A public park laid out in 1878 by the County Borough of Portsmouth on the site of former town defences land.
Victoria Park was laid out in 1878 by the County Borough of Portsmouth on land which had previously formed the glacis and open land of the defences of Portsea. It was opened to the public on 24 April of that year by the Mayor, Mr William King. The park remains (1999) as a public park and is now administered by the Leisure and Community Services Department of Portsmouth City Council.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
The park is situated in the heart of the city of Portsmouth, immediately to the west of the main railway station and on the north side of the Civic Centre and Guildhall. The 3.5ha, roughly square-shaped registered site occupies level ground which is bounded to the south by the embankment of the railway line running west to Portsmouth Harbour and, at the western end, by the brick facade of the Victoria Swimming Centre. Along the eastern boundary, beyond a chain-link fence and a narrow strip of open land (the course of a former railway), is a facade of public and office buildings including the multi-storey, reflectively glazed Zurich House (c 1985). The western and northern boundaries are enclosed by C20 iron railings from, respectively, Anglesey Road and Edinburgh Road.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
There are four main entrances to the park, one at each corner and each with an iron gate, with a secondary entrance in the south-east corner, opened in the late C20, which links the park with the railway station. The north-west entrance is marked by a single-storey lodge with rubble-stone walls and a tiled roof (shown on the OS map of 1879) and is linked to the south-east entrance by a broad, straight tarmacked walk, intermittently lined with avenue trees including some mature planes. The avenue is shown complete in 1879 (OS). At the south-east corner, the park is entered from the Guildhall Square via the war memorial, an arch and gate in its north wall leading through a tunnel under the railway embankment. The present entrance off Anglesey Road in the south-west corner was created in the mid C20 to replace the original entrance, closed off by 1939 (OS) by the encroachment of buildings, which also lay through a tunnel under the embankment.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
The structure of the park, which has changed only in detail from its original appearance on the 1879 OS map, combines the formal element of the north-west to south-east avenue with a circuit walk which meanders around the perimeter and intersects the avenue some 35m south-east of the lodge and 45m north-west of the tunnel entrance in the south-east corner. Either side of the avenue, the park is grassed and subdivided further by a network of gently winding paths and a variety of plantings and built structures, the principal feature of the latter being a collection of monuments (all listed grade II) celebrating persons and events in Portsmouth's naval history and mostly brought into the park from other sites in the city between 1896 and 1906-07 (OS editions; Lloyd 1976; Berridge 1984).
Immediately south-east of the lodge, five monuments stand to either side of the avenue: on its north-east side (20m from the lodge) stands the four-sided granite obelisk of the HMS Royal Sovereign memorial, erected c 1903. Nearby is the monument to Admiral Napier, which dates from 1863 and comprises a sandstone column standing on a stone pedestal with a Portland stone capital and finial surmounted by a stone lion. This is the only monument shown erected in the park in 1879; the remaining four of this group had been added by 1910 (OS editions). Some 45m from the lodge, just within the confines of the circuit walk, stands the polished pink granite column of the HMS Centurion memorial, dating from 1902. On the south-west side of the avenue (c 20m from the lodge) are memorials to HMS Active and HMS Powerful, both comprising a polished pink granite obelisk on a base, the former dating from the late C19 and the latter from c 1900.
The intersection of the avenue with the circuit walk is marked by the Centenary Fountain (listed grade II). Shown on the OS map of 1879, the iron fountain sits on a base of random stone rubble and comprises a moulded base which supports four bronze swans surmounted by two tiers of ornamental trays connected by decorative pipe-work. Adjacent to it on its north-east side and along the edge of the avenue stand two further monuments: the four-sided granite obelisk of the HMS Victoria monument (50m south-east of the lodge) and a few metres further south-east, that to HMS Orlando. The latter, dating from the early C20, is constructed in the form of a miniature Chinese temple with a tent roof of solid stone supported by squat columns of brown polished marble on a white marble base and contains a bronze Chinese bell.
The north-eastern half of the park beyond the avenue is laid out to an intricate network of minor tarmacked paths which weave between islands of grass dotted with groups and individual trees of mixed ages and species. Between the northern boundary and the circuit walk is a broad belt of ornamental shrubbery edged with rockery stone with, to its south on either side of the circuit walk, a series of rose beds and a circular rose garden, the latter laid out on the inner side of the circuit walk and adjacent to the site of an octagonal timber and tile-roofed summerhouse (c 1949-50, demolished 2000). A former shelter is recorded in this position on the OS map of 1879. Some 40m south-west of the summerhouse site, within an area of open grass, a flagstaff stands within a bed of heathers.
Most of the south-western half of the park is occupied by a large open space bounded by the circuit walk and planted with a random scatter of trees largely of late C20 origin. Its central bandstand, shown on the OS map of 1879, was removed between 1933 and 1939 (OS). A large glasshouse standing in its south-west corner in 1898 had also been removed by 1939. Immediately south-east of the fountain and abutting the avenue, a rectangular hedged and fenced enclosure houses park maintenance buildings and a glasshouse erected c 1978. South-east again, at the intersection of the avenue with a path from the north-east gate, stands a circular aviary, erected in the late C20 to replace former aviaries sited on the eastern boundary. Adjacent to the aviary, on its south-east side, stands the HMS Shah memorial, a four-sided granite obelisk dating from c 1880 and erected in the park by 1898 (OS). The inner boundaries of the park to the west and south are largely planted with belts and beds of mixed shrubbery.
N Pevsner and D Lloyd, The Buildings of England: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (1967), pp 456-7
D Lloyd, The Buildings of Portsmouth and their Environs (1976), pp 86, 98
D W Berridge, Monuments and Memorials in the City of Portsmouth (1984), pp 14-22, 52
OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1856
OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1858-64
2nd edition published 1879
3rd edition revised 1896, published 1898
Minutes of the Town Council from 1835, and of the Parks and Open Spaces Committee from 1891, are held by Portsmouth City Council.
Postcards and photographs of Victoria Park (Portsmouth City Museum and Records Office)
Description written: April 1999
Amended: July 2001
Register Inspector: VCH
Edited: February 2004
This List entry has been amended to add sources for War Memorials Online and the War Memorials Register. These sources were not used in the compilation of this List entry but are added here as a guide for further reading, 11 July 2017.