South Parade Pier
16,660 (2011 Census. Central Southsea Ward)
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||PO4, PO5|
Southsea is a seaside resort and geographic area, located in Portsmouth at the southern end of Portsea Island, Hampshire, England. Southsea is located to the south of Portsmouth city centre and to the east of Old Portsmouth. It developed as a fashionable Victorian seaside resort in the 19th century, originally named Croxton Town, but later adopting the name of nearby Southsea Castle, a seafront fort constructed in 1544 to help defend the Solent and approaches to Portsmouth Harbour. Southsea subsequently grew into a dense residential suburb and large, distinct commercial and entertainment area, separate from the centre of Portsmouth.
The areas surrounding Albert Road, Palmerston Road, and Osborne Road contain several bars, restaurants and independent shops. Palmerston Road is the main High Street of Southsea and contains various shops and restaurants, as well as the local library. Albert Road is a distinct street containing shopping and cultural venues, which includes the Kings Theatre, a regional theatre built in 1907.
The history of Southsea is generally part of the history of Portsmouth, as Southsea started with the growth of Portsmouth dockyard and of the city, with the expansion of British maritime power during the British Empire. Before the 16th century Southsea was principally composed of small farms, open grassland and undrained marshland (morass), outside the main naval base and the city itself. However the growing expectation of a possible French attack on the naval base led Henry VIII to order the building of Southsea Castle in 1544, adjacent to the channel approaches to Portsmouth Harbour. Southsea was first recorded as a place name in a Royal plan in 1577. Henry VIII visited Southsea Castle in 1545, from where he witnessed the sinking of the warship Mary Rose in the Solent.
The first references to the development of the suburb appear in the Portsea Poor Rate returns of 1790 and describe small areas of building and farming plots. Most of the land was undeveloped and open grass and marshland still dominated the area. In the early 19th century, development continued on land owned by Thomas Croxton, and the community became known as Croxton Town. The first houses were built by 1809 for skilled workers in what were called the "mineral" streets (such as Silver Street and Nickel Street). Around 1810, streets such as Hampshire Terrace, Landport Terrace, King's Terrace, Wish Street (which later became King's Road and Elm Grove), Jubilee Terrace and Bellevue Terrace were built adjacent to the old walls of the city. Although the streets still exist, many of them were among the most heavily bombed areas of Portsmouth in the Second World War, and like much of Southsea they experienced significant redevelopment in Postwar Britain.
The development of Southsea continued during the Napoleonic era and as the dockyard continued to grow, new homes were required for the increasing personnel, and many houses, villas and apartments were built. The architect and builder Thomas Ellis Owen created many of these, and the surviving buildings retain a coherent late Georgian and early Victorian style, and form a conservation area today, with many of the buildings having listed status. Owen built properties in Kent Road, Queen's Terrace, Sussex Terrace, Elm Grove, Beach Road, Grove Road South, Clarendon Road, Osborne Road and Portland Terrace. The area between Castle Road and Victoria Road South was built up between 1835 and 1860.
During the same period, Southsea grew as a leisure and bathing destination. In 1816 a pump room and baths were erected near the present day Clarence Pier, and by 1820 a large complex was developed including vapour baths, showers, and card playing and assembly rooms. The remaining marshland was drained, leading to the creation of Southsea Common, some 480 acres (about 2 km2) of open grassland. Due to military requirements for clear lines of fire adjacent to Southsea Castle, the area was developed and remains today as a park and garden. Apartments and hotels were constructed towards the common and waterfront, along Southsea Terrace, Western Parade and Clarence Parade. The first large hotel was the Portland Hotel (destroyed in the Second World War) near Kent Road. Others soon followed, including the purpose-built Queens Hotel (1861), Pier Hotel (1865) and Beach Mansions Hotel (1866). In 1852 the Clarence Esplanade and a memorial were erected by public subscription, and development of the resort led in 1861 to Clarence Pier being constructed as a promenade pier and landing place for steamers. Other piers were also built, including the Victoria and Albert Piers, with the construction of South Parade Pier in 1879 marking the culmination of seafront development in the Victorian period.
By the 1860s the suburb of Southsea had grown along Clarendon Road as far as Granada Road. In 1857 Southsea gained its own Improvement Commissioners responsible for paving, street cleaning and public lighting. The Southsea Railway came in 1885 and brought further development to the area, although it was to be financially unsuccessful and eventually closed in 1914. By the mid to late Victorian era, Southsea had become recognised as a largely middle-class neighbourhood, with many naval officers and other professionals taking up residence. During this time the writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lived in Portsmouth, moving to Southsea in June 1882 with less than £10 (£1000 today) to his name. He set up a medical practice at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea. Areas of Southsea suffered from the rapid development of the suburb; certain streets suffered from poverty and there was a major cholera outbreak in 1848. The works of the commission helped bring about some improvements and eventually led to the setting up of the Southsea Improvement Association.
Southsea continued to grow eastwards in the early 20th century, extending to the area of Eastney. During this time significant local public buildings were constructed including the Queens Hotel, in the Edwardian Baroque style built in 1903 and the Kings Theatre built in 1907. The onset of the First World War saw an increase in fortifications on the seafront. Parades were held on Southsea Common. Southsea continued to thrive as a resort destination and a suburb of Portsmouth in the inter-war years, with many visitors in summer. At that time parts of the Common were converted into ornamental gardens and the Ladies' Mile was set out in 1925. However the Second World War had an immense impact on the urban and social fabric of the area. Huge areas of Southsea were destroyed by bombing during The Blitz. Although some of Victorian Southsea escaped the bombing, areas such as the Kings Road and Elm Grove were extensively damaged and the Palmerston Road shopping areas were completely destroyed. The beachfront, piers and promenades were closed for the duration of the war. Following the end of the war, in 1945 Southsea and the rest of Portsmouth embarked on a massive clearance and rebuilding scheme. Many areas of destroyed, damaged and intact low-income housing were cleared to make way for new building schemes. The Kings Road Estate and Roslyn House, among others, were developed between 1945 and the 1970s. Palmerston Road shopping area was developed in the 1950s and still stands today. Although visitor numbers to the resort area never recovered, Southsea continued to develop throughout the 20th century and today remains a mixed residential area and leisure destination.
On 15 September 2000, parts of Southsea were flooded when the pumping station which pumps surface water out to sea was itself flooded during a particularly heavy storm.
On 9 August 2011 a fire broke out at the old Joanna's Nightclub, a derelict building opposite South Parade Pier. Police sectioned off most of the area and guests at the nearby Best Western Royal Beach Hotel were evacuated as a precaution. Despite rumours circulating on social network sites, the incident was reportedly not linked to the riots taking place. The building was demolished a few days later.
Southsea Common is a large expanse of mown grassland parallel to the shore from Clarence Pier to Southsea Castle. The Common owes its existence to the demands of the military in the early nineteenth century for a clear range of fire from the harbour defences at any enemy ships which dared to approach Portsmouth and its dockyard.
The common is a popular recreation ground, and also serves as the venue for a number of annual events, including the Southsea Show, Para Spectacular, Military Vehicle Show, Kite Festival, Victorious Festival and a variety of circuses including the Moscow State Circus and Chinese State Circus. It was also the place where fans of Portsmouth F.C. gathered to celebrate their victory in the 2008 FA Cup Final.
On 6 June 1994 a drumhead service was held on Southsea Common in front of the War Memorial to commemorate the 50th anniversary of D-Day. The service was attended by all the heads of the states which had participated in the allied landings, notably HM Queen Elizabeth II and US President Bill Clinton. The service was also witnessed by over 100,000 members of the public. Historically, a blessing before battle was offered during a drumhead service which is conducted in the field with the drums forming the altar and the colours serving as the altar cloth.
In August 2010, "Ultrasauros", a life-size (52 ft high) model of an ultrasauros dinosaur was erected on the common in conjunction with the Portsmouth's Aspex Gallery. The sculpture was destroyed by a fire, thought to have been caused by an electrical fault, on 1 October.
In July 2015 and 2016 Southsea Common hosted the America's Cup World Series sailing event. The British sailing team Land Rover BAR is based in nearby Old Portsmouth.
The common is home to a remarkable collection of mature elm trees, believed to be the oldest and largest surviving in Hampshire, which have escaped Dutch elm disease owing to their isolation. The majority of the larger trees are Huntingdon Elms planted in the 1920s, but nearer the entrance to the Skate Park there is a fine example of a hybrid of the Siberian Elm Ulmus pumila. Huntingdon Elms once lined the Ladies' Mile—an avenue through the centre of the Common—but many were lost in the Great Storm of 1987 and replaced by the Dutch hybrid elm cultivar 'Lobel'.
The Ladies' Mile is also home to several semi-mature Canary Island Date Palms Phoenix canariensis. Planted in 1996, these palms are now some of the largest in the UK and for the last few years have fruited and produced viable seed, the first time this species of palm has been recorded doing so in the UK. Other palms growing close to the Common include Trachycarpus fortunei, (Ladies' Mile, Rock Gardens and Rose Garden), Chamaerops humilis (in front of the Pyramids Centre), Butia capitata (in Burgoyne Gardens) and Brahea armata, (Canoe Lake and D-Day Island). Many Cordyline australis are also planted in the area, though these are not true palms, but more closely related to yuccas and agaves.
Canoe Lake is the last remnant of an area of marsh and open water known as the Great Morass, drained in 1886, on which much of Southsea now sits. The lake is topped up from the sea by a sluice gate at high tide. Some marine wildlife can be spotted in the lake, including fish, crabs, moon jellyfish, and reportedly even small sharks.
Swans and mallard are frequent visitors, with less frequent visits from tufted duck, Mediterranean gull, cormorant, little grebe and occasionally a lone black swan. Pedalos can be rented on the lake in the summer.
Since 2006 Canoe Lake has been a venue for the Lake of Lights Memorial Service, held each December, when thousands of lights are floated on the lake to commemorate loved ones in the local community who have been lost to cancer.
Due to its southerly location and sheltering of northerly winds from Portsdown Hill, Southsea enjoys one of the mildest winters in the United Kingdom, and experiences higher temperatures than areas surrounding it. Summers tend to be warm with fewer extreme high temperatures than other areas in the South East of England.
|Climate data for Southsea, Portsmouth 1976–2005|
|Average high °C (°F)||9.6
|Average low °C (°F)||5.1
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||65
|Average rainy days||11.2||9.5||8.3||7.6||6.5||7.4||5.4||6.6||8.5||10.9||10.3||11.2||103.4|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||67.9||89.6||132.7||200.5||240.8||247.6||261.8||240.7||172.9||121.8||82.3||60.5||1,919.1|
|Percent possible sunshine||26||31||36||49||51||51||54||54||46||38||31||25||41|
|Source 1: Met Office|
|Source 2: BADC|
Southsea Parish Council was created in 1999 following a successful submission to the UK Government under the Local Government and Rating Act 1997. The Parish Council later became the Southsea Town Council.
The initial creation of the town council was opposed by Portsmouth City Council. There was a long-standing campaign to disband the town council. In a poll of local residents in February 2010, 66.3 percent voted to abolish it. Southsea Town Council was abolished on 23 April 2010.
The town council had limited powers and a small budget funded by the local precept. It campaigned on local issues, seeking to influence the unitary authority Portsmouth City Council, awarded funds to local causes and funded infrastructure improvements in the local area. Until 2007 it had a small office open to the public in Southsea town centre.
In 1898 a railway branch called the Southsea Railway was opened from platform 3 at Fratton Station, terminating at East Southsea Station (near to The Strand). Two unstaffed halts were added at Albert Road and Jessie Road/Devonshire Avenue. The line was not able to compete with the Portsmouth corporation tram services. It was closed in 1914 and never re-opened. The line itself and the station have since been demolished and replaced with houses. Southsea is now served by stations at Fratton and Portsmouth and Southsea station and on to Portsmouth Harbour (also called The Hard), with regular trains to London Waterloo.