Essay On Foundation of Portsmouth

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Foundation of Portsmouth

Foundation of Portsmouth traced to 1180 when Jean De Gisors developed a little town to the south of the Portsea Island. Therefore, the foundation of the town was based on the trading relationships (Warren, 1-89). The founder of the city was a renowned merchant that operated a fleet of ship. The founder was also a major landowner since he owned some land in Portsea Island. The selection of the location where Portsmouth lies was based on the presence of a small inlet known as Camber. The inlet was an ideal place for docking. Being a ship owner, the merchant used the presence of the inlet from the sea as the main criterion for the selection.

In order to form a community, the founder divided the land into plots for the construction of houses. He also started a marketplace to attract the people that were meant to trade in the location. With the subdivision of land into plots, the location was now an ideal settlement for the numerous small-scale merchants with business interests in the region. Artisans settled in the location and started the production of products that would later be sold off in cottage industries. In 1185, the development of the community was recognized by the church with the construction of the church in the location. The king recognized the community of Portsmouth by awarding the people a charter.

The development of the town over the years led to the identification of more strategic importance for the crown. The crown made explicit recognition of the location as one of the most important ones in the entire new world. This was the case even if the population in the town was only 1200 people (Warren, 1-89). The main trade items in the town included wool and grain. The people in the inland reared sheep and cultivated crops hence the agricultural nature of the exports. Major imports to the location were wine, wax, candles, and waod, which was used dyeing clothes.

Even in the middle ages, the town indicated tendencies of religiosity. In 1212, the city witnessed the construction of the house of god. This was a special location for the pilgrims. The hospice led to the massive influx of Christians to the location. The waterways and trade routes led to the acknowledgment of the location as a major destination. Other social amenities that the town constructed include a hospice for the lepers and a police force for governance. By the 14th century, the town has already formed a political system headed by a mayor.

The middle ages also witnessed several uprisings that threatened the existence of the town. In the 14th century, the town was burnt down four times. The reason for the burning down of the town was the continuous war between France and England. The French burned the town with ease since the majority of the houses were made of wood and thatch. In order to curb the incessant attacks, the British appointed a military governor in 1369. However, even with the appointment of the governor, the town burned down three times. Therefore, the military leadership was ineffective in running the city (Warren, 1-89).

The losses that resulted from the incessant attacks were minimal given that the houses were comparatively easier to construct. Failure of the traditional protection of the town from the external attacks led to the fortification of the town in 1380. The town was fortified suing wooden walls. Other security measures adopted by the government in the town included the erection of a tower at the entrance of the harbor. The harbor was equipped with the cannons that would fire at any enemy ship that attempted to enter the harbor. In addition to this, the leadership set a large chain across the mouth of the harbor. The winch used to hoist the chain was located at the tower. Lowering and hoisting of the chain was a strategy used in the control of the ships that would get into the harbor.

One of the major events that took place in the town during the Middle Ages was the murder of the bishop of Chichester in 1450. The bishop was sent by the king to quell dissenting voices among the people. However, the move was by large controversial since the bishop was one of the advisors to the king (Balfour, Hollins, and Broadbent, 1-69). The sailors were non-receptive to his intervention. The bishop was also blamed for the numerous defeats in the war between the British and the French. Another mistake that he did was to take money to the city to pay the arrears in wages. The inadequacy of the funds coupled with the history of the bishop led to the increased infuriation of the sailors. They killed him in the process of conducting mass (Warren, 1-89). This action led to the declaration of an interdict on the town, which meant that the people were no longer allowed to conduct mass. The interdict spanned over five decades.

16th century

The century marked a defining moment for the town. In 1527, the king ordered the enlargement of the dockyard, which was meant, for the production of the naval ships. The expansion of the dockyard culminated in the closure of monasteries to create space for the construction. In 1539, the king also closed the Domus Dei and transformed it into an armory. The house was later turned into the home of the military governor. The king also constructed the South Sea Castle in 1544. The development of the town marked the increased importance of the location (Horton and Pope, 45). The king had identified the town as a strategic location for the major government installations. This classification of the city transmuted into the abolishment of the main tenets on which the town was initially built.

The decline of the importance of the town also set in the same century after other dockyards were opened up in the region more son along the Thames. Opening up of the new locations led to the loss of business by the town (Portsmouth, 137). The dockyard in the town was only used for the repair of ship but not the actual construction. The 16th century also marked the outbreak of plague. The town was affected since it lost over 300 people. This was a significant number in a population of 2000.

The town declined to the state of being poor and beggarly. The town was also affected by the second bout of plague in the early decades of the century. With the new issues that it was experiencing, the town lost the significance and dominance that it formerly enjoyed. However, under the guidance of Charles I, the town started regaining its lost glory.

Significant events that took place in the century includes the assassination of the duke of Buckingham. The duke was killed in the town by John Fenton (Atkins and Atkins, 147). The sailor was later hanged for his crimes, and his body was dangled in chains until its decomposition as a warning sign to the rest of the sailors who were notorious for the conduction of the assassination. The other significant event of the century was the civil war between the king and the parliament. The people of the town were in favor of the parliament. However, the military governor was loyal to the king. During this war, the town was attacked using its establishments. The town was blockaded by sea on one hand. The navy that would have secured it were against the stand taken by the governor. Therefore, they sided with the parliament on the same matter. Their selection to side with the parliament bore some repercussions for the people.

Attacks on the town were launched on two sides. On one side, the parliament supporters attacked the town from the inland. They took the castle of the Southsea and used the guns mounted in the castle to fire at the town. On the other hand, the town of Gosport joined the war siding with the parliament. This led to mounting of the attack on the town from both fronts. The governor realized the hopelessness of the situation and blackmailed the people with the threat of blowing the town using the gunpowder reserves. The people yielded and let him escape from the town unharmed.

After the conclusion of the civil war, the town witnessed a period of prosperity. The first ship was made in the dockyard in a period of over 100 years. The ship was dubbed Portsmouth in a symbolic gesture. In a period of 10 years, the dockyard produced 12 ships. This led to the development of business in the region. The population of the town grew with the newfound prosperity. New installments were made in the town such as the mast ponds, the new wharf for the navy, and expansion of the common dockyard. Fortification of the town was improved with the development of bastion and digging of moats. This led to the classification of the town as one of the most heavily fortified towns.

The 18th century was also a period marked by continued development of the town. The dockyard continued to expand (Atkins and Atkins, 147). The new docking stations were constructed. Warehouses and godowns were built to handle the increased cargo that came from the location. St. Anne church was constructed. Settlements for the naval officers were constructed for the officers that needed to stay close to their duty stations. The century also witnessed the opening of a naval academy for training naval officers.

The town reached its bursting point towards the end of the 17th century. This led to the expansion of the town and building of houses to the northern parts of the town in a region referred to as the common (Warren, 1-89). The first set of houses was constructed in 1690. The houses were near the dockyard such that the governor had reservations on the visibility of the advancing enemies (Foss, 1-59). His threats to fire cannons at the houses were repealed by Prince George. Therefore, the new suburb was created known as the Portsmouth common. The new suburb grew faster such that it outgrew the initial settlement.

The new suburb became a source of competition for the old Portsmouth. The new suburb appointment and improvement commission that was charged with paving of streets and collection of dirt. Old Portsmouth followed suit by setting up a new body of charged with street lighting and patrol. The street lighting used the gas lamps. At the end of the century, the first grammar school was developed because of a donation by a rich man. The rich man required that the school be accessible to all children free of charge. However, the wishes of the founder were not considered since the school was later turned into a paying school.

19th century

The century witnessed the development of the town with inclinations towards the modern way of living. In the Portsmouth Common area, there was a water piping system that served the rich since one had to pay to be connected. There was also gas street lighting. The period also witnessed the development of the town to expand beyond the Southwest corner. The century marked the spread of the town to the rest of the island. Development of the town led to swallowing up of the villages that were formed towards the outskirts.

20th century

The century was also marked by increased development of the town. The modes of transport were improved with the replacement of the horse drawn carriages with electric ones. Motor run buses were introduced in 1919 (Atkins and Atkins, 147). The period led to opening up of hospitals, golf clubs, and cinema halls. During the Second World War, the town was a major target owing to the fact that it was w a major naval base.


Atkins, Keith, and Pam Atkins. Portsmouth. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Pub., 2011. Print.
Balfour, Alan, Peter Hollins, and Geoffrey Broadbent. Portsmouth. London: Studio Vista, 1970. Print.
Foss, Gerald D. Portsmouth. Bath [England]: A. Sutton, 1994. Print.
Horton, Nancy, and Laura Pope. Portsmouth. Beverly, Mass.: Commonwealth Editions, 2007. Print.
Portsmouth, Speech Of The Countess Of Portsmouth At The Annual Meeting Of The Central Committee Of The National Society For Women's Suffrage ... [London]: [Women's printing Society], 1889. Print.
Warren, William T. Portsmouth. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., 2001. Print.