Pictures of Portsmouth
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When Henry V issued the order that effectively founded the British Navy in 1415, little could he have envisaged how the sterling deeds of centuries would add lustre to the little port until it became the premier port of England and home of the greatest Navy in the world. In the 1490's Henry VII built the first dry dock and fortified the sea walls. In 1540, Henry VIII gave the final seal of approval by making it the first Royal dockyard. Today, Portsmouth has a flourishing waterfront and a maritime history without equal.
Perhaps the most illustrious name to be linked with Portsmouth is Vice-Admiral Viscount Nelson who, early on the after-noon of Saturday, September 4th 1805, took his last walk on English soil. He walked through cheering crowds until he reached the quayside where he boarded his barge and was rowed out to H.M.S.Victory. Within a few short weeks he had put paid to the Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar and was dead. The Victory returned with Nelson's body in December, the ship was refitted and returned to service until it was retired in 1824 when it become the flagship of Portsmouth Command and England's greatest naval tourist attraction. It is now two hundred years since Nelson was engaged in this important battle, and this year ships from all around the world gathered in Portsmouth harbour to celebrate England's great victory. H.M. Queen Elizabeth II inspected the fleet, there was a wonderful re-enactment of the battle and the day was rounded off with a spectacular fire-work display. The waterfront was decked out in breathtaking displays of sub-tropical plants and flowers as Portsmouth welcomed visitors from both home and abroad to what has become a modern, vibrant City where there is much to see and admire.
Visitors to Portsmouth will be delighted at the choice of historic ships to be seen and the fascinating museums where they can explore hundreds of years of maritime history. Apart from H.M.S.Victory, there is the Mary Rose and H.M.S. Warrior - a war-ship built in 1860. So technically advanced was Warrior that in her hey-day she made almost every other war-ship obsolete. Today, this elegant ship is a joy to see, she looks just as majestic as she did on the day she first set sail. Action Stations is a must for everyone who seeks adventure. It is an interactive showcase for the Navy, where you can experience what it is like to command a great ship and learn how to fly a helicopter. For those who truly want to soak up the atmosphere of naval life there is The Royal Naval Museum. Here, in a magnificently restored former Georgian storehouse, you can see the most complete collection of naval relics on show anywhere. Memorabilia includes; ships models, uniforms, medals, swords, figureheads, documents and paintings. You can also enjoy the Trafalgar experience and learn the strategy for Nelson's decisive win over Napoleon.
In 1927 the beautiful parish church dedicated to St.Thomas of Canterbury in the 12th-century, became a cathedral. It is Cruciform in shape with a square tower over the crossing. Unlike many churches from the medieval period, Portsmouth cathedral is wonderfully spacious, its light and airy feel is largely due to the number of towering columns supporting the beautifully carved arches of the nave. Over the centuries the cathedral has stood silent witness to the development of the city and has administered to the diverse needs of citizens and sailors.
A canal was built here in 1823, this was followed three decades later by a direct rail line to London which boosted trade and helped the town's economy. The advent of the railways brought Victorian tourists to the town, and once here these early visitors where quick to appreciate the charm of the area, its history and magnificent sea and coastal views.
These days, the City is home to a splendid university ensuring a youthful vibrant community who along with thousands of visitors enjoy the pleasures of the waterfront with it's fine selection of bars and cafe's. They also appreciate Portsmouth's superb shopping facilities which include the famous City Centre Market which was originally instigated by Royal Charter in 1194. This is the south coasts most colourful market, it offers everything from food to fashion and is open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at its home in Commercial Road. Other markets include a French market and a Farmers market. Portsmouth also has an unrivalled choice of beautiful parks and refreshing open spaces. For art lovers there is a choice of galleries, these include the Artists Harbour Gallery located in the Dockyard area, and there is an Arts Centre in the City Library. As for museums, the list is almost endless, here you can see, savour and explore no less than 12 museums all within a short distance of each other and each with its own unique displays giving extraordinary glimpses of Portsmouth's rich historic past, and its history right up to the 20th-century. For modern day attractions, look no further than impressive Spinnaker Tower which at 170 meters high has changed the skyline forever. The tower is the tallest tower outside London in which visitors can rise to a dizzy 110 meters, whilst enjoying fabulous sea and coastal views.
On a cultural note, the City has strong literary ties; it was the birth-place of Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Connan-Doyle practised medicine at Southsea where he wrote his first Sherlock Holmes novel and H.G.Wells worked in a drapers shop on the corner of Kings Road. Engineering genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born in Portsmouth in 1806.
Couple all this with cinema's, theatre's, entertaining pubs and restaurants with a wide choice of exciting cuisine and you have a recipe for a really special visit be it a flying weekend or a longer stay.
Portsmouth is and always will be England's most illustrious port, its matchless historic past also makes it one of England's great national treasures. It is a stunning City worthy of more than a quick trip in to catch a ferry, so when you plan your next trip abroad why not add on a few days to explore the magic of Portsmouth - it is something you will really enjoy and more than likely wonder why you didn't think to do it before!
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