Known as Pompey by the locals, Portsmouth is a city with a long and proud seafaring tradition. Many of the major events and local history of the place has to do with the sea. For example Portsmouth is where, in 1765 HMS Victory, the flagship of Nelson’s fleet was built. It is also the birthplace of the very first warship built with a ground breaking iron hull as HMS Warrior was constructed here in 1860. Portsmouth is also home to the Mary Rose, the flagship of King Henry VIII which sank in 1545, all of which are now housed within the purpose built Historic Dockyard which has become one of the most visited attractions in the while of the UK. In addition, Portsmouth is where you will find the very first dry dock facility that was built in the country. Aside from the links with the sea, Portsmouth is also the birth place of a certain Charles Dickens.
Charles Dickens is not the only famous son that the city has produced as innovative engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel was also born here, as was comedic genius Peter Sellers. Of course there have also been many fine naval officers born and bred here such as Admiral George Anson whose rise through the ranks from joining at the age of fifteen saw him rise to the elevated position of Lord of the Admiralty. The world’s oldest dry dock is located here; commissioned by King Henry VII over five hundred years ago in 1495, it can be found in the historic Dockyard where you will also find the oldest commissioned naval warship anywhere in the world, HMS Victory.
The docks are still very much the focus of activity in the city with the ferry port claiming its place as the busiest anywhere in the UK with just under two and a half million people passing through it every year. Trade links are still very strong here too, as Portsmouth is regarded as the nation’s largest fruit handling port. Dealing with imports from around the world, it is estimated that around 65% of the bananas that are eaten in the UK every year arrived in the country at Portsmouth.
On The Big Screen
The Historic Docklands were used as the backdrop for the filming of the smash hit Les Miserables, but this is not the first production that has used the city for filming. Portsmouth was also used as a location in the Bond movie ‘Live and Let Die’, as well as in Eastenders, Mr Bean, Oscar and Lucinda and Silent Witness. A visit to the city may see you recognising more places than you think. Portsmouth is very much a naval city, and it’s a great place to take the kids and show them some of the nation’s naval might and proud seafaring history. Aside from a naval town it is also a University town and as such has something of a vibrancy to it that many university towns have, as well as the fabulous entertainment options that go hand in hand with students.