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 located mainly on Portsea Island. It is situated 64 miles (103 km) south west from London and 19 miles (31 km) south east from 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 HMSWarrior, 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.
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 thirteenth 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 1338 a French fleet led by Nicholas Béhuchet raided Portsmouth, destroying much of the town, with only the local church and hospital surviving. Edward III gave the town exemption from national taxes to aid reconstruction. Only ten years after this devastation the town for the first time was struck by the Black Death. In order to prevent the regrowth of Portsmouth as a threat, the French again sacked the city in 1369, 1377 and 1380. Henry V built the first permanent fortifications of Portsmouth. In 1418 he ordered a wooden Round Tower be built at the mouth of the harbour, which was completed in 1426. Henry VII rebuilt the fortifications with stone, raised a square tower, and assisted Robert Brygandine and Sir Reginald Bray in the construction of the world's first dry dock. In 1527, with some of the money from the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry VIII built Southsea Castle and decreed that Portsmouth be home of the Royal Navy he founded. In 1545, he saw his vice-flagship Mary Rose founder off Southsea Castle, with a loss of about 500 lives, while going into action against the French fleet. Over the years, Portsmouth's fortifications were rebuilt and improved by successive monarchs.
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 Cadiz.
Portsmouth has a long history of supporting the Royal Navy logistically, leading to its importance in the development of the Industrial Revolution. Marc Isambard Brunel, the father of famed Portsmouth engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, established in 1802 the world's first mass production line at the Portsmouth Block Mills, to mass produce pulley blocks for rigging on the Royal Navy's ships. At its height the Dockyard was the largest industrial site in the world.
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.
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".
The most significant project is at the Northern Quarter, centred on the former Tricorn site, which will form a new regional shopping destination. The development will provide new shops, cafés and restaurants.
- The Cathedral Church of St Thomas of Canterbury commonly known as Portsmouth Cathedral, is the Church of England cathedral of the Diocese of Portsmouth and is located in the heart of Old Portsmouth. It is the seat of the Bishop of Portsmouth. Around the year 1180, Jean de Gisors, a wealthy Norman merchant and Lord of the Manor of Titchfield, gave land, in his new town of Portsmouth, to the Augustiniancanons of Southwick Priory, so that they could build a chapel "to the Glorious Honour of the Martyr Thomas of Canterbury, one time Archbishop, on (my) land which is called Sudewede, the island of Portsea". This chapel was to become, in turn, a parish church in the 14th century and then a cathedral in the 20th century. Of this original building, the chancel and transepts remain.
- HMS Victory is a 104-gun first-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, laid down in 1759 and launched in 1765. She is most famous as Lord Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. She was also Keppel's flagship at Ushant, Howe's flagship at Cape Spartel and Jervis's flagship at Cape St Vincent. After 1824 she served as a harbour ship. In 1922 she was moved to a dry dock at Portsmouth, and preserved as a museum ship. She continues to be flagship of the Second Sea Lord and is the oldest naval ship still in commission. The naval architect chosen to design the ship was Sir Thomas Slade who, at the time, was the appointed Surveyor of the Navy. She was designed to carry at least 100 guns and was established with that number of guns; in practice, her armament varied from 104 to 106 guns and carronades. In January 1808 the Victory was reduced to a 98-gun second rate, but was reclassed as a 104-gun first rate in February 1817. The keel was laid on 23 July 1759 in the Old Single Dock (since renamed No. 2 Dock and now Victory Dock), and the name was finally chosen in October 1760.
- Southsea Castle (early in its history also known as Chaderton castle ) is one of Henry VIII's Device Forts, also known as Henrician Castles, built in 1544 on the waterfront at the southern end of Portsea Island (an area that later became named Southsea after the castle). The castle was built to guard the eastern entrance to the Solent and entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. Henry VIII watched the Mary Rose sink from near this location. The Castle was initially constructed in 1544 however there is the possibility that work started the year before. The work was in part paid for by money received as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The castle was constructed around a square keep. To the south towards the sea the castle had an angled bastion with the same arrangement on the north side. Square gun platforms made up the east and west sides. Edward VI spent a night at the castle in 1552 while inspecting the defenses of Portsmouth.
- Spinnaker Tower is a 170-metre (560 ft) landmark tower. It is the centrepiece of the redevelopment of Portsmouth Harbour, which was supported by a National Lottery grant. Its shape was chosen by Portsmouth residents from a selection. The tower, designed by local firm HGP Architects and the engineering consultants Scott Wilson and built by Mowlem, reflects Portsmouth's maritime history by being modelled after a sail. After several years of delays and cost overruns, it was opened on 18 October 2005. The tower is 2 1⁄2 times as high as Nelson's Column, making it the tallest accessible structure in the United Kingdom outside London. The tower is visible for miles around Portsmouth, changing the horizon of the area. It can be seen from the Isle of Wight, and even the Manhood Peninsula.
- The Mary Rose was a carrack-type warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII. After serving for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland, and Brittany and after being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she saw her last action on 19 July 1545. While leading the attack on the galleys of a French invasion fleet, she sank in the Solent, the straits north of the Isle of Wight. The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1971 and salvaged in 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology. The surviving section of the ship and thousands of recovered artefacts are of immeasurable value as a Tudor-era time capsule. The excavation and salvage of the Mary Rose was a milestone in the field of maritime archaeology, comparable in complexity and cost only to the raising of the Swedish 17th-century warship Vasa in 1961. The finds include weapons, sailing equipment, naval supplies and a wide array of objects used by the crew. Many of the artefacts are unique to the Mary Rose and have provided insights into topics ranging from naval warfare to the history of musical instruments. Since the mid-1980s, while undergoing conservation, the remains of the hull have been on display at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. An extensive collection of well-preserved artefacts is on display at the nearby Mary Rose Museum.