History in Old Images of Portsmouth, England

Old photo of harbour at Portsmouth Hampshire England

Glimpse history through old images of Portsmouth, in the southern English county of Hampshire, UK.

HMS Victory Arrives 1921

This silent footage from more than a century ago records the arrival of HMS Victory in Portsmouth, ready to be dry-docked.

H.M.S. Victory dry-docked at Portsmouth (1921) – British Pathé on YouTube

War Memorial 1921

In 1921, just four years after the end of the Great War, the Duke of Connaught unveiled the city’s war memorial to the fallen. It had cost £27,000, and the event was very well attended.

Portsmouth: Famous Seaport’s Memorial (1921) – British Pathé on YouTube

Prince of Wales in 1926

In 1926, Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales, visited Portsmouth to become the city’s first recipient of the Freedom of the City.

It was a huge event, with streets bedecked in flags and thousdands of spectators packed into the streets.

Portsmouth First Freeman Aka Portsmouth’s First Freeman & Cuts (1926) – British Pathé on YouTube

Portsmouth Town Hall 1929

This is just a short clip of the illuminations of the Town Hall in 1929, featuring a sea plane.

Illuminations at Portsmouth Town Hall (1929) – British Pathé on YouTube

New Secondary School 1932

The Lord Mayor led the official opening of Portsmouth’s new school building in 1932. I believe it is the Mayfield School in North End.

The school had originally opened as the Northern Secondary School for Boys at a site in Fratton Road in 1920. One of the pupils there was James Callaghan, who later became a British Prime Minister.

This film shows the school’s new site. It cost about £200,000 to build, quite a sum of money for the early 1930s, and was designed to educate a thousand students. There were 36 classrooms, several laboratories and artrooms, a gynasium, music room, library, and dining room.

After the Second World War it became the North Grammar School, and changed again in the mid 1970s to become Mayfield Comprehensive school.

The pupils look very bored through much of this official ceremony, but there are some nice clear headshots for spotting relatives.

“Ours Is A Nice School … – Ours Is!” (1932) – British Pathé on YouTube

Air Raid on Portsmouth 1941

Filmed from Portsdowne Hill, this silent footage from 1941 shows an air raid on Portsmouth and the docks.

Air Raid On Portsmouth (1941) – British Pathé on YouTube

Churchill Visits Portsmouth 1941

When Winston Churchill visited Portsmouth during the Second World War, the emphasis was on visiting the naval forces. But there are glimpses of nearby homes in this silent footage from 1941.

Churchill At Portsmouth (1941) – British Pathé on YouTube

Explosition! 1950

In 1950, eight naval ammunition barges exploded close to Portsmouth’s docks, shattering windows even several miles away, and almost destroying a pier.

Explosions at Portsmouth (1950) – British Pathé on YouTube

Churchill’s Freedom of the City 1950

Probably because of World War II, nine years elapsed between Portsmouth deciding to give Winston Churchill the freedom of the city, and the former Prime Minister arriving to receive the honour in a well attended ceremony.

He became Prime Minister for a second term in 1951. Over his lifetime he was given the freedom of 42 cities and towns across the country.

Churchill is awarded The Freedom of Portsmouth (1950) – British Pathé on YouTube

Queen’s Visit 1951

In 1951, Queen Elizabeth II was welcomed to the city by the Lord Mayor at the railway station. She then went to the new officer’s club built by the Nuffield Trust, where she was welcomed by Lord and Lady Nuffield, and by Admiral Sir Arthur Power, before unveiling a memorial plaque.

Then she visited the Connaught Drill Hall on Stanhope Road, which had been repaired after being badly damaged by the Luffwaffe bombing raids ten years earlier during the Second World War. There, she unveiled a war memorial to the fallen soldiers in the South African war and the two world wars.

Pathe News Special Aka Princess Elizabeth Visit To Portsmouth (1951) – British Pathé on YouTube

Portsmouth in 1965

A 1965 short film called ‘City of Sailors’ captured the landmarks and events in Pompey that year.

Whilst noting its importance as a naval town, this film is about the local community and major changes happening in the city’s redevelopment at that time. Portsmouth’s population had risen from 330,000 to 440,000 in twenty years.

The Victorian homes which had survived the Blitz were now swept away by town planners, who wanted to build tall blocks of Corporation flats. Queen Street and its pubs was about to disappear.

So there are many shots of the town centre, residential roads, local people, people working in the factories, and views acros the city.

PORTSMOUTH – CITY OF SAILORS, 1965 – Matt Spanner on YouTube

Knight & Lee 1968

This silent footage records the endless crowds who turned out to welcome Alec Rose, returning to the city following his solo circumnavigation on the Lively Lady in 1967-68.

They pass the Knight & Lee store on Elm Grove, which was the second outlet opened by the department store company, as well as many homes and businesses along the route.

There must be thousands of people appearing in this film!

Selected Originals – Portsmouth – Alec Rose Returns (1968) – British Pathé on YouTube

Portsmouth Buses

These videos of Portsmouth buses in the 1980s and 1990s are trailers for full length DVDs available for sale from PmP Films. Although they focus on the buses, many cars, passengers, pedestrians, local streets, buildings and businesses also appear.


PORTSMOUTH BUSES 1989 – DaveSpencer32


PORTSMOUTH BUSES 1996 – DaveSpencer32


PORTSMOUTH BUSES 1999 – DaveSpencer32

Portsmouth in 1999

This home video recorded in April 1999 shows the area around Commercial Road, Charlotte Street and The Tricorn.

Portsmouth 1999 – Simon Paul on YouTube

More about Hampshire

Categorised in