As we walked into Old Portsmouth we walked into history. The place drips with it. For example, in September 1805 Admiral Nelson was here before he departed for the Battle of Trafalgar. In anticipation of his leaving the town for the beach where he would row out to his flagship, HMS Victory, people lined the High Street to see him off. Wishing to avoid the crowds, Nelson took a back-route through the Spur Redoubt to reach the beach. There is a footbridge leading from a sallyport (a gateway) within the Redoubt and across the moat. It is believed that Nelson walked through this sallyport, across a bridge over moat and onto the beach, thus taking some of his last footsteps on dry land here.
It was from this point, therefore, that Nelson went off to win, and be killed at, the Battle of Trafalgar. For us, it was from this point that we went back to the coast and watched the hovercraft depart Southsea and head back over to the Isle of Wight. I wonder what Nelson would have made of hovercraft?
We carried on towards the Square Tower, built in 1494 during Henry VIII’s reign and now a popular wedding venue. I cannot help but note that Henry VIII himself was rather fond of weddings, and so would surely have approved of the Square Tower’s use today.
In the 1640’s, during the English Civil War, Old Portsmouth was surrounded by Parliamentarian forces who trapped Royalists in the town. The Square Tower at that time was used as an arsenal and contained large amounts of gunpowder. With the odds mounting against him the Royalist Governor, Colonel Goring, threatened to blow the Square Tower up unless the terms of his surrender were agreed to. The Roundheads agreed and Goring was granted safe passage aboard a ship. In a final act of defiance he took the key to the Square Tower with him and threw it overboard.
Amazingly, this key survived the Civil War and some 200 years later, in the 1850’s, was dredged from the harbour. It was displayed in the Guildhall Museum until the museum was destroyed by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. The key was never recovered. It may be that it still lies today beneath some building or other, waiting to be found again.
I strode on along the battlements, towards the Square Tower, turning to see if the Coastal Clan were striding onward with me. I was horrified at what I saw!
COME ON YOU LOT!
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Spur Redoubt Footbridge: N 50°47.275 W 001°06.201
- Square Tower: N 50°47.365 W 001°06.392
Walk #65 Statistics (of which this post forms the ninth part):
- Date of Walk: 2 February 2014
- Walk #65 total distance covered (not including ferry ride): 8.53 miles
- Coast of Britain Walk Total Distance Covered: 538.76 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!