Portsmouth tunnel echoed to Nelson’s final footsteps on English soil | Nostalgia

Doubtless many of you have walked through the tunnel beneath Long Curtain Bastion, part of the fortifications in Old Portsmouth.
In March 1960 the tunnel Horatio Nelson is believed to have used to reach the foreshore was uncovered.  Picture: The News archive.In March 1960 the tunnel Horatio Nelson is believed to have used to reach the foreshore was uncovered.  Picture: The News archive.
In March 1960 the tunnel Horatio Nelson is believed to have used to reach the foreshore was uncovered. Picture: The News archive.

Until 1960 the tunnel, which it is believed Nelson passed through on leaving England for Trafalgar, was blocked off to the public. I had to ask several historians if they knew more and it was John Stedman who came up trumps.

He says: ‘The most likely route Nelson would have taken from the back gate of the George Inn (not hotel at that date) to a boat on the shore is down Penny Street and across Governor's Green, which was government property, of course, or down the path between the green and eastern ramparts.

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'Portsmouth City Council negotiated purchase of Long Curtain and King's Bastion in 1958, so 1960 would be about when the council began refurbishing them and opening them to the public. I'd guess the tunnel was closed when the footbridge to Spur Redoubt decayed and was demolished, but that is only supposition. The redoubt itself was under Tarmac at this date, part of the car park on the seafront. There would have been no need of a bridge and access through the defences once they were redundant.’

The photograph published last week. Brian Granfield tells us it is No.2 dry dock. Picture: Barry Cox postcard collection.The photograph published last week. Brian Granfield tells us it is No.2 dry dock. Picture: Barry Cox postcard collection.
The photograph published last week. Brian Granfield tells us it is No.2 dry dock. Picture: Barry Cox postcard collection.

This dry dock is now the home of HMS Victory

The photograph of the dry dock I published last week was seen by Colin King, a member of the Visitor Experience Team in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Barry Cox who supplied the postcard believed the scene dates from 1865. Colin said he thought it was No.1 dock, now in the National Museum of the Royal Navy and the home of HMS M33, the only surviving ship from the 1915 Gallipoli campaign.

In fact, as you can see from this enlargement, we can see it is No.2 dock which is the home of HMS Victory today. Where the covered dock is on the right is possibly where the Mary Rose museum is today.

As can be seen from this enlargement from the original, it is No.2 dock.As can be seen from this enlargement from the original, it is No.2 dock.
As can be seen from this enlargement from the original, it is No.2 dock.
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I must thank sharp-eyed Brian Granfield for spotting such a tiny detail.

HMS Victory went into the dock in 1922, so almost a century ago and no doubt there will be celebrations galore when that year time comes around.