The 1454 terrier attests to the early existence of a building named the Dolphin on the present site, though it was not necessarily an inn; before street numbering large important buildings were often given names to distinguish them. The terrier describes the building as a “capital tenement with vacant plot and cottage adjoining, called the Dolphin”. The first written reference to it as a hostelry came in 1548 when it was described as an “inn called the Dolphin with two gardens”, after which it is often mentioned in town records. In 1742 it was purchased, together with an adjoining house to the north, by Nathaniel St Andre who lived at the adjoining house while his Bellevue mansion was being built. St Andre let the Dolphin to a succession of tenants, but it was probably he who financed the extensive rebuilding in the 1750s which gave the building its impressive Georgian front with two bay windows and carriage entrance. The original Dolphin building incorporates much Tudor work and lies to the south of the coaching yard. The house and hotel were sold by auction after St Andre’s death in 1776 and in the early 19th century the house was incorporated into the hotel.

From the 17th century the Dolphin was a coaching inn and during the spa period it was a social venue for local gentry and visitors, the spacious first floor dining room serving as an assembly room. Jane Austen attended dances here during her stay in the town. Historian Edward Gibbon and novelist William Makepeace Thackeray also stayed here. It is Grade II* listed.

Dolphin Hotel, 1857

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A lithograph of the High Street published by Newman & Co, showing a stage coach emerging from the Dolphin’s courtyard

Dolphin Hotel

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Phptograph, 2010

Further reading:
Building of England: Hampshire and the I.O.W., by Nikolaus Pevsner and David Lloyd, p547. (H/i)
Southampton Occasional Notes, by 'Townsman', p15. (HS/h)
Historic Buildings of Southampton, by Philip Peberdy, p17-18. (HS/k)
‘The Architecture of Southampton’, by A.E.R., in Architectural Review, February 1919, p33-34. (HS/i)


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