John Henry Petty, then Lord Wycombe, purchased the site of the old castle in Southampton for £1,395 some time between 1804 and March 1805, on which he was to build a mock Gothic edifice. Lord Wycombe (he became the second Marquis of Lansdowne on the death of his father in 1805) was born on 6 December 1765. Although his father intended him to have a political career, and he did in fact become an MP, he preferred to spend much of his time travelling and sailing. It was his love of the water that first drew him to Southampton.
Southampton's medieval castle had fallen into disrepair by the 17th century and in the 18th century the site became occupied first by a windmill, and then by a banqueting hall.
The Marquis’s ‘castle’ was not much thought of by those who saw it. The Observer in 1809 declared it to be “proof of the wealth rather than the taste of the owner”. Skelton’s Guide in the same year stated that “the apartments are few and more remarkable for their singularity than their size or magnificence”. It also never seems to have been finished. Even after the death of the Marquis in 1809 building work continued, as was reported in Skelton’s Guide in 1815: “In its present state, Southampton Castle must be regarded as an incomplete structure, but very considerable additions are now going forward”. The Marquis lived in the castle until his death in 1809. The 3rd Marquis, having no use for the castle, sold it in 1816 and it was demolished in 1818.
The statue of George III in Roman costume, still on its niche on the south side of the Bargate, was given to the town by the Marquis in 1809, shortly before he died.
Stories of Southampton Streets, by A. G. K. Leonard, p21-28. (HS/h)
‘The Marquis of Lansdowne and his Castle in Southampton’, by Jean Watts, in Southampton local History Forum Journal, No. 16, Winter 2010, p34-40. (HS/h)
Lansdowne House, by Norman Kemish, p8-14. (HS/ps)
Southampton Occasional Notes, by ‘Townsman’, p68-9. (HS/h)
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