Things to do in Portchester, Hampshire
It is best known for its castle, known originally as the fort of Portus Adurni. The name Portchester derived from "portus" meaning "harbour" and "ceaster" meaning "Roman castle".
Portchester Castle is one of the finest and best preserved in Europe, situated overlooking Portsmouth Harbour. This ancient scheduled monument was originally built by the Romans probably between 285 and 290 AD. Its main purpose was to defend the port against pirates.
The Saxons arrived in 500 AD and built the small settlement around the castle.
In 904 Portchester Castle was owned by Edward the Elder and a hall and tower were added making it a more suitable royal residence. Although the walls date back to Roman times much of the existing stonework was probably added around 1120.
The castle has massive D-shaped towers, a keep and a church in the outer bailey which can still be explored. The church, dedicated to St Mary, was part of the Augustinian Priory which was established within the castle by Pont de l’Arche in 1128.
Portchester Castle was used by many kings as a palace until Henry VII founded the Royal Dockyard and it became obsolete with the invention of gunpowder and cannons.
The market ceased trading in the 17th century and Portchester reverted to being a quiet farming community growing corn and other crops. The town also produced clay smoking pipes from 1840 to the 1930s.
In the 19th century the castle was used as a gaol during the Napoleonic War to house 7,000 prisoners. Those who died were buried in the mudflats outside the castle walls and occasional remains are still uncovered in stormy weather.
Present Day Portchester
Portchester currently has a population of around 18,000. It is mainly a dormitory town for Portsmouth and Southampton. It has a small trading estate and the Portchester Business Centre, built in 2003.
The charming town has many historic houses with pretty gardens along Castle Street and the 12th century St Mary’s Parish Church.
The waterfront is popular for leisure activities including boating and fishing. It looks across the harbour to Portsmouth city and docks.
Portchester Precinct has local shops and services with a war memorial clock. There is a weekly market on West Street, a library and a health centre.
The town has its own railway station with frequent trains on the Southern Railway line.
Things to Do Around Portchester
Portchester Castle is open to visitors daily and is managed by English Heritage. The castle is popular for school trips and the inner section has interesting displays and exhibits.
The sea front near the castle is popular with anglers hoping to catch bass and flounder.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is an excellent place to visit. Entrance covers a number of attractions including access to the Tudor warship the Mary Rose, HMS Victory and HMS Warrior 1860.
The National Museum of the Royal Navy, the working docks and historic buildings offer a range of activities. The ticket also includes a narrated boat tour of the naval vessels in port.
Portsmouth’s waterfront shops and Spinnaker Tower are also worth a visit. Views from the three viewing platforms of the landmark tower look across the Solent to the Isle of Wight.
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