Old Portsmouth, also known as Spice Island, is the site of the original medieval town of Portsmouth and continues to be a significant cultural and historical area within the city. Founded by Jean de Gisors, this quaint district is home to many historic buildings and landmarks, showcasing the evolution of Portsmouth throughout the centuries. Visitors can stroll through the cobbled streets, admire the architecture, and immerse themselves in the rich heritage that Old Portsmouth has to offer.
The area is not only famed for its history but also boasts an array of culinary delights, shopping experiences, and leisure activities. From traditional pubs to quaint tea rooms, and boutique stores to art galleries, Old Portsmouth caters to a wide range of interests and preferences. Moreover, a variety of events and celebrations take place in this district, further enhancing its charm and appeal to both locals and tourists alike.
- Old Portsmouth is a historic district with many notable landmarks and buildings
- The area offers a variety of culinary, shopping, and leisure experiences
- Events and celebrations occur frequently, adding to the district’s appeal
Overview of Old Portsmouth
Old Portsmouth is a historic district situated in the south west corner of Portsea Island, which forms an integral part of the city of Portsmouth. Originally founded by Jean de Gisors, Old Portsmouth encompasses the area that was once the medieval town of Portsmouth. Its locale near the Portsmouth Harbour adds to its distinctive maritime character.
Today, the district is often referred to as the “Spice Island” and is well-known for its unique streets, which still largely follow the original layout. Visitors to Old Portsmouth can admire the authentic medieval atmosphere by taking a stroll through its narrow alleys and cobbled streets.
Several significant historic landmarks grace the area, including the Royal Garrison, the Round Tower, and the Square Tower. Moreover, the city’s famous Portsmouth Cathedral and the Hotwalls Studios are also located within Old Portsmouth, drawing in numerous tourists throughout the year.
Besides its cultural attractions, Old Portsmouth boasts a variety of independent shops, delectable food and drink options, and stunning sea views. Many visitors enjoy taking a circular walk around the district, which showcases a lively mix of modern developments alongside well-preserved historic monuments.
Overall, Old Portsmouth serves as a crucial part of the city’s extensive history, providing a charming and authentic glimpse into medieval life along with contemporary offerings for locals and tourists alike. Its blend of heritage, art, and inviting ambiance makes it the very heart of Portsmouth.
Development by Jean De Gisors
In the late 12th century, Jean de Gisors founded the original medieval town of Old Portsmouth. This area, also known as Spice Island, has a rich history that can still be witnessed through its well-preserved buildings and fortifications. The roads in Old Portsmouth largely follow those of the original medieval plan, reflecting de Gisors’ vision for the town. One of the significant moments in the area’s history is when it received its first charter from Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) in 1194, establishing the city’s importance in English history.
Impact of The Blitz
Old Portsmouth’s history also includes the devastating impact of the Blitz during World War II. The city was heavily targeted due to its strategic naval significance, and many historic buildings were destroyed or severely damaged. These events forever altered the fabric of Old Portsmouth. However, the city’s resilience is evident in the restoration of some of its historic landmarks.
Despite the challenges faced throughout its history, Old Portsmouth remains an important historical site to this day. With its origins dating back to Jean de Gisors’ founding vision and the impact of the Blitz, the area serves as a testament to its significant role in shaping English history.
Square Tower and Round Tower
The Square Tower and Round Tower are iconic landmarks in Old Portsmouth. The Square Tower, built in 1494, served as a gun platform, residence, and a fortified storage facility for military supplies. The Round Tower dates back to the 15th century and was a key point in Portsmouth’s coastal defences. Today, these towers offer stunning views of the harbour and have become popular destinations for tourists and locals alike.
Portsmouth Cathedral is another notable landmark in Old Portsmouth. Dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury, the cathedral has a history that spans more than 800 years. Initially a chapel, it underwent various extensions and renovations over the centuries, with its present form dating back to the early 20th century. The mixture of styles, from Norman to Gothic to modern, makes the cathedral a fascinating architectural landmark in the city.
Royal Garrison Church
The Royal Garrison Church is an important historical site in Old Portsmouth. Founded in the 13th century as a hospice, it later became a military church. Partially destroyed during World War II, its nave remains roofless as a poignant reminder of the wartime damage. The chancel, however, has been preserved and houses impressive medieval wall paintings, offering a glimpse into the church’s rich past.
Old Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard is home to significant landmarks such as HMS Victory and HMS Warrior. The HMS Victory, commissioned in 1778, played a pivotal role in the Battle of Trafalgar and now serves as a museum. Similarly, HMS Warrior, dating back to 1860, showcases Victorian engineering and naval prowess. The Historic Dockyard also contains attractions like the Mary Rose Museum and the National Museum of the Royal Navy, making it an essential destination for those interested in maritime history.
Old Portsmouth is home to many traditional pubs that offer a cosy atmosphere and authentic British food and drink. One such gem is the Spice Island Inn located in the heart of the historic district. Here you can enjoy classic pub fare along with a variety of local ales and beers.
Old Portsmouth offers several fresh seafood options, thanks in part to its proximity to the coast. Visitors and locals alike can enjoy the finest catches of the day by visiting the local fish market. These markets are a staple in the community, offering an array of fresh seafood such as fish, shellfish, and crustaceans sourced directly from the nearby waters.
All the culinary delights Old Portsmouth has to offer should be accompanied by a fine wine, and this is where Camber Wines comes into play. This elegant and charming wine bar provides a sophisticated ambience and a vast selection of wines sourced from around the world. Whether you’re looking for something to accompany your meal or simply to unwind after a long day of sightseeing, Camber Wines is the perfect spot.
Shopping and Leisure
Old Portsmouth is the perfect destination for those seeking a unique shopping experience. The historic heart of the city is home to a variety of independent shops and boutiques, where visitors can find one-of-a-kind items and support local businesses. From artisanal crafts to bespoke fashion pieces, the independent shopping scene in Old Portsmouth offers an eclectic mix of products to suit all tastes and budgets.
The city’s rich cultural heritage is reflected in its thriving art scene, and Old Portsmouth is no exception. Art lovers will find several galleries showcasing a diverse range of original paintings and other creative works. These establishments often focus on curating thought-provoking exhibitions, appealing to both seasoned connoisseurs and casual admirers alike.
One notable spot in Old Portsmouth is the Hotwalls Studios, a collection of artist studios situated within the historic city walls. This unique venue provides an opportunity for visitors to witness the creative processes of artists in action and purchase original artwork directly from the source. Another popular destination in the area is Aspex Portsmouth, a contemporary gallery that supports emerging talent by showcasing a dynamic programme of exhibitions, events, and educational initiatives.
By exploring the independent shopping and art galleries of Old Portsmouth, visitors can immerse themselves in the city’s vibrant creative scene, providing a valuable cultural experience to enrich their overall stay.
Hotels and Accommodation
Old Portsmouth offers a variety of hotels and accommodation options for couples and other travellers. The area boasts a rich historical background, making it an attractive destination for those looking to explore the charm and beauty of Portsmouth.
For travellers looking for holiday rentals, Airbnb offers a range of options in Old Portsmouth as well as Hayling Island or Gosport. Guests can choose from a variety of highly-rated rental properties, each boasting excellent location, cleanliness, and amenities. One such rental is a newly refurbished 2-bedroom flat in the heart of Old Portsmouth, offering a comfortable and convenient stay for couples or families.
If you’re interested in staying closer to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Booking.com lists several hotels near this popular attraction. No 14 Portsmouth, located just 0.2 miles from the dockyard, is a highly-rated choice. Another option in the vicinity is Gunwharf Quays Harbour Apartments, providing guests with easy access to surrounding attractions.
In addition to hotels and holiday rentals, travellers can also find accommodation in other establishments in Old Portsmouth, such as Expedia.co.uk. With a vast selection of properties on offer, guests are sure to find the perfect lodging option to suit their needs and preferences.
Overall, Old Portsmouth provides ample choices for hotels and accommodation, ensuring a comfortable stay for couples and other visitors alike. With its rich history and beautiful surroundings, this charming area of Portsmouth is well worth exploring.
Local Events and Celebrations
Old Portsmouth is renowned for its vibrant and lively atmosphere, with various events taking place throughout the year. The local community comes together to celebrate tradition, art, music, and culture in a colourful and entertaining way.
One of the most anticipated events in Old Portsmouth is its Christmas celebrations. The city’s medieval charm provides a beautiful backdrop for festive activities and events that bring together locals and visitors alike. The streets are adorned with twinkling lights, and the aroma of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts fills the air.
The Smooth Rock Show is another event not to be missed in Old Portsmouth. Scheduled for 27th September 2023, this definitive tribute show pays homage to the masters of ‘Yacht Rock’. Featuring electrifying performances and a mesmerising stage presence, the event guarantees an unforgettable experience for attendees.
In addition to music, art enthusiasts can look forward to visiting the Hotwalls Studios, a creative hub situated within the city’s historic fortifications. The studios host regular exhibitions, workshops and open-studio events, enabling visitors to engage with talented artists and discover unique masterpieces.
Supporting local businesses is a key focus in Old Portsmouth, and the annual Portsmouth Business Expo provides an excellent platform for networking, showcasing products and services, and learning from industry experts. The event takes place on the 14th September 2023 and is expected to attract a large number of entrepreneurs and professionals.
To sum up the cultural experience, the city offers various smaller-scale community events that cater to the local audience’s tastes and preferences, with many of them happening year-round. From quaint farmers’ markets to engaging workshops and theatrical performances, there’s something for everyone in Old Portsmouth.
Cultural and Educational Institutions
Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery
Located in the heart of the city, the Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery is a cultural cornerstone, showcasing the rich heritage and history of the region. This institution offers a variety of collections, ranging from fine art pieces to local history exhibits. The museum is home to several engaging exhibitions, including those that explore the city’s maritime history and how it evolved over the years. A visit to the Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery is both educational and entertaining, as visitors are welcomed to learn about the city’s past while admiring beautiful artwork.
The Aspex Gallery is a vibrant contemporary art gallery situated in the city’s historic area. It serves as a platform for emerging local artists to showcase their work, as well as hosting exhibitions by internationally acclaimed artists. The gallery aims to foster dialogue between the artists and the public, hosting a variety of events such as talks and workshops, which cater to art enthusiasts of all ages. Aspex Gallery attracts a wide audience with its ever-changing programme of exhibitions, reflecting the diversity of modern art and its impact on the community.
Nestled within the historic Old Portsmouth, Hotwalls Studios is a thriving creative hub, offering studio spaces for artists, designers, and makers to hone their crafts. Set within the city’s heritage site, this complex was once a part of Portsmouth’s defensive fortifications, but has been transformed into an inviting, creative environment. Visitors have the opportunity to explore the unique studios, engage with the artists, and even purchase original artwork or bespoke creations. Hotwalls Studios fosters a sense of community within the local creative scene, promoting the talents of its residents while preserving the history of the area.
Activities and Attractions for Children
Portsmouth is a fantastic destination for families with children. The city offers a wide range of exciting activities and attractions that are sure to make any trip enjoyable for young visitors.
A visit to the historic Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is another excellent choice for families. Children can explore fascinating naval exhibits, including the HMS Victory and the Mary Rose museum, which are both educational and entertaining.
For an exhilarating aerial experience, consider a trip to the Spinnaker Tower. Children will be thrilled by the viewing platform situated 100 meters above the harbour, where they can take in panoramic views of the city and surrounding seascape.
Finally, for an interactive and educational experience, the Royal Armouries Museum is not to be missed. Children can learn about historical weapons and warfare while participating in hands-on activities, such as dressing up in armour and joining workshops.
There are plenty of activities and attractions in Portsmouth that cater to children, providing entertainment and educational value for the entire family. So, pack your bags and head to this charming coastal city for a memorable family adventure.
Getting Around Old Portsmouth
Exploring Old Portsmouth is a delightful experience, with its charming cobbled streets and historic buildings. The area is easily accessible on foot, making it ideal for leisurely strolls and guided walking tours.
One enjoyable way to explore the area is by following the Millennium promenade, a chain design incorporated into the paving along the seafront. Starting from the moat on the south side, you can follow the promenade in a westerly direction, past the Still and West pub, and towards the Point. This walk provides beautiful views of the waterfront and a glimpse into Old Portsmouth’s history.
For a more in-depth experience, Portsmouth of the Past Walking Tours offers free private and public group walking tours focusing on the lives and stories of the people who once lived in Old Portsmouth, rather than just the buildings and dates. The knowledgeable and friendly staff will provide insights into the area’s Roman origins up to the present day.
When navigating the quaint, narrow streets of Old Portsmouth, remember that some areas may not be as accessible for those with mobility issues due to the cobbled streets and uneven paths. Planning your route beforehand, and making any necessary arrangements, will help to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable visit.
Additionally, visitors should be mindful of the local residents and businesses while exploring Old Portsmouth. Always observe signs indicating restricted access and private properties to ensure a respectful and pleasant experience for all.
In summary, getting around Old Portsmouth is a genuinely delightful and immersive experience. The charming streets and knowledgeable tour guides make exploring this historic area a memorable adventure.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the history of Old Portsmouth?
Old Portsmouth is a district of the city of Portsmouth, situated in the south west corner of Portsea Island. It is the area covered by the original medieval town of Portsmouth as planned by Jean de Gisors. The roads in Old Portsmouth still largely follow the original medieval layout. Over the years, the area has undergone significant transformations and has played an important role in British naval history.
What are some recommended hotels in Old Portsmouth?
Some recommended hotels in Old Portsmouth include The Wellington, Queen’s Hotel, and The Ship Leopard Boutique Hotel. These hotels offer various amenities and are conveniently located near many of the area’s attractions.
Where can I park in Old Portsmouth?
There are several car parks available in Old Portsmouth, including the Gunwharf Quays Car Park, which offers a convenient location for exploring the area’s attractions. Additionally, on-street parking is available throughout Old Portsmouth, though restrictions may apply, and it is essential to check local signage for specific information.
What are the top attractions in Old Portsmouth?
Old Portsmouth is home to numerous attractions, including the Historic Dockyard, the Mary Rose Museum, and the Square Tower. Additionally, visitors can take a stroll along the waterfront at Spice Island or explore the narrow streets and historic buildings that showcase the area’s rich history.
How can I explore Old Portsmouth through a walking tour?
Guided walking tours are an excellent way to explore Old Portsmouth and learn more about its history. Portsmouth City Council offers multiple guided walks, allowing visitors to discover the area’s many attractions and historical landmarks on foot, providing an in-depth experience of Old Portsmouth’s rich heritage.
Are there any properties for sale in Old Portsmouth?
Old Portsmouth offers a mix of properties available for sale, ranging from historic homes to modern apartments. If you are interested in purchasing a property in Old Portsmouth, it is advisable to contact local estate agents to browse available listings and arrange viewings.
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