Report (Permission Visit) - Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment, Portsdown Main, Portsmouth | Military Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report (Permission Visit) Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment, Portsdown Main, Portsmouth

Simon Pykett

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
My father worked here for many years prior to his retirement and it was demolished in 2011. A friend and I were driving past the site when we noticed that the gates were open. We had just been out for lunch and were dressed very smartly - not dressed like your average urban explorers for sure! The local fire service were in there too on a training exercise of some sort.

Again, as with most of the sites I've been into, I asked politely if I could take a potter around, to which they said yes! I've found that if permission is sought, you're allowed in. I would have found my way in one way or another! This was too good to miss!

Again, with many sites that are left derelict, many people had been in and had left their own mark in the way of smashed windows etc. What used to be the gym had also been burnt right out. Also, much furniture had been launched out of windows into the quad below.

I think it's a real shame that people smash places up like this. It gives us real explorers a bad name. What a shame.

The entire site has now been totally demolished. I moved away from Portsmouth about 3 years ago - I don't know what, if anything, is there now.

As with all my posts, I've added the maximum of 30 images here, however you can find a Google Drive folder with 93 images inside.

Enjoy! :)

(First three images and historical information courtesy of portsdown-tunnels.org.uk)

Portsdown Main was an impressive 'art deco' style building which dominated the north Portsmouth skyline and was familiar to any Portsmouth resident who would probably have identified it as ASWE. Its history has been poorly documented due to the nature of the defence work that went on there.

It was designed in the 1930s (hence its style) as a building which would be located somewhere in the UK. The Second World War prevented further progress and it was eventually built on Portsdown in 1952 as an Admiralty Signals Establishment (ASE). It was subjected to many changes during its lifetime either wholesale or with various departments coming and going. The history of its various forms and predecessors is very controversial. I have received many emails telling me that the list below is inaccurate with conflicting suggestions on how to correct it. The one now shown is final - inaccuracies and all.

There were a total of 32 buildings on the 46 acre site built between 1946 and 1955 with Portsdown Main being the most outstanding. To the west is Fort Southwick a former Royal Navy COMMCEN. To the east are two further distinct sites on Portsdown Technology Park: an operational Ministry of Defence (MoD) establishment consisting of the Maritime Warfare Centre (MWC) and the Land-Based Test Site (LBTS); and QinetiQ Britain's largest independent science and technology company.

Portsdown Main finally closed its gates on 1 January 1997 and although there had been a number of Government departments interested in the site none had any plans to move there. On 3 October 2002 it was announced that the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) - formed by splitting DERA into DSTL and QinetiQ on 2 July 2001 - was going to move back, but this was cancelled in April 2004.

The building was put up for sale on the open market but a buyer was never found and consequently, in April 2010, is was decided that Portsdown Main was to be demolished. Although it was a significant local landmark the building was unlisted and a structural review revealed that the building was unsound. Demolition was completed during September 2011.

PM_LBTS_1985_29 Main_Block_T23_Mast.JPG

ABOVE - 1985 - Portsdown Main displays its full glory (image from portsdown-tunnels.org.uk)


ABOVE - 25 September 2011 - Tesco's car park. The west wing has gone and the central structure is all but destroyed (image from portsdown-tunnels.org.uk)


ABOVE - 22 September 2011. The photo (and the sign on the right) speaks for itself (image from portsdown-tunnels.org.uk)

The following images were taken by myself.





ABOVE - I wonder who these people are? I actually did a little friendly stalking on Facebook and met up with a Siobhan Ayres (not the actual Siobhan Ayres). We went to a couple of mad concerts and parties in London together. The wonders of the internet!




ABOVE - this is the old Gym that was burnt out. I know this because I was on and off the phone to my father who knew the site like the back of my hand. He gave me a guided tour of the site by phone!


ABOVE - far right - you can see the blackened walls of the fire that took hold in the old Gym. Gives you a better idea of what is where.



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