Westgate House, which was formerly situated at the southern end of the western shore, was built in 1760 by members of the Marett family, who owned a boat building business on West Quay. In 1760 the family leased more land in the area and had two earlier small houses, one each side of the old wall, imaginatively developed into a substantial Georgian town mansion. The front, facing the water, was of three storeys. At the level of its middle floor, it was joined at the back to a single-storey section looking out onto a garden abutting Cuckoo Lane. The house incorporated two of the arches of the arcaded wall, parts of which were knocked down to give access between the front and back of the house. This provided an unusual alcove in its drawing room. An entrance lodge was built against the outer wall of the West Gate, which was itself leased in 1782 by Charles Marett (1756-95).
This Charles Marett had given up shipbuilding to become an attorney. He prospered and acquired the means to retire early - he was styled ‘gentleman’ in St Michael’s parish register of 1825 and ‘landed proprietor’ in the 1851 census schedule. After enjoying more than four decades as a gentleman of leisure, he died in 1870, when his property passed to his son, yet another Charles Marett (1816-98).
Charles pursued the career of a barrister in London while his eldest sister Frances established herself at Crabwood House in Maybush, a house that was built for her. It was later used as club premises for the headquarters staff of the nearby Ordnance Survey, which acquired it and part of its grounds as a building site in the late 1930s. Charles Marett made Westgate House available to his youngest widowed sister, Hannah Winifred, who had married a Frenchman, Joseph Emile Maes of Nantes. She was consequently known as Madam Maes, and was a well known personality in the town. She and her children lived at Westgate House for the last quarter century of its existence. Because of its family connections the house was also known as the French House, Marett's House and Madame Maes' House. After Madame Maes died in 1897, the Council purchased the house, demolished it and carried through the road improvement scheme linking Western Esplanade with Town Quay. The new road, completed in 1900, gave direct access from the Royal Pier to Southampton West (later Central) railway station.

Westgate House

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Photograph, c.1890.

Westgate House

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Detail from a drawing of Southampton from the Illustrated London News, July 20 1844, showing West Gate, West Quay and Westgate House (centre-right foreground)

see also

Further reading:
‘Westgate House and Madam Maes’, By A. G. K. Leonard, (Southampton Occasional Papers no. 1)
‘Westgate House, Southampton’, by Rev. G. W. Minns, in Hampshire Field Club Proceedings, 1898, p81-88. (H/f)
Southampton Memorials of Care for Man and Beast, by A. G. K. Leonard, p40-52. (HS/k)
Southampton Occasional Notes, by ‘Townsman’, p16, 84. (HS/h)
Southampton Occasional Notes, 2nd Series, by ‘Townsman’, p62. (HS/h)
‘A Maes of Confusion’, by John Edgar Mann, in Hampshire, Vol. 35, No. 4, February 1995, p39. (H/y)


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