Sat directly opposite the city of Portsmouth lies the town of Gosport. It is closely linked with the city through the Royal Navy, but has an interesting character of its own…
Status: Gosport District, Hampshire, Town, England
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: St Mary’s Church, Portsmouth Harbour, Gosport Marina, St George Barracks, Falkland Gardens, Admiral Fieldhouse Bust, Tidal Clock, Haslar Marina, Haslar Lightship, Nelson’s Bar, Admiral Fitzgerald Drinking Fountain, Holy Trinity Church, Royal Navy Submarine Museum etc
On our way into the town, we passed the entrance to “St George Barracks”, which is marked by the old Guard House of 1859. Outside the building stands an old Victorian Lamppost, which was recently restored by the Gosport Society.
The Barracks themselves are an enormous complex, laid out between 1856 – 1859. Gosport was a strategically important town, lying just across from the large naval base at Portsmouth, and at the edge of Portsmouth Harbour, where it becomes the Solent, and then the English Channel. The rest of the buildings are barely visible from the road, and this was deliberate, so that it wasn’t easily identifiable in the event of an enemy attack.
Originally entitled just “New Barracks”, they were renamed St George Barracks in 1941 when the Navy took charge from the Army who moved back in in 1947 after WWII. Various battalions have been stationed here, with the last being the “2nd Maritime Regiment”, who left as the Barracks closed in 1971. The former buildings have now been converted into flats and offices, whilst keeping the historic layout.
Reaching the harbourside, we were struck at how well the Spinnaker Tower over in Portsmouth blended in with the masts of the yachts in the North Marina. The Tower was designed to look like a ships sail, and I would say it fits in perfectly.
Along the sea front lies the “Falkland Gardens”, originally laid out in 1924 and known as “Harvey’s Promenade” after a local councillor who championed their construction.
In 1984 the gardens were renamed the Falkland Gardens in memory of all the soldiers who died during the Falkland Islands Campaign.
They feature a number of landmarks, including the Bust of Admiral of the Fleet, John David Elliott Fieldhouse (1928 – 1992, Royal Naval Officer) who was the Commander during the retaking of the Falklands. Behind it stands the Gosport Rotary Club Fountain.
At the edge of the Gardens, on the rocks that line the water stands a short, squat pyramid shaped Clock Tower.
Funded by the Gosport Ferry, it shows the state of the tides in Portsmouth Harbour.
The waterfront also affords a stunning view of “Old Portsmouth”, the original city of Portsmouth as laid out by Jean de Gisors (1133 – 1220, Norman Lord) in the 1180’s.
To the left is the wooden cupola of Portsmouth’s Anglican Cathedral, whilst in the centre you can see the stone Round Tower built in the 1490’s.
Gosport Marina South (aka Haslar Marina) is by far the largest in the town, with space for hundreds of luxury yachts.
At the far end of the Marina (out of shot) you will find the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, which is home to the HMS Alliance. Launched in 1945 at the end of WWII, the Submarine saw service in the 1960’s war between Indonesia & Malaysia. By 1973 it was being used as a training ship, before joining the museum as a permanent exhibit in 1981.
The rest of the area is home to the Royal Naval Hospital, opened in 1753, which was recently closed in 2009. Alongside the Hospital lay the old Gunboat Yard, opened by the Navy in 1856 to house their large Gunboats.
Haslar Marina also has a long pier which runs along its northern edge, towards another famous resident of the area, the Haslar Lightship, shown in green to the right.
The ship, christened the “Mary Mouse 2” began service in 1946, and has been stationed everywhere from the Port of Dover, to the River Humber in Yorkshire, to the Norfolk Coast. Lightships essentially functioned as moveable lighthouses, and were constantly manned. Finally decommissioned, the Mary Mouse was moved to Gosport, where it now houses a restaurant.
Looking back towards the mainland from the end of the pier, you can see the new apartment blocks which line the edge of the Marina.
Between them, nestled between the trees is the Tower of Holy Trinity Church, one of the older buildings in the area. Although its exterior is decidedly Victorian, it’s history begins a few centuries earlier, when the then Bishop of Winchester opened a new, albeit smaller, Church here in 1696. It was later extended in both 1734, and 1835 with new facade’s to the West, and East.
The Tower we see today was then added in 1887, when Sir Arthur Blomfield built what remains today a detached Campanile. For many years the Tower was the tallest building in the town, and a good navigational landmark for ships entering the Harbour.
Gosport also has a bustling High Street, the start of which is across the road from the Falkland Gardens, heading North.
It’s entrance is marked by the Drinking Fountain, built in 1870 by Admiral Robert Fitzgerald Gambier and an anonymous woman from the town, simply known by her initials on the fountain of E.M.S..
Admiral Fitzgerald (1803 – 1885) was a huge supporter of sailors in the town, and co-founded the Royal Sailor’s Home in Portsmouth during the 1940’s. He would become an Admiral in 1877 after various successful campaigns, before he passed away aged 82 in 1885.
There are a number of interesting buildings on the High Street, starting with the large building to the left, built as the “Royal Hospital” Alehouse in the 19th Century. The name was later changed to the “Star Inn”. Gosport has long been a large port, and it was supposedly commonly used by local smugglers bringing contraband into and out of the town.
It would have also been the perfect place for travellers arriving in Gosport to rest up for the night before they continued on, as it was also used as a Coaching Inn. Today it contains Nelson’s Bar.
The archway at the buildings centre would once have led to the stables to the rear, where travellers could swap horses.
Two doors down from Nelson’s Bar lies the Church of St Mary, originally built as a small chapel behind a row of cottages which fronted the High Street here in 1776. This was replaced in the 1850’s with the present building, although it wouldn’t be fully completed until 1878, as the original Canon passed away early on in construction.
The building looks stunning finished in old Victorian Brick, as many of the other shop fronts are quite plain.
Gosport is quite an interesting little place, and I’ll leave you with a panoramic shot I took of the view out across Portsmouth Harbour, from the Spinnaker Tower to Old Portsmouth.
The views here are unparallelled, although there is still plenty to explore in the town itself.
For us, it was our penultimate stop in our tour of Hampshire in 2015, with only Fareham left to go before we departed…