King John's Palace, Southampton

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King John's Palace
Location Southampton City Centre
Coordinates 50°53′58.2″N 1°24′24.5″W / 50.899500°N 1.406806°W / 50.899500; -1.406806Coordinates: 50°53′58.2″N 1°24′24.5″W / 50.899500°N 1.406806°W / 50.899500; -1.406806
OS grid reference SU4182211285
Elevation 6 metres (20 ft)[1]
Built 1170s–1180s
Reference no. 1001887
Listed Building – Grade I
Designated 14 July 1953
Reference no. 1339942
King John's Palace, Southampton is located in Southampton
King John's Palace, Southampton
Location of King John's Palace in Southampton

King John's Palace is a ruined Norman merchant's house in Southampton, England. Incorrectly believed for a period to have been used by King John, resulting in its modern name, the west wall of the house was converted to form part of the city's defensive walls in the early 14th century and its archways contain what may be Britain's earliest surviving gunports. The structure now forms part of the Tudor House Museum in the city and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.[2]


The original house was built either in the 1180s[3] or around 1170[2] on the quayside, with direct access to the town's West Quay. In the early 14th century the house was owned by Mayor John Wytegod, who was also a wealthy merchant. The street alongside the house, now named Blue Anchor Lane, was called Wytegod's Lane after the mayor. In 1338 the largely defenceless town fell victim to a French raid as part of the naval campaign that went on at that time and following this the King, Edward III, ordered that Southampton's sea defences be strengthened. As a result, the house became part of the town's defensive wall and its door and windows which faced the quay were all blocked or converted into gun slits.[3]

The building became a coach house and stables in the early 18th century and housed a coal merchant's business in the early 19th. At the beginning of the 20th century the building housed a private museum belonging to a Mr Spranger. The roof was removed in the early 20th century leaving the building as just a shell, which is how it remains to date (as of July 2013).[3]

The building is known as King John's Palace today as historians originally believed King John resided in the building in the early 13th century; however this belief is now understood to be incorrect.[3]


The house consisted of two storeys, with the living quarters on the first floor including large windows and a fireplace. Casks of wine imported from France were stored on the ground floor level; the windows here were deliberately small to prevent thieves from accessing the store rooms.[3] It is constructed of stone.[2]

The original 12th-century windows can be seen on the north and west faces of the building; they are round-headed and sit in round-arched frames, with two windows on each side. The three archways which led to the quays – one original round-headed arch and two segmental-headed arches from the early 14th century – are visible in the house's west wall, but they are blocked. These arches contain two vertical defensive slits from the 14th-century defences, which may be Britain's earliest surviving gunports.[2]

The first floor fireplace was located on the north side of the house. Surviving remains of the fireplace include both jambs with their scalloped capitals and inset shafts. A chimney constructed around 1200 was removed from another property in the city, 79A High Street, and is now located against the east wall of King John's Palace. The chimney has a square base but a long round shaft.[2]


  1. ^ "King John's Palace (Situated to West of Tudor House Museum)". List entry Summary. English Heritage. 8 October 1981. Retrieved 21 July 2013. See map at foot 
  2. ^ a b c d e "King John's Palace (Situated to West of Tudor House Museum), Southampton". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "History of King Johns Palace". Tudor House and Garden. Southampton City Council. Retrieved 15 July 2013.