The History of Portsmouth Page

The Square Tower

The first references to Jean de Gisors occur in a document drawn up between 1164 and 1177. It was during this period that he purchased the manor of Buckland from its previous owners, the de Port family. It was one of the Domesday manors on Portsea Island and it seems to have embraced the south-western part of the island, including the area we know today as Old Portsmouth, where he established his settlement.

The next reference to Jean de Gisors occurs in a gift made c1180 - 1186 when he gave Southwick Priory site for the erection of a chapel "in honour of the glorious martyr Thomas of Canterbury, formerly Archbishop" on "his land called Sudewede on the island of Portsea."

On 2nd May 1194 the people of Portsmouth were given their first royal charter. They may even have received it from the king himself. Richard I was in Portsmouth at this time with a great army and a fleet of some one hundred ships waiting for the weather to improve for him to put to sea and cross to Normandy.

Although Portsmouth`s chief claim to fame is as the home of the Navy, it has also for several hundred years served as a great military rendezvous. In 1221 Henry III assembled in Portsmouth one of the finest armies ever raised in England. In 1417 two round towers were built to render Portsmouth a securer haven, in 1417 a Round Tower was commenced but it was a long time before it was completed. The Round Tower was originally built in wood, with a sister tower on the Gosport shore. It was rebuilt in stone about 60 years later and remained a key part of the city`s defences for centuries. It was bought by the City Council in 1958.

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