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With a population in excess of 280,000 it makes Southampton the main City on the South Coast. Southampton covers a wide area stretching from the New Forest and the west side over to the Solent on the East and is divided into two distinctive areas (East & West) by the Itchen River. Located approximately 60 miles south of London, Southampton is home to one of the largest commercial ports in Europe and also boasts good road, rail and air networks. There are two Universities, Southampton University and Solent University, which between them house over 40,000 students.
Southampton's largest retail centre is the West Quay Shopping Centre. Opened in September 2000 and hosting major high street stores, it is one of the largest in the country. Other major shopping areas in the city centre include The Mall Marlands, the Bargate Centre and the East Street area, which has been designated for speciality shopping, with the aim of promoting smaller retailers. In 2007, Southampton was ranked 13th for shopping in the UK.
Southampton is the 3rd most densely populated city in the UK and has large Asian, Chinese, Polish and Irish communities. It's estimated that 10% of the community are Polish, 4.6% Asian and 2.5% Chinese.
Currently unemployment is 2.4%, just below the national average. Just over a quarter of the jobs available in the city are in the health and education sector. A further 19 per cent are property and other business and the third largest sector is wholesale and retail, which accounts for 16.2 percent. During the latter half of the 20th century, a more diverse range of industry also came to the city, including aircraft and car manufacture, cables, electrical engineering products, and petrochemicals. These now exist alongside the city's older industries of the docks, grain milling, and tobacco processing.
Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust is one of the city's largest employers. It provides local hospital services to 500,000 people in the Southampton area and specialist regional services to more than 3 million people across the South of England. Other major employers in the city include Ordnance Survey, Ford, HSBC and Lloyds register.
Southampton's history dates back to Stone Age times, however it’s in the Norman Conquest of 1066, when Southampton became the major port of transit between the then capital of England, Winchester, and Normandy. Southampton Castle was built in the 12th century and by the 13th century Southampton had become a leading port, particularly involved in the import of French wine in exchange for English cloth and wool. During the middle Ages, shipbuilding became an important industry for the town. Henry V's famous warship Grace Dieu was built in Southampton. From 1904 to 2004, the Thornycroft shipbuilding yard was a major employer in Southampton, building and repairing ships used in the two World Wars.
The port was the point of departure for the Pilgrim Fathers aboard the Mayflower in 1620. In 1912 the RMS Titanic sailed from Southampton. Southampton was subsequently the home port for the transatlantic passenger services operated by Cunard with their Blue Riband liner RMS Queen Mary and her running mate RMS Queen Elizabeth. In 1938, Southampton docks also became home to the flying boats of Imperial Airways. Southampton Container Terminals first opened in 1968 and has continued to expand to become one of the largest in Europe. The Supermarine Spitfire was designed and developed in Southampton. Heavy bombing of the factory in September 1940 destroyed it as well as homes in the vicinity. World War II hit Southampton particularly hard because of its strategic importance as a major commercial port and industrial area.
Southampton is a major UK port which has good transport links with the rest of the country. The M27 motorway, linking places along the south coast of England, runs just to the north of the city. The M3 motorway links the city to London and also, via a link to the A34 road at Winchester, with the Midlands and North. The M271 motorway is a spur of the M27, linking it with the Western Docks and city centre. Southampton is also served by the rail network, which is used both by freight services to and from the docks and passenger services as part of the national rail system. The main station in the city is Southampton Central. Rail routes run east towards Portsmouth, north to Winchester, the Midlands and London, and westwards to Bournemouth, Salisbury, Bristol and Cardiff. Southampton Coach Station, which is located near the West Quay Shopping Centre on, offers connections to all main UK towns and Cities. Southampton Airport is a regional airport located in the town of Eastleigh, just north of the city. It offers flights to UK and near European destinations, and is connected to the city by a frequent rail service from Southampton Airport (Parkway) railway station, and by bus services. Southampton is the terminus for three internal ferry services, all of which operate from terminals at Town Quay. Two of these, a car ferry service and a fast catamaran passenger ferry service, provide links to East Cowes and Cowes respectively on the Isle of Wight and are operated by Red Funnel. The third ferry is the Hythe Ferry, providing a passenger service to Hythe on the other side of Southampton Water. Buses now provide the majority of local public transport. The main bus operators are First Southampton and Bluestar. Other operators include Brijan Tours, Stagecoach, Velvet, Dorset Sprinter and Wilts & Dorset. The other large service provider is the Uni-link bus service (running from early in the morning to midnight), which was commissioned by the University of Southampton to provide transport from the university to the town.
A survey recently described Southampton one of the best places to live in the UK for single people aged 18 to 30. This was owing to its "low cost of living, wide array of bars and clubs and cheap transport". Women voted it second best behind London, while men rated it as seventh. The largest theatre in the city is the 2,300 capacity Mayflower Theatre, which has hosted many West End shows. There is also the Nuffield Theatre based at the University of Southampton's Highfield campus. There are many innovative art galleries in the city, including the City Art Gallery at the Civic Centre, the Millais Gallery at Southampton Solent. The annual Southampton Boat Show is held in September each year, with over 600 exhibitors and runs for just over a week at Mayflower Park.
Southampton is home to Southampton Football Club—nicknamed "The Saints"— who play at St Mary's Stadium, having relocated in 2001 from their 103-year-old former stadium, "The Dell". They reached the top flight of English football (First Division) for the first time in 1966. They lifted the FA Cup with a shock victory over Manchester United in 1976, returned to the top flight two years later, and stayed there for 27 years (becoming founder members of the Premier League in 1992) before they were relegated in 2005. The city hockey club, Southampton Hockey Club, founded in 1938, is now one of the largest and highly regarded clubs in Hampshire. The city is also well provided for in amateur men's and women's rugby with a number of teams in and around the city, the oldest of which is Trojans RFC, other clubs include Millbrook RFC & Eastleigh RFC. The city provides for yachting and water sports, with a number of marinas. From 1977 to 2001 the Whitbread around the World Yacht Race, which is now known as the Volvo Ocean Race was based in Southampton's Ocean Village marina. Southampton was named "fittest city in the UK" in 2006 by Men's Fitness magazine. The world's oldest surviving Bowling Green is the Southampton Old Bowling Green, which was first used in 1299.
The city has a strong higher education sector. The University of Southampton and Southampton Solent University together have a student population of almost 40,000. THES - QS World University Rankings positioned the University of Southampton in the top 80 universities in the world. The university considers itself one of the top 10 research universities in the UK. There are 79 schools in Southampton.