Model map of medieval Southampton restored to former glory

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A MODEL map of medieval Southampton has been restored to its former glory and will soon form a key part of a major new exhibition at the city’s soon-to-be-opened £3.1million refurbishment project – the 700 year-old God’s House Tower.

Ken Hellyar’s model will play an important role in bringing this historic building, part of the old defence walls in Southampton’s Old Town quarter, back to life, this time as an exciting arts and heritage venue.

The map depicting 17th century Southampton was made by Ken in 1980 – and for much of its life was on display at historic locations around the city. But after six months of expert conservation work, it has been returned to the city.

Ken, who founded Southampton Tour Guide Association in 1976 with his wife Rosemary, spent almost a year making this detailed depiction of the town as it was in 1620, the year the Mayflower ship set sail from Westgate quay for the New World.

It’s the only complete 3D model of the old town of Southampton at that time, and was based on Ken’s research into city archives and historical documents.

It even comes complete with a miniature Mayflower ship, outhouses for pigs and poultry, the city’s medieval Bargate and of course God’s House Tower.

Ken used scraps of old cardboard, the ends of bottle brushes, and lollipop sticks to lovingly hand-craft his model from scratch. He worked as an ambulance driver and even saved bits of x-ray film to make tiny windows on the Tudor houses, all the while working on his project in his front room at the family home in Southampton.

Now the model has been carefully stored away while builders finish the God’s House Tower refurb, where the model will become part of an exciting audio-visual exhibition on the history of the building.

As reported, God’s House Tower is nearing the end of its refurbishment and will open later this year as the city’s newest arts and heritage venue. The model map will be part of a permanent exhibition on the history of the Tower, showing visitors exactly what the walled town of Southampton looked like.

Daniel Crow, director of ‘a space’ arts, said: “Ken died in 1995, and Rosemary died this year. But we’ve made sure that his model not only survives but has also been restored.

“It’s a beautiful example of folk art and is the only complete record of what Southampton looked like in 1620. Ken made it with love for the city he and his family called home. The model spent a year in his and Rosemary’s front room before it was put on display in the Museum of Archaeology and other historic sites around Southampton.

Restorer Kate Harrison added: “It’s so beautiful. If you look at the level of detail it’s insane. You can imagine little people trudging around in hobnail boots.

“My partner made an attachment for our handheld hoover so I could get between the streets. It sounds weird but it was really heavy dust!”

God’s House Tower will open later this year.

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