Southampton is the major city on the South coast and Britain's leading passenger port. It also has the biggest and best-supported football club in the South outside of London.
It is the place where King Canute tried to turn back the waves and where he defeated Ethelred the Unready. It is the port from which Richard the Lionheart set sail for the Crusades, King Henry V and his troops embarked for the Battle of Agincourt, the Pilgrim Fathers set off for America aboard the Mayflower and from which the Titanic departed. It is also the city where the Spitfire was designed, built and flown and from which the Battle of Britain was won. As a consequence it faced relentless attacks form German bombers, during which much of the old city was burnt to the ground.
It is still the main port in England for ocean-going cruise ships and an annual international boat show is held in the marina. It has several shopping malls, including West Quay, which opened as the biggest city-centre shopping mall in Europe.
Famous residents have included the First World War commander of the British fleet, Admiral Jellicoe, the writer, Jane Austen, the painter, Millais, the film director, Ken Russell and the pop singer, Craig David. Sotonians, as Southampton people are known, are renowned for their sense of humour and two of the country's greatest comedians, Tommy Cooper and Benny Hill were also residents of the city.
Southampton has the world's oldest bowling green and many other fine sports facilities, including St Mary's football stadium and the Rose Bowl cricket stadium, both of which have hosted England international matches. In 1618 King James called Southampton "one of the healthiest towns in the kingdom". It seems that little has changed, as in 2006 it was named "the fittest city in the UK" by Mens Fitness magazine, based on various criteria, including the incidence of heart disease and the level of gym membership.
For the ancestors of millions of Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans, this was their last sight of England. At one time more than half of all people travelling in and out of Britain, passed through the city, earning it the nickname "Gateway to the World".
Southampton FC fans are the most loyal in the South of England.
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