Friday, May 4, 2012

Landsport Gate

Portsmouth, England has a long history of supporting the Royal Navy. At its height, it was the largest and most important port in the world. Portsmouth, or Pompey, as it is lovingly nicknamed was founded in 1190 by an Anglo-Norman lord.

The name Pompey is most likely derived from the entry logs of incoming ships as Pom.P, refering to Portsmouth Point. Another theory attributes the name to Le Pompee, a French, 80 gun battleship, that the British captured in 1793.

Stories abound about this famous port, especially with the docking of HMS Victory (Lord Horatio Nelson's 104 gun ship-of-the-line) there in the historic dockyard. I have made the pilgrimage to see it, and it is really worth the trip. But, in today's blog I choose to highlight the LANDSPORT GATE.

In 1760 on July 3, Portsmouth suffered the effects a great thunderstorm and ensuing fire that damaged the Dockyard to the tune of £40,000, an incredible sum at the time! Thereafter, the Landsport Gate, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, was built, providing the main entrance to a fortified Portsmouth. It features a simple stone arch with an octagonal turret at the top. It was built primarily for defense, but it also served as a testimonial to civic pride. A ceremonial testament to the city....a kind of we-are-still-here!

The gate is situated on St. George's Road, and is the only one of the town's gates to survive. It is built of Portland stone, and when it was first constructed there was a moat before it with a drawbridge.

By the way, Portland stone is a limestone from the Jurassic period, quarried on the Isle of Portland, in Dorset, England (see quarry below). Used extensively in Britian, two of the most famous places include, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace, in London. Landsport Gate is in good company!

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