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1833 - Semaphore Tower Erected

Following the movement of the Admiralty residence from the High Street, Old Portsmouth, into the dockyard, the old Semaphore Tower was erected on the roof of the Rigging House and Sail Loft buildings in 1833 as the terminal station of the London – Portsmouth Semaphore Line. (The tower had previously been on the roof of the Square Tower in Old Portsmouth.) It continued in this function until 1847 when the line was superseded by the electrical telegraph. From then on the tower became the focal point of the port’s communication until its destruction by fire in 1913.

The Sail Loft and Rigging House (1778) were originally two separate buildings. They were joined together by an infilling that formed an archway over the road with the Semaphore Tower on the top. It is generally thought that the bridge across the camber dock on the east side of the Watering Island was built at this time. Previously the main access to the Watering Island would have been along the south side of No 9 Storehouse and along the Camber Road.

The existing tower opened in 1930 and is built of stone as a replica of the original, incorporating the old Lion Gate (1778) from the Portsea fortification. The structure still bears the name Semaphore Tower although that particular means of communication has ceased to be practised in the Royal Navy.

1833 - Semaphore Tower Erected