A History of Milton, Portsmouth

By Tim Lambert

Early Milton

The Saxons landed founded small villages on Portsea Island. One of them was middle tun. The word tun meant farm or small village. This one was in the middle between Froddington (Fratton) and the sea. Eastney was eastern eg (the Saxon word eg meant island). In the Middle Ages Milton was a little village. It probably had a population of no more than 100 and possibly less.

To us, it would seem tiny but villages were very small in those days. We don’t know if anybody lived in Eastney in those days. If anyone did it would have been on an isolated farm.

A map made about 1600 shows a village at Milton but only Eastney Farm. It seems that until the 19th century there was only a farm at Eastney not a village.

For centuries the people of Milton lived in simple wooden huts with thatched roofs. They farmed fields around the village. However, in the 17th-century things improved and houses were rebuilt in brick. n In 1665 a tax was placed on hearths (fireplaces). At that time Milton was still a tiny village with a population of only around 100. It was recorded as Meltem. In the village, 4 people had only 1 hearth. (At that time, poor people lived in huts of just 1 or 2 rooms). However, one man, Mr Beeston had 6 hearths so he must have been well off.

Fort Cumberland was built at Eastney in 1740 in case the French landed on the Eastern point of Portsea Island.

Modern Milton

In 1818-22 a canal was built across Portsea Island. The Portsmouth to Arundel canal began just outside the town where Arundel Street is today (hence its name). It ran along the site of the railway between Portsmouth and Fratton. It then ran along the site of Goldsmith Avenue to Milton then ran south of Locksway Road to locks on the southeastern shore of Portsea Island. The barges were towed by steam tugs across the sea into Chichester Harbor where the canal began again. The canal closed in 1838.

In 1841 St James Church was built in Milton (it was rebuilt in 1913). Then in 1845, a workhouse was built near Milton, outside Portsmouth. In those days if you had no income you had to enter a workhouse. Inside life was made as unpleasant as possible to discourage people from seeking help.

In 1879 St James hospital, a lunatic asylum opened near the village of Milton in the South East of Portsea Island. In 1884 an infectious diseases hospital opened near the village. In 1934 its name was changed to Priorsdean Hospital. Milton Cross School was built on the site in 2000. St Mary’s hospital began as an infirmary at Milton in 1898.

By the 1860s the town of Portsmouth extended as far as St Simon’s Church in Southsea. However, Eastney remained farmland. Yet in 1867 a Marine Barracks was built in the hamlet of Eastney and in 1887 a pumping station was built there. Eastney became built up between 1890-1905.

Milton remained a village until the late 19th century when it grew rapidly. Then in 1909, an electric tram was built from Fratton.

Then in 1911, a landowner named James Goldsmith died and his estate at Milton was broken up. Fortunately, some green space was saved. In 1911 the council bought parts of Bransbury Farm to make Bransbury Park and in 1912 they obtained parts of Milton Farm and used it to make Milton Park, which opened in 1923.

In the 1920’s more council houses were built at Henderson Road Eastney and in 1928, Cumberland House, Eastney was opened as a museum and art gallery. Eastern Road was completed in 1942. Then between 1962 and 1970 land was reclaimed at Milton.

Beddow Memorial Library opened in 1990.

My Youtube video about Milton