Southampton, city and unitary authority (2011 pop. 236,882), S England, at the head of Southampton Water. Southampton is Britain's second largest port. The London-Southampton railway, finished in 1840, and the double tide of the harbor made Southampton an important shipbuilding, trade, and tourist port as well as England's main ocean liner port. In 1951, a major oil tanker terminal and refinery were built on the western shore, and North Sea oil became a primary economic focus in 1978. There are several major manufactures, including automobiles and aircraft. Cables, electrical engineering products, and petrochemicals are also produced. Among its schools are the Univ. of Southampton and a teacher-training college.
Southampton is the site of the Roman Clausentum and of the Saxon Hamtune or Suth-Hamtun. Remains of the ancient town walls and reworked Norman structures may be seen. The Crusaders under Richard I, Henry V on his expedition to France (1415), and the Pilgrims all embarked from Southampton. Until the discovery (16th cent.) of a new trade route to India, Southampton had a lucrative trade in goods from the East with Venice. In the 18th cent. it was a fashionable spa. Trade with the United States, the construction of modern docks and the railroad to London (1840), and the coming of the steamboat all worked to convert the spa back into a commercial port. Southampton was one of Britain's chief military transport stations in both world wars. The city suffered considerable damage in World War II, as a result of which there are new dock facilities and shopping districts. The city received a grant of county land after the war to accommodate its growing industrial population.