Legends & Mysteries

 Created 25-02-2002    Last update 01-02-2014


The Giants of Portsdown

There was an old article in the World's News (Sydney) - April 9,1930:

"Relic of a Giant Race. The skeleton of a man over seven feet in height, who probably belonged to a giant race that lived from 3000 to 4000 years ago, has been found by :Lieut.-Col J. H. Cooke, a Southsea archaeologist, in a tumulus during excavations on Portsdown Hill near Portsmouth. The discovery of these remains has as interesting bearing upon the legend, still persisting, of giants who lived in the locality."

Do you know anything about this? - [Has anyone heard of this? - email me]

Terje Dahl, Editor, The Norwegian internet magazin Sydhav ("South Seas")



HM Naval Base and the Palmerston Forts

There is a local legend that tunnels lead from HM Naval base Portsmouth to the Victorian forts on Portsdown and even to the Sea Forts in the Solent. Another that a tunnel runs from Gosport to Portsdown. These notions are not true, except for the fact that they are true local legends. As an electrical apprentice in HM Dockyard Portsmouth in the early 1970s, I worked in Yard Service Maintenance for a while and visited just about every underground location there - I never found any evidence to support these ideas. There is also no evidence of tunnels, either physical or on plans, at the forts end.


Tunnels between the Forts

The idea that the Palmerston Forts on Portsdown were all linked together by tunnels, is probably more entrenched as a local legend than the one above. However, there is absolutely no documentary or material evidence to support this. The only connection between them is an aqueduct. Each fort was designed as a self sufficient unit and connecting tunnels would have been un-necessary. Some people may disagree with these statements and I would welcome any contributions that would conclusively prove it wrong. 



The Fort Nelson Riddle

On the bed of the ditch at the front of Fort Nelson (the North side) is a domed feature which looks suspiciously like the roof of a vaulted tunnel. 

This feature generated a huge amount of academic interest, from around the world, with the following explanations having been proposed:

  • Countermine gallery, where access was via a trapdoor in the roof of the vault.

  • Sally port

  • In-fill, covering a fault in the underlying ground

  • A pile of builders rubble

It is in fact a firing step used for rifle practice. There are bullet impacts dating from the turn of the 19th century all over the face of the caponier shown in the background of the photo below. The site was uncovered by contractors during a period of restoration work and its purpose verified.


With thanks to David Moore of the Palmerston Forts Society 

who finally laid this subject to rest.


Aerial photo site location    Panoramic photo site location

Google Earth Aerial View

Grid Ref SU606073

The north ditch of Fort Nelson

This is the ditch on the Northern side of Fort Nelson, looking West. 

The hump in the centre of the picture was used as a firing step. The caponier at the top centre still clearly displays the evidence of stopped rounds.


East of Fort Purbrook - SU682065

possible tunnel entrance at crookhorn

This is an aerial photograph east of Fort Purbrook taken in 1969 when the Crookhorn Pass was being built - the big chalk scar in the centre. The corner of Fort Purbrook can be seen on the top left.. What is the arrowed feature cut into the hill? It is running north / south and looks like a tunnel entrance. Today a small depression in the ground  marks this site.

With thanks to Peter Rogers



The Farlington Aqueducts


This topic has been moved to here



Wymering Manor - SU650055

Wymering Manor is supposed to be connect to Wymering Church by a tunnel. Some authorities believe that it ran as far as Southwick Priory which was then about three miles to the north. This tunnel, it is said, could have been used for smuggling, Wymering being so close to the sea, and much more accessible in older times.

wymering church and manor

Wymering church on the right, with the Manor in the background, in which there is supposed to be a priests hole.



Here is an extract from an email received about Wymering Manor. Any italicised comments in [] brackets are mine. 

NEW 15-01-2006

During the late seventies/early eighties I was a choirboy at the above church and we were allowed access to the cellar of the vicarage at weekends as there was a snooker table, dartboard, and table tennis table we could use. In the far right hand corner, I think it was the right hand corner, there was a small doorway with wooden makeshift door blocking access. One day, being as inquisitive as young boys are, we managed to prise the top of the door open slightly and with the use of a torch we tried to see what was inside. All we could see was a dark, cold blackness that I have never forgotten. Tunnel entrance? I don't know but maybe.

Jason Suthers 



Other accounts of Legends and Mysteries


NEW 23-04-2013

After finding the site about "Portsdown Tunnels", I found it very interesting and surprised on how much history there is regarding the hill.
 I used to live in Hillsley Road, when Portsmouth Housing Association had purchased the blocks of flats at the top, I was in the last block, on the ground floor of Trinidad House and I was frequently woken by noises and vibrations what I thought was outside, but considering it was in the middle of the night, the motorway was totally empty, but it sounding and felt like a fleet of armoured tanks rolling past, quite a lot of us was hearing these noises.

One of my neighbours was told by their grandparents who had lived in Paulsgrove from when the estate was first built, that they would hear noises and feel vibrations, even before the M27 was built and was told that there is a small gauge train that runs directly from Fort Southwick to the HM Naval Dockyard and also to Gosport to the fuel depot on Forton Road as well as both RNAD Frater and RNAD Gosport both being armament depots, and there is also a entrance to the tunnel via a ladder onto which the small gauge train runs on at Portchester Castle, near to the sailing club as this is in direct line from the hill to the dockyard.

Also at the time when I lived in Hillsley Road, I was working as a HGV driver for a well known Portsmouth based builders merchant, and there was a delivery that was for the builders at the fuel bunkers, and until that time I didn't know they existed, always saw the Hampshire Fire Brigade going to the end of the service road where you could turn around, and this is when I first ever knew about the bunkers, I was surprised on how big they are inside once you drive into the hill itself, it was that big, I could turn my 23 tonne HGV2 rigid round inside, and I never even saw the security guard come out or disappear from where they watch as there was no visible signs of a hut or tower, just lots of bushes and grass.

But when I was in my teens, some friends and I decided to go to the chalk pits by Chalkpit Road, before Lime Grove was built to "muck about" as you do as kids, we managed to get up the chalk face so far to get into a open tunnel entrance, and upon walking around them, we find a few dead ends, some were just a un-finished tunnel with a chalk face, didn't seem to be back-filled as they felt quite solid, but we came some what were metal doors with "MOD Property - Do Not Enter" metal signs on, and of course locked, what I can remember is the doors were fixed on hinges to a metal frame with a concrete or plaster surround against the chalk walls of the tunnel, it seemed as if we had walked a fair distance inside them, but that we will never know as all we had was a torch, no pen and paper to jot any markings or distances down as for a reference, we had marked the tunnels walls with flint, with arrows so we could find our way back out and not walk around in circles and by using the flint we wasn't putting graffiti everywhere as it is either chalk and flint everywhere inside the tunnels.

Regards and keep up with this very interesting and local historic website.

Martin Long - April 2013



NEW 08-06-2009


I dont know if this bears any relevance but its bothered me for years. Around twenty years ago when I lived in Carmarthen Ave, Drayton me and a neighbour were out in the road playing on our bikes and wed made a jump on the grass verge, you can guess our amazement when my friends front wheel disappeared into the ground. After a good few minutes of stamping about on the grass around the hole there was a crater of over a meter across, inside the hole we could see brickwork forming the top of an arch typical of a tunnel. Annoyingly I wasnt as inquisitive as I am today and my dad informed the council and it was promptly backfilled with concrete the next day?.

So my question being have you ever heard of any tunnels in that area? The way the brickwork was if it were a tunnel it would have been running from north to south and the hole appeared about two thirds up the road. It may be nothing but Ive always wondered.

Gray New - June 2009




NEW 27-11-2007


Having just had a look through your site and being born in Portchester and having also gone to Purbrook Park school I have a few comments.

There are stories of two other tunnels to those you mention :- one between Portchester Castle and Wymering Manor (which the ghost of Reckless Reggie is supposed to pass to haunt the manor when there is a honeymoon couple there) . The other one is supposed to run from Fort Purbrook to Purbrook Park school which is the old Purbrook Park house. I have no idea how much truth if any there may be in these stories but, as they say, anything is possible.

The other point I would mention is that there was vehicular access from the road along the top of the hill to the tunnels as I can remember seeing tanker lorries using it on several occasions when I was young. They came down the track, which is still there, at the western end of the side [This is the Fort Southwick UGHQ low level access road].

Barry Dunne - November 2007