Portsmouth is the second largest city in the ceremonial county of Hampshire on the south coast of England. Portsmouth is notable for being the United Kingdom's only island city; it is mainly on Portsea Island. It is situated south west of London and south east of Southampton.
As a significant naval port for centuries, Portsmouth is home to the world's oldest dry dock still in use and also home to some famous ships, including HMS Warrior, the Tudor carrack Mary Rose and Lord Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory. Although smaller than in its heyday, the naval base remains a major dockyard and base for the Royal Navy and Royal Marine Commandos whose Headquarters resides there. There is also a thriving commercial ferryport serving destinations on the continent for freight and passenger traffic. The City of Portsmouth and Portsmouth Football Club are both nicknamed Pompey.
The Spinnaker Tower is a striking recent addition to the city's skyline. It can be found in the redeveloped former HMS Vernon, formerly a shore establishment or 'stone frigate' of the Royal Navy, now an area of retail outlets, restaurants, clubs and bars now known as Gunwharf Quays.
The City of Portsmouth has a population of 209,166 and is the only city in England with a greater population density than London. Portsmouth forms part of the South Hampshire Built-up Area, which includes Southampton, Havant, Eastleigh, Fareham and Gosport, and is the 6th largest urban area in England and the largest in Hampshire, with an estimated 860,000 residents according to the 2011 Census this area forms the centre of one of the United Kingdom's most populous metropolitan areas with a population in excess of a million.
There have been boom settlements in the area since before Roman times, mostly being offshoots of Portchester, which was a Roman base (Portus Adurni) and possible home port of the Classis Britannica. Winston Churchill stated in his book "A History of the English Speaking Peoples Volume One The Birth of Britain" (page 65) that Portsmouth was founded in 501 by Port, the pirate. Others say that Portsmouth is commonly regarded as having been founded in 1180 by the Anglo-Norman lord Jean de Gisors. Most early records of Portsmouth are thought to have been destroyed by Norman invaders following the Norman Conquest. The earliest detailed references to Portsmouth can be found in the Southwick Cartularies. However, there are records of "Portesmūða" from the late 9th century, meaning "mouth of the Portus harbour". The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for 501 claims that "Portesmuða" was founded by a Saxon warrior called Port, though historians do not accept that origin of the name. The Chronicle states that:
In the Domesday Book there is no mention of Portsmouth. However, settlements that were later to form part of Portsmouth are listed. At this time it is estimated the Portsmouth area had a population not greater than two or three hundred. Whereas Portsea had a small church prior to 1166, Portsmouth's first real church was built in 1181, when a chapel dedicated to Thomas Becket was erected by Augustinian monks; it was run by the monks of Southwick Priory until the Reformation. The modern Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral is built on the original location of the chapel.
In 1194 King Richard The Lionheart returned from being held captive in Austria, and set about summoning a fleet and an army to Portsmouth, which Richard had taken over from John of Gisors. On 2 May 1194 the King gave Portsmouth its first Royal Charter granting permission for the borough to hold a fifteen-day annual "Free Market Fair", weekly markets, to set up a local court to deal with minor matters, and exemption from paying the annual tax, with the money instead used for local matters. King Richard later went on to build a number of houses and a hall in Portsmouth. The hall is thought to have been at the current location of the Clarence Barracks (the area was previously known as Kingshall Green). Some believe that the crescent and eight-point star found on the 13th century common seal of the borough was derived from the arms of William de Longchamp, Lord Chancellor to Richard I at the time of the granting of the charter but it is actually the granting by Richard of the arms of the defeated Isaac Komnenos of Cyprus (Isaac had held Richard's fiancee and sister captive; and he conquered Cyprus as a result, in the Third Crusade. His awarding of the arms could possibly reflect a significant involvement of Portsmouth soldiers, sailors or vessels in that operation.). The crescent and star, in gold on a blue shield, were subsequently recorded by the College of Arms as the coat of arms of the borough.
In 1200 King John reaffirmed the rights and privileges awarded by King Richard. King John's desire to invade Normandy resulted in the establishment of Portsmouth as a permanent naval base, and soon afterward construction began on the first docks, and the Hospital of St Nicholas, which performed its duties as an almshouse and hospice. During the thirteenth century Portsmouth was commonly used by Henry III and Edward I as a base for attacks against France.
By the 14th century commercial interests had grown considerably. Common imports included wool, grain, wheat, woad, wax and iron, however the port's largest trade was in wine from Bayonne and Bordeaux.
In 1628 the unpopular favourite of Charles I George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham was stabbed to death in an Old Portsmouth pub by a veteran of Villiers' most recent military folly, John Felton. The murder took place in the "Greyhound" public house (popularly known as "The Spotted Dog"), High Street; this is now a private building called Buckingham House and it bears a commemorative plaque to mark the event.
During the English Civil War the arsenal at the Square Tower was surrendered by its royalist commander in return for safe passage out of the city for himself and the garrison. The city would become a major base for the Parliamentary Navy during the war. The father of the Royal Navy Robert Blake during the Commonwealth would use Portsmouth as his main base, during both the Anglo Dutch war and the Anglo Spanish war. He died within sight of the city after his final cruise off Cádiz.
On 13 May 1787 11 ships sailed from Portsmouth, to establish the first European colony in Australia; it also marked the beginning of prisoner transports to that continent. It is known today as the First Fleet in Australia.
The city's nickname Pompey is thought to have derived from shipping entering Portsmouth harbour making an entry in their logs as Pom. P. in reference to Portsmouth Point. Navigational charts use this abbreviation. Another theory is that it is named after, what was the harbour's guardship, Le Pompee, a 74 gun French battleship captured in 1793.
In 1818 John Pounds began teaching the working class children of Portsmouth this would become the country's first ragged school. These schools and the resulting movement would aim to provide education to all children regardless of their ability to pay, and were keenly supported by Charles Dickens himself born in Portsmouth in 1812.
Admiral Nelson left Portsmouth for the final time in 1805 to command the fleet that would defeat the larger Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar. The Royal Navy's reliance on Portsmouth led to the city becoming the most fortified in Europe, with a network of forts (a subset of "Palmerston's Follies") encircling the city. From 1808 the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron, who were tasked to stop the slave trade, operated out of Portsmouth. On 21 December 1872 a major scientific expedition, the Challenger Expedition, was launched from Portsmouth.
In 1926 Portsmouth was granted city status, 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". Two years later the city received the further honour of a lord mayoralty. In 1929 the city council added the motto "Heaven's Light Our Guide" to the medieval coat of arms. Apart from referring to the celestial objects in the arms, the motto was that of the Star of India. This recalled that troopships bound for the colony left from the port. Further changes were made to the arms in 1970, when the Portsmouth Museums Trust sponsored the grant of crest, supporters and heraldic badge. 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 latter animal. Around the unicorn is wrapped a representation of "The Mighty Chain of Iron", a Tudor defensive boom across Portsmouth Harbour.
It was only in 1916 when the town experienced its first aerial bombardment when a Zeppelin airship bombed it during the First World War. During the Second World War, the city was bombed extensively destroying many houses and the Guildhall. 930 people died in the air raids on Portsmouth and nearly 3,000 others were injured. There were also many injuries and deaths in the dockyard and naval and military establishments. Its status as a major port was the key factor in the Luftwaffe's decision to bomb it so heavily. While most of the city has since been rebuilt, developers still occasionally find unexploded bombs around the area. Southsea beach and Portsmouth Harbour were vital military embarkation points for the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944. Southwick House, just to the north of Portsmouth, had been chosen as the headquarters for the Supreme Allied Commander, US General Dwight D. Eisenhower, during D-Day.
After the war, much of the city's housing stock was damaged and more was cleared in an attempt to improve the quality of housing. Those people affected by this were moved out from the centre of the city to new developments such as Paulsgrove and Leigh Park. Post-war redevelopment throughout the country was characterised by utilitarian and brutalist architecture, with Portsmouth's Tricorn Centre one of the most famous examples. More recently, a new wave of redevelopment has seen Tricorn's demolition, the renewal of derelict industrial sites, and construction of the Spinnaker Tower.