There must be many who now shop at Gunwharf Quays who think it was a wasteland before it became the shopping and restaurant complex it has become today.
It was, of course, the home to the mine warfare establishment HMS Vernon, nicknamed The Vernon.
Vernon ceased to be an independent command more than 30 years ago now, on March 31, 1986. In 1987 it became HMS Nelson (Gunwharf). For a short period it was headquarters for the Commandant General Royal Marines. The base continued to be used for training until November 1995 when mine warfare training moved to HMS Dryad, Southwick, in November 1995.
Gunwharf Quays opened on February 28, 2001, and has become a big success with thousands enjoying the shops, restaurants and cinema.
In the photograph we see the old main gate. Since that black and white photograph was taken, a new guardhouse was built on the right.
Through the gate the former railway embankment has a retaining wall built from when the bend from St George’s Road into Park Road Road was widened.
The sailors were entertained at a fete in North End and in the evening officers attended a banquet in the Town Hall, now the Guildhall. Edward VII reviewed the fleet on August 9. On August 12, a garden party was held in Victoria Park.
The sailors were all given free travel on the town’s trams until the fleet left on August 14 after a week of rest and entertainment.
In the photograph thousands of Portsmouth people are greeting the French matelots in Guildhall Square. The photographer is standing where the civic offices are now.