Saturday: 10am-1pm and 2pm-4pm
Welcome to Southampton's Museum of Archaeology. The museum displays artefacts from prehistoric, Roman, Saxon and medieval Southampton. It also has objects from outside Southampton, including some from ancient Egypt. God's House Tower itself is a fascinating historic building.
The History of the Building
God's House Tower stands at the south-east corner of the town walls which had once encircled medieval Southampton. The whole structure is really an amalgamation of two buildings; a simple gatehouse, built in the late thirteenth century and extended in the early fourteenth century, and a massive spur work, an early fifteenth- century addition consisting of a two-storey gallery and a three-storey great tower.
For more about the history of God's House Tower, follow the link at the bottom of this page.
The Architecture - Exterior
Just visible under the arch of God's House Gate are the grooves of the portcullis which was raised and lowered in defence of the town. Also visible on the north and south walls of the Tower are the arches, now blocked in, which mark the position of the tidal moat and sluices. The vaulted sluice chamber, although not open to the public, still exists beneath the Tower.
In the upper storey of the Tower and the connecting gallery there are a series of two-light windows and keyhole-shaped gunports. The two-light windows in the gallery were unblocked in the late nineteenth century when the window tracery was also restored. The Tower roof is modern.
The Architecture - Interior
Prior to its restoration, the gallery was just a shell. Originally there had been a stone newel staircase to the floor above, but both the floor and stairs had long since disappeared. A modern staircase was built and a Mezzanine floor inserted between the two floors. At the top of the modern staircase, looking through the north-facing window, it is possible to see the line of the town wall and a fourteenth-century half-round tower. There still exists the remains of a mural stairway leading to a parapet above.
The Museum Displays
As Southampton's Museum of Archaeology it is appropriate that God's House Tower should illustrate the three important periods in the town's history: Roman, Saxon and Medieval.
Roman Clausentum (now Bitterne Manor) was founded as a port circa AD 1O. Among other things it exported lead from the Mendips. Towards the end of the third century it had become a fort and part of the coastal defences. The collections include examples of the distinctive New Forest Pottery, and glass and jewellery.
Saxon Hamwic , sited in the city's St. Mary's area, was the first of the great English mercantile towns and existed as an industrial and trade centre for approximately 150 years. The Hamwic exhibition at the museum attempts to re-create the daily life of the Saxon community.
Medieval Southampton probably acquired its present shape during the Norman period when the town defences were laid out. Documentary sources reinforce the archaeological evidence that Southampton was the home of numerous wealthy merchants. Collections on display include fine imported medieval pottery and glass.
For more information about the archaeology of Southampton and about museum objects from outside the city, including a collection of Egyptian artefacts, follow the links at the bottom of this page.
To search the archaeological collections, follow the link at the bottom of this page
Access Information for disabled visitors to the Museum
There is a designated parking bay immediately outside, however there is no wheelchair access to the museum, as all exhibits are on the upper floors of the building. Staircase information - 15 steps up to the first landing, and a further 7 steps up to the museum shop, and another 8 steps up to the 'Medieval Southampton' exhibition. There is a further step up to the 'Roman Clausentum' exhibition. From here there are 22 steps to the top of the tower. 12 steps reach the 'Saxon Hamwic' exhibition up from the shop area. Touch objects - please ask the attendants for access to our handling collections.
Exhibitions at Southampton Museums