On Southsea’s sunny seafront there’s a pretty spot with some compelling history. Actually, there are quite a few. Most of them are fairly well-known (no-one’s going to miss the Naval Memorial), but few Portsmuthians seem to be aware of Lumps Fort.
Certainly, almost nobody knows it by that name. That’s because Lumps Fort doesn’t really exist anymore. The fortified walls remain, as well as a few mounts for defensive guns and the like. These days, however, the fort is better known for being the home of Southsea Rose Garden.
The “current” fort was built in the mid-to-late 1800s, but it has been a fortification since at least as far back as 1805, possibly dating back centuries. Part of the semaphore line between London and HMNB Portsmouth ran through Lumps – but as a good chunk of the fort fell into the sea during this period, it doesn’t seem like it was particularly well-looked-after even then.
The fort’s main claim to fame was serving as the training facility for Operation Frankton, where, in 1942, a team of Royal Marines executed a daring commando raid on the German-occupied port of Bordeaux. The mission led to six ships being successfully sabotaged, at the cost of the eventual deaths of all but two of the marines. A plaque outside Lumps Fort commemorates the “Cockleshell Heroes” (named after the “cockle” kayaks used) involved in this imaginative and courageous raid. A film of the same name was made in 1955.
The majority of the old fort is now occupied by Southsea Rose Garden. In bloom, the garden is stunning, and is said to have up to forty varieties of roses on display.
The Rose Garden also contains what seems to be the only clue that Portsmouth is twinned with the city of Maizuru, in Japan. The “Japanese Garden” might be a little dilapidated now, but it stills possesses a bit of the charm it must have had when it was new.
While pretty, the Japanese Garden is fairly small, so when you’ve finished with it a brief stroll will lead you up a few steps and to the top of the fort’s walls, where, on a good day, you’ll get a fantastic view over the Solent to the Isle of Wight. The numerous memorials on the nearby benches suggest the views have made a similar impression on more than a few people.
Once you’re had your fill of Lumps Fort and Nearby you’ll find Southsea Model Village, as well as Canoe Lake and Portsmouth’s own Natural History Museum, Cumberland House – all well worth a look.