Holy Rood - from the Anglo Saxon for holy cross - has gone through several manifestations during its almost 1000 years of existence.

The earliest church may have been made of wood and probably dates from around 950 when the Saxon population of Hamwic moved west to a higher and more easily defended location.

After 1066 the Normans took control of the town and it is probable that the church would have then been rebuilt in stone.

Unfortunately, by the early 14th century it was in a poor state of repair and its position, right in the middle of English Street, now the High Street, was a cause of some inconvenience so wealthy merchants rebuilt the church on its present site.

The church was renovated in the 15th century and was largely rebuilt. The house of worship donned many original features in 1848-9, but the most drastic transformation occurred on November 30, 1940.

In what has been called the Southampton Blitz, swathes of the High Street were destroyed by incendiary bombs.

Eye witnesses describe the church being consumed by flames and recall the eerie sound of the bells ringing because of the effects of the heat.

Come December 1, Holy Rood was a smoking, blackened ruin.

As early as 1946 the proposal was put forward that the church should be preserved as a ruin and dedicated to those in the Merchant Navy who lost their lives at sea.

Since 1957 it has truly become the sailor’s church, containing many memorials to individuals and groups.

Perhaps the most poignant of these is the Titanic Crew Memorial. This was fashioned out of Portland stone by city stonemasons, Garret and Haysom.

Prior to 1970 it was located at the entrance to the Common but persistent vandalism led to its relocation in the refuge of Holy Rood.

It is diminutive in comparison with the elaborate bronze monument to the engineer officers in East Park. The heroism of these men who stayed at their posts to keep the lights on, caught the imagination of the public and subscriptions poured in.

The smaller memorial, in contrast, was paid for by the relatives and friends of the crew who were, themselves, very poor. At its unveiling in 1915 the mayor was quite apologetic and explained why it had taken so long to raise the money.

Unsurprisingly there is a memorial to the most recent conflict in which the Merchant Navy were involved.

Nobody who was living in the city at the time of the Falklands War will ever forget when the Southampton based liners the QE2 and Canberra were hastily converted into troop ships and departed for the South Atlantic. Nor will they forget the unrestrained celebrations when they sailed safely back up the Solent two months later.

A plaque on the front of the church memorialises someone who was not a sailor but nevertheless had very strong links with the seafaring life.

One of the staples of the Last Night of the Proms is the Fantasia on British Sea-Songs and one of them, ‘Tom Bowling’, usually evinces crocodile tears from the Promenaders. It was written by Charles Dibdin who was born in Southampton in 1745, in memory of his brother who was a ship’s captain.

Dibdin was a prolific musician with several operas to his name but what brought him most popularity and income were his sea ballads.

During the Napoleonic Wars, Dibdin’s songs helped to maintain popular feeling against France and in recognition the government granted him a pension.

The memorial to Captain Fryatt was unveiled by members of his family in the centenary year of his death.

He was born in Southampton in 1872 and went onto to become the captain of various merchant ships and therefore was considered a non-combatant in WW1.

In 1915 he rammed a U-boat which was trying to torpedo his ship.

A year later he was arrested, court martialled and executed by the Germans.