From nothing to world renown.
The last talk of the 2022/23 season was held in the Mountford Room of the Community Centre on Thursday evening 4th May. Andrew Negus was an eloquent and entertaining speaker who promised his audience tales of murder, mayhem, disease, first voyages to America and Australia and all within the context of the development of both the dockyard and the city of Portsmouth. Old maps and the influence of Kings and wealthy men featured early in this illustrated talk. Andrew set the scene in 1100 when Portsmouth as a naval town did not exist. The area around what became known as old Portsmouth was the little morass of swamp and mud. The great morass lay further south near the later Tudor building of Southsea Castle. William the Conqueror used Portsea Island as a port on his way home to Normandy. Ships were needed for the voyage, so a settlement grew up to service them. Horses needed to be looked after, his retinue needed to be fed and thus a small hamlet grew up around the Camber, which was a muddy, shingle spit. Later, a naval dockyard was established and expanded as our colonies grew and more ships were required. The town’s population increased as more and more people found work to service the needs of the Navy. Defences were added but conditions in the town were no better than centuries before. Portsmouth had a reputation for debauchery and drunkenness. The harlots/prostitutes of the 18th century were called the Portsmouth Pols. The town’s growth continued, and more defences were built including the Hilsea Lines and Fort Cumberland, the port expanded, and Haslar Hospital was built. All was set for the rise of Nelson and Napoleon. The evening ended with members of the audience voting to hear Part 2, with questions on Spice Island and the holding of the raffle.