1919, p33. (HS/i)
‘Pursuit of knowledge under difficulties’: the Audit House Library, Southampton, 1831-63 and Winchester Library & Museum, 1851-63, by Richard Preston Southampton Local History Forum Journal, no. 14, Winter 2008, p 1-21. (HS/h)


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