The construction of the docks in the 1840s attracted the two largest mail shipping lines, the P&O and the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co, to the port. The companies chose Southampton as their principal mail packet station instead of Falmouth, largely because the railway, which had reached Southampton in 1840, did not reach Falmouth until many years later. The Royal Mail Company had secured the government contract for the West Indian and South American mails, the P & O for the Mediterranean and Indian mails. This early success in attracting these two companies to the port was largely responsible for the initial commercial success of the docks.
Both companies established HQs in the town. The P&O offices (image below) were built c.1850 at Oriental Place on Canute Road. Oriental Place was situated to the east of Royal Crescent Road. According to Philip Brannon (Picture of Southampton, 1849) the P&O Line had 30 steamers operating from the port, “all splendidly built and fitted up”.

Peninsular and Oriental Line offices, Canute Road

Image Unavailable

Philip Brannon's view of the P & O HQ, c.1850

Further reading:
History of Southampton Vol 2, by A. Temple Patterson, p13-14, 101-2, 106-7, 110. (HS/h)
History of Southampton Vol 3, by A. Temple Patterson, p1-142. (HS/h)
Maritime Southampton, by Alastair Arnott, p22-23. (HS/pb)
These Splendid Ships, by David Divine. (Maritime Collection)
A Hundred Year History of the P & O, by Boyd Cable. (Maritime Collection)


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