Southam

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Southam is a small market town in the Stratford-on-Avon district of Warwickshire, England. The 2001 census recorded a population of 6,509 in the town.

The nearest sizeable town to Southam is Leamington Spa, located roughly 7 miles (11 km) to the west. The towns of Rugby and Daventry are also within 10 miles (16 km) of Southam, with Banbury 14 miles (22.5 km) to the south and the major city of Coventry some 13 miles (21 km) to the north.

Southam is located on the River Stowe (known by many of the locals as “the Brook”), which flows from Napton-on-the-Hill and joins Warwickshire’s River Itchen just outside of the town, which in turn flows into the River Leam.

Southam can trace its history back to Anglo-Saxon times; a charter exists from 998 granted by King Ethelred the Unready. Southam was mentioned in the Domesday Book as “Sucham“. A market was established in 1227.

In the 1540s the town was visited by John Leland, who described it as ‘a modest market town of a single street’. Southam is also mentioned in Henry VI, part 3 by William Shakespeare in Act V, Scene I (Lines 10–16).

WARWICK
Say, Somerville, what says my loving son?
And, by thy guess, how nigh is Clarence now?

SOMERSET
At Southam I did leave him with his forces,
And do expect him here some two hours hence.

WARWICK
Then Clarence is at hand, I hear his drum.

SOMERSET
It is not his, my lord; here Southam lies:
The drum your honour hears marcheth from Warwick.

King Charles I passed through Southam just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, and apparently was not made welcome by the townsfolk, who refused to ring the church bells.

On 23 August 1642, a skirmish took place outside of the town between Parliamentary forces led by Lord Brooke and Royalist forces commanded by the Earl of Northampton. Later in 1642, Charles stayed in Southam before the Battle of Edgehill,[6] and in 1645, Oliver Cromwell stayed in the town along with 7,000 Roundhead troops.

In the days of the stagecoach Southam became an important stopon the coaching road from Coventry to Oxford and many old coaching inns remain in the town. Few buildings in Southam date from before 1741, for in that year a large fire devastated the town.

A historical curiosity about Southam is that in mediaeval times, the town minted its own local currency. This was done because local people found ordinary coins too high in value for everyday use. The old mint house is now a pub called the Old Mint. During the Civil War King Charles used the mint to make new coins to pay his soldiers.

Southam has a Holy Well located near the bank of the River Stowe a short walk from the recreation grounds. The well is fed by a natural spring and the semi-circular wellwater pours through the mouths of carved stone faces. The water from this well was said to cure eye complaints.

Between 1894 and 1974 Southam was the administrative centre of the Southam Rural District; since then it has been in the Stratford-on-Avon District of Warwickshire. Southam was in the parliamentary constituency of Stratford-on-Avon until the boundary changes approved by Parliament in 2007 when it became part of the new constituency of Kenilworth and Southam.

The history of Southam is commemorated in Southam’s Cardall Collection.

Historic population:

Year Population
1801 900
1901 1,800
1971 4,435
1991 5,304
2001 6,509

Due to its good road links, Southam has become a commuter town in recent years due in part to its location. Taxi firms and minicab companies operate within the area and frequent bus services serve Southam and the local villages.

To the south of the town there is a small industrial estate which is a significant source of employment in Southam. Europe’s largest privately owned video games company Codemasters is also based nearby, having been started by two locals.

The dominant rock type for the area is Blue Lias clay. Hence until quite recently there was a medium sized cement factory with associated quarrying a mile north of the town. This works was served by both rail and canal transport — the latter being a short arm from the Grand Union Canal. Cement production was halted and moved to nearby Rugby, in the late-1990s. However, quarrying at the site continues.

The main shopping area runs through the centre of the town and at the southern end is Market Hill which hosts a farmers’ market on the 2nd Saturday of each month. Every Tuesday there is a market on the upper part of the town centre’s Wood Street car park selling fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh fish, meat, clothing and housewares. There is a range of shops in the town centre, including a Co-operative supermarket (a branch of the Heart of England Co-operative Society), a Budgens supermarket, another small independent supermarket with butchery department, a post office, a newsagent, a pharmacy, a hardware store, a carpet shop, a stationery shop, a dry cleaner, a bridal shop, two ladies fashion clothing shops, other small speciality and gift shops, charity outlets for the RSPCA and Myton Hospice and two banks. The town’s pubs include the Old Mint, (one of the oldest inns in the county,) the Black Dog, the Bowling Green, the Market Tavern, the Bull and the Breeze Bar. There is also a Sports and Social Club in School Street affiliated to the CIU. Southam town centre also has several cafes, various takeaway food outlets, a Library and information centre, several hairdressers, bookmakers, and professional services such as solicitors, estate agents, accountants and financial advisers. The main car park in Wood Street is free of charge, and has public toilets.

In 2010, a Tesco store opened on Northfield Road Industrial Estate. Residents of Southam and surrounding villages who wish to shop at one of the major supermarket chains are now able to visit a store on the outskirts of Southam rather than travel to other nearby towns such as Leamington Spa, Banbury, and Coventry. The store supplies a substantial amount of foods, including fresh fruit and vegetables, butchery, bakery and fishmongers along with a ‘Foreign Foods’ aisle.

Southam is located between Leamington Spa and Daventry (on the A425) and between Coventry and Banbury (on the A423). The A426 connects it to Rugby.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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