The Fortifications (South-west)
The Square Tower
Dating from 1494 the Square Tower was strengthened during improvements made to the fortifications by Henry VIII around 1545. It went through many changes of use over the years but broadly retained the same underlying structure. In 1827 the stonework was replaced and by 1860, the Tower had reached a state that we would recognise today.
It would ne nice to think of the Tower as being constructed on a perfect square of some significant dimension. Sadly that is not the case, but it's not far out. The side of the Tower facing High Street is 65'4" in width and about 33 feet in height. The depth cannot be measured accurately at present but it is very similar to the width, though the walls don't quite meet at right angles. In general terms therefore, what we see is very nearly half a cube.
The disposition of doors and windows has undoubtedly changed over the years but we can be confident that the niche containing the bust of King Charles II and the two associated plaques on the front facade have been present since long before 1860. As we have no definitive evidence at present for the layout of other features in 1860 these will be omitted for the time being.
The 1861 map referred to previously labels the Square Tower as the "Semaphore Tower" which is odd because the Semaphore Tower which stood on the top of the Square Tower was removed in 1848. This may indicate that this map was drawing heavily upon previous versions.
The Sally Port Buildings
Between the Square Tower and King James Gate, in an area that is today devoid of structures, there was, in 1860, a small complex of buildings the most important of which was the Town Major's office with a small walled garden before it. The 1861 map shows that between the office and the Square Tower were three adjoining buildings, listed as two waiting rooms and one Porter's Lodge. The waiting rooms would in 1860 have been used by passengers waiting to board the Portsmouth to Ryde steam packet from the adjacent Victoria Pier and, prior to the arrival of the ferries, by Naval Officers and civic dignitaries who were the only people allowed to use this direct access into and out of the town.
The waiting rooms were accessed from a passageway adjacent to the Square Tower which had at one end a doorway onto High Street and at the other a narrow access point through the sea wall directly onto Victoria Pier. The exterior view of the doorway into the passage, as shown on the Charpentier drawing (see right), is rather ornate and surprisingly it survived a long time. There is a photograph from the late 1930's (see below, left) showing it still in situ and it is known that the basic structure was not removed by the Council until the 1970s.
The photo from the 1930s provides evidence that the entrance to Victoria Pier had not changed since before 1842. It also gives us direct evidence for the height of the outer walls of the Sally Port complex; by scaling the courses of stone on the Square Tower it is possible to conclude that the wall, at the point where the Victoria Pier entrance pierces it, is approximately 12 feet high. Both Charpentier and the photograph show a narrow void between the pier entrance and the Square Tower, both also showing that access was barred by a set of railings. It would be reasonable to suppose that this feature would appear on the 1861 map, above, but curiously it does not. This causes a problem in that we do not know how deep this recess might be, nor do we know it's purpose. Does it extend the full depth of the building to the sea wall? There is no immediate answer to this question.
Further along was the original Sally Port which the map shows in the same position it occupies today, then between the Town Major's Office and the Master Gunner's Quarters. There are extant a few early drawings of this important gateway to the sea (see below); there is also a drawing from 1951 by Richard Esmond confirming that the buildings either side of the Sally Port remained in existence until as late as the 1970s.
Beyond the Master Gunner's Quarters there was another small courtyard which contained a set of steps which led onto the bastion at the corner of the town and thence onto the top of King James Gate. This set of steps survived the demolition of the gate and remains in existence today, thereby giving us excellent co-ordinates for the exact positioning of the gate.
One historical conundrum that need not be addressed is the exact sequence of the sea wall construction which today can be seen as three distinct phases with increasing heights towards the sea. Their overall width is approximately 9 feet, but as the map shows, the same configuration, as far as their widths are concerned, existed in 1861.
For the rest of the structures at Sally Port we must rely on some enigmatic scraps of information, namely the two extracts from drawings and one photograph shown below.
Both images from outside the sea wall (left and centre) show the Semaphore Tower in place, thereby defining their dates as pre-1848. Although this is somewhat early for our target date of 1860, the roof structures of the Sally Port buildings on view will be helpful in deciding what might have existed at that later date. The two differ in some specific detail but generally agree on the height of the roofs and that there were several of them. In practice we shall take less regard of the centre image as it was drawn by a member of the Snape family who were active in the latter part of the 19C and couldn't possibly have drawn it from life. The image on the right is from a photograph taken from outside King James Gate and shows the Sally Port buildings through the southern arch. Although indistinct, the picture shows that there was a high barred gate to the courtyard behind the Master Gunner's Quarters. Also shown is a chimney which appears to emanate from the Porter's Lodge, but we will be able to confirm this once the model has been built and we can look once again through King James Gate.
King James Gate
There was a form of defence across the causeway between Portsmouth and Point as early as the 15th century and this was strengthened by stone walls around 12 feet high in the reign of Elizabeth. There would certainly have been access to the town through these walls but there are no surviving images of it. In 1687 Sir Bernard de Gomme redesigned the fortifications surrounding the town and in the process constructed King James Gate as the access point, retaining some of the Elizabethan walls on either side. Immediately outside the gate was a patch of bare ground of around 20 feet in width and beyond this was a moat with a drawbridge. From this time until the 18th century Point was completely cut off from Portsmouth with a tidal waterway across the neck of the peninsula.
In the 18th century a permanent link from the town to Point was built in the form of a caponier across the south end of the moat. This, however, would have been for military purposes only, whilst the gate and drawbridge would have continued to control civilian traffic. In practice the drawbridge would have been used less and less as time went by and eventually it was replaced by a permanent bridge, especially as utilities such as water and gas would have had to pass over it. The moat remained in existence well into the 19th century and appears more or less complete on the 1861 map. The photo above confirms the existence of the moat as it shows on the lower left the top of a set of stairs leading downwards from the northern side of the bridge. This could only lead down to the water.
There is another photograph, taken in 1864 (see above), which although rather indistinct shows the gate area as seen from the top of St. Thomas's Church. This shows the rear of the gate, the walled compound in front of the gate and the bridge. What perhaps is most surprising about this image is that there remained in 1864 a significant break in the sea wall where the caponier crossed the moat. This runs counter to the accepted historical view that the wall had been completed by 1847 (see Corney et al.)
The earliest images of the gate show a large central arch flanked by two lesser arches. The northern arch remained much the same size throughout the history of the gate but the southern arch was increased in height to match the central arch in the 19th century. This modification was probably made to allow the flow of traffic in both directions simultaneously (possibly carried out at the same time, 1838, that the Old Town Hall in the middle of High Street was demolished for similar reasons) but it was carried out clumsily, such that the clean lines of the central arch were blurred. In his "Records of the Corporation", William Gates suggests that the gate was demolished in the 1860s a supposition supported by the historical information boards on the site of the gate, but there exists another photo of the gate which clearly shows the presence of tram lines running through the gate. These were not introduced until 1874. A more likely date for the demolition therefore is around 1880 when it is known that most of the fortifications around Old Portsmouth were removed. This may also have been an appropriate time to complete the sea wall.
The demolition however was not quite the end of King James Gate. The central arch was taken down and partially re-erected on a site close to where the University Nuffield Centre now stands. At a later date it was moved again to a site on Burnaby Road where it has acted as an occasional entrance to the United Services Sports Ground ever since (see right). Today the remains of the gate are a sorry sight with it's entire superstructure missing. Curiously though, in it's transfer to Burnaby Road the gate acquired two small, neat side arches which must have been added after demolition since it would have been odd to have restricted traffic to one lane having only recently opened it up to to two. The conclusion has to be that the original side arches were not considered elegant enough so two new arches were introduced.
Although the main arch appears, at first glance, to have been reconstructed accurately, closer examination reveals that the pilasters on either side of the archway overlap the moulding around the curved section of the arch, whereas originally they approached it tangentially (see details, left). Further comparisons between photographs taken in the 1860s and 2009 show that the champhered stonework above the arch has been replaced to a different design. These factors render the existing arch unreliable as a template for the original. The model will therefore be based on the 1861 map and the contemporary photos.
One of the most surprising elements of the gate revealed by the map is that the central arch extends only part-way through the structure and that on the inside, the accessway is flanked by two high walls (this can also be seen in the 1864 photograph above). In contrast both side arches pass through the full width of the gate. In some other respects the map is oddly inconsistent, showing for example the pilasters to the south side of the central arch but not those on the north.
The fortifications at this south-west corner of the town show features that can be related to the structure that has survived into the 21st century. We can see the steps leading from the Master Gunners courtyard to the top of the defensive wall still exist today; at least the lower 20 steps do, the upper section was added to allow access to the modern promenade which is several feet higher. The original steps led onto what is assumed to be the gun platform on a bastion, though no mention of a gun in this position has yet been found. The concentric circles shown are almost certainly the racers for a gun and in any case it would be a most logical position to site such a weapon, though it would have been a rather exposed position for the gunners. There is another set of steps on top of this platform and these appear to lead onto the roof of the southern arch. Again this is quite logical given that this roof has an embrasured parapet on the outer edge, so access to this firing position would have been necessary.