History of St Michael's

‘Everyone’ knows about 1066 – when William of Normandy defeated Harold and took the throne. The story of St Michael the Archangel begins but four years later, when there was a sufficient Norman presence in Southampton to begin building the tower. When it was first built St Michael’s was much smaller than the Church you see today with the tower at the centre of a simple cross shaped building. 

Apart from the tower the Church was rebuilt in the twelfth century. Two chapels were added either side of the high altar in the thirteenth century and the north aisle in the century that followed with the south aisle being added in the fifteenth century. These developments can be seen in the changing shapes of the arches in the Church. 

The spire was probably first built in the fifteenth century rebuilt in 1732 and then heightened by nine feet in the 1870s at the request of Trinity House as an aid to ships coming up Southampton Water. 

In the first half of the nineteenth century the population of Southampton practically doubled and St Michael’s was altered to make room for more worshippers. This included removing the medieval stone pillars which supported the nave roof and replacing them with the slender columns you see today. In fact these are made of cast iron encased in brick. This is an imaginative use of modern technology at the time and has bequeathed later generations a remarkable light a spacious building. 

The City of Southampton suffered terribly in the bombing of 1940. St Michael’s escaped but suffered some damage, especially to its windows from a bomb which fell nearby. The damage to the great East window enabled the installation of the current window, which commemorates the five churches which existed in the mediaeval period in the Old Town (of which only St Michael’s survives).