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Facts About Portsmouth
Portsmouth’s history is thought to date back to the 5th century BC. At that time, it was known as Portchester.
In the 3rd century AD, the Romans started to use the town as a naval station. The town’s strategic role as a major naval base continues to this day.
In 1180, a wealthy Norman merchant, Jean de Gistors, purchased the Manor of Buckland on Portsea Island. Noticing that a sheltered inlet on the island offered refuge for ships, he founded a small town here. In 1194, Portsmouth was granted a Royal Charter. Whether or not it was handed over personally by King Richard I remains open to debate.
By the 15th century, there had been numerous French attacks on Portsmouth. It was clear that better defences were needed. These included the building of the Round Tower in 1418. In 1494, a Square Tower was built on the orders of King Henry VII. A year later, work started on a dry dock.
In the 16th century, a Castle was built at Southsea, along with two more circular forts – one at Eastney and the other on the site of Lumps Fort. All these fortifications were to be put to good use in 1545, when news arrived in Portsmouth that a vast French fleet was advancing ever closer. The famous English warship known as the Mary Rose was a victim of the battle.
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