Southam is a small market town and civil parish in the Stratford-on-Avon district of Warwickshire, England. Southam is on the River Stowe (called "the Brook" by many locals), which flows from Napton-on-the-Hill and joins Warwickshire's River Itchen just outside the town. The town is about east of Leamington Spa, about from Rugby and Daventry, south of Coventry and north of Banbury.
The 2001 census recorded a parish population of 6,509.
Southam was a Royal manor until AD 998, when Ethelred the Unready granted it to Earl Leofwine. When Coventry Priory was founded in 1043, Leofwine's son Leofric, Earl of Mercia granted Southam to it. The Domesday Book records the manor as "Sucham". The Priory, which in the 12th century became the first Coventry Cathedral, kept Southam until the 16th century when it surrendered all its estates to the Crown in the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The present parish church of St James was built in the 14th century. In the 15th century the spire was added and the chancel was rebuilt. The nave's clerestory and present roof were added in the 16th century, along with the present west door. St James' is a Grade I listed building.
In the mediaeval era the town minted its own local currency because local people found regular English currency too high in value for everyday use. In the English Civil War Charles I used Southam's mint to make new coins to pay his troops. The building is early 16th century and is now the Old Mint public house.
Southam has a holy well near the bank of the River Stowe close to the recreation ground. Water from a natural spring feeds the semi-circular well and pours through the mouths of carved stone faces. The water from this well was said to cure eye complaints.
Charles I passed through Southam just before the outbreak of the Civil War and apparently was not made welcome by the townsfolk, who refused to ring the parish church bells. On 23 August 1642 a skirmish was fought outside the town between Parliamentary forces led by Lord Brooke and Royalist forces commanded by the Earl of Northampton. Later that year, Charles stayed in Southam before the Battle of Edgehill. In 1645 Oliver Cromwell and 7,000 Parliamentary troops stayed in the town.
In the stagecoach era Southam became an important stop on the coach road between Coventry and Oxford. Many old coaching inns remain in the town. However, few buildings in Southam date from before 1741, when a large fire devastated the town.
Southam was never on a railway. The Birmingham and Oxford Junction Railway (later part of the Great Western Railway) opened in 1852. It passes southwest of Southam, where it opened station. British Railways (BR) closed the station to goods in 1963 and passengers in 1964. The line remains open as part of the Chiltern Main Line.
The London and North Western Railway completed its Weedon to Marton Junction Line in 1895 and opened station on it north of Southam. British Railways closed the station to passengers in 1958 and goods in 1965.
Southam was in the parliamentary constituency of Stratford-on-Avon until the boundary changes approved by Parliament in June 2007 when it became part of the new constituency of Kenilworth and Southam. The constituency was first contested in the United Kingdom general election, 2010.
Southam's history is commemorated in Southam's Cardall Collection.