Portsmouth World Heritage Bid

Posted on 01 Apr 2008

The Working Party assembling the bid to get the harbour on to the national list of sites which are suitable for the country to submit to ICOMOS is now gathering momentum, led by Dr Celia Clark of the Portsmouth Society and Peter Goodship of the Portsmouth Dockyard Heritage Trust, with the 5 local authorities and civic societies.. They have a very able team and are now preparing the bid document.

This is the first bid to designate a seascape as a world Heritage Site and this includes the whole of the harbour, with its surrounding land and the part of the Solent between Bembridge and the western bank of Wootton Creek, and on the mainland shore from Hill Head Salterns to Fort Cumberland.

Portsmouth Harbour has been the home of the Navy since mediaeval times and has provided the force which built and sustained the largest empire the world has ever seen. The Romans built their largest sea fort here at Portchester. Encircling this seascape are a chain of over 20 fortifications, including the 4 sea forts. The seabed is home to many significant wrecks, over 400 in the greater area of the Solent, but in this part there is the Mary Rose site, the Invincible, the Royal George, the Boyne, and a recently discovered and unidentified 19th century warship together with many from the 2 world wars. Portsmouth is home to 3 important ships, The Victory, The Warrior [the first iron warship] and the Mary Rose.

The Royal Dockyard contains many important world class inventions and was in the 18th and 19th centuries the largest industrial complex in the world. Brunel’s Block Mills were the world’s first mass production facility. Froudes test tank at Haslar, still in use, was the worlds first. The caisson, for enclosing the entrance to a dry dock, was another first. There are many others including Haslar Hospital, in its day the largest brick building in Europe, home of many medical firsts including the cure for scurvy which could reduce a ships crew to a level where they were unable to work the ship.

The bid is at a very early stage and much remains to be done. If successful any future development would then need to of high quality and recognise the existing heritage of the site.