Shakespeare ‘castellated’ Southsea Box

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The wooden box sits within the historic Malaspina Estate estate in London

Although Shakespeare said “a castellated man’s eye is a violent and fancylly scornful sight”, he probably had no idea what it would mean when the Southsea Castle box was built more than 350 years ago.

With its thick posts, the open-plan timber construction was classified as a portico for the Duke of Beaufort’s Southsea castle, not that Beaufort was ever known as a portly, brutish aristocrat.

Almost seven centuries later, the box still stands in the middle of Southsea, abandoned and neglected on the waterfront.

A social artefact or an eyesore?

Mystery solved!

With the London headquarters of the Estate at risk of demolition, lawyers for Wiltshire County Council have had some choice words for the southsea arch.

Hefty repair costs – £1.3m – would require some way to prop up the post tower.

And so a compromise was struck: a bit of log cabin, which certainly stood out in the world of Southsea, became the luxurious ‘Southsea Island’.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Workers decided to let it become a reality for the Queen and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh

After being dubbed the Queen’s gift by the Duke of Edinburgh, the scheme, announced in 2007, proved a short-lived success.

“It has been a dream for some time, and it is fantastic that it is to become part of history,” said the Duke’s then private secretary, Colonel Archibald Hunt.

Image copyright PA Image caption The application has now been turned down.

Four years later, residents near the castle were told that the plan was to keep the box intact and to re-chamber it – rather than topple it.

But when it came to a decision over the design of the existing box for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee it took another six years to reach a verdict.

“We all think the idea is great, but the existing structure is just too special,”said council environment boss Nick Pope.

Image copyright PA Image caption Southsea council lost the bid to retain the box.

Back in 2015, when the plan was put to a full council meeting, the fight over the box was taken further.

“If it is demolished we will lose another part of our city’s rich history,” said Chris Culph, who owns the Fisherman’s Friend pub nearby.

“It’s just too big a deal.”

It’s now unclear if the box will ever be saved from its current state.

West Country landmark at risk

Nearby property values and planning restrictions mean that most people have never been in the box themselves.

But they have all heard about it.

One former resident, Esme Kido, who painted it when it was a weatherboard cottage, said she’d always wanted to see it refurbished.

“It’s an incredibly beautiful piece of architecture,” she said.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption It wouldn’t be up to the current owners to give the box a makeover

“It’s part of our city, we should really protect it.”

The mayoral shortlist for business leader of the year is promising to make the box a powerful place once again.

Members of the Southsea Southborough Chamber of Commerce were to attend the shortlist announcement event at Westminster on Wednesday.

“We will fight to ensure that we try to save the historic carriage gate box,” said chamber chairman Len Pickering.

But it’s hard to see what could have happened if they had managed to save this dank old box for Southampton rather than other parts of the city.

That box would be useless right now. But with the project now dead, maybe saving it would have been a long shot?

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