According to author Garth Groombridge, Portsmouth remained ‘virtually unique’ in Britain in that it was maintained and improved as a fortified town even after the English Civil War and right up to the second half of the 19th century.
In his recently-published book Portsmouth In 50 Buildings he says only Berwick-upon-Tweed and Londonderry shared this distinction.
He says: ‘Portsmouth is almost alone in having post-medieval neoclassical town gateways, of which only the Landport remains in situ, although this might not seem obvious at first.’
In our final look at his book, which charts the history of the town and city through its architecture, we look at those entrances to the city.
King James’s Gate (1687), which once divided the town from Point, was dismantled in the mid-1860s to 1870 and rebuilt, first in St Michael’s Road in 1881, opposite the then register office, and in the early 20th century to its present site as entrance to the United Services Recreation Ground in Burnaby Road.
Unicorn Gate (1778), one of two gateways to Portsea, which stood at the northern end of York Place, was re-erected in 1865 as one of the dockyard entrances.
Lion Gate (1770), formerly across Queen Street, was eventually incorporated into the structure of Sempahore Tower in the dockyard in 1926-29.
Landport Gate dates from 1760. When engineer Sir Bernard de Gomme remodelled the town’s defences in the previous century, the original Landport at the top of High Street was blocked off and a new gate built opposite the end of Warblington Street.
Then, if approaching Portsmouth from the north, one had to first breach the glacis (a bank sloping down from a fort), then a drawbridge across a moat to the Landport ravelin, then another bridge over the main moat to the gateway itself.
In 1864 the old town was ‘freed from its straitjacket of military fortifications’ and with the exception of the Saluting Battery, Hot Walls and Long Curtain and its moat, the town walls were demolished and Landport Gate languised in isolation and disuse.
Garth concludes: ‘Rather sadly, this once important gateway is now just a decorative element to the United Services Recreation Ground, often obscured by rows of parked tourist coaches.’