See Southampton Heritage Guides – Sightseeing tours, tour guides and accessible tours

St Mary’s Church

Southampton’s Mother church, St Mary’s (the original dating from 634 AD) is situated outside the later Norman town, in the earlier Saxon settlement of Hamwih.

The present church is the sixth on the site. In the 1550’s the rubble of St. Mary’s was being used to mend roads as most people had long since moved to the Norman town.

Victorian expansion led to a new church being built in 1878 with Edward, Prince of Wales laying the foundation stone. This was destroyed by bombing on the night of 30th November 1940 and the current building dates from 1956.

The church bells are said to have inspired the famous song “The Bells of St. Mary’s” as sung by Bing Crosby in the 1945 film of that name.

The song even appears in an episode of Monty Python. In a skit called “Musical Mice”, Terry Jones claims to have trained mice to squeal at the specific pitches necessary to play the song!

Skip to content