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For other places with the same name, see Portsmouth (disambiguation).
City of Portsmouth
City & unitary authority area
Clockwise from top: Portsmouth viewed from Portsdown Hill, HMS Victory,  Portsmouth Guildhall, Portsmouth Cathedral, the Spinnaker Tower alongside Portsmouth Harbour at night, Gunwharf Quays, Portchester Castle and an aerial view of Old Portsmouth
Clockwise from top: Portsmouth viewed from Portsdown Hill, HMS Victory, Portsmouth Guildhall, Portsmouth Cathedral, the Spinnaker Tower alongside Portsmouth Harbour at night, Gunwharf Quays, Portchester Castle and an aerial view of Old Portsmouth
Flag of Portsmouth
Nickname(s): Pompey
Motto: Heaven's Light Our Guide
Location within Hampshire
Location within Hampshire
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Constituent country England
Region South East England
Ceremonial county Hampshire
Admin HQ Portsmouth City Centre
 • Type Unitary authority, City
 • Governing body Portsmouth City Council
 • Leadership Leader & Cabinet
 • City & unitary authority area 15.54 sq mi (40.25 km2)
Population (mid-2014 est.)
 • City & unitary authority area 209,085 (Ranked 76th)[2][3]
 • Urban 855,679
 • Metro 1,547,000[1]
 • Ethnicity
(United Kingdom Census 2006 Estimate)[4]
91.4% White
3.6% S.Asian
1.2% Black
1.3% Mixed
2.5% Chinese and other
Time zone GMT (UTC0)
 • Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)
Postal code PO1 – PO8 Inclusive
Area code(s) 023
Website Portsmouth City Council

Portsmouth (Listeni/ˈpɔərtsməθ/) is a large port city in the ceremonial county of Hampshire on the south coast of England. Located mainly on Portsea Island with a population of 205,400, it is the United Kingdom's only island city, and is also the only city in the British Isles with a greater population density than London. Portsmouth is situated 64 miles (103 km) south-west of London and 19 miles (31 km) south-east of Southampton. The city forms part of the South Hampshire built-up area, which also covers Southampton and the towns of Havant, Waterlooville, Eastleigh, Fareham and Gosport. With about 860,000 residents, it is the 6th largest urban area in England and the largest in South East England, forming the centre of one of the United Kingdom's most populous metropolitan areas with a population in excess of one million.

The city's history can be traced to Roman times. A significant naval port for centuries, Portsmouth has the world's oldest dry dock and was England's first line of defence during the French invasion in 1545. Special fortifications were built in 1859 in anticipation of another invasion from continental Europe. By the early-19th century, Portsmouth was the most heavily fortified city in the world, and important in the expansion of the British Empire throughout Pax Britannica. The world's first mass production line was set up in the city, making it the most industrialised site in the world. During the Second World War, the city was a pivotal embarkation point for the D-Day landings and was bombed extensively in the Portsmouth Blitz, which resulted in the deaths of 930 people. In 1982, the city housed the entirety of the attacking forces in the Falklands War. Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia left the city to oversee the transfer of Hong Kong in 1997.

Portsmouth is home to some famous ships, including HMS Warrior, the Tudor carrack Mary Rose and Horatio Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory (the world's oldest naval ship still in commission). Portsmouth is among the few British cities with two cathedrals: the Anglican Cathedral of St Thomas and the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St John the Evangelist. The waterfront and Portsmouth Harbour are dominated by the Spinnaker Tower, one of the United Kingdom's tallest structures at 560 feet (170 m). The former HMS Vernon naval shore establishment has been redeveloped as a retail park known as Gunwharf Quays. Portsmouth International Port is a commercial cruise ship and ferry port for international destinations. Southsea is a seaside resort with a pier amusement park and medieval castle.

The city and its football club are nicknamed "Pompey". HMNB Portsmouth is the largest dockyard for the Royal Navy and is home to two-thirds of the UK's surface fleet. The local authority, Portsmouth City Council, was given unitary authority status in 1997. The city is the birthplace of author Charles Dickens and engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.


Main article: History of Portsmouth

Early history[edit]

The city's Old English name "Portesmuða" is derived from port, meaning a haven, and muða the mouth of a large river or estuary.[5] Winston Churchill in his A History of the English-Speaking Peoples relates the story that Portsmouth was founded by Port, the pirate.[6][7] Other sources maintain the town was founded in 1180 by the Anglo-Norman merchant Jean de Gisors.[8]

The Romans built a fort at nearby Portchester,[9] which they named Portus Adurni.[10] Although Portsmouth was not mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086,[11] it had been mentioned in an Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for the year 501: Her cwom Port on Bretene 7 his .ii. suna Bieda 7 Mægla mid .ii. scipum on þære stowe þe is gecueden Portesmuþa 7 ofslogon anne giongne brettiscmonnan, swiþe æþelne monnan.[a][12] The Domesday survey mentions several nearby settlements which were incorporated into the city.[11]

The earliest detailed references to Portsmouth are found in the-13th century Southwick Cartularies,[13] although its first chapel, dedicated to Thomas Becket, was built in 1185.[14] The chapel was rebuilt and developed into the Anglican cathedral.[15][16]

When King Richard I returned from captivity in Austria in 1194 he summoned the fleet and an army to the town. On 2 May, he granted a Royal charter giving permission for an annual fifteen-day "Free Market Fair", weekly markets, and a local court to deal with minor matters. The borough was exempted from paying an annual tax of £18, so that the money could be used for other matters.[11][17] Richard granted the town the arms of Isaac Komnenos of Cyprus, whom he had defeated during the Third Crusade in 1191, reflecting a significant involvement of local soldiers, sailors and vessels in he holy war.[18] The College of Arms recorded the crescent and star in gold on a blue shield the as the borough's coat of arms.[19]

The Round Tower was built in 1418 to defend the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour.

In 1200, King John reaffirmed the rights and privileges awarded by Richard I. King John's desire to invade Normandy resulted in the establishment of the permanent naval base and construction of the first docks by William of Wrotham from 1212 onwards.[11] During the 13th century the port was used by Henry III and Edward I as a base for attacks against France. By the following century, commercial interests had grown and its imports included wool, grain, wheat, woad, wax and iron, although the largest trade was in wine from Bayonne and Bordeaux.[20] In 1338 a French fleet led by Nicholas Béhuchet raided Portsmouth, destroying much of the town,[21] with only the local church and hospital surviving.[22] After the raid, Edward III gave the town exemption from national taxes to aid reconstruction.[23] Ten years later, in 1348, the town was struck by the Black Death, causing the death of Portsmouth's rector, Walter de Corf.[24] As the regrowth of Portsmouth represented a threat to the French, they again sacked it in 1369, 1377 and 1380.[21][25]

Henry V built the first permanent fortifications of Portsmouth. In 1418 he ordered a wooden Round Tower to be built at the mouth of the harbour, which was completed in 1426. Henry VII rebuilt the fortifications with stone, raised a square tower, and assisted Robert Brygandine and Sir Reginald Bray in the construction of the world's first dry dock.[26][27] Although King Alfred may have used Portsmouth to build ships as early as the 9th century, the first warship recorded as constructed in the town was the Sweepstake, built in the dry dock in 1497.[28]

In 1544, Henry VIII built Southsea Castle, financed by the Dissolution of the Monasteries, in anticipation of a French invasion. He decreed that Portsmouth should be the home of the Royal Navy.[29] In 1545, from Southsea Castle, he witnessed his flagship Mary Rose sink with the loss of about 500 lives, while going into action against the French fleet in the Battle of the Solent.[30] Over the years, Portsmouth's fortifications were rebuilt and improved by successive monarchs. In 1563, Portsmouth suffered from an outbreak of a plague, resulting in about 300 deaths out of the town's population of 2000.[25]

Stuart to Georgian period[edit]

In 1628, the unpopular military adviser of Charles I, George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, was stabbed to death in an Old Portsmouth pub by war veteran John Felton.[11] The murder took place in the "Greyhound" pub (popularly known as "The Spotted Dog") on the main High Street. Now a private building called Buckingham House, it bears a commemorative plaque marking the event.[31] For his crime, Fenton was hanged and his body was left in chains to the east of the town, as a warning to others.[25]

Most residents, including the mayor, supported the parliamentarians during the English Civil War, although its military governor, Colonel Goring, supported the royalists.[25] The town became a major base for the parliamentarian navy and was blockaded from the sea. Parliamentarian troops were sent to besiege Portsmouth by land; the guns of Southsea Castle were fired at the royalist garrison in the town. Across the harbour, parliamentarians in Gosport joined in the assault, their guns damaged St Thomas's Church.[25][32] On 5 September 1642, the remaining royalists in the garrison at the Square Tower were forced to surrender after Goring threatened to blow it up with gunpowder. In return, he and his garrison were allowed safe passage.[32][33]

Under the Commonwealth of England, Robert Blake, the father of the Royal Navy, used Portsmouth as his main base during both the First Anglo-Dutch War and the Anglo Spanish War in 1652 and 1654, respectively. He died within sight of the town after his final cruise off Cádiz.[33] After the end of the Civil War in in 1646, Portsmouth began to prosper as a town. In 1650, the first ship to be built in the town for over 100 years, named Portsmouth, was launched in the dockyard. Between 1650 and 1660, twelve ships were built in the town. Shortly after the restoration of Monarchy, Charles II married Catherine of Braganza in Portsmouth.[25] During the latter half of the 17th century the town continued to grow; a new wharf was constructed in 1663 for military use, and in 1665 a mast pond was dug out. Between 1667 and 1685 the fortifications around the town were rebuilt. New walls were constructed with bastions and two moats were dug outside the walls, making Portsmouth one of the most heavily fortified towns in Europe.[25]

In 1759, General James Wolfe sailed from Portsmouth to Canada on an ill-fated expedition to capture Quebec, which culminated in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Paving of the town's streets was completed in 1773 at the cost of £8,886.[11] Two years later, on 30 May 1775, Captain James Cook arrived in Portsmouth on board the HMS Endeavour after circumnavigating the world.[11][34] On 13 May 1787, eleven ships sailed from Portsmouth to establish the first European colony in Australia, marking the beginning of prisoner transportation to that continent.[35][36] In the same year, Captain William Bligh of the HMS Bounty set sail from Portsmouth.[11]

The city's nickname Pompey is thought to have derived from the log entry "Pom. P." (meaning Portsmouth Point) made as ships entered Portsmouth Harbour. Navigational charts use this abbreviation.[37] Another theory is that it is named after the harbour's guardship, Pompee, a 74-gun French battleship captured in 1793.[38]

Industrial Revolution to Victorian[edit]

HMS Warrior (launched in 1860) has been restored to its original Victorian condition.

Portsmouth has a long history of supporting the Royal Navy logistically, leading to its importance in the development of the Industrial Revolution. Marc Isambard Brunel, the father of famed engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, established the world's first mass production line at the Portsmouth Block Mills in 1802. It produced pulley blocks for rigging on the Royal Navy's ships.[39] The first set of machines to make medium blocks were installed in January 1803, the second set in the May, and the final set for large blocks added in March 1805. By September 1807 the Portsmouth Block Mills were able to fulfil all the needs of the Royal Navy – in 1808 it produced 130,000 blocks.[40] By the turn of the 19th century, the town had the largest industrial site in the world with a workforce of 8000 and an annual budget of £570,000.[41]

In 1805, Admiral Horatio Nelson left Portsmouth for the last time to command the fleet that defeated the larger Franco-Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar.[11] The Royal Navy's reliance on Portsmouth led to it becoming the most fortified in the world,[42] with a network of Palmerston Forts encircling the town.[25] In the same year the first steam carriage, built for 12 people, was commissioned in Portsmouth, and in the following year Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born in the town.[11] From 1808 the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron, which was tasked to stop the slave trade, operated out of Portsmouth.[43] In 1818 John Pounds began teaching the working class children of Portsmouth in what became the country's first ragged school.[44] The resulting movement aimed to provide education to all children, regardless of their social class and ability to pay.[45]

In April 1811, Portsmouth obtained its first piped water supply from the Portsea Island company;[46] however it was only available to the upper and middle classes.[25] The water supply contributed water to approximately 4500 of the 14,000 houses, generating a revenue of £5000 a year.[46] By 1819, five hundred workers who resided in the town emigrated to the United States. In 1820 the Portsea Improvement Commissioners installed gas street lighting throughout the town,[11] with Old Portsmouth receiving them three years later.[25] Portsmouth was hit by an earthquake tremor on 3 August 1835; it was described as a "shock and rumbling sound" at nearby Emsworth.[47]

During the 19th century, Portsmouth continued to grow and expanded across Portsea Island. By the 1860s the village of Buckland had been merged with the expanding town, and by the next decade Fratton and Stramshaw had been incorporated into the spreading town. Between 1865 and 1870 the council built sewers, after more than 800 people died in a cholera epidemic. A bylaw stated that any house within 100 feet (30 m) of a sewer had to be connected to it.[11] By 1871 the population of the town had risen to 100,000,[25] although the national census at that time gave the population as 113,569.[11] A working class suburb was constructed during the 1870s; around 1820 houses were being built along large patches of land owned by a Mr Somers. The suburb was eventually named Somerstown, in honour of the landowner.[11] Despite public health improvements by the council, 514 people died in a smallpox epidemic in 1872. Around this time, a horse tramway service opened from Old Portsmouth to North End.[11] On 21 December 1872 a major scientific expedition, the Challenger expedition, was launched from Portsmouth.[48][49]

First to Second World War[edit]

George VI inspecting the crew of the HNoMS Draug in Portsmouth during the Second World War

As a vital port for the Royal Navy, Portsmouth played roles in both world wars. In 1916, the town experienced its first aerial bombardment when a Zeppelin airship bombed it.[50] During the First World War, the number of people who worked at the dockyard had risen to 23,000, although it had fallen to 9000 when the war ended.[25] Portsmouth was granted city status in 1926, following a long campaign by the borough council. The application was made on the grounds that Portsmouth was the "first naval port of the kingdom".[51] In 1929 the city council added the motto "Heaven's Light Our Guide" to the medieval coat of arms. Except from referring to the celestial objects in the arms, the motto was that of the Star of India; this recalled that troopships bound for British India left from the port.[19][52] The crest and supporters are based on those of the royal arms, but altered to show the city's maritime connections: the lions and unicorn have been given fish tails, and a naval crown placed around the unicorn.[52] Around the unicorn is wrapped a representation of "The Mighty Chain of Iron", a Tudor defensive boom across Portsmouth Harbour.[53]

During the Second World War, the city was bombed extensively in the Portsmouth Blitz, destroying most of its three main shopping areas.[11] The city's status as a major port was the key factor in the Luftwaffe's decision to bomb it so heavily. The Guildhall was hit by an incendiary bomb, which burnt out the interior, although the civic plate was retrieved unharmed from a vault under its stairs.[54] Many of the city's homes were damaged and whole areas in Landport and Old Portsmouth destroyed.[55] The air raids caused a total of 930 deaths and almost 3000 wounded,[54] especially in the dockyard and military establishments.[56] A total of 67 air raids occurred in the city between July 1940 and May 1944, comprising the destruction of 6625 houses and a further of 6549 severely damaged.[25]

Portsmouth Harbour and the surrounding city served as a vital military embarkation point for the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944. Southwick House, just to the north of the city, had been chosen as the headquarters for the Supreme Allied Commander, US General Dwight D. Eisenhower.[11][57] On 15 July 1944 an experimental V-1 flying bomb hit Newcomen Road, killing 15 people.[25]


After the war, much of the city's housing stock was damaged and more was cleared in an attempt to improve the quality of dwellings. Before permanent accommodations could be built, Portsmouth City Council built prefabs for those who had lost their homes. Between 1945 and 1947, more than 700 prefab houses were constructed – some were erected over bomb sites.[25] The first permanent houses were built away from the city centre to new developments such as Paulsgrove and Leigh Park,[58] with construction of council estates in Paulsgrove being completed in 1953. In Leigh Park, the first housing estates were completed in 1949, though building work in the area continued until 1974.[25] While most of the city has since been rebuilt, developers still occasionally find unexploded bombs in the area, such as on the site of the destroyed Hippodrome theatre in 1984.[59] Despite improvements made by the city council to build new accommodations, a survey made in 1955 concluded that 7000 houses in Portsmouth were unfit for human habitation. As a result, a whole section of central Portsmouth including Landport, Somerstown and Buckland was entirely rebuilt during the 1960s and early 1970s.[25]

Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia in Portsmouth Harbour during the 50th anniversary of the D-Day Landings in 1994. The masts of the HMS Victory can be seen in the background.

After the decline of the British Empire during the latter half of the 20th century, the city council made attempts to diversify industry in the city. An industrial estate was built in Fratton in 1948, and other industrial estates were built at Paulsgrove and Farlington in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1951, 46% of the manufacturing jobs in the city were in shipbuilding, however by 1966 this had fallen down to 14%, drastically reducing the workforce of the dockyard.[25] Traditional industries such as brewing and corset making vanished during this time, and electrical engineering became a major employer. Despite the cutbacks made to traditional sectors, Portsmouth still remained an attractive place for industry. In 1968, Zurich Insurance Group moved their headquarters to the city, with IBM relocating their headquarters in 1979.[25]

On 5 April 1982 the entirety of British Task Force left Portsmouth to engage the Argentine fleet in the Falklands War, taking over two weeks to reach the Falkland Islands, which are situated over 8,000 miles (13,000 km) away.[60] The flagship of the task force, HMS Hermes, returned to Portsmouth carrying the survivors of HMS Sheffield on 21 July 1982, and was decommissioned shortly after.[61] In January 1997, Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia embarked from the city on her final voyage to oversee the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong.[62] She was later decommissioned on 11 December that year at Portsmouth Naval Base in the presence of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and twelve senior members of the Royal Family.[63][64]

In 2001, redevelopment of the HMS Vernon naval shore establishment began as a complex of retail outlets, clubs, pubs, and a large shopping centre known as Gunwharf Quays.[25] In 2003, construction of the 552 feet (168 m) tall Spinnaker Tower began at Gunwharf Quays with sponsorship from the National Lottery.[65] In late 2004, the Tricorn Centre, dubbed "the ugliest building in the UK", was demolished after years of debate over the expense of demolition, and controversy as to whether it was worth preserving as an example of 1960s brutalist architecture.[66][67] In 2005 the city celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, with Queen Elizabeth II being present at a formal fleet review and a staged mock battle.[25] The naval base at HMNB Portsmouth remains the largest dockyard for the Royal Navy and is home to two-thirds of the entire surface fleet.[68]


East-facing aerial view of Portsmouth (with Gosport in the foreground)

Most of Portsmouth is situated on Portsea Island, which is United Kingdom's only island city.[69] Because it is an island, it cannot easily expand, making it the most densely populated city in the British Isles.[3] Portsea Island is separated from the mainland of Great Britain to the north by a narrow creek, known as Portsbridge Creek.[70] The creek is bridged in only six places: there are three road bridges (the M275 motorway, A3 road and the A2030 road), a railway bridge and two foot bridges.[71] Maps sometimes show Portsea Island as a peninsula, which is incorrect.[70] The sheltered Portsmouth Harbour lies to the west of Portsea Island and the large tidal bay of Langstone Harbour is to the east.[70] The Hilsea Lines are a series of defunct fortifications on the north coast of the island which border the creek and the mainland.[72]

To the south are the waters of the Solent with the approaches to Portsmouth Harbour and the Isle of Wight beyond. The southern waterfront of the city is dominated by a series of fortifications including the Round Tower, the Square Tower and Southsea Castle.[73] Old Portsmouth, situated in the south-west of the city, is the oldest part of the city and includes Portsmouth Point and the historic waterfront area known as Spice Island.[74] The main southern part of the city comprises the area known as Southsea and to the east,[75] the area known as Eastney.[76] The west of the city is mainly council estates such as Buckland, Landport and Portsea. These were built to replace Victorian terraces destroyed by bombing in the Second World War.[25] After the war the large estate of Leigh Park was built to solve the chronic housing shortage during the post-war reconstruction. Since the early 2000s the estate has been entirely under the jurisdiction of Havant Borough Council, but Portsmouth City Council remains the landlord of these properties, making it the biggest landowner in Havant Borough.[58]

Portsdown Hill dominates the skyline in the north of the city, giving a panoramic view over the island. The hill is the location of several large Palmerston Forts which consist of smaller forts: Fort Fareham, Fort Wallington, Fort Nelson, Fort Southwick, Fort Widley, and Fort Purbrook. These were built in the 19th century and were designed to protect Portsmouth from an inland attack.[73] Northern areas of the city include Stamshaw, Hilsea and Copnor, Cosham, Drayton, Farlington and Port Solent.[77] Other districts in Portsmouth include North End and Fratton.[78][79]

The has two main shopping centres, the Cascades Shopping Centre, which lies in the city centre,[80] and Gunwharf Quays, a redevelopment of the HMS Vernon naval shore establishment which lies on the south waterfront.[81] The city's main station, Portsmouth and Southsea railway station,[82] is located in city centre, close to the Guildhall and the Civic Offices.[54][83] Just to the south of the Guildhall is Guildhall Walk, a nightlife area with many pubs and clubs.[84] Edinburgh Road contains the city's Roman Catholic cathedral and Victoria Park, a 15 acres (6.1 ha) park which opened in 1878.[85]

Panorama of Portsmouth from Portsdown Hill. To the west lies Langstone Harbour along with Hayling Island, and to the east lies Portsmouth Harbour.


The city is located in the Hampshire Basin.[86] Portsdown Hill is formed by a large band of chalk. The rest of Portsea Island is composed of layers of London Clay and sand (part of the Bagshot Formation), formed principally during the late and early Eocene Epoch.[87] It is low-lying: the majority of its surface area on the island is less than 3 metres (9.8 ft) above sea level.[88][89] The highest natural elevation on Portsea Island is Kingston Cross at 21 feet (6.4 m).[88] As a result, rising sea levels, perhaps due to global warming, could cause serious damage to the city.[90]


Being located on the south coast of England, Portsmouth has a mild oceanic climate, receiving more sunshine than most of the British Isles. During winter frosts are light and short-lived and snow quite rare, with temperatures rarely dropping below freezing, as the city is surrounded by water and densely populated, and Portsdown Hill protects the city from cold northerly winds.[88] The average maximum temperature in January is 10 °C (50 °F) with the average minimum being 5 °C (41 °F). The lowest temperature recorded is −8 °C (18 °F).[91] In summer a temperature of 30 °C (86 °F) can occasionally be attained, particularly in more sheltered spots. The average maximum temperature in July is 22 °C (72 °F), with the average minimum being 15 °C (59 °F). The highest temperature recorded is 35 °C (95 °F).[91] As it is located on the south coast in South East England, the city receives more sunshine per annum than most of the UK.[92] The city gets around 645 millimetres of rain a year, with a minimum of 1 mm (0 in) of rain reported on 103 days a year.[93]

Climate data for Solent MRSC, Portsmouth, elevation: 9m (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 8.2
Average low °C (°F) 3.4
Average precipitation mm (inches) 68.8
Average precipitation days 11.6 9.6 8.3 8.3 7.1 6.9 7.0 7.3 8.7 10.5 11.2 12.2 108.6
Source: Met Office[94]
Climate data for Southsea, Portsmouth 1976–2005
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 9.6
Average low °C (°F) 5.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 65
Average rainy days 11.2 9.5 8.3 7.6 6.5 7.4 5.4 6.6 8.5 10.9 10.3 11.2 103.4
Mean monthly sunshine hours 67.9 89.6 132.7 200.5 240.8 247.6 261.8 240.7 172.9 121.8 82.3 60.5 1,919.1
Percent possible sunshine 26 31 36 49 51 51 54 54 46 38 31 25 41
Source #1: [93]
Source #2: BADC[95]
Average sea temperature[96]
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
9.5 °C (49.1 °F) 9.0 °C (48.2 °F) 8.6 °C (47.5 °F) 9.8 °C (49.6 °F) 11.4 °C (52.5 °F) 13.5 °C (56.3 °F) 15.3 °C (59.5 °F) 16.8 °C (62.2 °F) 17.3 °C (63.1 °F) 16.2 °C (61.2 °F) 14.4 °C (57.9 °F) 11.8 °C (53.2 °F) 12.8 °C (55.0 °F)


Portsmouth is the most densely populated city in the United Kingdom and is the only city whose population density exceeds that of London.[2][97][98] As of the 2011 census, the city had 205,400 residents.[2][99] This equates to 5,100 people living in every square kilometre, which is eleven times more than the regional average of 440 people per square kilometre and more than London, which has 4,900 people per square kilometre. The city used to be even more densely populated, with the 1951 census showing a population of 233,545.[100][101] Since the 1990s the population of the city has been gradually increasing.[102] With about 860,000 residents, the South Hampshire area is the 6th largest urban area in England and the largest in South East England, forming the centre of one of the United Kingdom's most populous metropolitan areas with a population in excess of one million.[1]

The city is predominantly white in terms of ethnicity, with 91.8% of the population belonging to this ethnic group.[103] Portsmouth's long association with the Royal Navy meant that it represents one of the most diverse cities in terms of the peoples of the British Isles.[104] Similarly, some of the largest and most established non-white communities have their roots with the Royal Navy, most notably the large Chinese community, principally from British Hong Kong.[104][105] Portsmouth's long industrial history in support of the Royal Navy has seen many people from across the British Isles move to Portsmouth to work in the factories and docks, the largest of these groups being Irish Catholics[106][b] According to 2007 estimates, the ethnic breakdown of Portsmouth's population is as follows: 86.4% White British, 3.8% Other White, 1.7% Chinese, 1.6% Indian, 1.3% Mixed-Race, 1.2% Bangladeshi, 1.0% Other ethnic group, 0.9% Black African, 0.7% White Irish, 0.6% Other South Asian, 0.4% Pakistani, 0.3% Black Caribbean and 0.1% Other Black.[3][109]

Population growth in Portsmouth since 1310[110]
Year 1310 1560 1801 1851 1901 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2011
Population 740 (est) 1000 (est) 32,160 72,096 188,133 233,545 215,077 197,431 175,382 177,142 186,700 205,400

Government and politics[edit]

The neo-classical Portsmouth Guildhall and surrounding Civic Offices are the centre of government in the city.

The city is administered by Portsmouth City Council, a unitary authority which is responsible for local affairs. Portsmouth was granted its first charter in 1194.[111] In the early 20th century, the boundaries were extended to include the whole of Portsea Island; the boundaries were further extended in 1920 and 1932, taking in areas of the mainland and adjacent villages which included Drayton and Farlington.[25][112] Between 1 April 1974 and 1 April 1997 it formed the second tier of local government below Hampshire County Council.[113] The city is divided into two parliamentary constituencies, Portsmouth South and Portsmouth North, represented in the House of Commons by, respectively, Flick Drummond and Penny Mordaunt, both Conservative Members of Parliament.[114]

The city council is made up of 42 councillors. After the May 2014 local elections, the Conservatives formed a minority administration with just 12 councillors.[115] The largest party within the council is the Liberal Democrats with 19 councillors (including the Lord Mayor).[116] The other parties represented in council are the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and Labour, with five and four Councillors respectively.[116] There are also two independent councillors, Eleanor Scott (elected as a Liberal Democrat) and Paul Godier (elected as UKIP).[117] Councillors are returned from 14 wards, with each ward having three councillors[118] and a four-year term.[119] The leader of the council is the Conservative Donna Jones.[120] The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth is usually held for a one-year period of office.[121]

The council is based in the Civic Offices, which houses departments such as tax support, housing benefit, resident services and municipal functions.[122] They are situated in Guildhall Square, along with Portsmouth Guildhall and Portsmouth Central Library. The Guildhall is a symbol of Portsmouth, serving principally as a cultural venue. It was designed by Leeds-based architect William Hill, who first started constructing it in 1873, following the neo-classical style.[123] The Guildhall was opened to the public in 1890.[124]


Portsmouth Continental Ferry Port serves as one of the city's major industries.

A tenth of the city's workforce works at Portsmouth Naval Dockyard, which is directly linked to the city's biggest industry, defence, with the headquarters of BAE Systems Surface Ships located in the city.[125] BAE's Portsmouth shipyard has been awarded a share of the construction work on the two new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers,[126][127] with both aircraft carriers set to enter Portsmouth Harbour upon completion.[128] Two two aircraft carriers comes with a £100 million contract to build the facilities at Portsmouth needed to support the vessels.[128] There is also a major ferry port which deals with both passengers and cargo.[129] The city is also host to the European headquarters of IBM and the UK headquarters of Zurich Financial Services.[25][130]

In the city centre, shopping is centred on Commercial Road and the 1980s Cascades Shopping Centre, which contains over 100 high street shops between them.[131] Approximately 185,000 to 230,000 people use the Cascades Shopping Centre each week.[132] Recent redevelopment has created new shopping areas, including the upmarket Gunwharf Quays,[133] containing fashion stores, restaurants, and a cinema; and the Historic Dockyard, which aims at the tourist sector and holds an annual Victorian Christmas market.[134][135] Large shopping areas include Ocean Retail Park, on the north-eastern side of Portsea Island, which was built on land previously occupied by a Metal Box factory in September 1985.[136] The city also has a dedicated fishing fleet that consists of 20 to 30 boats that operate out of the camber docks in Camber Quay, Old Portsmouth. They land fresh fish and shellfish daily – the majority of which is sold at the quayside fish market.[137]


Gunwharf Quays shopping centre

Portsmouth has a few theatres; the New Theatre Royal in Guildhall Walk, near to the city centre, which specialises in professional drama,[138] and the newly restored Kings Theatre in Southsea, which features amateur musicals as well a number of national tours.[139] Another theatre is the Groundlings Theatre, which was built in 1784 and is situated in The Old Beneficial School, Portsea.[140] New Prince's Theatre and Southsea's Kings Theatre were both designed by Victorian architect and entrepreneur Frank Matcham.[141] Portsmouth Guildhall, which is also used for theatrical performances has a capacity of 2500 and is one of the largest events venue in South East England.[54][142][143]

The city has three established music venues: the Guildhall,[144] The Wedgewood Rooms (which also includes a smaller venue, Edge of the Wedge)[145] and Portsmouth Pyramids Centre.[146] For many years a series of symphony concerts has been presented at the Guildhall by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.[147] Outdoor performances by local acts also take place every summer at Southsea Bandstand.[148] For every three years between 1979 and 1988, Portsmouth served as the host city for a major international string quartet competition.[149] In the 1970s the Portsmouth Sinfonia approached classical music from a different angle; the Sinfonia often recruited players that had no musical training or, if they were musicians, ones that chose to play an instrument that was entirely new to them.[150][151] Portsmouth Point is an overture for orchestra by the English composer William Walton in 1925. The work was inspired by Thomas Rowlandson's etching depicting Portsmouth Point, otherwise known as "Spice Island" in Old Portsmouth.[152][153] The overture was used for the BBC Proms Concert in 2007.[154]

H.M.S. Pinafore is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert, which is set in Portsmouth Harbour.[155] John Cranko's 1951 ballet Pineapple Poll is set in Portsmouth, which features the operetta music of Sullivan and The Bumboat Woman's Story by Gilbert.[156][157] Portsmouth hosts yearly remembrances of the D-Day landings to which veterans from Allied and Commonwealth nations travel to attend.[158][159] The city played a major part in the 50th D-Day anniversary in 1994; visitors included then-US President Bill Clinton, Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, King Harald V of Norway, French president Francois Mitterrand, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.[160][161]


In literature, Portsmouth is the chief location for Jonathan Meades' 1993 novel Pompey, in which it is inhabited largely by incestuous and necrophiliac criminals.[162] Since the release of his novel, Meades has presented a TV programme documenting Victorian architecture in Portsmouth Dockyard.[163] In Jane Austen's novel Mansfield Park, Portsmouth is the hometown of the main character Fanny Price, and is the setting of most of the closing chapters of the novel.[164] In Charles Dickens' novel The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, main protagonists Nicholas and Smike make their way to Portsmouth and get involved in a theatrical troupe.[165] In Patrick O'Brian's nautical historical Aubrey-Maturin series, Portsmouth is most often the port from which Captain Jack Aubrey's ships sail.[166]

Victorian novelist and historian, Sir Walter Besant co-wrote a novel of his 1840s childhood in Portsmouth titled By Celia's Arbour: A Tale of Portsmouth Town,[167] and is notable for its precise descriptions of the town before the defensive walls were removed.[168] Southsea features in The History of Mr Polly by H. G. Wells under the fictional name of Port Burdock, which he describes as "one of the three townships that are grouped around the Port Burdock naval dockyards".[169] High fantasy author Neil Gaiman also sets his graphic novel The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch around Southsea, Gaiman having grown up in Portsmouth. A street the seafront in Southsea was renamed "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" by the city council in honour of his novel of the same name.[170][171]

Notable crime novels featured in Portsmouth and the surrounding area include Graham Hurley's D.I. Faraday/D.C. Winter novels[172] and C. J. Sansom's Tudor crime novel Heartstone, with the latter including references to the famous warship Mary Rose and descriptions of Tudor life in the town.[173] A collection of fantastical short stories, Portsmouth Fairy Tales for Grown Ups was published in 2014.[174][175] It uses locations around Portsmouth for the stories, and includes writing by crime novelists William Sutton, Diana Bretherick, and author Lynne E Blackwood.[176][177][178]


Park Building, University of Portsmouth

The city's post-1992 university, the University of Portsmouth, which has 20,000 students on campus as of 2016.[179] Several local colleges also have the power to award Higher National Diplomas, including Highbury College, which specialises in vocational education;[180] and Portsmouth College, which offers various academic courses in the city.[181] Both Admiral Lord Nelson School and Miltoncross Academy were built in the late 1990s to meet the demand of a growing school age population.[182][183]

Portsmouth's secondary schools were to undergo a major redevelopment, with three being totally demolished and rebuilt and the remainder receiving major renovation work.[184] Following the cancellation of the national building programme for schools, these redevelopments did not go ahead.[185] In 2009, only two schools in the city were judged "inadequate", whereas 29 of 63 city's schools were considered "no longer good enough" by Ofsted.[186] Before being taken over by ARK Schools and becoming a Charter Academy, St Luke's Church of England secondary school was, in terms of GCSE achievement, one of the worst schools in the country. It was also criticised by officials for its behavioural standards – reports were made of students repeatedly throwing chairs at teachers.[187] Since becoming an academy in 2009, the schools have significantly improved; 69% of students achieved five GCSEs at grades A* – C including English and mathematics.[188] Charter Academy operates its intake policy as a standard comprehensive taking from its catchment area rather than selecting on religious background.[189]

There is also a cohort of independent schools within the city – the oldest, founded in 1732,[190] is the Portsmouth Grammar School which has been rated as one of the best private schools in the country.[191] There is also the Portsmouth High School, a member of the Girls Day School Trust, which is ranked one of the top private schools for girls in the UK by A-level results.[192] Other independent schools in the city include Mayville High School, founded in 1897,[193] and St John's College, a Christian boarding school.[194]


HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is the world's oldest naval ship still in commission and is one of the city's most popular tourist attractions.

Most of the city's tourist attractions are related to its naval history. Among the attractions are the D-Day Museum and the adjacent Overlord embroidery in Southsea, which was awarded a grant of £4 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund to expand it in time for 2019.[195] The city is home to some famous ships: in the dry dock of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard lies Horatio Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory, the world's oldest naval ship still in commission. HMS Victory was preserved for the nation and placed in permanent dry dock in 1922, and 22 million people have visited her since.[196] In 1982 the remains of Henry VIII's flagship, the Mary Rose, was raised from the seabed and brought into dry dock,[197] while Britain's first iron-hulled warship, HMS Warrior, was restored and moved to Portsmouth in 1987.[198][199] The National Museum of the Royal Navy is also in the historic dockyard, and is sponsored by an independent charity which aims to promote research into the history and archaeology of the Royal Dockyard.[200] Every November the Historic Dockyard hosts the Victorian Festival of Christmas, which features a traditional green-coloured Father Christmas.[201][202]

Many of the city's former defences are now museums, or host events. Several of the Victorian era forts on Portsdown Hill are now tourist attractions:[203] Fort Nelson, which lies on the summit of Portsdown Hill, is home to the Royal Armouries museum.[204] The Tudor era Southsea Castle has a small museum, and much of the seafront defences leading up to the Round Tower are open to the public. The castle was withdrawn from active service in 1960 and was subsequently purchased by Portsmouth City Council.[205] The southern part of the Royal Marines' Eastney Barracks is now the Royal Marines Museum, and was opened to the public under the National Heritage Act 1983.[206] The museum was awarded a £14 million grant from the National Lottery Fund, and is set to relocate to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in 2019.[207] Other tourist attractions include the birthplace of Charles Dickens,[208] the Blue Reef Aquarium which houses an "underwater safari" of aquatic life in Britain,[209] and Cumberland House Natural History Museum, which features a variety of wildlife featured in the area.[210][211]

Portsmouth's long association with the armed forces means it has a large number of war memorials around the city, including several at the Royal Marines Museum[212] and a large collection of memorials related to the Royal Navy in Victoria Park.[85] The Portsmouth Naval Memorial in Southsea Common commemorates 24,591 fallen soldiers who lost their lives in the First World War. The memorial was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer and was unveiled by George VI on 15 October 1924.[213] In the city centre, the Guildhall Square Cenotaph displays the names of the fallen, and is guarded by stone sculptures of machine gunners carved by the sculptor, Charles Dagger.[214] On the west face, the description reads: "This memorial was erected by the people of Portsmouth in proud and loving memory of those who in the glorious morning of their days for England's sake lost all but England's praise. May light perpetual shine upon them".[215]


Main article: Southsea
A view of Southsea Promenade, which includes the Clarence Pier amusement park.

Southsea is a seaside resort and residential area which lies at the southern end of Portsea Island. Southsea originates from Southsea Castle; a castle on the seafront established in 1544 by Henry VIII to help defend the Solent and approaches to Portsmouth Harbour.[216] The area originally developed in 1809 as "Croxton Town", named after an unknown Mr Croxton, though it was later expanded as a seaside resort in the Victorian era.[75] The first houses were built for skilled workers and subsequently homes for middle class workers were also set up in the area, however it remained small until 1835. By the 1860s the suburb of Southsea had grown with terraces and new suburbs being constructed for working-class people.[75] During this time, Southsea grew as a leisure and bathing destination. A pump room and baths were erected near the present day Clarence Pier, and a large complex was developed including vapour baths, showers, card playing and assembly rooms for holiday-goers.[217] Clarence Pier officially opened in 1861, which is named after the once military governor of Portsmouth, Lord Fitz Clarence. South Parade Pier was built in 1879;[218] it has since burned down twice, once in 1904 and again in 1974.[75]

Southsea is dominated by Southsea Common, a vast grassland covering an area of 480 acres (190 ha), which was first created by draining the marshland alongside the construction of the vapour baths in 1820. The common owes its existence to the demands of the military in the early 19th century for a clear range of fire.[219] The present day common lies parallel to the shore from Clarence Pier to Southsea Castle.[219] Today, the common is a popular recreation ground, and also a venue for a number of annual events, which includes carnivals, Christmas markets and Victorian festivals.[220] The common also has a large collection of mature elm trees, believed to be the oldest and largest surviving in Hampshire, which have escaped Dutch elm disease owing to their isolation. Other plants include the Canary Island date palms Phoenix canariensis, which are some of the largest in Britain and have produced viable seed in recent years.[221]

Gunwharf Quays[edit]

Main article: Gunwharf Quays

The naval shore establishment, HMS Vernon, closed on 1 April 1996[222] and was redeveloped by Portsmouth City Council as Gunwharf Quays,[81] a mixed residential and retail destination with outlet stores, restaurants, pubs and cafés.[223] Construction of the Spinnaker Tower began in 2001 and was completed in summer 2005. The project cost £36 million of which Portsmouth City Council contributed £11 million.[224][225] The 560 feet (170 m) tower is visible from 23 miles (37 km) and its viewing platforms provide views across the Solent and the harbour.[226][227]


St John the Evangelist is a Roman Catholic cathedral of worship, built in 1882. It is one of the two cathedrals of the city.

Portsmouth is one of a few British cities with two cathedrals, and one of 34 British towns and cities with a Roman Catholic cathedral.[107] They are the Anglican Cathedral of St Thomas in Old Portsmouth, and the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St John the Evangelist.[228]

The Cathedral of St John the Evangelist was built in 1882 to accommodate Portsmouth's increasing amount of Roman Catholics, replacing a chapel built in 1796 to the west. Before 1791 it was illegal for Catholics to have chapels in towns with borough status. The chapel was opened after the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1791 was passed and replaced by the cathedral.[229] Its construction was completed in phases: in 1882 the nave was complete, in 1886 the crossing was finished and the chancel was ready by 1893 eleven years after its opening. During the blitz in 1941, the cathedral was badly damaged when Luftwaffe bombing destroyed Bishop's House next door. It was restored in 1970, 1982 and 2001.[229]

The origins of the Anglican cathedral are in a 12th-century chapel built by Jean de Gisors, a wealthy Norman merchant.[16] It was damaged during the Siege of Portsmouth 1642, but after the restoration of the monarchy Charles II gave £9000 to rebuild the tower and nave which were completed in 1693.[230] The early-20th century brought significant changes when Diocese of Portsmouth was established after it split from the Diocese of Winchester in 1927. On 1 May the parish church became the pro-cathedral of the new diocese. It became a cathedral in in 1932, and was enlarged, although construction was halted during the Second World War. The cathedral was consecrated in the presence of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 1991.[231]

Another historic Portsmouth church is the Royal Garrison Church, which was founded in 1212 by Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester. After centuries of decay, it became an ammunition store in 1540 and the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza took place in the church. In 1941 a firebomb fell on the roof, which completely destroyed the nave.[232] The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth was founded in 1882 by Pope Leo XIII. Vatican policy in England at the time was to found sees in locations other than those used for Anglican cathedrals; the Ecclesiastical Titles Act forbade a Roman Catholic bishop from bearing the same title as one in the Established Church.[233]


Portsmouth F.C. who play their home games at Fratton Park have won two Football League titles (1949 and 1950)[234][235] and won the FA Cup in 1939 and 2008.[236][237] They returned to the Premier League in 2003, having previously been relegated in 1988 after just one season following an exile from the top flight that had stretched back some 30 years.[238] However, in 2010 they were further relegated to the Championship, and amid serious financial difficulties in April 2012, they were regulated to League One.[239] In 2013 Portsmouth were relegated again, this time placing them in the League Two, the fourth tier of English Football.[239] In April 2013 Portsmouth FC were purchased by the Pompey Supporters Trust, becoming largest fan owned football club in English Football history.[240]

Other football teams in the city include Moneyfields F.C. who play in the Wessex League Premier Division,[241] and are based at Dover Road on the corner with Moneyfields Avenue.[242] United Services Portsmouth F.C. (formerly known as Portsmouth Royal Navy) and Baffins Milton Rovers F.C. both play in the Wessex League Division One, with the former being among the founding members of the Wessex League in 1986,[243] and the latter being founded in 2011.[244] The city has a rugby team, United Services Portsmouth RFC. However, it is also home to the Royal Navy Rugby Union, who play in the annual Army Navy Match at Twickenham. Both teams play their home matches at the United Services Recreation Ground in the city.[245]

Portsmouth hosted first-class cricket at the United Services Recreation Ground in Burnaby Road from 1882, while from 1895 to 2000 all Hampshire County Cricket Club matches were played there. This arrangement came to an end in 2000 when Hampshire moved all their home matches to their newly built Rose Bowl cricket ground in West End.[246] The city is also home to four hockey clubs: City of Portsmouth Hockey Club who are based at the University's Langstone Campus;[247] Portsmouth & Southsea Hockey Club and Portsmouth Sharks Hockey Club, who are both based at the Admiral Lord Nelson School;[248] and United Services Portsmouth Hockey Club who are based at Temeraire on Burnaby Road.[249] Furthermore, Portsmouth is the home city of Britain's first female world champion swimmer Katy Sexton, who won gold in the 200 metres (660 ft) backstroke at the 2003 World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona.[250]

Transport and communications[edit]

The Hard Interchange is a transport interchange, located near the seafront.

Local bus services are provided by Stagecoach and First Hampshire & Dorset, serving the city of Portsmouth and the surrounding towns of Havant, Leigh Park, Waterlooville, Fareham and Petersfield. Hovertravel and Stagecoach run the Hoverbus from the city centre to Southsea Hovercraft Terminal and The Hard Interchange, near the seafront.[251] In addition, Countryliner runs a Saturday service to Midhurst in West Sussex,[252] and Xelabus operate a Sunday open-top seafront summer service around the city as of 2012.[253] National Express services from Portsmouth run mainly from The Hard Interchange to London Victoria station, Cornwall, Bradford, Birkenhead and Eastbourne.[254] A new bus station has been proposed next to Portsmouth & Southsea railway station, replacing Commercial Road South bus stops and new bus stops and taxi ranks on Andrew Bell Street are to replace the Commercial Road North bus stops when the Northern Quarter Development is built.[255]

There is an ongoing debate on the development of a new public transport structure, with monorails and light rail both being considered. A light rail link to Gosport was authorised in 2002 with completion expected in 2005, however it is unlikely to go ahead following the refusal of funding by the Department for Transport in November 2005.[256] In April 2011, an article appeared in Portsmouth News suggesting a new scheme could be in the offering by running a light rapid transit system over the line to Southampton via Fareham, Bursledon, and Sholing, thus replacing the existing heavy rail services.[257][258] The monorail scheme is unlikely to proceed following the withdrawal of official support for the proposal by Portsmouth City Council, after the development's promoters failed to progress the scheme to agreed timetables.[259]

The city has several mainline railway stations, on two different direct South West Trains routes to London Waterloo, via Guildford and Basingstoke.[260] There is also a South West Trains stopping service to Southampton Central and a service by Great Western Railway to Cardiff Central via Southampton, Salisbury, Bath and Bristol.[261] Southern also offer services to Brighton, Gatwick Airport, Croydon and London Victoria.[262]

Ferries, cargo and military vessels operating from Portsmouth Harbour

Portsmouth Harbour has passenger ferry links to Gosport and the Isle of Wight from the Portsmouth International Port,[263] with a car ferry service to the Isle of Wight operated by Wightlink also being nearby.[264] Britain's longest-standing commercial hovercraft service, begun in the 1960s, still runs from near Clarence Pier to Ryde, Isle of Wight, operated by Hovertravel.[265] Portsmouth Continental Ferry Port has links to Caen, Cherbourg-Octeville, St Malo and Le Havre in France,[266][267] Santander and Bilbao in Spain,[268] and the Channel Islands.[269] Ferry services from the port are operated by Brittany Ferries, Condor Ferries and LD Lines.[268][270][271]

On 18 May 2006, Acciona Trasmediterranea started a service to Bilbao in competition with P&O's then existing service. This service was criticised when the ferry Fortuny was detained in Portsmouth by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for numerous safety breaches.[272] The faults were quickly corrected by Acciona and the service was cleared to begin carrying passengers on 23 May 2006.[273] In March 2007, AT Ferries withdrew the Bilbao service at short notice, citing the need to deploy the Fortuny elsewhere.[274] P&Q Ferries ceased their service to Bilbao on 27 September 2010, due to "unsustainable losses".[275][276] The port is the second-busiest ferry port in the UK after Dover, handling around three million passengers a year.[277][278][279]

Portsmouth Airport, an airport with grass runway, was in operation from 1932 to 1973. After its closure, housing, industrial sites, retail areas and a school were built on the sit.[280][281] Today, the nearest airport is Southampton Airport, situated in the Borough of Eastleigh, which lies 19.8 miles (31.9 km) away. The airport has an indirect South West Trains rail connection requiring a change at Southampton Central or Eastleigh.[282] Heathrow and Gatwick are both 65 miles (105 km) and 75 miles (121 km) away, respectively. Gatwick is directly linked by Southern train services to London Victoria station, while Heathrow is linked by coach to Woking, which is on both rail lines to London Waterloo, or by London Underground.[283] Heathrow is directly linked to Portsmouth by National Express coaches.[284]

Portsmouth uses the telephone area code 023 in conjunction with eight-digit local numbers.[285] Local numbers usually begin with '9',[286] with numbers beginning '92' being the most common.[287] As Southampton shares the same 023 area code, landline calls between the two cities can be made using just the eight-digit local number, despite their not being adjacent.[288] Prior to April 2000, Portsmouth used the area code 01705 with six-digit local numbers, due to the Big Number Change.[289] The 01705 area code itself replaced the older 0705 code in 1995.[288]


Portsmouth, along with Southampton and its adjacent towns, are served predominantly with transmissions from the Rowridge Transmitter on the Isle of Wight.[290] Portsmouth was one of the first cities in the United Kingdom to have a local TV station, MyTV, on 6 June 2001, although the Isle of Wright had a local television service in 1998.[291] In November 2014, new local TV station, named That's Solent, launched as part of a UK wide roll out of local Freeview channels, being broadcast from the Rowridge Transmitter. The head studio of the television station is based in Cobham.[292]

The local commercial radio station is The Breeze on 107.4FM,[293] while the city also has a non-profit community radio station Express FM on 93.7FM.[294] Patients at Portsmouth's primary hospital Queen Alexandra and St Mary's hospital in Milton also have access to local programming from charity station Portsmouth Hospital Broadcasting, which commenced broadcasts in 1951.[295] When the first local commercial radio stations were licensed in the 1970s by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), Radio Victory was the radio service for Portsmouth, however in 1986, due to transmission area changes by the IBA, it was replaced by a new company and service called Ocean Sound, later renamed as Ocean FM. From the city's 800th birthday in 1994, Victory FM broadcast for three 28-day periods over an 18-month period.[296] It was purchased from the founders by TLRC, who, due to poor RAJAR figures, relaunched the service in 2001 as Ocean FM,[297] with Portsmouth Football Club purchasing a stake in the station during 2007 and selling in 2009.[298]

The city currently has one daily local newspaper known as The News, which was previously known as the Portsmouth Evening News, together with a free weekly newspaper, from the same publisher, Johnston Press, called The Journal.[299][300]

Future developments[edit]

Portsmouth will be the home port of the two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, the largest ships ever built by the Royal Navy.

Portsmouth will help build and be the home port of the two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers; HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, the largest ships ever built by the Royal Navy.[301] The supercarriers were first ordered by then Defence Secretary Des Browne on 25 July 2007.[302] Construction of both ships took place in the Firth of Forth at Rosyth Dockyard and BAE Systems Surface Ships in Glasgow, Babcock Babcock at Rosyth, and at HMNB Portsmouth.[303][304] It was announced by the government prior to the Scottish Independence Referendum that military shipbuilding would end in Portsmouth, with all UK surface warship shipbuilding focusing instead at the two older BAE facilities in Glasgow.[305] This was heavily criticised at the time as a political rather than economic decision to help the "No campaign" for Scotland to remain a part of the United Kingdom.[306][307]

Development at Gunwharf Quays continued until 2007 with the completion of the 330 feet (100 m) tall No. 1 Gunwharf Quays residential tower (nicknamed 'Lipstick Tower').[308][309] The development of the former Brickwoods Brewery site included the construction of a 22-storey tower known as the Admiralty Quarter Tower, the tallest in a complex of mostly low-rise residential buildings.[310] A new 25-storey tower named 'Number One Portsmouth', was made public at the end of October 2008, which has been proposed at a height of 330 feet (100 m), and will stand opposite Portsmouth & Southsea Station.[311] As of August 2009, internal demolition has started on the building that currently occupies the site.[312][313] A new student accommodation tower, nicknamed 'The Blade' has started construction on the site of the old Victoria swimming baths on Anglesea Road, on the edge of Victoria Park. The 33-storey tower will stand at 345 feet (105 m), becoming Portsmouth's second tallest structure after the Spinnaker Tower.[314]

Portsmouth F.C. Stadium plans[edit]

In April 2007, Portsmouth F.C. announced plans to move away from Fratton Park, their home for 109 years, to a new stadium situated on a piece of reclaimed land beside the Historic Dockyard, nicknamed Portsmouth Dockland Stadium. The £600 million mixed use development, designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron, would also include 1500 harbourside apartments as well as shops and offices. In addition, the proposed stadium would have a capacity of 36,000.[315][316] The scheme has attracted considerable criticism due to its large size and location, with some officials citing that it would interfere with harbour operations.[317][318] The construction of a new stadium would also involve moving HMS Warrior from her current permanent mooring, with the chief executive of the Warrior Partnership Trust calling it "unacceptable".[319] In Autumn 2007 Portsmouth's local paper The News published that the plans had been turned down, due to the space required for the future Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers.[320]

In answer to the Royal Navy's objections regarding the supercarriers, Portsmouth F.C. have planned a similar stadium in Horsea Island near Port Solent. If this plan goes ahead, it will involve building a 36,000 seat stadium and around 1,500 apartments as single standing structures, not around the stadium as had been previously proposed.[321] Yet the new plan also involves improving and saving land for the Royal Navy's diver training centre by the proposed site and buying an amount of land from the Ministry of Defence.[322] A new £7 million railway station is to be built at Paulsgrove in Racecourse Lane.[321][323] Along with these new roads towards the stadium, it has been proposed to build a new bridge from Tipner alongside the motorway for people walking to the stadium.[324] If the new proposals are accepted, the club's previous stadium site at Fratton Park would also be redeveloped once the new stadium is completed – Make Architects has been commissioned to draw up designs for 750 new apartments on the site.[325]

Notable residents[edit]

Blue plaque memorial at Peter Sellers' birthplace in Castle Road

The city has been home to a number of noted authors. Most notably Charles Dickens – known for such works as Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities and The Pickwick Papers, was born in Portsmouth.[326] Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, practised as doctor in the city and played in goal for Portsmouth Association Football club, an amateur team not to be confused with the later professional Portsmouth Football Club.[327][328] Rudyard Kipling, poet and author of the Jungle Book,[329] and H. G. Wells, author of War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, lived in Portsmouth during the 1880s.[330] Sir Walter Besant, a novelist and historian was born in Portsmouth,[331] writing one novel set exclusively in the town, By Celia's Arbour, A Tale of Portsmouth Town.[332] Sir Francis Austen, brother of Jane Austen, briefly lived in the area after graduating from Portsmouth Naval Academy.[333] George Meredith grew up in Portsmouth High Street.[334]

More contemporary Portsmouth literary figures include social critic, journalist and author Christopher Hitchens, who was born in the city.[335] Nevil Shute moved to Portsmouth in 1934 when he relocated his aircraft company Airspeed to the city; his former home stands in the Eastney end of the island of Portsea.[336] Fantasy author Neil Gaiman grew up in nearby Purbrook and the Portsmouth suburb of Southsea, and in 2013 had a Southsea road named after his novel The Ocean At The End Of The Lane.[337] Olivia Manning's childhood was also spent in the city.[338] Another Portsmouth novelist is Graham Hurley, whose Joe Faraday crime novels are based in the city.[172][339] Maggie Sawkins, a long-term resident of Portsmouth won the 2013 Ted Hughes Award for New Work In Poetry, with her performance piece, Zones of Avoidance.[340]

Other notable people include Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a famed engineer of the Industrial Revolution, was born in Portsmouth.[341][342] His father Marc Isambard Brunel worked for the Royal Navy and invented the world's first production line to mass manufacture pulley blocks for the rigging in Royal Navy vessels.[39] James Callaghan, who was British prime minister from 1976 to 1979, was born and raised in Portsmouth.[343][344] He was the son of a Protestant Northern Irish petty officer in the Royal Navy and was also the only person to have held all four Great Offices of State, having previously served as Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary and Chancellor.[345] John Pounds, the founder of the ragged school, which provided free education to working class children, lived in Portsmouth and set up the country's first ragged school in the city.[346] Hertha Ayrton, a scientist and Suffragette who was described as one of Portsmouth's "least known and celebrated figures", was born in Portsea.[347]

The Naval War Memorial, Southsea

Scholarly figures include Sir Barry Cunliffe CBE, one of Britain's leading archaeologists and Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology at Oxford University, grew up in Portsmouth and attended Portsmouth Northern Grammar School.[348] Sir John Armitt, CBE, FREng, the Chairman of the London 2012 Olympic Delivery Authority, grew up in Portsmouth and attended also Portsmouth Northern Grammar School. He graduated in civil engineering from the Portsmouth College of Technology in 1966.[349] Sir Roger Fry, CBE, Honorary Doctor of Letters and Honorary Fellow of Trinity College Oxford, is now President of the Council of British International Schools and Founding Chairman of the King's Group of British International Schools. He was born in Portsmouth and educated at the Northern Grammar School and later at the University of London.[350] The palaeographer Sir Frederic Madden was born in the city in 1801.[351] Dame Frances Amelia Yates, DBE, a British historian was born in Victoria Road in Southsea.[329][352]

Peter Sellers, comedian, actor, and performer was born in Southsea,[353] and Arnold Schwarzenegger lived and trained in Portsmouth for a short time.[354] Several other professional actors have also been born, or lived in the city, including; EastEnders actress Emma Barton,[355] and Bollywood actress Geeta Basra, who was born and raised in Portsmouth,[356][357] Stephen Marcus, actor, born in Portsmouth,[358] Marcus Patric, actor on Hollyoaks, was born in Portsmouth,[359] actress Nicola Duffett, best known for her role on Family Affairs,[360] and Alison Owen, film director, were also both born in the city.[361] Ian Darke, football and boxing commentator currently working for BT Sport and previously one of Sky Sports' "Big Four" football commentators, was born in the city.[362] Cryptozoologist Jonathan Downes was born and lived in Portsmouth for a time,[363] and William Tucker, trader in human heads, and New Zealand's first art dealer was also born in Portsmouth.[364] Helen Duncan, the last person to be imprisoned under the 1735 Witchcraft Act in the UK was arrested in Portsmouth.[365]

Noteworthy musicians and songwriters from the city include Simon Heartfield,[366] hardcore artist DJ Hixxy,[367] Roger Hodgson of Supertramp,[368] progressive rock band Gentle Giant,[369] Brian Howe, vocalist of Bad Company,[370] Mick Jones, founder of Foreigner, was born in Portsmouth,[371] Joe Jackson, musician and singer–songwriter grew up in the city,[372] Dillie Keane, songwriter, entertainer, founder of the comedy trio Fascinating Aïda, was born in Southsea[373] and Roland Orzabal from Tears For Fears grew up in the area.[374] Bessie Cursons, 14-year-old musical theatre performer, who appeared on Britain's Got Talent in 2007 came from Portchester.[375] Ben Falinski, singer in rock band Ivyrise was born and raised in Portsmouth.[376]

Notable people in sports known for being born in Portsmouth such as Michael East, a Commonwealth Games gold medal winning athlete,[377] Rob Hayles, cyclist and Olympic Games medal winner,[378] Tony Oakey, former British light-heavyweight boxing champion,[379] and Alan Pascoe, an Olympic medallist, were also born in the city.[380] Sir Alec Rose, single-handed yachtsman,[381] Katy Sexton, former world champion swimmer,[382] Roger Black, an Olympic medallist, was also born in Portsmouth and attended the Portsmouth Grammar School,[383] In addition, people notable in the media are known for coming from Portsmouth, such as Amanda Holden, television presenter and actress;[384] Matt Edmondson, Radio 1 and Channel 4 presenter,[385] and Kim Woodburn of How Clean is Your House?.[386]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Translation: "Here Port and his 2 sons Bieda and Mægla came to Britain with 2 ships to the place which is called Portsmouth and slew a young British man, a very noble man."
  2. ^ Portsmouth is one of 34 British towns and cities with a Catholic cathedral).[107][108]


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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°49′N 1°05′W / 50.817°N 1.083°W / 50.817; -1.083