Saturday, 26 April 2014

Sick and injured

In the 1600s, sick and injured servicemen would be brought back to Portsmouth after fighting a battle and, before a hospital was built, would be billeted with local families. One such description:

'Following three days battle with the Dutch, in the Channel in 1653, a large number of sick and wounded were landed at Portsmouth, and Dr Daniel Whistler, who was sent down to attend on General Blake, gives a picture of their condition. There was then no hospital. The wounded men were left for hours in the streets before the Navy Commissioners could find lodgings for them in private houses. When they were lodged the surgeons very often did not know where to find them, there was a want of linens and medicine, of wholesome food, and good nursing, the houses were overcrowded, and nothing was done to protect the men against the temptation to drink ardent spirits, which were especially strong at Portsmouth, where the water was then brackish. Of the town itself, the Governor, Nathaniel Whetham, had nothing good to say, dwelling on the 'filthy nastiness of this place', unpaved, undrained, and enduring an epidemic of small pox.

Taken from William Gates, Illustrated History of Portsmouth.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Charles Dickens

"He can touch every chord of human sympathy with an intensity of power which would be almost painful if it were long sustained."

The Hampshire Telegraph describing the last visit of Charles Dickens to his birthplace of Portsmouth in 1866 when he gave a reading.

Friday, 14 June 2013

The Nest of Bishops

St Mary's Church in Portsea became known by this nickname due to its links with several notable clerics. Edgar Jacob, who joined the church at a low ebb but oversaw its rebuilding and a marked growth in congregation, later bacame Bishop of Newcastle; his successor Cosmo Lang went on to be the Archbishop of Canterbury and his successor, Cyril Garbett became Archbishop of York.

Friday, 17 May 2013

A Recovered Guildhall

"When my father and mother visited Portsmouth in 1941, your Guildhall, which my great-grandfather had opened, had been in ruins for less than a month. I am glad today to continue that deep interest which my family have always taken in your affairs by coming here to see this fine building that has risen from those ashes."

An extract from the speech the Queen gave when she opened the newly restored Guildhall on 8 June 1959. The Guildhall had been devastated by German bombing in 1941.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Lots of maps

Due to defensive importance through the centuries, Portsmouth is the most historically mapped town outside London in England. This is an enormous bonus to the historian. The History Centre in the central library has an excellent selection which is free to view daily.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Pacific Glory

Tragedy struck in 1970 when a supertanker carrying crude oil, the Pacific Glory, collided with another, the Allegro, and blew up in the Solent killing thirteen of its crew and injuring many more. The tanker went aground near Sandown on the Isle of Wight. The Portsmouth City Fire Brigade responded with exceptional efficiency in an operation that involved approximately 200 firemen and that took over 40 hours. Due to the promptness of the response pollution from the spill was limited and the resulting slicks dispersed before reaching the local tourist beaches. Three local firemen were awarded the British Empire Medal as a result of their work in this operation.

Monday, 28 January 2013

The Duchess of Portsmouth

Charles II married Catherine of Braganza in Portsmouth as well as making one of his mistresses, Louise de Kerouaille, the Duchess of Portsmouth. Louise was also granted the titles of Countess Petersfield and Baroness Fareham, both nearby towns. She granted the Corporation of Portsmouth two huge silver flagons, bearing the odd motto Loyalty Everywhere, in 1683. These remain in the possession of the City Council today.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Winston becomes a Freeman

"This is an honour which I profoundly value and which I shall always cherish."

Part of Winston Churchill's acceptance speech when on 11 December 1950 he received the Freedom of Portsmouth. He had been a regular visitor to the City throughout his life.

A Year of Development

1968 was a year of exciting and controversial development that changed the landscape in Portsmouth. The redevelopment of Guildhall Square and the building of the civic offices was started (and completed eight years later), the massive but ill fated Portsdown Park development was initiated and the government gave the go-ahead for the A27 Farlington bypass to be built.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Steel Street

'A narrow, ill-ventilated street, composed of small, ill built tenements'

A description of Steel Street, Southsea in 1848 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A hovercraft disaster

A local tragedy struck in March 1970 when a hovercraft on its way from Ryde to Southsea overturned in strong winds and a dangerous sea. The chances were given at ten million to one of such an accident occurring. Twenty two people managed to scramble on to the upturned vessel to await rescue by helicopter. However, five people died including one person presumed missing.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

First ship building

The first warship built in Portsmouth was the Peter Pomegranate launched in 1509.  This was closely followed by the Mary Rose which had a complement of 400 men and caused 'wonder and admiration of all beholders'.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Early Portsmouth

King Alfred the Great started the Navy here in 897. In 957 King Edgar formed the first Channel Fleet which had Portsmouth as its principal base. In 1066 King Harold fitted out a fleet of 700 ships, which cruised in the Solent until false news caused its dispersal enabling William the Conqueror to land at Pevensey. Twenty year later, William was here to oppose Canute. In 1101 Robert, Duke of Normandy, landed here with a powerful force. In 1106, Portsmouth received it First Charter from Henry I. In 1123 the King spent his Whitsuntide here. In 1133 the Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I, landed here with a small force ago assert her right to the throne. In 1174 Henry II left form her taking with him as a prisoner William the Lion, King of Scotland. In 1175 Henry returned with his victorious army from Normandy. In 1182 Henry II before his departure for France 'made his will by the seaside at Portsmouth'.

Taken from The Portsmouth that has Passed by William Gates

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A Terrible Fire

A terrible fire swept through the huge storehouses near the Camber in 1557.  So great were the losses to the people of Portsmouth that Queen Elizabeth I authorised a nationwide collection for their relief.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Cenotaph

Portsmouth lost an estimated 6,000 men and women in World War I. A Mayor's appeal was launched to comemorate this loss and as a result the Cenotaph, detailing the names of the local fallen, was unveiled on the 19 October 1921 before a local crowd of 30,000.

 A third of the appeal money was also given to the Royal Hospital for the building of new wards.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Edward IV

In 1475, in the year he declared war on France, Edward IV reviewed 30,000 military troops on Southsea Common.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Southsea Common

Southsea Common was originally known as Froddington Heath. The earliest records show this area under the control of the Domus Dei, a religious institution on the site of today's Garrison Church. After the Dissolution, it was granted to the Leeke family, Lords of the Manor, who were paid £5,000 by the Government when when they took it over for military use in 1785. When no longer strategically important, in 1922, the local council brought it, also paying £5,000 to Mr Leeke for outstanding manorial rights. It briefly reverted to the army during World War II and the Common remains an extraordinary freely accessible recreational facility for people of Portsmouth today.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Mint

'... in Gold Steet new sovereigns would be tarnished; in Silver Street, silver would rapidly assume the colour of pewter or lead; in Steel Street, steel would be rusted by the noxious vapours arising from accumulations of all kinds of filth and deleterious gases.'

Quoted by J R Martin, 1845

Monday, 8 October 2012

Farlington Marshes

This marshland area on the outskirts of Portsmouth was saved from develoment in 1970 when Portsmouth City Council compulsorily purchased the area for £43,500. It was feared that it may have been sold for development land. Shortly afterwards a lease was given tothe local Wildlife Trust and Farlington has remained one of the most treasured refuges for birds in the country ever since.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Return of a Warrior

In May 1987 crowds lined the harbour entrance to watch the return of HMS Warrior. She had been based in Portsmouth for most of her life. Being the Royal Navy's first ironclad, she was built in 1860 with revolutionary defensive armour plating. She is reputed to have kept the peace on the seas throughout the Empire without ever firing a shot in anger. In later life she became a torpedo training hulk in Portsmouth Harbour. She was rescued in 1979, and restored at a cost of £7,000,000 before becoming the picturesque toursit attraction she is today.