Telly Savalas looks at Portsmouth

Registered: ​22nd December 1981
Duration: 26 minutes
Feet: 2340 feet
Board of Trade Certificate number: ​​​​​​​​​BR/E41019/27/12/86
Produced for : Columbia-EMI
Production Company: ​​​​​​​Harold Baim Film Productions

More Film Stills: ​at baimfilms.com (opens in new window)
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In 1981 Harold Baim must have been well aware that the requirement for cinema shorts was coming to an end. Baim was 68 when he made three half hour films, one on Birmingham, the other two on Portsmouth and Aberdeen. It was while he was making the last of the three, Aberdeen, he secured the talents of Telly Savalas to read the scripts. Savalas recorded the three scripts over two days at a studio of De Wolfe Music in London.

Title and Credits:
Telly Savalas looks at Portsmouth

Photographed by: Bill Paterson
Music by: De Wolfe
Edited by: David E Naughton
Recorded by: Derek McColm, Trevor Barber, Robert Poole
Written and Directed by: Harold Baim


I don't know of another place where so many famous people have had streets named after them, but this particular city has a fine sense of history.

This street is named after a ship. The ship was called the Mary Rose. 450 years ago, it sank at Spithead. As the ship went down, King Henry VIII of England stood and watched from this very spot. The pride of his fleet was to become a time capsule of life in Tudor England.

Built at Portsmouth in 1509, today the ship is giving up its secrets. From the lifting vessel, the diving project is conducted.

The president of the Mary Rose Trust is His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, who has himself made three dives on the site.

Legal tender in those far off days are these gold angels would bring a glint to the eyes of Charlie's Angels.200 voluntary divers have their schedules carefully monitored.

What the Infantryman's rifle is to a modern fighting force, so longbows were to a medieval army. It was lethal at 300 yards.

This rigging block was recovered in an amazing state of preservation. Everything is taken to shore headquarters. Soon the ship itself will be raised from the depths of the ocean, and that'll be the day.

So let's look at Portsmouth.


50 years ago, Portsmouth looked like this.

40 years ago, 1320 high explosives, 39,000 incendiaries and 38 mines were dropped on her. Then it was all over. Parts of the city were rebuilt and restored, like 17th century Lombard Street and St Thomas's Street.

Bath Square houses once had cellar floors which rose and fell with the tide, and this 203 year old building was originally a bathing house. Battery Row, where once guns defended the town.

Reminders of the past. The White Swan. The New Theatre Royal, which it was when opened 130 years ago. Originally a music hall, The Kings Theatre, a marvellous old building, now stages prior to London presentations. Next door to the Theatre Royal, the elaborate red brick and terracotta Prudential Building.

Five of Portsmouth's famous terraces were restored. Byculla House was once a private residence, now is the headquarters of Southeast Traffic Control. Another saved building is Charterhouse, with its copper domes and gabled windows, once the largest building in the city.

It's 800 years since the cathedral was founded. A parish church in 1320, it became a cathedral in 1927.

Charles II, when he married Catherine of Braganza in the Garrison Church in 1662, today it's a shell.

This is the Roman Catholic cathedral of St John.

Portsmouth projected herself into a new age, modern office blocks were created. Contemporary housing and congenial surroundings came into being, as the new thoroughfares and shopping centers.

International companies headquarter here and, by complex engineering know how, land reclaimed from mudflats provides for more and more construction.

Sea, ships and Portsmouth are indivisible. In the tranquillity of Victoria Park, memorials commemorate men and ships lost in historic battles.

Built in 1760, the Landport Gate was once the main entrance to the town. Today a very different story. Every year, more than 800,000 people come in and out of Portsmouth.

From just across the way come the ferries from Gosport. From just across the way, the ferries come from the Isle of Wight. Even when weather does not permit, the SRN hovercraft, with its 58 passengers riding at 35 to 40 miles an hour, arrives.

The city's civic motto is "Heaven's Light, our guide", and it's easy to see why.

3000 movements of ships each year through the ferry port is a lot of ships and a lot of movement. 160,000 vehicles a year is also a lot of movement. I saw some of it. It was an eye opener.

Fast motorways and express trains link Portsmouth with the rest of the United Kingdom. After a few days here, the place really got to me. The granite base of this memorial to the first Australian settlers was a gift from the City of Sydney. At Sally Port in Old Portsmouth, a plaque tells of naval heroes and marks the place where Catherine of Braganza landed for her wedding to King Charles II, over 300 years ago.

I stood under the 500 year old wall of the square tower, looked up and there was King Charles I, looking down at me. 375 years ago, he presented this effigy of himself to the town. We Americans have always admired the way the English perpetuate their history. I saw the Fort Cumberland and Portsmouth militaria acting out a drill, which was the drill in Napoleonic times. And would you believe they do this every Monday evening right through the year?

This fortification is the round tower where the Fort Cumberland Guard do their stuff. Another of the greatest shows on earth is the Portsmouth Point Parade. Take a grandstand seat opposite naval shore establishment HMS Vernon and watch the Panorama pass our perspective.

The Royal Yacht Britannia always feels at home here. Slightly smaller yachts are equally at home.

Everything that floats is catered for. Well, let's do what those who come to Portsmouth Point do, get fascinated by the variety of vessels passing in front of us.

I looked down on the vast complex of the naval dockyard, and it was here 500 years ago that the first drydock came into existence. By the end of the 17th century, Portsmouth was firmly established as the major British naval base.

Admiral Lord Nelson. He left Portsmouth for the last time on the 15th of September, 1805. He was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar. Though little remains of the original fortifications, they say that here at Long Kirton and King's Bastion, Nelson took his last footsteps before boarding his ship, HMS victory.

A game of bowls. The other one took place in another time, in another port, on another green with another famous sailor. HMS Victory has been berthed here since 1922. The ship was the whole world to the men who sailed in her. And as I looked at this famous vessel, I remembered that Nelson spent almost two years on board without setting foot on land.

What he did say to Hardy was Kismet, fate. Medals, uniforms and relics of famous bands are in the Royal Marines Museum.

Portsmouth has always been strategically important. Defense was always a priority. In the 1800s, Lord Palmerston built a ring of sea fortresses. And fortresses on land, but by the time they were finished, they were obsolete.

I just happened to be one of those people who are crazy about castles. If they're over 1500 years old. I'm even crazier. At the head of Portsmouth Harbour is Portchester Castle, a Roman fortress which has known the kings of England from Alfred the Great to Henry the Fifth. If stones could speak, can you imagine?

The castle at Southsea was built by Henry VIII in 1544. On each side of it you can just about see where the castle walls were situated.

I suppose this could be called a castle. It's the polytechnic, a castle of learning.

Another building that looks like a castle is the City Museum and Art Gallery.

Responsible, like all museums, for the past, this pumping station at Eastney, has been restored to its former glory. This is how they used to pump water for domestic use and drainage in the mid 19th century, by the use of beam engines.

One of eight in the city, The Central Library, has 204,000 books on its shelves. If they're all in, of course.

Amongst Portsmouth's famous sons are famous authors Nevil Shute and Rudyard Kipling were residents.

And in this street, on the 7th of February, 1812, Charles Dickens was born.

In this house. Dickens first saw the light of day, and from this window he looked out on the world. The house is a memorial to one of England's most popular novelists.

Ask for more here and you'll get it. Also born in the city 370 years ago. Jonas Hanway, the first man ever to use an umbrella. Pretty sure what they thought of him! All those and Isambard Kingdom Brunel too. But what about famous daughters? Margery Hurst, of Worldwide Secretarial Services fame, was born here. And Chubb was safely delivered here.

Where the Camber Dock is now, Portsmouth really started. It was a natural inlet from the sea.

Chalk tip from Portsdown Hill created Albert Johnson Key, through which nearly 400,000 tonnes of cargo passes yearly. One of the most advanced container handling services in the United Kingdom.

There's certainly more than 'meats' the eye here. A charter given to the town in 1194 allowed markets to be held, and they've been held ever since. This is Charlotte Street, where everyone in the know goes.

Portsmouth pedestrian precincts complement Portsmouth's animated arteries of the stylish city.

Would you turn down an invitation to go to sea with the Royal Navy? You wouldn't. Well, neither did I. So I went to sea, to see the Navy's Sea Day programme. A mixture of manoeuvres and exercises. It was really a day to remember.

From the bridge of the 18 000 ton tanker Olmeda, I had a tremendous view of the proceedings. Come on, stand beside me and get the same kicks that I did.

You know, somehow submarines unnerve me. Life ends here. This is a 1922 submarine in a scrapyard. If you've never seen this kind of scrapyard, I can tell you it's an eerie experience. Hard to believe that magnificent ships end up here.

A graveyard. A little spooky, huh? Let's get back to today.

On terra firma again, looking down on Southsea. Thomas Ellis Owen was a Southsea architect with a formidable flair for things different. You can see why a part of this area is in fact called Owen's Southsea.

A lush, typical English seaside resort. A pleasant place planned for pleasure.

1400 people come to work, to the magnificent modern civic offices in Guildhall Square.

In Guildhall Square, all kinds of things happen. I felt the anticipation, the excitement. As the band plays, a limousine arrives at the red carpeted Guildhall steps. His famous ancestor looks across to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, who watches the display organised in honour of his visit.

What a way to find out the time.

Guildhall Square is the hub around which Portsmouth revolves and dominated by the magnificent Guildhall. On the night of the 10th and the 11th of January 1941, incendiary bombs destroyed the interior.

The Guildhall seems to be looking at me so, so long Portsmouth. Here's looking at you. 

[The End]

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