History of Portsmouth

History of Portsmouth

Portsmouth is a port city on the English Channel coast of Hampshire, England. Its history has been influenced by its association with the sea, and its proximity to London, and mainland Europe.


Portus Adurni which later became known as Portchester Castle, was one of the Saxon Shore Forts and was a major base of the Classis Britannica and possibly its Headquarters.


Although there have been settlements in the area since before Roman times, mostly being offshoots of Portchester, Portsmouth is commonly regarded as having been founded in 1180 by John of Gisors (Jean de Gisors). Most early records of Portsmouth are thought to have been destroyed by Norman invaders following the Norman Conquest. The earliest detailed references to Portsmouth can be found in the Southwick Cartularies.

However, the Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names gives the Anglo-Saxon name "Portesmūða" as late 9th century, meaning "mouth [of the harbour called] Portus" (from Latin). In Anglo-Saxon times a folk etymology " [harbour] mouth belonging to a man called Port" arose, which caused a statement in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that in 501 AD "Port and his 2 sons, Bieda and Mægla, came with 2 ships to Britain at the place which is called Portsmouth".



In the Domesday Book there is no mention of Portsmouth. However, settlements that later went on to form part of Portsmouth are listed. These are Buckland, Copnor, Fratton on Portsea Island and Cosham, Wymering and Drayton on the mainland. At this time it is estimated the Portsmouth area had a population not greater than two or three hundred.

While in the primary diocese of Portsea there was a small church prior to 1166 (now St Mary's in Fratton) Portsmouth's first real church came into being in 1181 when John of Gisors granted an acre (4,000 m²) of land to Augustinian monks at the Southwick Priory to build a chapel dedicated to Thomas Becket. This chapel continued to be run by the monks of Southwick Priory until the Reformation after which its possession was transferred to Winchester College. The modern Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral is built on the original location of the chapel.

Growth of the city

In 1194, after King Richard I (The Lionheart) returned from being held captive by Duke Leopold V of Austria, Richard set about summoning a fleet and an army to Portsmouth, which Richard had taken over from John of Gisors. On May 2, 1194 King Richard I gave Portsmouth its first Royal Charter granting permission for the city to hold a fifteen day annual fair (which became known as the Free Market Fair), weekly markets (on Thursdays), to set up a local court to deal with minor matters, and exemption from paying the annual tax ("farm") of £18 a year--instead the money would be used for local matters. The actual physical charter was handed over by the Bishop of Ely William de Longchamps. The present location of the charter is currently unknown but its text survives, as when later royal charters were granted to the city reaffirming and extending its privileges large parts of the original charter were quoted verbatim.

As a crescent and an eight-point star (as appear on the city's coat of arms) were to be found on both the seals of King Richard and William de Longchamps it is commonly thought that this may have been the source of them, although there is no known documentary evidence for this.

King Richard later went on to build a number of houses and a hall in Portsmouth. The hall is thought to have been at the current location of the Clarence Barracks (the area was previously known as Kingshall Green).

In 1200 King John issued another charter to Portsmouth reaffirming the rights and privileges awarded by King Richard. King John's desire to invade Normandy resulted in the establishment of Portsmouth as a permanent naval base.

In 1212 William of Wrotham (Archdeacon of Taunton, Keeper of the King's Ships) started constructing the first docks of Portsmouth. At about the same time Pierre des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, founded "Domus Dei" (Hospital of St Nicholas) which performed its duties as an almshouse and hospice until 1540 when like other religious buildings it was seized by King Henry VIII).

During the thirteenth century Portsmouth was commonly used by King Henry III and Edward I as a base for attacks against France.

By the fourteenth century commercial interests had grown considerably, despite rivalry with the dockyard of nearby Southampton. Common imports included wool, grain, wheat, woad, wax and iron, however the ports largest trade was in wine from Bayonne and Bordeaux.

War with France

In 1338 a French fleet led by Nicholas Béhuchet arrived at Portsmouth docks flying English flags before anyone realised that they were a hostile force. The French burnt down most of the buildings in the town and many of the population were raped and slaughtered, only the local church and Domus Dei survived. As a result of this King Edward III gave the remaining townsfolk exemption from national taxes so that they could afford to rebuild the town.

Only ten years after this devastation the town for the first time was struck by the plague known as the Black Death. In order to prevent the regrowth of Portsmouth as a threat, the French again sacked the city in 1369, 1377 and 1380.

King Henry V was the first king to decide to build permanent fortification in Portsmouth. In 1418 he ordered a wooden Round Tower be built at the mouth of the harbour, which was completed in 1426. However it wasn't until the Tudor dynasty that Portsmouth's defence was seriously dealt with. Under King Henry VIII the Round Tower was rebuilt out of stone and a Square Tower was raised. It was at this time that Robert Brygandine and Sir Reginald Bray, with the support of the king, commenced the building in Portsmouth of the country's first dry dock. In 1527 with some of the money obtained from the dissolution of the monasteries Henry VIII built the fort which became known as Southsea Castle. In 1545, he saw his vice-flagship Mary Rose founder off Southsea Castle, with a loss of about 500 lives, while going into action against the French fleet.

Over the years Portsmouth's fortification was increased by numerous monarchs including King Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth I, although most of these have now been converted into tourist attractions.


19th Century

Admiral Nelson left Portsmouth for the final time in 1805 to command the fleet that would defeat the larger Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar.cite web | title = Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson 1758 - 1805 | publisher = Portsmouth City Council's Economy, Culture and Community Safety | date = | url = http://www.visitportsmouth.co.uk/history/207.htm | accessdate = 2007-04-02] The Royal Navy's reliance on Portsmouth led to the city becoming the most fortified in Europe, with a network of forts circling the city.Fact|date=April 2007

From 1808 the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron, who were tasked to stop the slave trade, operated out of Portsmouth.

On December 21, 1872 a major scientific expedition, the Challenger Expedition, was launched from Portsmouth.

20th century

In 1904 the boundaries of Portsmouth were extended to finally include the whole of Portsea Island. The boundaries were further extended in 1920 and 1932, taking in areas of the mainland.

In 1916 the city experience its first aerial bombardment when a Zeppelin airship bombed it during World War I.cite web | title = The Dockyard at War | publisher = Portsmouth Historic Dockyard | date = | url = http://www.historicdockyard.co.uk/dockyard_war.htm | accessdate = 2007-04-02]

The city was bombed extensively during WW2, destroying many houses and the Guildhall. While most of the city has since been rebuilt, developers still occasionally find unexploded bombs.

Southsea beach and Portsmouth Harbour were military embarkation points for the D-Day landings on June 6 1944. Southwick House, just to the north of Portsmouth, had been chosen as the headquarters for the Supreme Allied Commander, US General Dwight D. Eisenhower, during D-Day.

After the war, much of the city's housing stock was damaged and more was cleared in an attempt to improve the quality of housing. Those people affected by this were moved out from the centre of the city to new developments such as Paulsgrove and Leigh Park.

On 4 July 1968, an estimated 250,000 people witnessed the return of Alec Rose, a greengrocer in Osborne Road, after he completed his single-handed circumnavigation in "Lively Lady"; he was immediately knighted and made a Freeman of the city. 400 motor-boats, yachts, catamarans and canoes welcomed him into harbour.

The University of Portsmouth Gained university status in 1992

21st century

In 2003 erection was started of a 552 feet high Spinnaker Tower sited at Portsmouth Harbour, and celebrating the city's maritime tradition. Completed in 2005, the tower has twin concrete legs meeting at half height to form a single column from which steel sails are mounted; an observation deck at the top provides a view of the city and harbour for tourists.

In late 2004, the Tricorn Centre, dubbed "The ugliest building in the UK" was finally demolished after years of delay and wrangling over the cost of doing so, and controversy as to whether it was worth preserving as an example of sixties Brutalist architecture.

In 2005, Portsmouth was a focus for "Sea Britain", a series of events to mark the 200th anniversary (bicentenary) of Lord Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. In particular, in June, there was the massive "Fleet Review", by HM Queen Elizabeth II and a mock battle (son et lumière) that evening, after dark.


*1181 - Establishment of a church.
*1194 - Portsmouth awarded its Royal Charter
*1212 - Establishment of docks.
*1212 - Domus Dei the first hospital of the city built.
*1256 - Portsmouth given permission to form a local guild of merchants.
*1265 - Town sacked and burnt during the Second Barons' War.
*1338 - French invaders burn down most of the town.
*1348 - The Black Death strikes Portsmouth for the first time.
*1426 - Portsmouth's first permanent defensive works (the Round Tower) completed.
*1449 - Portsmouth placed under Greater Excommunication as a result of the murder of Adam Moleyns the Bishop of Chichester.
*1495 - Britain's first dry dock built at Portsmouth.
*1510 - Mary Rose built in Portsmouth dock yard.
*1527 - Southsea Castle built.
*1561 - Britain's first state lottery funds further fortifications.
*1563 - 300 locals die of the plague.
*1625 - The Plague strikes Portsmouth.
*1729 - Establishment of the Royal Naval Academy.
*1732 - Establishment of Portsmouth Grammar School.
*1747 - Fort Cumberland built at Eastney.
*1760 - The modern Landport Gate built.
*1805 - Nelson's fleet sails from Portsmouth for the Battle of Trafalgar
*1806 - Birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel in Portsmouth.
*1809 - The town of Southsea establishedFact|date=July 2008.
*1811 - Introduction of piped water into Portsmouth.
*1812 - Birth of Charles Dickens in Portsmouth.
*1834 - Portsmouth hit by earthquake.
*1835 - The Municipal Reform Act of 1835 abolishes Southampton's jurisdiction of the port.
*1861 - Clarence Pier built
*1872 - Challenger Expedition launched from Portsmouth
*1890 - Portsmouth Town Hall built.
*1898 - Portsmouth F.C., the city's principal football club was founded.
*1929 - Portsmouth F.C. play their first FA Cup Final but lost 2-0 to Bolton Wanderers
*1926 - Portsmouth elevated to city status.
*1932 - Portsmouth Airport opens.
*1934 - Portsmouth F.C. lose 2-1 to Manchester City their second FA Cup Final
*1939 - Portsmouth F.C. win FA Cup
*1941 - Large areas of the city destroyed in air raids.
*1949 - Portsmouth F.C. crowned Champions of England for the first time.
*1950 - Portsmouth F.C. crowned Champions of England for the second time.
*1966 - The Tricorn Centre opened.
*1966 - HMS "Andromeda" is the last warship launched at Portsmouth Royal Dockyard.
*1971 - Portsmouth Airport closes after a series of accidents.
*1974 - Portsmouth becomes a local government district within the county of Hampshire.
*1991 - The nave of Portsmouth's Anglican cathedral completed.
*1992 - The University of Portsmouth gained university status.
*1994 - Portsmouth was the start and end point for a stage of the Tour de France.
*1997 - City of Portsmouth becomes a unitary authority.
*2000 - Portsmouth suffers flooding due to failure of the emergency water drainage system during heavy rainfall.
*2001 - MyTV (later renamed PortsmouthTV) launched.
*2001 - Gunwharf Quays opened.
*2003 - The Spinnaker Tower, construction begins.
*2004 - The Tricorn Centre demolished, with its last shops closed in 2002.
*2005 - The Spinnaker Tower opened on October 18.
*2006 - The launch of HMS Clyde (P257) marks the return of shipbuilding to the city.
*2008 - Portsmouth F.C. win FA Cup


External links

* [http://www.visitportsmouth.co.uk/media/TimelineAW.pdf Timeline]



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