Views from around Battery House
The Square Tower
The Square Tower is found on the High Street and is believed to date from the time of Edward III, who first ordered Portsmouth to be enclosed. In early Tudor days it served as a residence for the Governor. A gilded lead bust of King Charles I can be found on the outside of the Square Tower. The bust was presented to the town in 1635 and commemorates his safe return to England in 1623.
The Royal Garrison Church
Dating from 1212, The Royal Garrison Church is the oldest British Garrison Church in the world. The Domus Dei, “Gods House”, was founded by Bishop de Rupibus in 1212 as a hospice to shelter and help pilgrims from overseas bound for the Shrines at Canterbury, Chichester and Winchester. Originally it was a long, vaulted hall, divided on either side into bays to house patients, with the Chapel at one end. As the importance of Portsmouth as a Garrison Town grew, so did the importance of the Domus Dei. The Chancel of the present Church was the Chapel of the old Domus Dei and the Nave of the Church was the Hospital of Domus Dei.
The Church was closed in 1540 when the religious houses were dissolved by Henry VIII. The buildings were used for a brief time as an Armoury. Later the south side of Domus Dei was converted into a residence for the Governor of Portsmouth and was called Government House.
On 22nd May 1662 Charles II married Catherine of Braganza here. In 1672 James II visited the church and in 1709 a communion plate was presented by Queen Anne to the Church. In 1778 George III and Queen Charlotte attended the Divine Service and in 1794 they welcomed Lord Howe after his victory on 1st June. In 1814 the church was visited by allied sovereigns, The Prince Regent, The Emperor of Russia, The King of Prussia, Count Platoff, Hetman of the Cossacks, Marshall Dlucher and the Duke of Wellington.
In 1826 Government House was demolished. In 1846 the interior of the Church was refurbished and in 1866 reconstruction work began. The generosity of many people enabled a lavish redecoration and a fine organ was installed.
On the night of 10th January 1941 a fire bomb raid on Portsmouth gutted the Nave of the church but the Chancel was saved by the Verger, assisted by soldiers. And as a testament to WWII the church has remained a skeleton ever since.
Statue of Horatio Nelson
The statue standing the middle of Grand Parade is that of Horatio Nelson. Born in 1758 a sickly baby to the Rector and his wife of Burnham Thorpe in Norfolk, no one could have envisaged that this child would, in his lifetime, become one of England’s greatest heroes, and that his name, Horatio Nelson would be known and revered by the English people down the centuries. Sent to sea aged 12, he soon found that although he loved the ships and the sea, he would always suffer from terrible seasickness all his life.
Nelson was a small man, 5ft 4in tall, of slight build, and never had a robust constitution. He was frequently very ill with recurrent bouts of malaria and dysentery, relics of his time in tropical countries, Madras, Calcutta and Ceylon. In spite of his frail health, in 1784 he was given the command of the Boreas, and was on duty in the West Indies where he met and married Frances Nisbet, a widow.
After an idle period at home in Norfolk he was recalled and given the command of the Agamemnon in 1793.
From 1793 until his death at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805 he was involved in battle after battle. and he did not escape serious injury during these years. He lost the sight of his right eye at the battle of Calvi in Corsica, and his right arm at Santa Cruz in Tenerife.
Nelson was a brilliant tactician, and was always able to surprise his enemies by audacious tactics. At the battle of the Nile in 1798 his daring and courage completely overwhelmed the French when he sailed his ships between the shore and the French Fleet. The French guns that faced the shore were not ready for action, as it was believed that Nelson could not possibly attack from that position! Nelson was created Baron Nelson of the Nile by a grateful country after this stunning victory.
While in Naples in 1793 he met the lady who was to become the great love of his life, Emma, Lady Hamilton. She was a great beauty with a voluptuous figure, and a rather ‘shady’ past. Eventually in 1801 Nelson abandoned his wife and lived with his ‘dearest Emma’. A daughter was born in 1801 and christened Horatia, a child who Nelson doted on, though she was never aware who her mother was.
1801 was also the year in which Nelson destroyed the Danish Navy at the battle of Copenhagen. During the battle he was sent a signal to break off action by the Admiral Sir Hyde Parker. Nelson put his telescope to his blind eye and said to his Flag Lieutenant “You know Foley I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes. I really do not see the signal”.
War broke out again with France in 1803, and Nelson was for many months on watch in the Mediterranean. On October 20th 1805 the French and Spanish fleets put to sea, and off the southern coast of Spain the battle of Trafalgar took place. This was to be Nelson’s last and most famous victory.
Before the battle Nelson sent his famous signal to the Fleet “England expects that every man will do his duty”. It was at the height of the battle that Nelson was shot as he paced the deck of Victory. He died shortly after he was taken below decks and his body was taken ashore in Gibraltar and returned to England in a barrel full of brandy to act as a preservative during the long journey home.
In 1418 the Round Tower was erected, but on plans of the time it is seen as King Edwards Tower. The long vaulted casemates that today face the parade were known as Eighteen Gun Battery. Henry VIII first established a battery here during the invasion crisis of 1545. The outer wall which can be seen today dates from the late 1680s and is the work of King Charles II’s chief engineer Sir Bernard de Gomme. In front of the Round Tower is a rock that was brought back to Portsmouth on board HMS Hecla. Originally the 18 gun battery was a single story building and much narrower than it is today, backing on to a row of houses where the parade ground now lays. To gain access to the beach de Gomme built a small “s” shaped sally port in the wall at the south end of the battery, where the moat ran across the road.
Best known for her role in the Battle of Trafalgar, the Victory currently has a dual role as the flagship of the Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command and as a living museum to the Georgian navy.
HMS Victory is the only surviving naval warship that represents the skill of naval dockyard shipwrights, ship designers and the industrial ability of Britain during the mid 18th century. Equally she is a classic example of warship construction techniques used by all maritime powers of that period including Denmark, France, Holland and Spain.
Apart from her historic role serving as flagship at the battle of Trafalgar, Victory stands in the line of technical advances made between the 16th century Tudor warship Mary Rose, the Victorian built iron warship Warrior of the mid 19th century and the steel built monitor M33 of the early 20 century. When built Victory was thus comparable historically with the modern naval warships of the 21st century.