Photo of St Thomas Cathedral, Portsmouth.

PORTSMOUTH CATHEDRAL

Portsmouth Cathedral, St Thomas' Old Portsmouth

St Thomas' Church, was begun in the 1180s, when Jean de Gisors gave to Southwick Priory an acre of land for the building of a chapel in honour of St Thomas of Canterbury, who was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral on 29th December 1170.

Portsmouth's Anglican Cathedral is in the historic Old Portsmouth area of the city. First built in 1185, the original church was dedicated to Thomas Becket the Archbishop of Canterbury who was famously murdered in 1170.

The church was originally owned by the Augustinian Priory of Southwick, who were a powerful force in the area at that time.

The cathedral 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 church closed for a period, following the murder of the Bishop of Chichester in Portsmouth, the town of Portsmouth was excommunicated.

Charles II had parts of the church rebuilt between 1691 & 1693 and it was during this period that the main tower was built. The cupola on top of the tower was not added until 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. These bells were melted down and recast into 5 new bells for Portsmouth, a further three were 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. At the outbreak of war in 1939 the expansion work was suspended and was not completed until 1991.

PORTSMOUTH CATHEDRAL DETAILS:

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