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On this page:

Number One - The Wymering Tunnel Shelters.

Number Two - Spitbank Fort.

Number Three - Portsmouth Racecourse.

Number Four - Farley Mount.

Number Five - Eastney Pumping Station.

Number Six - Fort Cumberland.

Number Seven - Wymering Manor

Number Eight - Bursledon Windmill

Number Nine - The Railway in Gosport


The Wymering Tunnel Shelters

The Wymering tunnel shelters were built during the Second World War to serve as an air-raid shelter for the people of Portsmouth. It was located in what was commonly known as the Wymering Chalk-pit, at least that was where the entrances were. One could catch a trolley bus from anywhere in Portsmouth up to Cosham, and before it turned right to go back to Portsmouth, there was a bus stop. One got off here, complete with belongings of various kinds and began the walk to the shelter entrance in the Chalk-pit, about a ten minute walk.

When you arrived at the entrance there was a little desk where you reported 'in' with your ticket and then you went off in the dimly lit tunnel to where you were going to stay the night. You could easily get lost because when one considers that the tunnels could take 2,565 beds, they really were some tunnels.

The work to build them started in July 1941 and they were opened six months later on 2nd January, 1942. There were ten tunnels that went into the chalk, south to north from the main entrance, three of which crossed under the road that runs from the Q.A. Hospital to the top of the hill, 300 odd feet into the chalk. There were six tunnels that went at right-angles to the south-north ones. The tunnels were of a similar shape to the London Underground ones and there was always a musty smell in there, probably caused by the dampness held in the chalk. The height of the tunnels was about 15 feet and in certain areas the lighting was brighter than in others. For instance, there was a little hospital area with two nurses on duty, and a canteen area.

Once it was time to go to sleep, the lights were dimmed even more and everywhere there was an eerie quietness until the morning when there was lots of chatter as people picked up their belongings, signed 'out' at the little office and made the trek back to the trolley bus stop to go home.

The tunnels were eventually closed down and sealed off in February 1945, and are still there under the hill that protected so many people during the war.

Here was a certain adventure for us kids as we ran around the tunnels playing games, every so often being sworn at by someone who was trying to get some sleep or have a conversation and, of course, every so often getting ourselves lost. We gradually got used to the fact that the tunnels were all coded in letters and numbers and so we soon got used to 'escape' routes that we could trust.

Apart from the trek backwards and forwards from the bus stop, we really quite enjoyed ourselves. Two things really stick in my mind. One was the marvellous Christmas party we had to celebrate our first Christmas in the tunnels and the day that King George VI paid a visit to see these wonderful shelters put up for us people of Portsmouth.


Spitbank Fort

The Spithead forts were built in the Solent in the 1860s to protect Portsmouth from bombardment from the sea, at the same time as the Gosport and Portsdown land forts were built. Horse Sands, No Mans Land and St Helens were built between 1865 and 1880, and Spitbank was started two years later.

Horse Sands and No Mans Land are identical at 200ft in diameter and fully armour plated. The other two are slightly smaller at 150ft diameter with iron plating on the front only. They had complements of 30 men and cost two to three times as much to build as the land forts, due to the difficulties involved in constructing foundations twenty to thirty feet underwater on sand banks.

Spitbank fort was designed to defend the anchorage and the inner approaches to Portsmouth Harbour from French invaders, and act to provide a secondary line of defence against light draft vessels that had managed to pass the heavier fortified outer defensive forts.

Work began in 1861, but was stopped in the spring of 1862 due to political wranglings as to the suitability of forts such as these to protect the harbour. A Commission was set up consisting of naval and military officers, set to investigate the matter and they presented their report in 1863. They considered it would be cheaper and more versatile to construct the forts than to provide armour-plated ships with connecting booms and chains

In the spring of 1864 the construction finally resumed with the first stone being laid in 1867 at a depth of 17ft below low water, and was completed in 1878. It was intended to mount 15 guns in one tier, with 9 in an iron superstructure occupying the half of the fort looking seaward, and 6 in granite casemates facing landward and towards Portsmouth Harbour. The bill for the construction of the fort was finalised at £117,964, exclusive of the cost of the ironwork. In 1871, the Defence Committee recommended that the fort be re-armed with more powerful guns. Nine, new 12.5in, 38-ton guns n the seaward face and seven, 7in, 7-ton guns in the landward casements were fitted giving greater penetration at long ranges.

In 1882, Spitbank fort was augmented with auxiliary armament in the form of 15 machine guns. Seven years later, the role of the fort was changed to counter light craft instead of heavy warships. Two 4.7in guns were fitted on the roof and searchlights fitted, known as defence electric lights.

In 1956, the Coast Defence programme was disbanded and the searchlights and generators removed from the fort the following year. Throughout its operational lifetime, Spitbank fort was never tested against a naval invasion and in 1952 it was sold to a private concern.


Portsmouth Racecourse

Portsmouth Racecourse was built at Wymering between the sea and the cliff at the chalk pit at Portsdown Hill. It was second in the UK only to Northolt Park as a pony racing centre. Opened in 1928, it had regular pony races as well as motor cycle races, which were run on a track running parallel to the pony course. Racing continued up to the outbreak of the Second World War after which, in an echo of the fate of Northolt Park, the site was used to build the Paulsgrove Housing Estate.

Portsmouth originally had a fine racecourse at Farlington before the First World War, but it was taken over by the War Office and became one of the UKs largest ammunition dumps and was generally wrecked, before being finally sold to the Portsmouth Council in 1929.

A local businessman, Mr George Cooper, built the Wymering Course in the late 1920s. Known variously as Portsmouth Racecourse, Portsmouth Park and Wymering Park, it was located at the Portchester end of the Western Road, not far from Paulsgrove House which was demolished to make way for the M27 motorway to cut the Paulsgrove estate in half.

The Course itself was an oval of just seven and a half furlongs and was re-turved using over 40,000 square yards of turves cut from an area below the chalk pit. A few weeks of torrential rain before the opening race helped to establish it and to make the Course second to none in the country.

The new Course opened on Friday, 10th August 1928. Admission charges in 1929 were 5/9d for the club enclosure, 2/4d for the reserved enclosure and 1/3d for the public enclosure, with club badges costing £1 for gentlemen and 12/6d for ladies.

The facilities were good, though not as elegant as those at Northolt. There was grandstand accommodation for 8,000 racegoers, bars, restaurants, modern toilets, and a Tote. Members were pampered in the luxurious Members' Clubhouse which had a restaurant, bar, lounge and, unusually, a verandah from which to view the races. There were also 10 saddling boxes and 52 stables.

The Course was well served by public transport and the growing number of private motorists could park in one of the more than 2,000 spaces in the large car park which adjoined the Course. A railway ran along the rear of the stands and Paulsgrove Halt was built from which people could walk straight on to the Course. There were also cheap tickets from Southern Railway stations to Cosham. Special buses ran from the Theatre Royal in Southsea at regular intervals and Portsmouth to Fareham buses passed the course every 10 minutes.

Pony races were run regularly, but there was also the new sport of motor cycle racing to attract spectators.

Racing ended at the outbreak of war wafter which the Course are became the St. John's College playing fields for a few years until factories were built on the site to employ people from the Paulsgrove Estate which was being built. C & A and Johnson & Johnson were two of the companies which had factories there, neither of which sadly remain, although Johnson & Johnsons are still remembered as it is the name given to a glorified traffic junction with 77 sets of traffic lights which is sited nearby where the factory was and opened in the summer of 2004.


Farley Mount

On the downs a few miles west of Winchester lies Farley Mount Country Park, a large area of open country and woods. At the highest point you will find built on an ancient burial mound, a rather unusual pyramid-shaped folly, although in this case memorial or tomb may be a better description.

It was erected in 1740 by Sir Paulet St John, the local squire and landowner to house the body of his horse. The story behind this unusual and expensive tomb, is that one day when Sir Paulet was out foxhunting on his favourite horse, the pair fell down into a chalk pit. Both miraculously survived, but the amazing part of the story is that the depth of the pit is recorded as 25 feet.

As most people realise, there is always one consistent feature in the tales behind follies, and that is that you should never let the facts get in the way of a good story, so ..........

Apparently after this life saving leap, Sir Paulet in gratitude decided to call his horse 'Beware Chalk Pit' and the following year it won the local Hunters Plate in a race on Worthy Down, so it seems he was no worse for his record-breaking leap.

Upon the death of his horse - probably from exhaustion but it's not recorded - the horse was buried under this 30 foot tall pyramid as a mark of gratitude for saving Sir Paulet's life. Inside the doorway is a small area with three seats let into the walls, with a plaque which reads:

      Underneath lies buried a horse, the property of Paulet St John Esq, that in the month of September 1733 leaped into a chalk pit, twenty-five feet deep, afoxhunting with his master on his back, and in October 1734 he won the Hunters Plate on Worthy Downs, and was rode by his owner and was entered in the name of 'Beware Chalk Pit'.

Sir Paulet lived until 1790 and is buried at St John's Church at Farley Chamberlayne.


Eastney Pumping Station

There is one aspect of Victorian towns which we find difficult to understand - how strangely tolerant their society remained of the sight and smell of bad drainage and polluted water. A growing realisation of the connection between illness and tainted wells and water supplies came at the time of repeated, frightening epidemics of cholera. Yet the first Act of Parliament left the choice of action to borough councils, and the recommendations of an enquiry in 1848 were ignored for 15 years before any drainage syatem was provided for Portsmouth.

For such a flat island, nowhere more than 12 feet above high tide level, there could be no easy solution. In 1864 a system of drains was laid to bring storm waters and waste from the large population flowing down to the open land at Eastney where a large pumping house was built. The pumps then had to operate to lift the waste from the lowest pipe up to a higher level sewer which continued as a final large pipe into the tide mouth of Langstone Harbour.

Unfortunately the system was far from adequate for the growth of population, and because the pumps had to stop at high tide, the sewers became blocked. The beaches at Eastney were fouled with sewage which was released at low tide and the barracks of nearby Fort Cumberland had to be abandoned. Fortunately a solution was found in 1886 after a prize of £500 was offered: two much more powerful engines were built in a new and elegant ecclesiastical-looking house. These engines would be used to fill continuously enormous underground tanks in the outer defence works of the nearby fort. The sewage was then released as the tide rushed out and was washed quickly into the Channel.

The two magnifent engines were supplied by the firm of the celebrated James Watt of Birmingham and although found uneconomic after 67 years use, have been preserved and are now in meticulous condition. There are few experience to equal the sight of such 300-horse power machines to give a profound respect for the Victorian Engineers and an insight into how they combined their passion for engineering with their love for pomp and circumstance.

Not everyone will feel drawn to the idea of visiting a sewage pumping station. It is, of course, a completely wholesome place today and even when built, the system of drains was always out of sight below floor level. The Eastney Station stands as a fascinating monument to the giants of power a century ago.


Fort Cumberland

Fort Cumberland has a unique place in the history of fortifications. It was the last bastioned fort built in the United Kingdom, and the first to incorporate casemates in the curtain walls to house the garrison. It is the most impressive example of 18th century defensive architecture in England, and perhaps the best preserved example in Europe.

Earlier, the site, on a promontory on the east coast of the island of Portsea, three miles from the town and commanding the entrance to Langstone Harbour, had been occupied by a Tudor Fort. An original fort in the shape of a wide pentagon was built in 1746 by the 24-year old Duke of Cumberland to counter a proposed French attack upon Portsmouth from Langstone Harbour, and was built of earth and had a wooden stockade. This was the same year in which, on the 16th of April, the newly created Duke, the third son of George II, ended the '45' Jacobite pursuing the Highlanders into the ountains of Inverness to the fateful moore of Culloden. The repression which followed the hour-long battle earned him the historic title 'The Bloody Butcher'.

Bonnie Prince Charlie, eventually escaping to France, brought about the threat of a new invasion from France, and late in 1746, the Duke, who had local interests in Portsmouth, gave the orders for the construction on the second fort to begin, and an independent raveling was built on the west side to protect the fort from siege. It has a dry moat and provision for 81 guns; this number was subsequently reduced as artillery improved. The irregular shapes of the bastions each refelect different periods of artillery development.

The enormous quantity of bricks unsed in the construction were made on the site. The fort was also cased in Portland stone. Work on the fort lasted for a considerable time, using convict labour from the prison hulks moored in Langstone Harbour. The great hardship suffered by the convicts gave rise to several rebellions and escape attempts.

The Royal Marine Artillery was based at Fort Cumberland from 1823 until 1973. The site is now a listed Ancient Monument and in the care of English Heritage. Considerable restoration work has been carried out and the fort is open to the public.

There is a resident Victorian enactment unit at Southsea Castle - the Fort Cumberland Guard - who portray the Royal Marines of 1860. The Guard also have their own museum which is full of interesting artifacts and momentoes.


Wymering Manor

Wymering Manor is the oldest house in Portsmouth and is claimed to have a staggering amount of recorded ghosts and spirit energies! The house has been in the hands of the Youth Hostel Association since 1960, however, the land where the manor stands has had an establishment placed there for over 2,000 years.

King Edward the Confessor owned the land on which the house now stands in 1042 before it passed over to King Harald Godwinson. King Harald died at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 against William I - Duke of Normandy,also known as William the Conqueror.

The Manor is recorded in the Domesday Book as '5 teams, 4 villains, 4 bondmen and 1/2 teams, 4 slaves, a fishery and woods with room for 5 hogs'.

There have been many private owners of the Manor, three of which had it for long periods. They were the Le Botiller Family from 1283 to 1388, the Wayte Family from 1391 to 1561 and the Brunning Family from 1562 to 1707. More recently the Nugee Family lived there and, as lords of the manor, appointed clergy to St Peter and Paul's Church, just across the road from the Manor. The Nugee family are still patrons of the church living and appoint the vicar, and lead him into the church at the institution ceremony. Fifteen more owners occupied the house unti the Youth Hostel Association in 1960.

Over the years there have been various types of paranormal activity recorded from apparition appearances to whispers in the ear. There is a variety of phenomena at this location including poltergeist activity, spirit energies and stone recording ghosts.

Recently the Wymering Manor became empty as the Youth Hostel Association decided that they no longer needed it and there is now a campaign to save the house and put it once more to good use and a lengthy future ahead.


Bursledon Windmill

Bursledon Windmill is a wind powered corn mill. It has been lovingly restored to full working order. A traditional timber framed barn and granary have been reconstructd on the site together with a farm pond to provide a superb example of Hampshire's Heritage. An attractive woodland habitat next to the mill supports a wide range of wildlife. The first windmill was built on this site in 1766-1767 by William Fry. Some of its wooden machinery was incorporated in the present mill which was   built during 1813-1814 at a cost of £800.

The windmill formed part of the 'golden years' of English agricultural prosperity in the mid 19th century processing wheat from the surrounding area into flour for local bakers, ships biscuits and household use, and making animal feed from locally grown barley and oats. It last worked in the late 1880s, like many other windmills being made redundant by major changes in flour milling technology.

The last miller was George Gosling who bought the windmill in 1872 and set up as a threshing contractor. His decision to replace the cap with a flat roof preserved the internal machinery long after the stocks and sails had been removed.

Bursledon Windmill is signposted from junction 8 on the M27. Follow the signposts from the motorway to the roundabout, then take the first left on to the A27. Windmill Lane is then the first turning on the left.


The Railway in Gosport

A railway in Gosport was promoted in 1836 as part of a plan to connect Portsmouth to London via a branch from the London and Southampton Railway at Bishopstoke. After a lot of opposition, the railway was built and reached Gosport in 1842, but not without many problems in constructing the line. Land slips and the collapse of a length of the tunnel delayed the opening of the railway and increased the cost.

Gosport station is one of the finest surviving examples of station architecture in the classical style. As in the picture above, the station now stands looking forlorn, lacking both roof and railway lines, yet still managing to exude an air of solid grandeur.

In 1845 an additional 500 metres of track was laid from Gosport Station into the Royal Clarence Yard. A new station and waiting rooms were built for the convenience of the Royal Train carrying Queen Victoria en route for Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. A branch line from Gosport to Stokes Bay was opened in 1863 and ran until the 1930s and the former route of the railway now serves as a cycleway from Clayhall to Stokes Bay.

Passenger services from Gosport ceased in 1953 although the line was used for goods traffic until 1969. There has been much talk since in re-opening the line in some way and link it to Portsmouth via a tunnel under the harbour. The idea is that it waould greatly relieve the problems on the single entry to Gosport via the A32 road from Fareham. Will it ever take place -only time (and finance) will tell.