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Porchester or Portchester, Hampshire

Historical Description

Porchester or Portchester, a village and a parish in Hants. The village stands on a small peninsula of the NW of Portsmouth Harbour, under Portsdown Hill, and has a station on the L. & S.W.R., 73 miles from London, and 5 NW by N of Portsmouth. It has a post, money order, and telegraph office under Fareham. Acreage of parish, 1379; population, 839. There is a parish council consisting of six members. Porchester was known to the ancient Britons as Caer Peris, to the Romans as Portus Magnus, and to the Saxons as Portceastre; was connected by Roman roads with Regnum or Chichester, with Venta Belgarum or Winchester, and with Clausentum or Bittern, near Southampton; was practically the cradle of Portsmouth, and of all the other seats of population around Portsmouth Harbour; has one of the most interesting ancient castles in England; and gives the title of Baron to the Earl of Carnarvon. The castle is supposed to have been preceded by an ancient British fort; occupies an area of about 9 acres; shows characters of Roman, Saxon, and Norman architecture; is of quadrangular outline, 620 feet by 610; has exterior Roman walls, from 8 to 12 feet thick, and in parts 18 feet high; includes seventeen small round towers, Norman gateways, a keep 115 feet by 65, a tower 58 feet by 57, and a variety of other parts, with some interior features so late as the time of Elizabeth; was held in the time of Edward I. by Queen Margaret; was often visited by King John and Edward II.; made no figure in the wars or changes of the middle ages; was used for the confinement of from 3000 to 5000 prisoners of war during the war with Napoleon; belonged once to the Nortons, and belongs now to the Thistlethwayte family. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Winchester; net value, £200. The church stands in the outer court of the castle; is supposed by some to occupy the site of the sacellum of the Roman prsetorium; was the church of an Augustinian priory, founded in 1133 by Henry I., and afterwards removed to Southwick; was originally cruciform, but the S transept fell in mediaeval or Tudor times, and the chancel was once as lofty as the nave; and has a very fine Norman font. The church was restored in 1889. There is a Wesleyan chapel.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyHampshire 
Ecclesiastical parishPorchester St. Mary 
Poor Law unionFareham 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Porchester or Portchester from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Hampshire (County Southampton) is available to browse.


Online maps of Porchester or Portchester are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Hampshire newspapers online:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitations of Hampshire, 1530, 1575, & 1622-34 is available to view on the Heraldry page.