GOSPORT, a sea-port and market-town, in the parish of Alverstoke, hundred of East Meon, Fareham and S. divisions of the county of Southampton, 17½ miles (S. E. by E.) from Southampton, and 78 (S. W.) from London; containing 8862 inhabitants. This place is supposed to have been originally written God's Port, which name, it is said, was given to it by King Stephen, who landed here after having been shipwrecked: that monarch, also, granted the manor and all rights belonging thereto to his brother, Henry de Blois, Bishop of Winchester. It is styled a borough, in a decree of the court of exchequer, passed in the 44th of Elizabeth, by which it was decided that the inhabitants were entitled to the exclusive right of the ferry between it and Portsmouth; but this right was in a great degree abandoned in 1809, when an act was obtained for the regulation of the ferry, and for granting to proper persons licences to ply. Gosport, mentioned by Leland, in the reign of Henry VIII., as a poor village inhabited by fishermen, has risen to consequence principally during the two last centuries, owing to its situation on one side of the harbour of Portsmouth, to which town and the queen's dockyard it stands immediately opposite, occupying a projecting point of land forming the western shore of the harbour. About 50 years since, a line of regular fortifications for the protection of the town, but more especially for that of the shipping, naval arsenal, and stores, was constructed, extending from a lake on the northern side of the town (flowing out of the harbour to the village of Forton) to Oyster Pool and Alverstoke Lake, on the southern side. Within the works are the queen's brewery and cooperage, with storehouses on a very large scale for wine, malt, hops, &c. The buildings were formerly called Weovil Brewhouse; but within the last few years, far more extensive buildings and storehouses have been erected, together with mills for grinding flour, and bake-houses for preparing biscuits, the whole comprising every thing necessary for providing a large portion of the food and clothing for the navy. The whole eastern front of the establishment, which contains within its walls several handsome houses for the principal officers, is bounded by convenient and extensive quays adjoining the harbour; and the place is now named, by authority, the Royal Clarence Victualling-Yard. Vessels of considerable burthen can take in their stores here, and many small sloops, belonging to the establishment, are employed in the conveyance of articles for the use of the ships in the harbour and at Spithead.
The approach to Gosport from the sea presents a noble prospect, including the forts, storehouses, and other buildings. The principal street, which extends from the harbour to the fortifications, was formerly interrupted by the market-house, but in 1811, a handsome new edifice was erected on a vacant site on the north side, at the eastern end of the street, fronting the water; along the shore are various ranges of buildings, consisting chiefly of neat and well-built houses. In 1763, the inhabitants procured an act of parliament for paving the streets and removing nuisances, which was confirmed and enlarged by an act in 1814, whereby provision was made for watching and lighting the town. Concerts and balls occasionally take place. In 1834, an act was obtained for building a bridge over Stoke or Haslar Lake, which separates Gosport from Haslar Hospital, and for making approaches thereto; and in 1842 an act was passed for erecting a pier at Gosport. A branch from the South-Western railway at Bishop's-Stoke, called the Gosport Branch railway, has been completed to this town; the line is 15¾ miles in length: the original capital was £300,000, afterwards extended to £400,000. From the terminus here, extends a line into the Royal Clarence Yard, executed at a cost of £8000, for Her Majesty's use when visiting the Isle of Wight; it is about 600 yards in length, and was opened in September, 1845. There are several breweries, and an extensive iron-foundry for the manufacture of various articles for the use of shipping, especially anchors. The markets are on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Gosport is a distinct liberty and manor, and appoints its own constables, ale-conners, and other officers, at the court leet of the Bishop of Winchester.
Stokes Bay, to the south-west of Gosport, is justly celebrated for the excellence of its anchorage, affording security to an unlimited number of vessels. On the shore forming this bay, and immediately opposite the fashionable town of Ryde, in the Isle of Wight, many good and handsome houses, besides an hotel, readingrooms, and baths, have been erected within the last few years, and denominated Anglesey Ville. Near Forton Lake, about a mile north of Gosport, is the new barrack, belonging to the garrison of Portsmouth, and consisting of four ranges of building connected by an arcade, with offices, &c. Upon the north side of the lake, near its entrance, on a spot called Priddys Hard, is the magazine, in which, and in a smaller building dependent on it, a considerable portion of the powder for the service of the port is stored: the larger stores of powder are on a peninsular point of land, called Tipners Hard, on the opposite side of the harbour. Near Priddys Hard, on what is an island at high water, are the ruins of a castle, built in the reign of Charles I. or II., and called James' Fort, to co-operate with another, the ruins of which may be seen on the north side of Gosport Beach, known as Charles' Fort. The Royal Hospital at Haslar, for the reception of sick and wounded seamen of the Royal Navy, built in 1762 through the influence of the Earl of Sandwich, is a very extensive edifice, situated near the extremity of the point of land which bounds the west side of the entrance to Portsmouth harbour. In 1818, the principal wing of the building was appropriated to seamen and marines labouring under lunacy, who had been previously placed in an asylum at Hoxton. The number of persons within the walls at present is about 400; the annual expenses of the establishment, during the time of war, amount to upwards of £5000. About threequarters of a mile south-west of the hospital is Fort Monkton, a modern and regular fortification, exceedingly strong, on which are mounted 32 pieces of heavy ordnance: to the west, ranges a strong redoubt, which, together with the fort, secures this part of the coast. On the shore eastward, a high and massive stone wall has been erected, to preserve the land from the encroachments of the sea. Still further to the east, and near the extremity of the neck of land which bounds the entrance to the harbour on this side, is the Blockhouse, a very strong fort with a battery.
The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Rector of Alverstoke; and is endowed with a freehold farm, comprising about 70 acres, rather more than four miles from Gosport, and which was purchased in 1743 for £940. The church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and situated on the south side of the town, was built by contributions, on a piece of waste ground granted by the bishop as lord of the manor, and was consecrated on September 27th, 1696. In consequence of the growth of the town, the length of the building was increased in 1745, and galleries were erected; and in 1830, owing to the dangerous state of the roof, the owners of pews determined to raise the side walls, put on a new roof, bring forward the galleries, and add 300 free sittings; which, with other improvements, were effected at an expense amounting to between £3000 and £4000. It is now a spacious, and, particularly as regards its internal appearance, a chaste and handsome edifice of the Ionic order, calculated to accommodate 3000 persons, and including upwards of 400 free sittings, besides seats for charity children. In this church is an organ which was formerly in the chapel of the magnificent mansion of Canons, belonging to the Duke of Chandos. In 1796, the incumbent having obtained from the bishop a site between Alverstoke Lake and the south side of the church, erected a large house and out-buildings for the use of himself and his successors, which cost above £6000, and are now rented by the board of ordnance: the present residence of the incumbent was built in 1806. The district parish of St. Matthew was constituted in Sept. 1845, under the act 6th and 7th Victoria, cap. 37, and the church was consecrated in May, 1846: the edifice is in the early English style, and contains 840 sittings, all free; the cost of its erection, exceeding £4000, was defrayed chiefly by the exertions of Bishop Wilberforce. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the alternate patronage of the Bishop of Winchester and the Rector of Alverstoke; net income, £200. There are places of worship for Independents, Wesleyans, and Roman Catholics; and several charity schools.