Painting of the Battle of Southsea
Point 8 - Pier Road
In Victorian times the seafront was a place where Portsmouth's elite ladies in their elaborate bustled dresses would come to take tea with eligible gentlemen while across the road the locals would bare all and go for a dip in the sea!
In the late 1800's stretching your legs in the afternoon with a stroll along the seafront before taking tea in one of the many rooms in and around the Common was a popular pastime for Portsmouth's high society crowd.
Over time, the Common had become an uninviting wet, marshy piece of land. So to encourage its use, the council drained it and had the several acres of open land grassed over. Pretty soon the space became popular for local people and visitors to relax and enjoy themselves.
Tearooms soon sprung up nearby and the Southsea Baths and Rooms which sat where the hotel is now. This was where the elite could bath in the sea in style and comfort and was soon the place to be and be seen!
Unfortunately many of the town's working men also used the seafront for a spot of bathing, some of them nude - which as you can imagine didn't go down well with the tearoom's clientele!
To put a stop to this inappropriate behaviour the Pier Company who owned the Baths and Rooms put a barrier up stopping free access to the Common and the locals getting access to the beach.
Local councilor Barney Miller decided to take matters into his own hands and gathered a large crowd at the pier to rip the barrier down.
Over 5,000 people turned up with axes, saws and hammers and started demolishing the fence before setting the timber on fire in front of the tearoom's windows where the posh tea drinkers had legged it in terror!
The struggle lasted for four days and the Army were eventually called out from the garrison to restore order, but the people had had their day - the Battle of Southsea was won and the barrier was gone.
If you want to explore Portsmouth further once you have finished this walk, visit the Tourist Information Centre near the Historic Dockyard.
last updated: 29/02/2008 at 09:50
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