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known as Porter's-lane, in the rear of the Chamber of Commerce buildings, off the Town Quay, of which more anon.
At the Norman invasion Southampton possessed a hero in the person of Sir Bevis, Earl of Southampton, whose vain struggles against the power of the Conqueror gained for him, a century or two later, the renown of a giant. Time and circumstances having done their best to blot out his recollection from the popular mind, he nevertheless became the hero of one of those metrical romances which created such an impression upon our forefathers, and he and an enormous giant, Ascupart, whom lie is said to have defeated and made his squire, to the present day are perpetuated by large paintings flanking the central carriageway of the north front of the Bar-gate. In Domesday Book Southampton is described as a burgh—that is, a town in which merchants traded under the protection of the king—held by the king in demense, and that there belonged to it 79 burgesses paying him, as they did in the time of the Confessor, £1 rent. Our then kings being also lords of Normandy, the convenient position of Southampton as a port of embarkation or landing on their way to and from their French and English possessions no doubt led to the continual passage in and out of the place of kings and priests, nobles and courtiers. With an eye to the future, taught by the experience of the past, it was no doubt fortified after the fashion of those days. In the charter of convention by which Stephen declared Henry Plantagenet his successor, the words "Munitionem Hamtoniae" lead to the impression that if it was not done earlier, at least the fourth of the Norman Kings, in his efforts to maintain his regal power, took care to have Southampton placed in a position to defend itself. It was to his successor, Henry II., that the town owed its first incorporation by charter. This was confirmed by more than one of his successors, and John, before he had been three months a king, in his confirmation dated June 27th, 1199, conferred upon the burgesses freedom throughout his dominions from tolls and passage at fairs and markets, and all secular customs. He also farmed to the burgesses, at the yearly rent of £200, the customs of their own port and Portsmouth. The contiguity of the town to the French coast no doubt had its influence in making it the king's wine cellar in this reign, and securing for it in the time of his successor the position of second wine port in England. Some of the large cellars constructed for this trade are still in existence, and so used to the the present day. This, too, was the only port in England where the Portugese could land their Canary wines until the City of London purchased the concession from the town at a handsome
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