An earthly fairyland that has been a rock for ages

The newly-created Rock Gardens, Southsea, seen here in the late 1920s. Picture: costen.co.uk
The newly-created Rock Gardens, Southsea, seen here in the late 1920s. Picture: costen.co.uk
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In 1949 Portsmouth’s Holiday Guide described the Rock Gardens at Southsea thus: ‘...adjoining the promenade, provide an ideal and picturesque setting for those who seek peace and beauty – as dusk descends fairy lamps glow amidst the foliage, the fountain and waterfall are illuminated and one feels that here indeed is an earthly fairyland.’

The gardens have provided enjoyment for tens of thousands of visitors since they were laid out at the end of the 1920s.

Now retired chartered librarian and keen gardener Jackie Baynes has written a book charting the history of the gardens and the pavilion which adjoined them from 1948.

The A4 booklet is packed with old pictures.

Jackie, from Old Portsmouth, reveals that the largest stones – Westmorland water-worn limestones – were transported from Cumbria and placed in position by hand.

Once complete the corporation claimed the sunken rock gardens with their own microclimate were as big as any artificially created anywhere in the country.

The pavilion was demolished in November 1986 and made way for the Pyramids.

Jackie says: ‘The Rock Gardens remain a popular and greatly valued seafront attraction for residents and they continue to be constantly discovered by visitors.

‘As for the Pavilion, its demise was, and still is, a regret for many people.’

An Earthly Fairyland, The Story of Southsea Rock Gardens and the Rock Garden Pavilion by Jackie Baynes is published by The Portsmouth Society at £4.95. Copies are available from (023) 9283 1461.