Originally Portsmouth was a walled city, built to protect against potential invaders and centred around the port and naval defences. Land outside the city walls, but still on the island of Portsea, was open farmland.
The remains of the old city walls lie under the north western section of the park. Excavations near Ravelin Park as part of the development of the new University Sports Centre uncovered archaeological evidence of the old walls. This enabled us to learn more about the history of the area prior to the park.
The presence of fortifications acted to supress development immediately outside the town. It was important and, in many cases mandated, to retain a clear field of fire within a set distance of the main defensive line. Throughout this time, the site of the park lay well outside the defended and developed areas of the town and dockyard.
The park site as a whole, lay immediately north of a former tidal creek, known to have been converted into a mill pond by the late 16th century. Historic map analysis indicates that by the early 18<sup>th</sup> century the park site was in use as meadows.
The development of long range guns meant the city could be defended from the hill at Portsdown and the Solent, so the old naval fortifications were demolished. This led the way for the civic leaders to apply to the War Department for a lease of the land to build a people’s park in the 1870s.