800-year-old church is full of local history

23/5/12    MP''The Royal Garrison Church in Old Portsmouth celebrates its 800th anniversary. Pictured are volunteers L-R Trevor Gale, Peter Richmond.''Picture: Paul Jacobs (121793-1)

23/5/12 MP''The Royal Garrison Church in Old Portsmouth celebrates its 800th anniversary. Pictured are volunteers L-R Trevor Gale, Peter Richmond.''Picture: Paul Jacobs (121793-1)

This plucky polecat had a lucky escape when waste collectors found him hiding among rubbish on bin day. PPP-170418-122005001

THIS WEEK IN 1994: Workers ferret out dust bin weasel

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TO many people who stroll along the seafront, it’s known simply as the church without a roof.

But inside, the Royal Garrison Church in Old Portsmouth boasts a fascinating history dating back 800 years.

And to celebrate the eighth centenary of Portsmouth’s second oldest building, volunteers will be on hand to spill its secrets from today until Sunday.

‘I wish I could have a fiver for every time I heard someone say “I didn’t know this was all in here”,’ said guide Trevor Gale, 76, of Fernhurst Road, Southsea.

Only a wall of Portsmouth Cathedral, built as a parish in 1185, predates the Royal church, which was ordered by the Bishop of Winchester Peter de Rupibus in 1212 as a hospital and stopover for travelling pilgrims.

It established its regal links in 1582 when Elizabeth I reopened it as a Royal Chapel and garrison church following its 42-year closure by Henry VIII.

Charles II married Catherine of Braganza there in 1662. Other visitors include and James II, Queen Anne, George III and George IV.

For hundreds of years, it was the army garrison church for Portsmouth and many famous military figures are buried there.

One former governor was Brigadier Bernard Montgomery – later the famous Field Marshal in the Second World War.

The church nave lost its roof on January 10, 1941, when Portsmouth was heavily bombed during the blitz.

Pot marks are still visible in the walls of the nave and charred pews have been kept on show in the chapel.

Mr Gale said: ‘At first they couldn’t afford to replace the roof, but now it stands like this as a memorial to the war dead. It’s an absolutely unique place.’

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