Although its boundaries are somewhat indistinct from those of neighbouring Portsmouth, Southsea is a separate entity in its own right and a town of great interest in historical terms. Just one mile from the centre of Portsmouth, the town is also home to a thriving and popular shopping centre with a mix of modern and older shops, and is known for the fort built by Henry VIII that is now known as Southsea Castle.
Much of Southsea is now a conservation area thanks to the wish to preserve the older buildings, and this has led to the prolonged charm of what has always been an attractive town.
The town has a well used beach and two pleasure piers, and is popular with holidaymakers in the summer months. Of interest to the visitor are the D-Day Museum which commemorates that historic moment in the second world war, as well as Southsea Model Village which is a 1/12th scale village popular with children, while many tourists take advantage of the hovercraft ferry service that runs from the seafront to the Isle of Wight.
Royal Marines Museum, Eastney Esplanade, Southsea PO4 9PX (02392) 819385
Founded in 1664, the Royal Marines have a long and rich history. The Royal Marines Museum in Southsea celebrates this heritage in the regal setting of a stately officers’ mess.
With exhibits ranging from 16th Century uniforms through to 21st Century military equipment, the museum continues to collect objects that preserve the tradition and story of one of the country’s elite fighting forces.
Southsea Castle, Clarence Esplanade, Southsea PO5 3PA (02392) 827261
Built on the orders of Henry VIII to defend the country from a French invasion in 1544, Southsea Castle witnessed the sinking of his famous flagship, Mary Rose.
The castle remained a stronghold for the next 400 years; surviving fire, the English Civil War and an explosion before becoming a tourist attraction in 1960.
Mary Rose Exhibition, College Road, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth PO1 3LX (02392) 750521
Built between 1509 and 1511, the Mary Rose was King Henry VIII’s favourite flagship and pride of a fledgling Navy.
After accidently sinking in 1545, she remained on the sea bed until 1982, when she was finally lifted from her resting place and towed to Portsmouth Harbour.
A new exhibition hall is being built around the hull which is due to be opened in 2012.