Victoria Park Portsmouth
Heritage

Two World Wars

World War One

During World War One, the park, as the town centre’s principal open space, came to be used for military drills and fundraising events alongside its more usual recreational uses. In June 1916 the park hosted the Battle of Jutland memorial service, commemorating the sea battle in which the German Fleet tried to break the North Sea blockade. This battle saw the single biggest loss of British servicemen in a naval battle, 14 ships were sunk and 6,094 lives lost, many hundreds of them from Portsmouth. During the war the park also housed a TB dispensary for the distribution of advice and medicines to treat the disease.

The southern-most corner of the park under the railway bridge was given over after the First World War to the Portsmouth War Memorial, also referred to as the Cenotaph. This was funded by public subscription and commemorated those Portsmouth citizens who had lost their lives in World War One, it was unveiled in 1921.

Between the world wars

Portsmouth became city in 1926 and the council finally purchased Victoria Park from the War Department in 1932. Thankfully despite much pressure to redevelop the land the park was maintained. Only the area south of the railway line was lost for a technical college.

By 1933, a new entrance from Anglesea Road into the park had been added and a playground constructed. The aviary had been significantly expanded, with further buildings and pens added. At the extreme north eastern tip of the park, a further curvilinear path had been installed. Electricity infrastructure had been installed in the north-eastern corner of the park in the form of a substation which still exists at this location. Some effort was made to blend this structure in to the park and it is designed in a diluted Arts and Crafts style.

By 1939 the bandstand had been removed and the new swimming baths had been built. Plans for further building in the park in the form of a School of Art were shelved with the outbreak of the Second World War.

 

World War Two

During World War Two air-raid shelters and static water supply tanks were installed in the park. During the devastating weekend of bombing in Portsmouth on 10-11 January 1941 72 people were killed and hundreds made homeless across the city but particularly in Landport and Portsea given their proximity to the city centre and the dockyard. Throughout the war 930 people were killed in air raids and over 6000 properties were destroyed. A British restaurant was established in the park to feed those families that had been bombed out of the homes.

The park itself suffered three direct hits. The bombs destroyed shelters and the park’s summerhouse. It was a difficult time for the park with the staffing levels down from 150 to 44 and the animals housed in the aviary being fed on scraps by staff.

British Restaurants

British Restaurants were a wartime initiative, set up by the Ministry of Food in 1940, to ensure workers and those who had been bombed out had access to at least one square meal a day. Most were set up in existing buildings but, where no suitable premises existed, a prefabricated ‘Nashcrete’ hut, made to ministry designs was used, this is likely to have been the case in Victoria Park.

The Civic Restaurants Act of 1947 allowed for these restaurants to continue under the management of the local authority as noted on the 1948/9 Ordnance Survey. The continuation of these restaurants was considered a necessity by the post-war government as the end of the war had not immediately provided the public with regular access to nutritious food. It was recognised as a failing that the return to peace had not brought about the hoped for rapid return to prosperity. Many still struggled with access to housing and food for some years.

The People's Park

Map of the park

    Key

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    Monuments

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    Aviary

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    Fountain

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    Adventure Playground

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    Rose Garden

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    Cafe

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    Woodland Area

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    Nearest Bus Stops

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    Nearest Train Station