September 18, 2021|Reports

“Harlots, Dung and Glory: The history of Portsmouth – Part 2” – Andrew Negus

Wickham History Society’s guest speaker – our first face-to-face meeting since February 2020 – was the ever-popular Andrew Negus with his talk Harlots, Dung and Glory: The history of Portsmouth – Part 2, covering the period 1800-1870.

Over forty members attended, despite heavy rain, and enjoyed another entertaining but very well-informed and researched romp through the story of Portsmouth.

The talk began with the enormous expansion of the dockyard during the Napoleonic Wars and the consequent growth of Portsmouth.  Landport was developed and later still Southsea, a completely separate villa suburb built on reclaimed marshland.  This was the brainchild of local architect Thomas Ellis Owen, who also built St Jude’s Church.  Andrew’s varied cast of characters included ‘Jack the Painter’ who set fire to the dockyard, a local harlot who smuggled spirits to sailors on board ships in bladders hidden under her petticoats, John Pounds the founder of the Ragged School movement, and even William IV, said to have come out worst in a fight with a local whose pint he drank!

Andrew emphasised the contradiction between the glory of the navy’s achievements and the dung – the very poor sanitation and living conditions in Portsmouth itself.  This shaped Wickham’s growth too as many of the better off moved out of the town to more salubrious surroundings.  Part 3 will tell us, among many other things, how Portsmouth overcame this challenge.

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