Mighty chain

One of the  more unusual rafts competing in the race was this Volkswagen Beetle

THIS WEEK IN 1975: ‘Water-beetle’ seen on Southsea beach

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It was from this day in 1522 that the ‘mighty chain of iron’, designed to span the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour to keep out invaders, probably began to be operational.

The previous month war had been declared with France (and Scotland) and lighters were hired in connection with the chain from this date.

Forged at a cost of £40, the chain stretched from Point to Blockhouse and was raised by capstans and supported by lighters.

It was observed by John Leland in 1540: ‘Heere is a might[y] chaine of yren to draw from tourre to towre.’

It seems to have encountered problems at a very early stage and by 1664 another chain was made by Edward Silvester of Gosport for £200.

This was said to have been replaced by another forged by Henry Cort in Gosport in 1785. It is believed that the last time it was raised was in 1801 amid fears of a French invasion.

In the early 20th century a boom defence comprising a number of timber struts secured by steel hawsers, each approximately 30ft long with steel spikes, was in operation.

In 1909 it was tested and a specially reinforced torpedo boat broke through the defence with ease – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.