Naval Dockyards Society

Exploring the civil branches of navies & their material culture

Threat to Portsmouth Harbour

Haslar Wall by Chris Donnithorne

Chris Donnithorne has written a further report: ‘Haslar Wall’ (January 2022) with the accompanying statement:

In December 2021, an apparently sound part of Haslar Wall was damaged by storm ‘Barra’, with the manner of failure looking remarkably similar to such events at Blockhouse. The full extent of the wall had not been considered before, for reasons stated in the original paper. This brief, produced as a result, and clearly directing attention to this aspect of the threat, was made available locally and subsequently to attendees of a meeting convened to consider such issues.

Caroline Dinenage (Gosport MP) – already briefed that wall failure here would become a national issue – chaired the meeting of interested agencies, national and local, and myself, on 28th January 2022. The agency attendees provided positive reports of their various activities regarding the wall and, in summary, assured the Chair that the harbour entrance was secure, there was no flood risk, and new owners could be expected to fund this sea defence into the future – to which the Chair announced that she was encouraged by all that she had heard. The wall issue now appears dead until the next big storm damage.

1 February 2022


Chris Donnithorne

Over a 30 year career as a naval officer, Chris Donnithorne became very familiar with Portsmouth Harbour, and he has subsequently spent as much time again carrying out archival research in the local area.

In this carefully argued and evidenced paper, Donnithorne demonstrates that the integrity of Blockhouse Point on the western side of the harbour entrance is ‘at risk due to rapid acceleration in seashore erosion, almost certainly caused by recent dredging, which included a significant part of Hamilton Bank, immediately to the South of the Fort.’ (p. 29).   Effectively the dredging has destabilised the harbour entrance, leading potentially to the loss of the deep-water harbour.

Apart from these urgent issues,  Donnithorne argues (p. 45) that failure to apply a holistic planning approach to the entire harbour over many decades, or even centuries, has resulted (and continues to result) in damage to the harbour as a whole.

In looking to the future, Donnithorne asks: ‘For Portsmouth Harbour, is there a single organisation, tasked to safeguard the harbour, and capable of holding all the disparate decision makers to account?’

He concludes that: ‘In the absence of any such organisation, thought should be given to the introduction of a democratically accountable Harbour Board with just such powers.’

Dr Ann Coats
30 November 2020 (updated 20 December 2020)