The Historic High Street

He would have been easier to abandon if things went awry...

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The story begins...

Today High Street is a fairly sedentary place largely residential in nature. In the mid 20th century though the son of a previous owner of the Sally Port Hotel remembers it as fairly industrial with soot belching from the power station and sounds of the constant pounding of ship builders’ tools as they went about their business at nearby Vosper and Company.

Still earlier, High Street was no ordinary small town trading place. It was a bustling hub of commercial and social activity with householders cheek by jowl with manufacturers; and shop owners vying with each other to meet the needs of the resident or visiting civilian and military population. Indeed, during the 19th century, it was arguably one of the finest streets in the country outside London and housed a wide variety of quality shops and thriving businesses.

The truth will remain hidden long after all those involved have died...

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The commercial and social character of High Street that was there in the 19th century probably dated back to the 16th century. Old maps show low gable-roofed properties running along the length of the street as they do today; although nearly all were replaced or extensively refurbished as wars in the late 18th and early 19th centuries enhanced the wealth of their owners.

Over the years, High Street attracted many distinguished visitors who may have passed by or entered the buildings that now house the Sally Port Hotel. Some achieved almost iconic status. In 1628 one of the King’s advisers, George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, was assassinated in the Greyhound Inn (popularly known as The Spotted Dog) at No. 11 High Street. He was stabbed to death by John Felton, a disgruntled lieutenant in the English army who had been badly wounded during the 1627 expedition to the Ile de Ré, twice passed over for promotion to captain and was owed over eighty pounds in back pay.

At the time the Navy was in a poor state of repair and neither parliament nor the King was willing to provide the necessary resources to bring it into a good state. Money was not forthcoming to pay the sailors or soldiers and the Duke of Buckingham, as head of the forces, received a lot of criticism.

A rotten member, that can have no cure, must be cut off to save the body sure...

An anonymous poem, Upon the Duke's Death, argues at length that Buckingham's assassination was not a crime as the Duke himself had been a criminal who had placed himself above the law.