The complex which changed the face of Portsmouth

An aerial view of HMS Vernon on October 5, 1981. Apart from the railway line and Portsmouth Harbour station, everything in this picture is now Gunwharf Quays '' PP4255 PPP-150118-130826001
An aerial view of HMS Vernon on October 5, 1981. Apart from the railway line and Portsmouth Harbour station, everything in this picture is now Gunwharf Quays '' PP4255 PPP-150118-130826001
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It’s hard to believe, but it is 15 years since the lifestyle complex which changed the face of Portsmouth opened.

Gunwharf Quays pulled back its shutters on February 28, 2001, with its plethora of shops, restaurants, bars, night club, multi-screen cinema and bowling alley.

The wardroom, left, and garden, looking towards HMS Vernon's main gate, about 1932

The wardroom, left, and garden, looking towards HMS Vernon's main gate, about 1932

It would be another four years before the Spinnaker Tower took its first paying visitors, but Gunwharf had already transformed the city.

Celebrations marking the anniversary begin next Monday, but before then it is worth remembering what was on those 33 acres of waterfront land through which there had never been any public access.

The site, known as Gunwharf, had once been used to store ammunition. Then it became HMS Vernon, but when the Ministry of Defence declared it surplus to requirements it closed in 1995.

The redevelopment of the site took six years in what was the biggest building project in the city since the end of the Second World War.

HMS Vernon's main gate is in the bottom right hand corner of this 1955 picture. The playing field is where the Lipstick tower is today. ''ENGPPP00120130611145344

HMS Vernon's main gate is in the bottom right hand corner of this 1955 picture. The playing field is where the Lipstick tower is today. ''ENGPPP00120130611145344

This was 1994 and HMS Vernon was on the market with most of the site in a dilapidated state, just awaiting redevelopment

This was 1994 and HMS Vernon was on the market with most of the site in a dilapidated state, just awaiting redevelopment

A military band passes through HMS Vernon's main gate in September 1984, now one of the main entrances to Gunwharf Quays

A military band passes through HMS Vernon's main gate in September 1984, now one of the main entrances to Gunwharf Quays