Historic blockhouse that became submarine base

Fort Blockhouse
Fort Blockhouse

Saint Roger's halo didn't slip when he gave me interview

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This is the third in Dennis Laing’s atmospheric trilogy of wide-angle photographs of Gosport and Portsmouth Harbour.

They were taken from the top of the submarine escape tower at HMS Dolphin on May 3, 1951.

The photo gives a marvellous view of Fort Blockhouse, then HMS Dolphin, which probably has the best views of the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour.

In the background, on the Portsmouth side, you can see the Round Tower dwarfed by the old Portsmouth power station.

A blockhouse was first built on the Gosport side of the harbour in 1431 after authorisation by Henry VI. The defences were upgraded in 1495 and armed with five guns.

The blockhouse was replaced in 1539 by an eight-gun battery under the orders of Henry VIII. The first firing of the guns is believed to have occurred during the English Civil War when the guns were aimed at Southsea Castle after Parliamentary troops had captured it. The aim was not good, however, and the cannon ball landed in St Thomas’s Church, Old Portsmouth.

The fort was upgraded at the turn of the 19th century, and again in 1845. The site was considered obsolete by the 1859 Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom, and it was turned over to the Royal Navy in 1905 and, as HMS Dolphin, it became the home of the submarine service.

In 1992 it was announced that the submarine fleet would be leaving HMS Dolphin and moving west to Devonport.

The last submarine left Dolphin in 1994, although the submarine school remained until 1999. HMS Dolphin was formally decommissioned in 1998 and the base was renamed as Fort Blockhouse.

n Thanks to many of you who pointed out that the vessel in one of Dennis’s previous pictures was not the old chain ferry but a floating dock for submarines.