Portsmouth City Museum

Portsmouth City Museum

Dolls House - Portsmouth Museum

Dolls House - Portsmouth Museum

Portsmouth City Museum (aka Portsmouth Museum) is a local museum in Museum Road in the city of Portsmouth, Hampshire. The building dates from the 1890s and was previously part of the Clarence and Victoria Barracks complex, which apart from the museum block, were demolished in 1967. There are a varied and extensive series of collections as well as both temporary and permanent exhibitions. 'The story of Portsmouth' is the name of those galleries which deal with the topic of what it was and is like to live in Portsmouth. These galleries are on the first floor and include 'Living in Portsmouth,' ‘No Place Like Pompey’ and ‘Portsmouth at Play.’ The first section looks back at life in the home with reconstructions of rooms typical of specific people at different periods in history.


In the 16th century the town was small and Portsea Island was mainly farmland which is how most people were occupied. The dockyard grew in importance after 1625 due to the necessary defence of the realm and through this prosperity, there were many new buildings by 1685. Examples of these can be seen in Lombard Street and the High Street in Old Portsmouth. The new town of Portsea was occupied by the middle classes. The museum's 17th-century bedchamber shows what a typical middle class bedroom of this period would have looked like.


In the 18th century, there was a great period of house building but the gap between rich and poor was widening. In the mid 19th century the dockyard was expanding and by 1861, there were 4,314 people employed there. Houses were built for workers such as the ones in Trafalgar Place. In the Victorian era, Havelock Park was built. This included Campbell Road. This was intended to be an exclusive estate but the need to profit meant that smaller ‘villas’ were built where rates were a third of the amount paid by people in older, more fashionable areas such as Grand Parade. The architect Thomas Ellis Owen created a suburb of large fashionable houses in 1840. The difference between rich and poor dwellings can be seen in their displays of a 19th century dockyard worker's kitchen and a middle class Victorian parlour.


During the years 1800 to 1914, Portsmouth developed its present form when housing spread across almost the whole of the island of Portsea. A major impact on the city was the new International style of the 1930’s, which can be seen in the museum's 1930's dining room. In the Second World War Portsmouth naval dockyard made it a prime target for German bombers. The city suffered major damage and after the war much of the city had to be rebuilt. During the 1950s many older areas were cleared for new residential developments. The 1950s kitchen and living room displays bring back memories for many visitors.


The 'Portsmouth at Play' gallery starts with the development of Southsea as a seaside resort, featuring posters, memorabilia of seaside holidays and working historic amusement machines from the pier arcades. Other sections cover the history of the football club, sport, pubs, theatres, cinemas, coffee bars and ice cream parlours including a booth from Verrechia's, Portsmouth's most popular ice cream parlour from the 1930's to the 1960's. The display also includes archive film of Southsea, seaside holidays, fairs, the circus and other leisure activities from the 1930's through to the 1960's. The cult of healthy living and sunbathing saw the development of the Hilsea Lido in 1935, which you can find out more about in this exhibition.


The 'No Place Like Pompey' gallery shows what makes Portsmouth different. There are many things which give Portsmouth its unique character. It is the only island city in the UK. Throughout much of its history, Portsmouth was one of the most heavily fortified places in the country and even in Europe. The sea has always been a part of Portsmouth's everyday life, and although the dockyard was closed in 1984, the navy and naval heritage remains an important part of the local economy. Explore the development of our city from the first Anglo-Saxon settlers in the Meon Valley, through to the growth of the Navy and Army and their role in Portsmouth's defence, and the history of Portsmouth as a tourist destination. Try on naval uniforms, watch interviews with residents and find out what Portsmouth means to all those who live here.


Portsmouth’s local and social history collections have been built up since 1945, based on the handful of items that survived the bombing in 1941. The collections now number well over 30,000 items. The collections include an enormous variety of material. Household items date from the 17th Century to the present day and include furniture, stained glass, lighting and heating equipment, electrical goods and kitchen appliances. Official civic activity is well represented in the collections, with regalia, weights and measures, uniforms and equipment from the City police and fire services, including two fire engines, school equipment and items from the public dental service and local psychiatric hospital. There is a collection of costume, especially strong in items for the mid-20th Century. Working life in the city is represented by a wide range of tools, artefacts from local businesses and tradesmen, including iron founding and wheelwrights. There are oral history interviews about many aspects of local life.


The Archaeology collection has been gathered since 1945 from sites in south-east Hampshire. The bulk of the collection is formed by a number of major archaeological archives which are the result of research and development-led projects. There is also material from small projects and stray finds, donated by professional and amateur archaeologists and interested members of the public. Important archives held in the collection include: Oyster Street in Old Portsmouth, Bevis Grave Saxon cemetery, Rowlands Castle Roman Pottery Kiln and the Palaeolithic site at Red Barns. Material within the collection includes: flint, pottery, ceramic building material, glass, leather, metalwork, wood, animal and human bone. Artefacts range from the Lower Palaeolithic through to the Post-Medieval period. The museum service runs the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum and has a number of items specifically relating to the Dickens family. A dedicated collection of Regency period furniture, ceramics, glass and prints furnishes the Birthplace Museum to recreate the home of John and Elizabeth Dickens. There are a few items of personalia once owned by Charles Dickens himself such as waistcoat buttons, a lock of his hair and the couch on which he died. The service owns a number of illustrations to his novels as well as portraits of Charles and his family. There are also a few original manuscript letters by Charles in the collection.


The permanent exhibitions include 'No Place like Pompey' - What makes Portsmouth unique? Is it one particular place, the city’s geography, its past or its people? This exhibition looks at some of the things that make "Pompey” special. This is the UK’s only island city, the city is ringed by forts both on land and in the sea and its history has been shaped by its relationship with the Royal Navy and Dockyard. The exhibition explains many of the things you will notice as you explore the city and the visitor information staff at the museum will help plan your visit. 'A Study in Sherlock: Uncovering the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection' - This exhibition showcases the largest collection pertaining to Doyle and his creation Sherlock Holmes in the world. The gallery explores Doyle’s early life as a doctor in Portsmouth, his sporting activity and later interest in spiritualism as well as Sherlock Holmes as depicted in film, theatre, advertising and elsewhere. It includes a Sherlock Holmes mystery and a narration by Stephen Fry, patron of the collection.


Other galleries explore the city’s relationship with football - especially Pompey’s FA Cup wins in 2008 and 1939 – the seaside at Southsea and Portsmouth homes from 1680 to 1960. The Fine and Decorative Art Gallery features a particularly wide range of artwork from seventeenth century chairs to contemporary ceramics, from serene landscape paintings by the local Cole family of artists to vivid abstract paintings of the twentieth century.


The City Museum has a lift to all galleries on all three floors. Wheelchairs are available for use by visitors. Induction loops for hearing impaired visitors are installed in reception and the Victorian room setting. Accessible toilet and baby changing facility are available. There are parking spaces for disabled visitors. Assistance dogs are welcome. In the unlikely event of the Museum being evacuated and the lift being unavailable, visitors would have to descend using staircases. If you have a condition that might restrict your ability to use the stairs in an emergency please mention this in confidence to a member of staff at the reception desk at the start of your visit. Arrangements can then be put in hand to ensure your speedy and safe evacuation should such an emergency occur. Toilets are available on the first floor (including accessible toilet combined with baby changing facilities on the ground floor).


Location : Portsmouth Museum, Museum Road, Portsmouth, PO1 2LJ

Transport : Portsmouth Harbour (National Rail) then bus or 14 minutes. Bus Routes : 1, 16, 19, 23, Hoverbus and Solent Ranger X4 stop close by.

Opening Times :Open Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays 10:00 to 17:30;  October to March until 17.00.

Tickets : Free

Tel. : 023 9282 6722