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South Parade pier, Southsea - - 8163.jpg
South Parade Pier
Southsea is located in Hampshire
 Southsea shown within Hampshire
Population 18,514 (2001)
OS grid reference SZ6499
Unitary authority Portsmouth
Ceremonial county Hampshire
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town SOUTHSEA
Postcode district PO4 – PO5
Dialling code 023
Police Hampshire
Fire Hampshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Portsmouth South
List of places

Coordinates: 50°47′06″N 1°04′12″W / 50.785°N 1.07°W / 50.785; -1.07

Southsea is a seaside resort and geographic area, located in Portsmouth at the southern end of Portsea Island, Hampshire, England. Southsea is located to the south of Portsmouth city centre and to the east of Old Portsmouth. It originally developed as Victorian seaside resort in the 19th century and grew into a dense residential suburb and large distinct commercial and entertainment area, separate from Portsmouth city centre itself.[1] The name of the area originates from Southsea Castle; a fort, located on the seafront and constructed in 1544 to help defend the Solent and approaches to Portsmouth Harbour.[2]

The areas surrounding Albert Road, Palmerston Road and Osborne road comprise numerous bars, restaurants and independent shops. Palmerston Road is the main High Street of Southsea and contains two national department stores, as well as the local library. Albert Road is a distinct street containing shopping and cultural venues, which includes the Kings Theatre, a regional theatre built in 1907.[3]


Southsea Front and Common c. 1905

The history of Southsea is generally part of the history of Portsmouth, as Southsea started with the growth of Portsmouth dockyard and of the city, with the expansion of British maritime power during the British Empire.[4] Before the 16th century Southsea was principally composed of small farms, open grassland and undrained marshland (morass), outside the main naval base and the city itself. However the growing expectation of a possible French attack on the naval base led to Henry VIII ordering the building of Southsea Castle in 1544, adjacent to the channel approaches to Portsmouth Harbour. "Southsea" was first recorded as a place name in a Royal plan in 1577.[5] It was during this period that Henry VIII attended the castle and in 1545 witnessed, from the castle, the sinking of the warship Mary Rose in the Solent.[6]

The first references to the development of the suburb appear in the Portsea Poor Rate returns of 1790 and describe small areas of building and farming plots. However most of the land was as yet to be developed, and open grass and marshland still dominated the area.[7] In the early 19th century, development continued on land owned by a Thomas Croxton, and the community became known as Croxton Town. The first houses were built by 1809 for skilled workers in what were called the "mineral" streets (such as Silver Street and Nickel Street). Around 1810, streets such as Hampshire Terrace, Landport Terrace, King's Terrace, Wish Street (which later became King's Road and Elm Grove), Jubilee Terrace and Bellevue Terrace were built adjacent to the old walls of the city. Although the streets still exist, many of them were among the most heavily bombed areas of Portsmouth in the Second World War, and like much of Southsea they experienced significant redevelopment in Postwar Britain.[8]

The development of Southsea continued during the Napoleonic era and as the dockyard continued to grow, new homes were required for the increasing personnel, and many houses, villas and apartments were built. The architect and builder Thomas Ellis Owen created of many of these, and the surviving buildings retain a coherent late Georgian and early Victorian style, and form a conservation area today, with many of the buildings having listed status.[9] Owen, built properties in Kent Road, Queen's Terrace, Sussex Terrace, Elm Grove, Beach Road, Grove Road South, Clarendon Road, Osborne Road and Portland Terrace. The area between Castle Road and Victoria Road South was built up between 1835 and 1860.

During the same period Southsea grew as a leisure and bathing destination. In 1816 a pump room and baths were erected near the present day Clarence Pier, and by 1820 a large complex was developed including vapour baths, showers, and card playing and assembly rooms.[10] The remaining marshland was drained, leading to the creation of Southsea Common, some 480 acres (about 2 km2) of open grassland. Because of the military requirements for clear lines of fire adjacent to Southsea Castle, the area was not built on and remains today as a park and garden.[11] Apartments and hotels were constructed towards the common and waterfront, along Southsea Terrace, Western Parade and Clarence Parade. The first large hotel was the Portland Hotel (destroyed in the Second World War) near Kent Road. Others soon followed, including the purpose-built Queens Hotel (1861), Pier Hotel (1865) and Beach Mansions Hotel (1866).[12] In 1852 the Clarence Esplanade and a memorial were erected by public subscription, and development of the resort led in 1861 to Clarence Pier being constructed as a promenade pier and landing place for steamers.[13] Other piers were also built, including the Victoria and Albert Piers, but the construction of South Parade Pier in 1879 marked the culmination of seafront development in the Victorian period.[14]

Kings Theatre

By the 1860s the suburb of Southsea had grown along Clarendon Road as far as Granada Road. In 1857 Southsea gained its own Improvement Commissioners responsible for paving, street cleaning and public lighting. The Southsea Railway came in 1885 and brought further development to the area, although it was to be financially unsuccessful and eventually closed in 1914.[15] By the mid to late Victorian era Southsea had become recognised as a largely middle-class neighbourhood, with many naval officers and other professionals taking up residence. During this time the writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lived in Portsmouth, moving to Southsea in June 1882 with less than £10 (£900 today[16]) to his name. He set up a medical practice at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea.[17] Areas of Southsea suffered from the rapid development of the suburb, and poverty existed in certain streets, and there was a major Cholera outbreak in 1848.[18] The works of the commission helped bring about some improvements and eventually led to the setting up of the Southsea Improvement Association.[18]

20th century[edit]

Southsea continued to grow eastwards in the early 20th century, extending to the area of Eastney. During this time significant local public buildings were constructed including the Queens Hotel, in the Edwardian Baroque style, built in 1903 and the Kings Theatre built in 1907. The onset of the First World War saw an increase in fortifications on the seafront. Parades were held on Southsea Common. Southsea continued to thrive as a resort destination and a suburb of Portsmouth in inter-war years, with many visitors in summer. At that time parts of the Common were converted into ornamental gardens and the Ladies Mile set out in 1925.[19] However the Second World War had an immense impact on the urban and social fabric of the area. Huge areas of Southsea were destroyed by bombing during The Blitz. Although some of Victorian Southsea escaped the bombing, areas such as the Kings Road and Elm Grove were extensively damaged and the Palmerston Road shopping areas were completely destroyed. The beachfront, piers and promenades were closed for the duration of the war.[20] Following the end of the war, in 1945 Southsea and the rest of Portsmouth embarked on a massive clearance and rebuilding scheme. Many areas of destroyed, damaged and intact low-income housing were cleared to make way for new building schemes. The Kings Road Estate and Roslyn House, among others, were developed between 1945 and the 1970s. Palmerston Road shopping area was developed in the 1950s and still stands today.[21] Although visitor numbers to the resort area never recovered Southsea continued to develop throughout the 20th century and today remains a mixed residential area and leisure destination.[22]

Recent history[edit]

On 6 June 1994 a drumhead service was held on Southsea Common in front of the War Memorial to commemorate the 50th anniversary of D-Day. The service was attended by all the heads of the states which had participated in the allied landings, notably HM Queen Elizabeth II and US President Bill Clinton. The service was also witnessed by over 100,000 members of the public. Historically, a blessing before battle was offered during a drumhead service which is conducted in the field with the drums forming the altar and the colours serving as the altar cloth.

In 15 September 2000 parts of Southsea were flooded when the pumping station which pumps surface water out to sea was itself flooded during a particularly heavy storm.

On 28 June 2005 Southsea Common was a venue for the Trafalgar 200 celebrations. Southsea seafront was an ideal point from which to witness the International Fleet Review and evening fire work display.

On 9 August 2011 a fire broke out at the old Joanna's Nightclub, a derelict building opposite South Parade Pier. Police sectioned off most of the area and guests at the nearby Best Western Royal Beach Hotel were evacuated as a precaution.[23] Despite rumours circulating on social network sites, the incident was reportedly not linked to the riots taking place. The building was demolished a few days later.


Southsea Common[edit]

Row of wind-pruned Huntingdon Elms, Southsea Common

Southsea Common is a large expanse of mown grassland parallel to the shore from Clarence Pier to Southsea Castle. The Common owes its existence to the demands of the military in the early nineteenth century for a clear range of fire from the harbour defences at any enemy ships which dared to approach Portsmouth and its dockyard.[11]

The Common is a popular recreation ground, and also serves as the venue for a number of annual events, including the Southsea Show, Para Spectacular, Military Vehicle Show, Kite Festival and a variety of circuses including the Moscow State Circus and Chinese State Circus. It was also the place where fans of Portsmouth F.C gathered to celebrate their victory in the 2008 FA Cup Final.

In August 2010, a life-size (52 ft high) model of an ultrasaurus dinosaur was erected on the common in conjunction with the Portsmouth's Aspex Gallery.[24] The sculpture was destroyed by a fire, probably caused by an electrical fault, on 1 October.[25]

In September 2013, it was announced that a new Parkrun would begin along Southsea seafront in October 2013.[26][27]


Ulmus pumila hybrid
Southsea Beach
Peter Sellers's birthplace on the corner of Castle Road and Southsea terrace. The blue plaques read "Peter Sellers, Actor and Comedian was born here"
The Naval War Memorial, Southsea

The Common is home to a remarkable 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. The majority of the larger trees are Huntingdon Elms planted in the 1920s, but nearer the entrance to the Skate Park there is a fine example of a hybrid of the Siberian Elm Ulmus pumila. Huntingdon Elms once lined the Ladies' Mile avenue through the centre of the Common, but many were lost to the Great Storm of 1987 and replaced by the Dutch elm cultivar 'Lobel'.[28]

The Ladies' Mile is also home to several semi-mature Canary Island Date Palms Phoenix canariensis. Planted in 1996, these palms are now some of the largest in the UK and for the last few years have fruited and produced viable seed, the first time this species of palm has been recorded doing so in the UK. Other palms growing close to the common include Trachycarpus fortunei, (Ladies Mile, Rock Gardens & Rose Garden), Chamaerops humilis (in front of the Pyramids Centre), Butia capitata (in Burguoyne Gardens) and Brahea armata, (Canoe Lake & D-Day Island). Many Cordyline australis are also planted in the area, though these are not true palms, but more closely related to Yuccas and Agaves.[28]

Tourist attractions[edit]


  • Southsea beach is mostly flint gravel, but with sand exposed at low tide. There are two piers: South Parade Pier and Clarence Pier; both house amusement arcades. South Parade Pier also contains a ballroom and a bar area. Clarence Pier is adjacent to a permanent amusement park.
  • There are a number of miniature golf courses, a skateboard park and public grass and clay tennis courts. During winter 2008 three beach volleyball courts were added to these attractions.
  • The Blue Reef Aquarium is also situated on the seafront.
  • Just off the seafront is Southsea Model Village[29] which is a 1/12 scale model village with forty miniature buildings, houses, forts, castles and a miniature railway. It was opened in 1956 on the site of a Victorian fort. Another part of the fort has been converted into Southsea Rose Garden.

Historical features[edit]

  • A prominent sight out to sea is the four large forts created in the 1860s as part of an attempt to fortify the city against the threat of invasion. From the shore they look oval but are, in fact, round. They were part of defences which included land-based forts all around the city but as they were never used in action, they became known as Palmerston's Folly, after the Prime Minister who initiated them.
  • To commemorate the millennium in 2000, a scenic walk was created extending to Gunwharf Quays from Southsea seafront. The route is marked on the pavement, and is lined by distinctive blue street lanterns.
  • At the end of Palmerston Road where it joins the Ladies Mile a plaque on a house records that it was once the home of Fred Jane, the creator of the standard naval reference book Jane's Fighting Ships.

Canoe Lake[edit]

Canoe Lake is the last remnant of an area of marsh and open water known as the Great Morass, drained in 1886, on which much of Southsea now sits. The lake is topped up from the sea by opening a sluice at high tide. Crabs and fish find their way in, and attract children fishing with a piece of bacon on a string. Recently other marine wildlife have also been spotted, such as Moon jellyfish[30] and apparently even flounder.[31]

When undisturbed there are regularly swan and mallard, with less frequent visits from tufted duck, mediterranean gull, cormorant, little grebe and occasionally a lone black swan. In summer pedalos can be rented on the lake.

Since 2006 Canoe Lake has been a venue for the Lake of Lights Memorial Service, held each December, when thousands of lights are floated on the lake to commemorate loved ones in the local community who have been lost to cancer.[32]

Performing arts[edit]

  • A recently created attraction has been the now annual "Love Albert Road Day" which is held along one of Southsea's main roads. The event features live music, street art and theatre, stalls, food from around the world, an outdoor cinema, competitions and skate demos. All the businesses from the road remain open for the day. This event was first held in 2007 when it was expected 2,000 visitors would attend and 20,000 turned up on the day. The second "Love Albert Road Day" was held on 28 September 2008 when 40,000 visitors attended.
  • Throughout the summer, there are regular open-air concerts and events at the bandstand and on Castle Field.


  • Cumberland House is a natural history museum, butterfly house and aquarium located close to Canoe Lake just off Southsea seafront.
  • Towards the eastern end of the seafront is the Royal Marines Museum. Based in the lavishly decorated former Officers' Mess of Eastney Barracks (built in the 1860s for the Royal Marine Artillery), the Museum includes The Making of the Royal Marines Commando exhibition, opened in 2008, and a refurbished Medal Room with over 8,000 medals earned by Royal Marines – including all 10 Victoria Crosses won by them.


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: Met Office[33]
Source #2: BADC[34]

Southsea Town Council[edit]

Southsea Parish Council was created in 1999 following a successful submission to the UK Government under the Local Government and Rating Act 1997. The parish council later became the Southsea Town Council.

The existence of the town council was controversial from the outset. The initial creation of the town council was opposed by Portsmouth City Council. There was a long-standing campaign to disband the town council.[citation needed] In a poll of local residents in February 2010, 66.3% voted to abolish it.[citation needed] Southsea Town Council was abolished on 23 April 2010.[35]

The town council had limited powers and a small budget funded by the local precept. It campaigned on local issues, seeking to influence the unitary authority Portsmouth City Council; awarded funds to local causes; and funded infrastructure improvements in the local area. Until 2007 it had a small office open to the public in Southsea town centre, but this was subsequently closed.

Transport links[edit]

Hovertravel operate a regular hovercraft service to Ryde on the Isle of Wight which runs from Southsea seafront.

A 1910 Railway Clearing House map of lines around Portsmouth, showing the Southsea Railway

In 1898 a railway branch called the Southsea Railway was opened from platform 3 at Fratton Station, terminating at East Southsea Station (near to The Strand). Two unstaffed halts were added at Albert Road and Jessie Road/Devonshire Avenue. The line was not able to compete with the Portsmouth corporation tram services. It was closed in 1914 and never re-opened. The line itself and the station have since been demolished and replaced with houses; however it is possible to walk the approximate route. Southsea is now served by stations at Fratton and Portsmouth and Southsea station and on to Portsmouth Harbour (also called The Hard), with regular trains to London Waterloo.

There is currently a ferry service Hayling Island Ferry[36] linking Eastney and Ferry Point, on Hayling Island. Owing to minimal use, the service has to be subsidised by the local authorities, leaving it under constant threat of closure.

Guest houses[edit]

Southsea has traditionally offered many bed and breakfast establishments, also known as guest houses. In the early 21st century, many were sold off to developers who converted them to residential accommodation.


Notable residents[edit]


  1. ^ Quail, Sarah (2000) Southsea Past, Philimore Publishing. p.xi
  2. ^ "About Southsea Castle'". Portsmouth Museums. 2015. 
  3. ^ "Albert Road Association'". ARTA. 2015. 
  4. ^ Quail, Sarah (2000) Southsea Past, Philimore Publishing. p.1
  5. ^ Quail, Sarah (2000) Southsea Past, Philimore Publishing. p.5-7
  6. ^ "Southsea Castle History". Portsmouth Museums. 2015. 
  7. ^ Quail, Sarah (2000) Southsea Past, Philimore Publishing. p.14
  8. ^ Quail, Sarah (2000) Southsea Past, Philimore Publishing. p.15
  9. ^ "Portsmouth Council - Owen Conservation Area Details" (PDF). Portsmouth Council. 2015. 
  10. ^ Quail, Sarah (2000) Southsea Past, Philimore Publishing. p.16-17
  11. ^ a b Quail, Sarah (2000) Southsea Past, Philimore Publishing. p.19-20
  12. ^ Quail, Sarah (2000) Southsea Past, Philimore Publishing. p.42-43
  13. ^ Quail, Sarah (2000) Southsea Past, Philimore Publishing. p.45-47
  14. ^ Quail, Sarah (2000) Southsea Past, Philimore Publishing. p.46
  15. ^ Quail, Sarah (2000) Southsea Past, Philimore Publishing. p.51
  16. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2015), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  17. ^ Daniel Stashower, (2000). Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle. Penguin Books, pp. 58–59.
  18. ^ a b Quail, Sarah (2000) Southsea Past, Philimore Publishing. p.71
  19. ^ Quail, Sarah (2000) Southsea Past, Philimore Publishing. p.88-102
  20. ^ Quail, Sarah (2000) Southsea Past, Philimore Publishing. p.113
  21. ^ Quail, Sarah (2000) Southsea Past, Philimore Publishing. p.116-117
  22. ^ Quail, Sarah (2000) Southsea Past, Philimore Publishing. p.120
  23. ^ a b "Southsea fire not linked to riots". Portsmouth: The News. 19 August 2011. 
  24. ^ "Dinosaur takes up residence on Southsea Common". Portsmouth: The News. 2 August 2010. Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  25. ^ "Dinosaur model fire on Southsea Common 'not arson'". BBC News. 6 October 2011. 
  26. ^ "Announcing the start of Southsea Parkrun". Parkrun. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  27. ^ Judd, Emma (19 September 2013). "Keen runners invited to take part in new weekly timed races". The News. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  28. ^ a b "Southsea Common Trees". Portsmouth News. Retrieved 29 March 2015. 
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Regional mapped climate averages". Met Office. November 2008. Retrieved 8 March 2011. 
  34. ^ "Southsea Weather Station". BADC. October 2013. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  35. ^ "Axe finally falls on Southsea Town Council". Portsmouth: The News. 24 March 2010. 
  36. ^

External links[edit]