Portsmouth has a rich and interesting history that – in some parts – couldn’t be further from how it is today. Old Portsmouth is one such example. Though it’s now one of the most desirable places in the city to live and visit, this area was once rife with crime, prostitution and a great deal more.
Young men were once routinely press ganged into serving in Nelson’s Navy, whilst others plied their trade in illegal gambling rings or simply boozed themselves into a stupor. Today, of course, the Old Portsmouth pubs are a much more upmarket affair, with wine and craft ales served alongside restaurant-quality meals – often using locally sourced fish.
Though the general debauchery of old has now gone from Old Portsmouth, some things remain. Many of the historic buildings still stand, including The Dolphin pub – which is Portsmouth’s oldest and dates back to 1716. There are also narrow cobbled streets and lanes, adding to the old world feel of ‘Spice Island’.
This nickname also dates back to Old Portsmouth’s more colourful past. It was at the Old Portsmouth ports where spices imported from around the world would first reach British land – giving the air around the whole area a fragrant, spiced smell.
Walking through Old Portsmouth these days is a decidedly more pleasant experience than it once was. This is especially true with the introduction of the Millennium Promenade, which stretches through the area on its way between Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and Clarence Pier. The chain motif set into the ground means walkers cannot get lost along the way, whilst the information panels set at frequent intervals along its route provide information on the area’s history. The design itself is also emblematic, as it refers to the chain which would have once been tightened across the harbour entrance for protection in times of attack.
Set within Old Portsmouth is the city’s Anglican Cathedral – St Thomas’. The Mother Church of the Diocese of Portsmouth, St Thomas’ hosts regular services, as well as frequent, recurring events for the community.