With the site being in old Portsmouth and backing on to the bastion walls, there is a rich naval and defence history to be explored and respected. This also gives elements to respond to be it in our design choices or how we respect the existing site.
The Fortifications of Portsmouth.
The fortifications of Portsmouth are extensive as a result of its strategic position on the English Channel and role as home to the Royal Navy. By the 19th century, Portsmouth became one of the most fortified cities in the world. The fortifications have evolved over the centuries in response to changes in tactics and technology. As a result of this, fortifications became more apparent and walled the whole of Portsea Island and an increasing distance inland.
The first fortification in the area was Portchester Castle, which dates back to the Roman Portus Adurni. Its position allowed it to provide some defence for the upper reaches of Portsmouth Harbour. The first recorded fortifications on Portsea Island appear to have been a wall constructed in 1212 around a basic shipyard sited just to the north of what later became Camber Dock. The wall lasted less than twelve years.
During the 14th century, Portsmouth was subject to 4 attacks between 1338 and 1380. Simple earthworks were constructed around the settlement of the time in response. The first structure built to defend Portsmouth was a wooden version of the Round Tower constructed between 1418 and 1426. Four years later, a second wooden tower was added on the opposite side of the harbour.
During Henry VII's rule, the Round tower was rebuilt in stone. This is when the Square Tower we see today was added. However, there is some question as to whether this was intended so much for defence. Southsea Castle was later built by his son, Henry VIII. Around this time a small fortification was built around Portsbridge Creek (which we saw in the Nursery Project). Portsmouth as a whole was starting to develop several defensive chains around this time in a bid to block the harbour entrance when needed. By this time, the majority of the defences were established in wood and earth. It wouldn't be until the late 1550's under Elizabeth I that they would be repaired and rebuilt in stone to an extent.
Under Charles II in 1665, the fortifications would be reconstructed over the years. Later in the 1680's the fortifications around our site were constructed. On the shoreline the new battery was built at the end of Portsmouth facing Gosport. Another was built to connect to the round tower with another constructed joining the square tower. It was only under Charles II with the restoration that thought to the aesthetics and engineering were given thoroughly. Trees were ordered to be planted opn the town walls and later in the 17th century the fort protecting the crossing across Portsbridge creek was rebuilt under direction of the Chief Royal engineer Sir Martin Beckman.
The fortifications went on to expand to protect the whole of Portsea Island over the next 3 centuries and were modified for use in the world wars. From cannons to AA guns, the fortifications have proved essential.