About Portsmouth

There is so much to see and do in Portsmouth that one visit will hardly be enough.

Portsmouth is commonly regarded as having been founded in 1180 by John of Gisors even though there were settlements in the area before Roman times. The name Portsmouth means the, 'mouth of the Portus harbour'.

 As a port town, Portsmouth has played an important part in the history

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In  1194, King Richard The Lionheart gave Portsmouth its first Royal Charter granting permission for the city to hold a fifteen day annual  Free Market Fair. Later the king went on to build a number of houses and a hall in Portsmouth.

King John established Portsmouth as a permanent naval base and ordered the construction on the first docks. During the thirteenth century Portsmouth was commonly used by King Henry III and Edward I as a base for attacks against France.

The French had their revenge in  1338 when Nicholas Béhuchet raided Portsmouth and destroyed most of the town. The French returned in 1369, 1377 and 1380 to ensure that Portsmouth did not recover. To defend the country King Henry V built the wooden Round Tower at the mouth of the harbour.

King Henry VIII rebuilt the fortifications in stone, raised a square tower and ordered the construction of the country's first dry dock. In 1527 Henry VIII built Southsea Castle. It was from this vantage point in 1545 that he saw his flagship the Mary Rose capsize whilst in action against the French.

In 1802 Isambard Brunel, father of the more famous Isambard Kingdom Brunel, established  the world's first mass production line to build pulley blocks for rigging on Royal Navy ships.  Nelson sailed from Portsmouth into the pages of history in 1805 with the famous victory at Trafalgar. 

This military history has continued into recent times and right up to the present day. The city suffered extensive bombing during  both World Wars and Southsea beach and Portsmouth Harbour were embarkation points for the D-Day landings in 1944. Southwick House, just to the north of Portsmouth served as the headquarters for the Supreme Allied Commander, US General Dwight D. Eisenhower, during D-Day. In 2007, HMS Endurance was granted the freedom of  the city on her return from a successful nine month deployment working closely with scientists researching into climate change and ozone depletion.

Portsmouth's unique history makes it  a fascinating place to visit.  Its special  military position led to the building of a network of forts which circled the city by land and sea. There are military museums and monuments, places of significance and historic views.