THE SPINNAKER TOWER: Pride of Portsmouth? (Keith Feltham)
Portsmouth is blessed with Portsdown Hill on the north side of the City, from which a splendid of Portsea Island and the surrounding terrain can be obtained and various landmarks identified. In the past it was easy to locate Old Portsmouth by the two tall power-station chimneys, but these were demolished in the 1980s and so we didn't have an easily recognised feature which could be seen from 'The Hill'. This has now changed with the completion of the Spinnaker Tower which, although not actually in Old Portsmouth, is sufficiently close by to direct one's gaze in the right direction.
The people of Portsmouth, given the opportunity to vote for their particular preference, selected the design of the Tower from three schemes, although there were those who would have liked another option – no tower at all. However, for better or worse, the Tower is now complete and it is in everyone's interest that it should be a success. And in its first five months since opening, it has surpassed all expectations with 250,000 visitors, three times the anticipated number for this winter season.
The overall height of the Tower is 170 metres but the viewing decks are well below this level at 100 and 105 metres, with the Crow's Nest at an altitude of 110 metres (360 feet). The main viewing deck at 100 metres gives the best, and least restricted, panorama.
There are still many people who are not happy with such a large structure dominating this part of Portsmouth; it is certainly not a feature that can be ignored. However, the views that it offers are amazing as it affords the opportunity to see the City from a different angle and, best of all, Old Portsmouth has centre stage. And, of course, it is not only Portsmouth that is seen to advantage, but the adjacent areas of the mainland and the Isle of Wight also come into prominence. It must surely be destined to become the major tourist attraction in this part of the country and for those who do not like the design or its impact on the area it is, perhaps, even more essential that they give it a try because the one thing that is not on the skyline when viewed from the Tower is … the Tower.
It was originally intended that the Tower would be named The Millennium Tower but as completion was five years late, it was renamed The Spinnaker Tower, to reflect its shape. It was considered by some that The Trafalgar Tower would have been a more appropriate name, as it was first opened just a few days before the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. And Adam Hart Davis has suggested the name should be The Isambard Kingdom Brunel Tower in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Brunel's birth. However apposite these suggestions may be, it is unlikely the name will be changed now.
Unfortunately, access cannot yet be offered to those who are disabled. The external glass lift must first be operational, since this provides the means of escape in case of emergency for those unable to negotiate the stairs. We are promised that this lift will soon be accessible.