I figured it was time for some Local History for a change!
One of those interesting, pub-quiz type facts: not so long ago Portsmouth had the most pubs per square mile of any city in the country. Its not really surprising, given how the many thousands of sailors and dockyard workers who used to throng the city centre in years gone by. Sadly its no longer the case, and although we’ve got a comparable number of students, people’s drinking habits have changed too. People are more inclined to either drink at home, or go out later to trendy bards or nightclubs and drink shots or alcopops rather than pop to the local for a pint.
Which is a real pity, cos Pub’s tell you an awful lot about somewhere. The names, the pub signs, the decoration, the layout, tell us so much about society. The amount of pubs in Portsmouth that are named after ships or famous Admirals tells us a lot about Portsmouth, so its doubly a shame that pubs that dont close tend to get called the pissed fart of bar bollocks or something or other. What’s wrong with something proud and illustrious? Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I like bare wood, nice decor, and real ales behind the bar Even if I am tee-total!). Which is all why I am a fan of Wetherspoons, despite the fact that their business practices tend to drive smaller pubs out of business, they do tend to respect the local history, giving their pubs traditional, proud names, and they’re are almost always decorated tastefully and incorporate the history of the building rather than piss all over it.
Pub architecture is really interesting in Portsmouth too. Most of the older pubs in Portsmouth were built by one of two architects – A.E. Cogswell or A.H. Bone. You can tell who built a pub by its unique style. Cogswell pubs have a distinctive mock tudor style, often with a ‘witches hat’ turret.
If you take a walk round Portsmouth there’s still evidence of some cracking little traditional pubs. In Edinburgh Road near the city centre the Park Tavern and the Royal Standard are very popular with Naval personnel, and are full of ships badges on the walls. In Old Portsmouth there’s the Duke of Buckingham, the Sally Port Inn, the Wellington, the Bridge Tavern and the Still and West, all highly reccomended for their service, range and historic interest. In Albert Road in Southsea there’s the Festing, the Bold Forester, the Leopold and the Duke of Devonshire. The Baffins next to Baffins pond has a really unique layout. Round Fratton Park there are loads of Football pubs – the Newcome Arms, the Red White and Blue, the Sheperds Crook and the Good Companion among them. The Coach and Horses in Hilsea is very well known and visible, on one of the main roads into Portsmouth.
And of course the Mother Shipton in Stamshaw is infamous as the kind of pub where you ‘walk in through the door and go out through the window’, to quote a friend of mine!
This site here is fascinating for a look at the history of Pubs in Portsmouth: