History of Portsmouth started about 1180 when a merchant called Jean De Gisors founded a little town in South-West corner of Portsea Island. Jean de Gisors was a Norman lord of the fortress of Gisors in Normandy, where meetings were traditionally convened between English and French kings. Initially he was a vassal of the king of England – Henry II and then Richard I.
It is a port city and naval base on England’s south coast, mostly spread around Portsea Island. It’s known for its maritime heritage and Historic Dockyards. We can find there home to the interactive National Museum of the Royal Navy, the wooden warship HMS Victory, where Nelson died in the Battle of Trafalgar and HMS Warrior 1860. There is also Tudor ship, Mary Rose.
For centuries Britain, a maritime superpower, relied on the fleets based here to maintain and expand its vast empire. As an obvious military target, Portsmouth was nearly flattened by World War II bombs but has been rebuild in 1945. Its cathedral survived only because the Nazis used it as a beacon to help guide their bombs. Due to its post-war construction hastily and poorly planned, the city became infamous for its bad architecture, but an impressive gentrification its under way.
As the Navy shrinks and tourism grows, Portsmouth is enjoying new life. Underneath Spinnaker Tower, its formerly gritty industrial waterfront has been transformed into a vital shopping and restaurants complex. The once-formidable ramparts are now a park-like promenade lined with historic points of interest, mostly ignored by those simply enjoying a refreshing stroll.
With the notoriously blustery weather, local people gather at the base of the wall which is nick-named the Hot Walls as to being out of the wind and retains warmth from the unreliable English sun. At the tip of the ramparts, formerly salty old pubs now serve trendy crowd, not sailors anymore. Their conversations are punctuated by the passage of massive ships and ferries powering through the narrow mouth of the harbour.
Charles Dickens said once: ”I was born at Portsmouth on English seaport town principally remarkable for mud, Jews and sailors, my father holding in those days a situation under government in the Navy Pay Office”…where he earned £110 per year. The Dickens family first lived at number 13 Marlin Terrace where they paid £35 per year for their rent.
When they looked out the window they could see cherry orchards, one windmill and there was very low marshy area sloping down to the sea. Today that view is very different. In Dickens’ times there were slums around ports, full of nasty smell and dangerous people. Dickens wrote about Portsmouth in one of his novels, it was Nicholas Nickleby who first came to Portsmouth to join a group of touring actors. Dickens moved out from Portsmouth when he was three years old, but kept coming back to the theatre to give performances which he loved.
There are number of exceptional places whether historical strange or unique, they help to create the area’s of identity. Lamps Fort is on Southsea sunny seafront, that is a pretty spot with some compelling history. Located next to Canoe Lake is a Rose Garden hidden behind the large walls of the dismantled runs which once was a disused fortification built on Portsea Island as a part of the defence for the Naval Base in Portsmouth.
The original launched fort was constructed in the early 19th century but by 1827 part of the structure had fallen into the sea, was rebuilt though and used as part of Portsmouth Harbour defence in the World War I. The fortified walls remains as well as a few mounts for defensive guns. Nowadays as a Rose Garden, it also contains what seems to be the only clue that joins with his twinned city of Missouri, Japan – a small wooden archway which takes us to the Japanese Zen Garden. Garden itself has 40 varieties of roses.
Paul’s Grove Chalk Pit is at the end of an area of rocky grassland. During World War II that was the underground network of tunnels, was used as a headquarters for Operations Overlord or D-Day. There are two tunnels clearly visible about a third of the way up the chalk base.
Hilsea Bastion Gardens is not far away from Chalk Pit, which was military fortification built on the northern bank of the island to protect against attacks Portsmouth, which usually could happen from the sea but there were many ships and fortifications, so attackers decided to land on the beach further up and walk around, to be able to attack Portsmouth from the land. Hilsea Bastion was build to stand against it.
Portsmouth as an old city has a lot to offer for everyone, worth to visit during whole year long, beautiful at Christmas time and lively during summer, great place to be, live or just visit.