Sunday, 25 August 2013


Today we drove to see the Portchester Castle with it’s commanding location has made it a major factor in the Solent's defences for hundreds of years. The most impressive and best-preserved of the Roman 'Saxon Shore' forts, Portchester Castle was originally built in the late 3rd century.

Portchester Castle is a medieval castle built within a former Roman Fort. Probably founded in the late 11th century, Portchester was a baronial castle taken under royal control in 1154. The monarchy controlled the castle for several centuries and it was a favoured hunting lodge of King John. It was besieged and captured by the French in 1216 before permanently returning to English control shortly thereafter.

Occupying a commanding position at the head of Portsmouth Harbour, in the medieval period Portchester was an important port. The castle saw the disembarkation for several campaigns to France led by England's kings. In anticipation of a French invasion during the first quarter of the 14th century, Edward II spent £1,100 repairing and reinforcing Portchester Castle. A plot to overthrow Henry V was discovered and the culprits apprehended at Portchester; this event features in Shakespeare's play, Henry V. Later in its history, the castle was used as a prison.

The castle passed out of royal control in 1632 when Charles I sold it to Sir William Uvedale. Since then, Portchester Castle has passed through his successors, the Thistlethwaite family. The castle did not witness fighting during the English Civil War, though for a short time in 1644 it was garrisoned by Parlimentarian dragoons. One of the roles castles commonly filled was that of a prison. From the late 17th century onwards this became Portchester's most important function. In 1665, 500 prisoners from the Second Anglo Dutch War (1665–1667) were held at the castle. Some were housed in the church in the outer bailey. They damaged the building by setting it on fire. The church was not repaired until some 40 years later. Between 1702 and 1712 the Crown leased Portchester Castle from the Uvedales to incarcerate prisoners from the Spanish War of Succession. The first detailed accounts of the prisoners' conditions come from the middle of the century. It was last used in the 19th century as a gaol for over 7,000 French prisoners of the Napoleonic Wars.

Graffiti from the prisons note the 1736 date

St Mary's Church

We then drove into Portsmouth to see the historical port area and city buildings. The stunning sleek, black lines of Britain's first iron-hulled, armoured warship HMS Warrior, can be seen in the harbour.

Warrior, launched in 1860, was the pride of Queen Victoria's fleet. Powered by steam and sail, she was the largest, fastest and most powerful ship of her day and had a profound effect on naval architecture. Warrior was, in her time, the ultimate deterrent. Yet within a few years she was obsolete. Restored and back at home in Portsmouth, Warrior now serves as museum, monument & visitor attraction.

HMS Warrior 1860
Soaring 170 metres above Portsmouth Harbour and the Solent, the Spinnaker Tower is taller than the London Eye, Blackpool Tower and Big Ben and has already established itself as a national icon for Britain. Situated on the waterfront at Gunwharf Quays, it offers amazing 350º panoramic views of Portsmouth Harbour, the South coast and the Isle of Wight, with views stretching out for up to 23 miles.

Spinnaker Tower

Victoria Park was officially opened on 25 May 1878 and was the first public park to be opened in Portsmouth. It was designed by Alexander McKenzie. It has a total area of around 15 acres (61,000 m2) and is planted with trees, shrubs and flowers. The centre of the park features an enclosed area which inhabits animals such as birds, rabbits and guinea pigs.

Victoria Regina 1857 -1901
The building, completed in 1890,[1] was designed in the neo-classical style by architect William Hill, who was responsible for the design of Bolton Town Hall. Local architect Charles Bevis, in partnership with Hill, directed the construction. Hill died before the building was completed and Bevis added to the design. The building was originally the town hall, but on 21 April 1926 Portsmouth was raised to the status of a city and the town hall was renamed the Guildhall. The Guildhall has a capacity of up to 2000. On 10 January 1941, during the Second World War, it was hit by incendiary bombs and gutted. The interior and roof were destroyed, with just the outer walls and tower remaining, albeit fire-damaged. It was rebuilt after the war at a cost of £1.5 million, using war compensation funds, and on 8 June 1959 Her Majesty the Queen performed the re-opening ceremony. The interior was altered from the original and the external style is missing much of its detail, especially the dome above the clock and the finials atop the balustrades around the roof.


The New Theatre Royal is a Victorian theatre in the centre of Portsmouth. The building was constructed in 1854 as Landport Hall. It was converted to a theatre two years later. It was rebuilt in 1884 by Charles J Phipps and again in 1900 by Frank Matcham. The theatre has been designated a Grade II listed building by English Heritage.
New Theatre Royal 
This ornate Edwardian pub, designed by A H Bone in 1906, includes six ornately carved caryatids flanking the entrance doors and is of similar design to the former Air Balloon on Mile End Road. Being located on Guildhall Walk, the pub used to be busy with young clubbers most nights, whilst daytime custom was much more thin on the ground. After a short spell as a pseudo-American-style sports bar called Pitchers in the late 1990s it later thankfully regained its old identity, though never seemed to be able to attain similar levels of custom, mainly due to the multitude of other bars that opened on Guildhall Walk throughout the 1990s.

However, after a period of closure in 2008, which initially looked ominous, the pub was rescued by national pub company JD Wetherspoon, who reopened the house following an extensive refurbishment in June 2009. However, by mid 2012 the company had decided to offload the pub as it was not performing to expectations. In early February 2013 a new company, Brewhouse & Kitchen secured the lease of the pub, carrying out a full refurbishment and installing a microbrewery. The pub reopened on 4th March 2013, serving a choice of own-brewed cask ales, as well as craft keg beers on draught.

The White Swan

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