Shedding light on forgotten places

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Brought up in Havant and now living in Southsea, Brian Hopkins has always been interested in learning about local history.

But even he was surprised when he started finding all sorts of fascinating but forgotten or unknown places.

The 29-year-old says: 'Throughout Portsea Island and Portsmouth's wider districts, there are a number of exceptional places. Whether historical, strange or unique, these help to create the area's identity.'

He adds: 'Many of the most interesting features are hidden away and often bypassed. Some places are simply forgotten or ignored.'

Brian, below, decided to embark on a personal project to shed light on these places. Using his own knowledge and word-of-mouth suggestions, this month he travelled from Southsea seafront to Gosport, Portsdown Hill to Havant in search of locations with an interesting story to tell.

Then he photographed them and researched why they were there.

He says: 'They may be places that are out of sight, or that people go past every day, but perhaps the public are not aware of their history and significance.'

HILSEA LIONS

The Hilsea Lines were military fortifications built on the northern bank of Portsea Island to protect against attack from the mainland.

Defensive lines have existed at Hilsea since 1544 but the original defences were reconstructed in 1871, and soon the fortifications were more than a mile long. Today the area is open to the public and the pathways make an interesting walk or bike ride.

Shaded by trees and with abundant wildlife, the Hilsea Lines path stretches along most of the remains of the fortifications. You can see several pieces of military history, including emplacements, with their round gunports, on the ramparts. There are also casemates which would have sheltered the troops and guns.

There is an unlit tunnel off the main path, which takes you through the fortification mound and comes out by some casemate entrances.

GAZEBO GARDEN

Hidden within a car park behind The Bear Hotel in East Street is Havant's Gazebo Garden. The small, well-kept garden is concealed behind high walls and has a small entrance gate to the side.

Within the grounds there is seating, a circular walkway and the remains of a once-grand gazebo. In summer the flowers and shrubs make this a colourful secret haven, but the gate is usually kept locked in winter.

The gazebo dates from 1779 and was originally part of a house which neighboured the grounds of Havant Manor. The garden was constructed with the car park in 1989 and the high walls were built to protect the listed building.

The original gazebo would have overlooked the Fair Fields and would have witnessed the annual fair celebrating the Feast of St Faith, held until 1871.

GHOST MOTORWAY GARDEN

The M275 was officially opened in 1976 and the two-mile stretch of motorway quickly became the main route in and out of Portsea Island.

Original construction plans for the motorway included a junction at Tipner in order to service the residential area and a Ministry of Defence building close by.

While the junction was never completed, significant work had taken place on the site and the remains of the unfinished 'ghost' junction are still there today.

Two bridges exist that would have allowed slip road access and use of a roundabout. One motorway bridge does contain a finished road that gives access to a sailing club and an MoD firing range. There is also a completed pedestrian underpass that takes you nowhere.

GRAVE WATCHERS' HUTS

If you walk along the shore of Chichester Harbour from Langstone to Emsworth, there is a path through a field to the left that leads to Warblington Cemetery and St Thomas a Beckett church.

During the late 18th century and early 19th century there was a surge of interest in medical science. Students required fresh bodies to dissect and there was a large demand for them. At the time, body snatching was not considered a serious crime so an industry was created in stealing and supplying dead bodies of the recently deceased.

Often family members would hold a vigil over the grave until they thought the body was decomposed enough to be left alone. But Warblington Church employed gravewatchers and in 1828 huts were built for them in the churchyard.

JAPANESE GARDEN

Next to Canoe Lake in Southsea is a rose garden hidden behind the large walls of the dismantled Lumps Fort.

A small wooden archway takes you to the Japanese Zen Garden.

The original Lumps Fort was constructed in the early 19th century as a defence in the Napoleonic Wars.

But by 1827 part of the structure had fallen into the sea.

The fort was rebuilt in the 1860s and acted as part of the Portsmouth Harbour defence in the First World War One.

In 1918 the fort was demolished.

The Japanese Zen Garden, a recent addition, has a small ornamental bridge and oriental reeds.

There is also a 16th century stone monument from the ruins of Tanabe Castle.

This was donated by Portsmouth's Japanese sister city of Maizuru.

MULBERRY HARBOUR SEGMENT

During the D-Day invasion of France in 1944, artificial floating harbours called Mulberry Harbours were constructed so that ships could unload their cargo of vehicles and equipment ready to be deployed on the beaches of Normandy.

Segments of the harbour were ferried across the Channel and put together off the coast of France. These made two huge harbours, complete with roadways and piers.

But this piece of Mulberry Harbour in Langstone Harbour never made it to the D-Day landings as it developed a crack and was abandoned. Other remaining parts of the Mulberry Harbours can still be seen on Normandy beaches.

This one was originally abandoned farther down the harbour, but is believed to have been moved so as not to cause problems for shipping.

RAILWAY STATION

The remaining part of Gosport Railway Station is in Spring Garden Lane, near the town centre.

For a long time it was left derelict and stood as an historical reminder of the days when steam engines transported passengers and freight to and from the town.

Recently the listed building has been converted into housing and there is still work taking place on the original structure.

The station was opened in 1841 and freight trains ran on its rails until 1969, while passenger trains ceased in 1953.

During the station's heyday it was visited by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on numerous occasions.

The first was in 1844, while on their way to their beloved Osborne House hideaway on the Isle of Wight.

TUNNEL SHELTERS

During the Second World War two large tunnel shelters were built into Portsdown Hill's chalk face, one at the top of Wymering Lane and the other in London Road.

Both bomb shelters were built to the same design and together could hold more than 5,000 people within nearly two miles of tunnel networks. In the shelters were a canteen and hospital and these subterranean cities became a safe haven for people facing bombing raids in Portsmouth.

Both tunnel shelters still exist beneath the hill, but have been sealed off.

The Wymering shelter has had its entrance completely covered by rubble and chalk, but the bricked-up entrance to the London Road shelter is still visible. Inside it is like a time capsule, left as it was when it was abandoned in 1945.

WARTIME RADIO STATION

At the end of Chalkpit Road in Paulsgrove, there's an area of rocky grassland, popular with dog walkers, which runs the length of Paulsgrove chalk pit.

There are two tunnels clearly visible about a third of the way up the chalk face. These are the entrance and exit of what was a wartime radio station built in 1942.

During the Second World War the underground network of Fort Southwick on Portsdown Hill was used as the headquarters for Operation Overlord, or D-Day. From these tunnels a robust cable was fed to Paulsgrove Chalk Quarry, half-a-mile away. At what was then the bottom of the quarry face, a tunnel was dug into the chalk to act as a radio station, sending and receiving secret information which was scrambled in case of interception.