Portsmouth is probably one of the most famous cities in the world. It has been the home of the Royal Navy since the time of Henry VIII. He stood on the battlements of Southsea Castle in July 1545, watching his flagship, the Mary Rose, sink into the Solent.
Today, the city is a thriving mix of industrial, naval, commercial and residential, with a significant military presence and a substantial student population. According to the 2011 census, the population has topped 200,000 people.
Many of the old waterfront docks and naval bases have been repurposed as high-end shopping and eating destinations. Gunwharf Quays is an excellent example of reviving redundant military sites like HMS Vernon and breathing new life into them.
As you would expect for such a grand city, there are excellent road, rail and sea links. It has many stations, bus routes and of course the International Ferry Port.
Portsmouth has got the lot.
It has the sea, quaint Georgian architecture, cobbled streets, modern buildings and a diverse community of old and young.
You can take in the charms of Old Portsmouth, with its winding streets and naval history seeping from every corner of the old buildings, or indulge in the nightlife of Guildhall Square, with bars, clubs and eateries.
Portsmouth is such a great place to live. It’s the reason why it is a thriving peninsula, as popular today as it was when the Romans first settled there.
The Romans came in the late third century, building a fort at nearby Portchester. They called it Portus Adurni. For centuries, Portsmouth and the south coast was vulnerable to Danish Viking invasions, suffering devastating attacks that almost completely wiped out the English population.
Defences improved, and as the Kings came and went, so did the town’s military capabilities. Its strategic placement at the mouth of a deep harbour made it the natural choice for the home of the Royal Navy. Deep waters meant large ships and a narrow port entrance made it easier to defend.
The oldest working dock in the world is situated at the Portsmouth Dockyards, built-in 1495 by Henry VII, and No.1 Dock is still in use today. Portsmouth can also lay claim as the birthplace of the industrial revolution. Marc Isambard Brunel set up the world’s first mass-production line, established in the Portsmouth Dockyard Block Mills.
It became the world’s most industrialised site, employing over 8,000 people. Portsmouth boasts many famous names in history, from Charles Dickens or Isambard Kingdom Brunel to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Peter Sellers; the city has produced the great and the good.
This rich tapestry of history, achievement and pride is still felt in the old city today. Everywhere you look, there are reminders of a stately past, as well as green shoots of new industries, technologies and greatness yet to be written.
Portsmouth’s story is still unfolding, which makes the future all the more exciting.
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