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Postcards from the past: Portsmouth & Southsea

Updated Thursday, 28th July 2005

By comparing older and more recent photographs of Portsmouth and Southsea you can see for yourself how the area has changed and evolved over the years.

This page was published over 17 years ago. Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant. Some technical elements such as audio-visual and interactive media may no longer work. For more detail, see our Archive and Deletion Policy.

Fishing boat Portsmouth is situated on a promontory with the main harbour to the west, providing close links to the Isle of Wight.

The coastline is dynamic, being composed of soft sedimentary materials. As a result the harbour becomes silted up unless it is regularly dredged. Portsmouth has always been a major naval base. The post card shows a war ship in the port with a local ferry service in the foreground, probably from the Isle of Wight. The first image shows the Port as it stood in the late 1930s.

The City was badly bombed in the Second World War and has recently been modernised with the port area now developed as a major cross-channel terminus. Its history is still important and recently was the location for the commemorative ceremonies of Nelson’s Victory at Trafalgar. HMS Victory is still preserved at Portsmouth.

  Portsmouth Harbour, late 1930s

  Portsmouth Harbour, 2005

The soft sediment provides fine beaches that lead down from the foot of the chalky South Downs behind. The beaches of Portsmouth and Southsea have been popular tourist resorts since Victorian times. We'll turn our attention to Southsea Beach.

  Southsea Beach, c.1910

The postcard shows families enjoying the beach and lake beyond with a portable ramp for pleasure boats in the foreground. The scene is from around 1910.

  Southsea Beach, 2005

The modern photograph shows how leisure has changed. Seaside holidays in the UK being in decline since the 1950s, though Southsea is still a popular destination on bank holidays.

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