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Our favourite fact
Portsmouth is notable for being the United Kingdom’s only island city; it is located mainly on Portsea Island.
This name was adopted after the stone and brick from the ruined Warblington Castle, a few miles from Portsmouth, was used in the building of the newer houses. The name was in use from 1672 although this road was previously known as Hoggyn Markett or Hogmarkett Streete reflecting the livestock market that was held here. Both names were used interchangeably until the mid 1770s. In 1721, the local court heard the following complaint: ‘That the pavements before almost all the houses in Hogmarket als Warblinton Street are very ruinous out of Repair and that the laying of Dung, Filth and Burchers Offal there is a comon nuisance.’ Warblington Castle had been slighted in the Civil War by Parliamentarian forces.
From 1808 the Royal Navy’s West Africa Squadron, who were tasked to stop the slave trade, operated out of Portsmouth.
Lack of reptiles
‘The salubrity of the air around Portesmouth is evident from the lack of reptiles in the vicinity.’
According to the The Portesmouth, Portsea and Gosport Guide published in 1799
Portsmouth inhabitants have felt earthquake tremors on at least four occasions in 1692, 1734, 1750 and 1834.
Felton’s Hole and other admonishments
An unpleasant punishment meted out by the Portsmouth courts was incarceration in Felton’s Hole. Located on Grand Parade, and regularly inundated by the sea, conditions were described as ‘so badd that some of the soldiers confest they would not put a dogg in there’. Those found guilty could also be banished from the Town, held in gaol, whipped, set to hard labour and, from 1788, transported to Australia.
Verrecchia ice cream
Portsmouth, like other coastal towns, saw Italian ice cream makers appearing by the late 1800s. Initially there was some local hostility with regular fines being imposed for obstruction. However, attitudes had softened by the inter war period enabling Augusto Verrecchia to open his popular coffee house and ice cream café by the railway bridge near Guildhall Square. In the post WWII period, this café was much loved by the students of the nearby Municipal College as the individual booths were ideal for courting.
One of these booths is now preserved and on view in the City Museum.
“My Dad used to ride the Walls ice cream carts. It was the same sort of cart as the one in the City Museum. Then when they brought the vans in, he stopped because he couldn’t drive. “- Comment submitted by a Portsmouth resident.
Concern for a Tower
Portsmouth City Council is concerned that the fortifications at the mouth of the harbour are being eroded by the sea. This is not new. In the 16th century, Portsmouth had the following regulation:
‘…which hathe continued the space of ij hundred yeares and ore, that all the passage botes that sayle usithe between the yle of wighte and portsmouthe should brynge everye of them once in the yeare one bote lode of rocke stones and leye them within the pyles of the rounde Tower near to the haven’s mouthe by the maiors appointment and order…’
The records do not show how successful this regulation was, but the Round Tower has survived through the generations to still be with us today.
This Side Idolatry
This well researched but controversial novel based on the life of Charles Dickens was published in 1928. It was not altogether complimentary. Portsmouth City Council, proud of its links with with the author, promptly banned it from its public libraries. This book was billed as the ‘most discussed book of the century’ but Portsmouth residents were forced to buy their own copies to read. Portsmouth City library has an enviable collection regarding Dickens. However their catalogue shows that they still don’t possess a copy of this book.
General Wolfe’s opinion
“The necessity of living in the midst of the diabolical citizens of Portsmouth is a real and unavoidable calamity. It is a doubt to me if there is such another collection of demons upon the whole earth.” General Wolfe writing to his mother in 1758.
Jane’s Fighting Ships
Fred T Jane, although not a native of Portsmouth, spent most of his working life in the town. He is best remembered for his international standard reference work, All the World’s Fighting Ships. However he was active in local life in many ways including the burgeoning scouting movement and politics.