Royal Marines Memorial Garden

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HCC Site ID: 1811 Parish: Eastney & Craneswater Ward Portsmouth
Designations: The Royal Marines Museum (Closed) LBII; Lumsden Memorial LBII Area: 0.5 ha
Access: Public Access Ownership:

Location and Site

The Royal Marines Memorial Garden occupies a long narrow strip of land between the southern side of the former Eastney Barracks and the Parade Ground. The site is in the southeast of Portsea Island, about 60 metres from the Esplanade and Eastney beach. The huge imposing statue of a Falklands conflict ‘Yomper’, unveiled by Baroness Thatcher in 1992, signals the public entrance to the site from the Esplanade and entry to the garden itself is along a short path in front of the former officers’ quarters. The surrounding military buildings provide a stunning backdrop to the gardens.

Historic Development

Eastney Barracks, designed by William Scamp, was built on vacant land as headquarters for the Royal Marine Artillery who moved in from Fort Cumberland in 1867. The series of seven linked blocks facing the sea forms the second longest barracks frontage in the country (after the Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich). The officers’ quarters and mess were housed in an ornate building on the eastern side and is now a Grade II listed building. The ensemble has been called “part of the best and most complete barracks of the post-Crimean War period” by Pevsner. Over the years the site passed through several designations to become the headquarters for all Royal Marines Hampshire establishments in 1947 and finally Headquarters for training, reserve and special forces until its closure in 1991. Eastney Barracks was sold and converted to private housing in 1995.
The Royal Marines Museum, which was started at the barracks in 1958, was based in the former officers’ mess from 1972 to 2017, when it closed with the intention of opening a new permanent exhibition in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. In December 2020 the building was sold to Grand Hotel Excelsior International for conversion into a luxury hotel. At the same time, it was announced that the memorial garden would remain on site in the care of the museum.
The memorial garden was opened on May 16th 1995 by Prince Philip.

Current Description

The statue of the ‘Yomper’ stands at the entrance from the Esplanade, after which the visitor follows the path round the former parade ground to the garden, flanked by the former museum on the right and the line of the former barracks ahead, and bordered by a low formal hedge to the south and a somewhat higher one to the north. At the east end of the garden is the Lumsden Memorial, commemorating Brigadier General F.W. Lumsden, a British officer in Royal Marine Artillery who was killed just before the end of WW1. Amongst his decorations was the Victoria Cross, and the DSO and three bars.
The garden features a central path with grassed areas and flowerbeds on either side, which leads to a memorial stone at the far end dedicated to officers and marines killed at Fort Cumberland during the battle of Britain in 1940. Over 20 memorial stones line both long sides of the garden, as well as dedicated wooden benches with memorial plaques. Many of the stone dedications are for RM Commando Units, as well as one for the ‘Cockleshell Heroes’.
The beds are planted with a mixture of low-growing conifers and shrubs, herbaceous perennials, annuals and roses. Amongst the latter is a pink climbing rose, the Franceville Rose, grown from a cutting from a plant on a building in Franceville, Normandy, where RM Commandos took shelter in 1944. The formality and strong lines of the hedges, beds, paths and memorials ensure that the garden remains attractive all year round.

Summary & Significance

A small memorial garden in a stunning historic setting. The dedications, statues and memorials remind the visitor of Portsmouth’s military past, which has shaped the city and gives it much of its character today.

HGT UPS Research: January 2022

Sources – accessed January 2022
Pevsner N & Lloyd D, 1985, The Buildings of England: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Harmondsworth
OS 25” 1896-98, OS 25” 1930-33: National Library of Scotland – – accessed January 2022

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