Photo of St Thomas Cathedral, Portsmouth.


Portsmouth Cathedral, St Thomas

First built in 1185, the original church was dedicated to Thomas' Becket the Archbishop of Canterbury who was famously murdered in 1170, Jean de Gisors gave an acre of land to the powerful Augustinian Priory of Southwick for the building of a chapel to honour Thomas. The Cathedral is located in the historic Old Portsmouth area of the city.

The cathedral of St Thomas' has had a violent past, it was attacked by the French in 1337 during the 100 Years War and was damaged by incendiary attacks. Further damage to the church tower was caused by cannon fire in the English Civil War during the Siege of Portsmouth.

In 1449 the town of Portsmouth was excommunicated, following the murder of the Bishop of Chichester in Portsmouth, the church remined closed during this period.

Charles II had parts of the church rebuilt between 1691 & 1693 and it was during this time that the main tower was built, the cupola on top of the tower being added in 1702.

The Cathedral bells were originally from the old Pharos (Roman lighthouse) which stands next to the church at Dover Castle. These were gifted to the cathedral by Prince George of Denmark the Queens Consort. The original Dover bells were melted down and recast into five new bells for the cathedral at Portsmouth, a further three being added later.

The inscriptions on the bells are as follows:

  1. Prosperity to all our benefactors.
  2. Peace and good neighbourhood, A.R 1703
  3. God save Queen Anne, A.R 1703
  4. I was cast by Joshua Kipling in the year 1737
  5. Abra Rudhill, of Gloucester cast us, 1703.
  6. God save our Queen, Prince and Fleet, Annon Domini, 1703
  7. Thomas Mears, of London, 1794
  8. W.Bartlett, R.Phelps, Fecit 1730, Messieurs James Yeatman, and Nicholas Horwood, Churchwardens. We good people do call. We honour to King and brides joy do bring. Good tidings we tell, and ring the deads knell.

Above the cupola is a gilt model of a ship in the form of a weather vane, this ship is 6ft 10ins long. In 1902 the foundations of the chancel were found to be in a dangerous condition and it was necessary to carry out extensive repairs, several walls were underpinned and two small galleries were removed, the cathedral was closed for 2 years during the renovation work.

In 1927 St Thomas' church was chosen as the Cathedral for the Diosese of Portsmouth and work began in 1930 to enlarge the building for this purpose, however at the outbreak of war in 1939 the expansion work was suspended and was not completed until 1991.


Address: St. Thomas Street, Old Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO1 2HA
Telephone: 02392 823300