Gunwharf Quays opened its doors at 10.10am on a cold wet February morning, back on 28th February 2001. To ensure everything was ready over 1300 operatives, managers and directors worked through the night preparing it for the public. A jazz band entertained the waiting crowd and lead them into the centre to welcome them in. It was the first time the public were allowed behind the perimeter wall for more than 300 years!
As a former Naval site, Gunwharf Quays has plenty of history, click here for more details. Portsmouth's gunwharf was the largest in Britain and was an important wharf for both the Navy and Army.
Early in the last century, it became HMS Vernon, school for torpedoes and mines. In 1996 the site was sold and within five years had been transformed into Gunwharf Quays as we know today.
See our gallery of aerials showing how the site has changed over the last 45 years.
You can still see some of the history when you visit such as The Old Customs House, the former administrative headquarters for HMS Vernon, as shown in the image below. Our latest monument, also shown below is the result of over 12 years of fundraising and serves as a tribute, not only to HMS Vernon, but also to all those involved - past, present and future - in mine warfare, service diving and bomb & mine disposal.
The centre has 4 scheduled ancient monuments, only 2% of listed buildings fall into this category, so to have 4 on site is exceptional.
Whilst we were closed due to the national lockdown on the date of our actual birthday, the Spinnaker Tower turned emerald, the jewel that is used to celebrate 20 years to mark the occasion.
To commemorate our 20 years, we have installed panels along our waterfront highlighting some of the history of the site and how it has evolved over the last 20 years. For more information on the history, local historian Michael Underwood has written a book that you can buy in our Guest Services Suite for just £5.
The News has been through its archives and kindly put together galleries showing the transformation from HMS Vernon to Gunwharf Quays, please click here and for further images during the construction, please click here.
Many thanks to The News for producing these for us.
Why not take a selfie under our celebratory floral arch when you are next in the centre, post it on social and tag us or use #lovegwq20. We would love to see you!