'Surprise' as sections of Edwardian promenade unearthed in Southsea

SECTIONS of Southsea's original promenade almost 200 years old have been uncovered to the 'surprise' of those involved.

By Fiona Callingham
Monday, 12th October 2020, 3:27 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th October 2020, 5:45 pm
Southsea's original promenade unearthed
Southsea's original promenade unearthed

As part of recent ground works for the sea defences near Southsea Castle workers discovered a stone surface two metres thick under the tarmac.

Further investigation revealed this to be the original front edge of the old promenade, which was constructed in 1848.

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Tunnels under Southsea Castle

Richard Samphier, associate director of contractors Water Europe from Royal Haskoning DHV, said: 'This discovery was a huge surprise as we were expecting to find gravelly material below the tarmac - not two metres of solid stone.

'It's a huge leap forward in our understanding of Southsea's history as, until now, we didn't know what was between the footpath around the castle and the roof of the tunnel.

'There are very few historical records relating to the construction of the tunnel or adjustments to the promenade, so we now need to undertake more archaeological research to fill in the missing pieces of the jigsaw.'

Southsea Castle works

Workers were initially boring holes in the tarmac footpath to investigate the depth to the tunnels below. The tunnels beneath the promenade form part of a redesign of Southsea Castle undertaken in the early 19th century that allowed defenders to fire into the moat at attackers from all sides.

Radar was used to ensure there was no damage or interference with the discovery.

And investigations were monitored throughout by Wessex Archaeology and undertaken with the permission of Historic England.

Portsmouth City Council's deputy leader, Councillor Steve Pitt, said: 'These works are undertaken extremely sensitively as it's essential that construction of our coastal defences doesn't impact on Portsmouth's historic features or new finds of archaeological significance.'

Naomi Brennan, senior heritage consultant at Wessex Archaeology, added: 'It is exciting to be involved with the Southsea Coastal Defence Scheme as Portsmouth and Southsea have such a rich and significant history. The discovery highlights the change in Southsea from a purely military site to a fashionable holiday resort during the nineteenth century.'

The Southsea Coastal Defence Scheme is a £100m project to build new sea defences from Long Curtain Moat to Eastney.

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