Passengers get a glimpse of city’s history at new ferry port building

Portsmouth Power Station and Camber Dock in 1950 Picture: Historic England
Portsmouth Power Station and Camber Dock in 1950 Picture: Historic England
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CROSS-SOLENT passengers will take a voyage back in time at a new ferry port building.

Wightlink’s new customer building reflects the history of Portsmouth’s Isle of Wight ferry port.

Historian Dr Graham Heaney at the Portsmouth History Centre in Portsmouth Central Library

Historian Dr Graham Heaney at the Portsmouth History Centre in Portsmouth Central Library

Customers buying tickets and snacks at Wightlink’s new customer building at its car ferry terminal in Gunwharf Road, Portsmouth can now learn more about the history of Isle of Wight ferries and the heritage of the site – the former Camber Dock – for themselves.

The three-storey building, part of Wightlink’s £45m project to upgrade the Portsmouth-Fishbourne route, opens its doors to customers for the first time on Monday.

Historian Dr Graham Heaney, who works at the University of Portsmouth, has been delving into the archives to find out more about the area’s heritage as the city grew in importance and prosperity over the centuries. He has found maps and photographs to give modern travellers an idea of what today’s busy ferry port used to look like.

One shows polar explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ship Discovery at the site.

Dr Heaney said: ‘Wightlink’s present car ferry port, between Gunwharf Quays – the Royal Navy’s former HMS Vernon base – the LandRover BAR headquarters and lively Spice Island, became a dry dock in 1863, following the passage of a special Act of Parliament. Later it was used as a quay for collier ships to supply the city’s coal-fired power station which was demolished in 1977.

Isle of Wight car ferries first sailed from Broad Street and moved to their present berth in 1982.’

Large granite blocks that originally lined the dry dock, discovered during construction work last summer, have been salvaged and placed around the site as seats.

‘Wightlink and our predecessor ferry companies have a history of looking to the future,’ says Wightlink chief executive Keith Greenfield.

‘Our new hybrid energy ship Victoria of Wight will be the most environmentally- friendly on the Solent when she arrives this summer, but we are also proud of our long history of serving the Isle of Wight and transporting millions of people across the water for holidays and business. We hope customers will enjoy discovering more about our heritage at the port.’