I often get sent all over the place to do my commissions and I have found it near impossible to guess where I may be working next. Again, I never would have guessed that it would be Portsmouth in the South of England. I say this as Portsmouth is my home town, I was born there and I spent the first 23 years of my life, prior to the day, when London dragged me up the A3 for an additional 23.
I set off buoyed by the thought of a bit of home cooking and that I didn’t have to wander around with a map to track down the location.
The commission was to paint The Ship Anson pub on the harbour that sits just in front of the main dockyard gates, which makes it a very popular watering hole with the Royal Navy. At first glance, it looks like two pubs, in fact it may well have been two at one time, however, I have only ever known it as one. I could find nothing about the history of these structures, although I would say that the one on the left is Georgian and the one on the right is late Victorian. They loved a bit of mock Tudor.
The HMS Anson
I did, however, find something on HMS Anson which the pub was named after. The Anson was built in 1781 to fight in the French Revolutionary wars although her first action was at the Battle of the Saintes in The American Revolutionary Wars on the 9th April 1782. After surviving that action, she then entered the Napoleonic war proper, and fought a number of battles over the years, and in between times, she chased down Privateers.
Her luck finally ran out in the winter of 1807 when she was wrecked just outside Loo in Cornwall.
A good number of the crew were killed although the actual number lost varies from 60 to 190. The discrepancy is so great because many of the sailors were press ganged into the service, and it is fairly certain that many got ashore only to promptly run off into the night to a new life, never to be seen again. And who can blame them.
It is interesting too, that the Anson had a rather modest career, and yet this large pub is named after her. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were 30 or so pubs at one time along the front and The Ship Anson was just one of the last to survive.
It was fairly simple getting the angle on this one because it looks right out onto the harbour. I decided to add a personal addition of the Fish and Chip shop a few doors down.
It gives the whole composition a bit of context, and it’s an old Pompey tradition the go to the chippy then eat your fish and chips across the road on the benches.
Here you can chomp away and cogitate the view whilst batting away pestilent pigeons and seagulls looking for a free meal.
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