~ A history of Victoria Park, Portsmouth ~
Originally meadows farmland, Victoria Park is a public park located just to the north of Portsmouth Guildhall, adjacent to Portsmouth and Southsea railway station and close to the city centre in Portsmouth, Hampshire. The North West corner and West side were originally occupied by part of the old city walls which were demolished to make way for the park.
Originally leased from The War Department, it was officially opened on 25 May 1878 and was the first public park to be opened in Portsmouth. It was designed by Alexander McKenzie. It has a total area of around 15 acres (61,000 m2) and is planted with trees, shrubs and flowers. Many of the trees pre-date the park by 200 or so years and are from its farmland days.
The park site as a whole, lay immediately north of a former tidal creek, known to have been converted into a mill pond by the late 16th century, this terminated in the area know known as St George’s square.
The landscape and layout was designed by Alexander McKenzie who also created Finsbury Park, the Victoria, Albert Embankment and Alexandra Palace Park. The original design for the site is an excellent example of a late-19th-century formal garden. The shrubs for the park were provided by Thomas Short of Southsea, who submitted the lowest of three tenders, at a cost of £265 and grass seed was supplied by Suttons of Reading.
The fountain at the heart of the park is part of original landscape. It is believed to have featured in the Great Exhibition of 1851 at Crystal Palace
Enclosed within the park but primarily towards the eastern entrance there is a large collection of memorials and monuments principally connected to the Royal Navy.
The memorials are to HMS Royal Sovereign, Admiral Charles Napier, HMS Centurion, HMS Active, HMS Powerful, HMS Victoria, HMS Orlando, HMS Shah and Workers Memorial Day, images attached. Further details on the memorials can be found here…
The bandstand in Victoria Park was an original feature of the park but audiences were not allowed to dance while enjoying the music. At one time they even considered removing the bandstand as it encouraged too many high spirits among the ‘larrikins’ and plain clothes police were sent in to monitor the crowd. In 1922 dancing was finally allowed, 44 years after the park first opened – just in time for the Charleston craze which swept the world from 1923. Portsmouth became city in 1926 and the council finally purchased Victoria Park from the War Department in 1932.
During WW2 the park suffered three direct hits. The bombs destroyed shelters and the park’s summerhouse.
Much more about the parks history can be found here…