Art Galleries, Museums and Theatres in Southampton

While Southampton has only a few art galleries, the ones that are around are certainly comparable to some of the best in the area.

Undoubtedly, the most prestigious art gallery in town is The City Art Gallery, a huge and cavernous enclave (it's also Southampton's biggest gallery) and provides out-of-towners with a fresh perspective of Southampton. The gallery is so big and contains so many fascinating displays that it usually takes visitors several hours to savour everything that The City Art Gallery has to offer.

Located at the Civic Centre on Commercial Road, The City Art Gallery contains the works of artists of all kinds, ranging from the established maestros to promising youngsters.

Artists on the local, national and international scene are amply represented at The City Art Gallery and stage regular exhibits there as well as permanent collections. Such renowned luminaries as Walter Sickert, Barbara Delany and Edward Burne-Jones cast their formidable shadows in this venue. The most popular collections span over six centuries of art. Youngsters and the young at heart are afforded an excellent opportunity to learn from the masters and get involved in the gallery's various community endeavours.

Meanwhile, for lovers of contemporary art, there's The Millais Gallery at the Southampton Institute on East Park Terrace. The exhibits here have special relevance to culturally diverse communities. The gallery hosts a dynamic, year-round program of activities and exhibitions that provide a fitting complement to the work of the Southampton Institute. The Millais Gallery is the place where you can find fresh and unique installations from the area's up-and-coming top young talent.

For a look back at the UK's once-thriving, steam-driven brick industry, the sole remaining brickworks facility is located in Southampton. That's Bursledon Brickworks in Swanick, which started in the latter 19th century, closed in 1974, but reopened in 1990 to support trade in the area. Bursledon has its own brick making plant, drying sheds and a fully restored steam engine as well as a museum. Here, visitors can take a hands-on approach to history as they are free to participate in the brick-making process.

Another fascinating place to visit is the Tudor House Museum on St. Michael's Square in Bugle Street, which is widely recognized and historically significant landmarks in Southampton. But that's not all the five-century-old museum is famous for. Aside from having quaint old kitchens, Tudor-style gardens and a Minstrel’s Gallery, the museum is also said to host the famous ghost of Ann Boleyn. According to historical accounts, Ann Boleyn lived in the Tudor House during her marriage to Henry VIII. Legend has it that her ghost continues to haunt the Museum until today.

Tudor House Museum is currently undergoing structural repairs and renovations at a cost of £2.3 million from 2007 to 2010. Its aim is to restore the museum back to the height of its grandeur. The restoration budget was provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund (£1.598 million grant) and the Southampton City Council (£590,000).

Meanwhile, if you enjoyed watching Leonardo de Caprio in The Aviator, why not visit the Hall of Aviation and see this extensive archive of British Aviation history up close. There are thousands of aeronautical books, magazines, photographs, paintings, artefacts, maps, drawings and reports dating back to the pioneering days of flight. There is comprehensive information on the Supermarine Aviation Company and its aeroplanes such as the legendary Spitfire, which was built in Southampton, as well as original drawings of the first planes. There are also extensive records and paraphernalia from 25 aviation manufacturers such as A.V. Roe, Cierva, Cuncliffe Owen and Follands. Among the exhibits is a real Sandringham flying boat, a Spitfire and 13 other impressive aircraft.

Are you fascinated with the role of Britain in the two world wars? Then there are two museums that you should not miss -- the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth and The Gurkha Museum in Winchester. These museums illustrate the key role that Britain's Navy and armed forces played during both wars and how they influenced their eventual outcome.

The two main theatres in town are The Mayflower and The Nuffield. Both award-winning enclaves exude a vibrant spirit and cater to their own particular niche. The Mayflower theatre specializes in comedy and drama and showcases some of the best musicals from the West End. It's the venue of choice for families with children. Meanwhile, the Nuffield theatre is renowned for its modern and classical drama, which presents a grittier side of life.
As they say, the best way to learn about a city's culture is to take a glimpse into its past, and Southampton's art galleries, museums and even its theatres have lots to offer in this regard.

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