First day of Victorian Festival goes down a storm at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

From left, Liz Burke, Tony Symes, Nick Coffin and his wife Teresa Coffin.'Picture Ian Hargreaves (161341-3)
From left, Liz Burke, Tony Symes, Nick Coffin and his wife Teresa Coffin.'Picture Ian Hargreaves (161341-3)
  • Thousands flock to the annual festival
  • The Dockyard has been transformed into a Victorian time capsule
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PORTSMOUTH Historic Dockyard has been catapulted back in time for the next few days in the run-up to Christmas.

Its annual Victorian Festival kicked off yesterday and thousands of people of all ages headed to the site to get into the festive spirit.

This is one of the biggest events in the run up to Christmas on the south coast

John Rawlinson

Now in its 17th year, the festival gives visitors the experience of how Christmas would have been during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Attractions include Father Christmas in green – the original colour of his suit before Coca-Cola turned it red – as well as HMS Warrior lit up as a Christmas tree.

There is also the dark side of the dockyard where parts have become a Victorian-style street complete with coffin measures, ladies of the night, street urchins and market sellers.

Groundlings Theatre has also provided actors who parade through the dockyard, one of whom as Queen Victoria.

There are also people riding penny farthings.

A new attraction this year is a light display that allows users to get hands on with a ship wheel.

John Rawlinson, director of visitor experience at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, said: ‘This is one of the biggest events on the south coast in the run-up to Christmas and every year just gets better.

‘It’s always such a popular event and every year it’s wonderful to see hundreds of people lining the streets getting into the festive spirit.’

Martin and Jane Fry travelled from Gloucester to attend the event for the first time.

Martin said: ‘We came down specifically for the event and it is really good.

‘The weather has also helped.’

Ben and Anna Alltimes attended the Victorian Festival from Brighton.

Ben said: ‘It has been a really good day.

‘I came to the dockyard when I was at school and it has changed – it is so much different.

‘We have really enjoyed it.

‘There is a lot of heritage and history and the kids loved it.

‘It is a good way to get into the festive spirit.

Les and Pam Clark, from Cosham, have attended the Victorian Festival in previous years.

Pam said: ‘The people here are really friendly and there has been some nice cheese and wine tasting.

‘However, we felt that there doesn’t seem to be quite as much as there has been in previous years.’

The festival continues over the weekend.