Posts Tagged ‘Southsea’

A few days in Portsmouth and a chance to explore the large natural harbours that are found in this area of southern England.

Arriving in Portsmouth in the early afternoon I made my way to Southsea seafront.

On the rocks below Southsea Castle, there is a winter roost of Purple Sandpiper, an uncommon wader which is a winter visitor to the UK and is only found in a few places in Southern England.

The waves are battering the rocks, but I manage to find 2 Purple Sandpipers braving the waves (there have been up to 12 there this winter).

In 1623 a survey of the Tudor castle at Southsea found that many of the guns were unusable and that the garrison had no gunpowder stored on site. The deterioration of the castle continued following a fire in 1627 which gutted many of the buildings. It was still in use however during the Civil War and in 1642 it was captured by the parliamentarians. In 1680, following the restoration, Charles II built an enlarged castle with 30 guns.



However by 1770 things had been allowed to deteriorate and a document describes the castle as being a shameful ruin and plans were made for its demolition. However renewed risks of French invasion called for these plans to be put on hold and the castle was further strengthened in 1793 and in 1814.


In the 1820s the lighthouse was added to the castle and this remained in service to 1927.


The original Southsea Castle was built in the mid-16th century following Henry VIII’s break with the church of Rome and the increased likelihood of invasion from continental Europe. In order to counter this Henry built a series of castles and keeps around the coast of southern and south-eastern England particularly covering places where an army could land or protecting the anchorages of his ships. There was an extensive series of forts and castles guarding Portsmouth Harbour and Southampton water.


Artists impression of original Southsea castle 1544

Artists impression of original Southsea castle 1544

Picture showing an attempted French invasion in 1545. Southsea castle can be seen in the foregound

Picture showing an attempted French invasion in 1545. Southsea castle can be seen in the foregound

Tudor Gun crew at Southsea Castle

Tudor Gun crew at Southsea Castle

    The Crimean war memorial

Crimea War Memorial, Southsea

Photo by Shaun (

This memorial was erected in memory of the soldiers and sailors from the Crimean War who made their way back to Portsmouth but subsequently died of their wounds and were buried in Portsmouth garrison. It was elected by the debating society of Portsmouth and the townspeople. It is unusual in that it doesn’t actually record any details of those for whom it was erected.

    The HMS Chesapeake memorial


This memorial commemorates the men of HMS Chesapeake who served in India (1857-58), Arabia (1858-59) and China(1859-61).
On 25th June 1859 eighty-nine men were killed and a further three hundred and forty five were wounded during a Royal Navy campaign to take the Taku Forts in China. In their memory the HMS Chesapeake memorial was erected on Southsea Seafront looking out across the Solent. The memorial consists of a corniced polished granite column resting on a square base. Atop the column is a bronze tripod together with a prominent naval crown.

    The Shannon Naval Brigade memorial


During the 19th century it was not uncommon for ships crews to be detailed to land duties. The Shannon Naval Brigade consisting of 23 officers, 54 Marines and 329 seamen left their ship in Calcutta in August 1857 under the command of Capt William Peel. They took with them 6 8 inch guns and travel to India’s North West province. In October of that year they took part in the Battle of Kedjiva and the following month fought in the relief of Lucknow. In January of the following year they took part in the Battle of Kallee-Nuddee and in March were involved in the recapture of Lucknow. Captain Peel died of smallpox the following month and eventually in August 1858, a year after they had left, the Shannon Naval Brigade returned to their ship in Calcutta. During their year on land they were awarded five Victoria crosses – four during the relief of Lucknow in 1857 and one during its recapture the following year. The monument which stands on Southsea Esplanade was raised by the officers and crew of HMS Shannon in memory of Capt Peel and the men who died during the India campaign. The metal sculpture on top is made from gunmetal taken from a gun captured by the brigade at Lucknow

    The Portsmouth Naval Monument


This monument was built after the First World War and extended after the Second World War to commemorate the naval officers and ratings who died at sea after sailing from the Port of Portsmouth and who were buried at sea. It is one of a number of similar memorials at Plymouth, Chatham, Liverpool and at Tower Hill in London. The memorial at Portsmouth as 24,588 names on it


A 68 pounder from 1853. This was one of the largest and last of the smooth-bore cannons. it is thought to have taken part in the siege of Sebastopol in the Crimea.


A 9 inch RML gun from 1868. This was one of the first rifled muzzle loading gunsand guns like this may have been stationed at Southsea Castle. The one currently on display was taken from an artillery battery on the Isle of Wight.

A large Canon which could be moved on a wheeled framework to increase the arc of fire. The mechanism is similar to that used on the bow and stern chasers seen on HMS Warrior.

When I was in Southsea a couple weeks ago I was delighted to find that there was still a commercial hovercraft service running across to the Isle of Wight. This brought back some memories for me of when as a child I went to the Isle of Wight a number of times for a holiday and on some of those occasions we travelled by the hovercraft.



I remember when Hovercraft was seen as the cross channel transport of the future. Larger and larger Hovercraft were built including ones that could carry cars and other vehicles. These services originally started running from the ferry ports but with in a few years it had been decided to build a dedicated international hoverport at Pegwell Bay in Kent. In its heyday it was very reminiscent of an international airport.It opened for traffic in 1969.

photo by Max Montagut ( )

However someone miscalculated somewhere and within 12 years the hoverport was closed and abandoned with remaining passenger services transferring back to Dover docks. I remember visiting Pegwell Bay in the 1980s and looking down the coast at the buildings of the hoverport standing there abandoned and unused.

By the end of the 1980s all the buildings had been demolished.
Pegwell Bay Hoverport
Photo by Adam Djemil ( )

The large hovercraft that formed the car / passenger services across the Channel were a sight to see. As a child I found it amazing that just air-power would lift something so heavy; so big and containing cars and then traverse across the water. Of course one of the big drawbacks to the hovercraft was that it was very susceptible to sea and weather conditions unlike the ferries which could sail in most conditions. It may have been this unreliability which eventually contributed to the demise of the service.

Hovershow 2009 - SR-N4
Photo by Nick ( )

From Wikipedia:

The Mountbatten class hovercraft or SR-N4 (Saunders-Roe Nautical 4) was a large passenger and vehicle carrying hovercraft built by the British Hovercraft Corporation (BHC). BHC was formed by the merger of Saunders-Roe and Vickers Supermarine in 1966. Work on the SR-N4 began in 1965 and the first trials took place in early 1968.

The SR-N4 was the largest hovercraft built to that date, designed to carry 254 passengers in two cabins besides a two-lane automobile bay which held up to 30 cars. Cars were driven from a bow ramp just forward of the cockpit / wheelhouse. The first design was 40 metres (131 ft) long, weighed 190 long tons (193 t), was capable of 83 knots (154 km/h) and could cruise at over 60 knots (111 km/h).