A glance at the map gives some idea of the strategic maritime importance of SOUTHAMPTON, which stands on a triangular peninsula formed at the place where the rivers Itchen and Test flow into Southampton Water, an eight-mile inlet from the Solent. Sure enough, Southampton has figured in numerous stirring events: it witnessed the exodus of Henry V’s Agincourt-bound army, the Pilgrim Fathers’ departure in the Mayflower in 1620 and the maiden voyages of such ships as the Queen Mary and the Titanic. Despite its pummelling by the Luftwaffe and some disastrous postwar urban sprawl, the thousand-year-old city has retained some of its medieval charm in parts and reinvented itself as a twenty-first century shopping centre in others, with the giant glass-and-steel West Quay as its focus.

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