The truth will remain hidden long after all those involved have died...
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...
Felton was hanged for the crime and his body was returned to Portsmouth where, as a warning to others, his body was hanged in chains on land east of the town until it decomposed.
On many occasions during the 1660s Samuel Pepys visited Portsmouth in his capacity as Clerk of the King’s Ships. In June 1662 some friends and his wife, Elizabeth, accompanied him. According to his diary, the wives were shown over a ship; they walked around the walls and took in the sights. One of these was the room in The Greyhound where the murder of the Duke of Buckingham took place.
Admiral Lord Nelson was another frequent visitor to High Street. In 1805 he breakfasted at the George Hotel, 30 High Street (destroyed in WW2), before making his way to the beach, via the back entrance to avoid a huge throng of well wishers who had gathered at the front. After walking down Green Row (now Pembroke Road), he went along a tunnel through the ramparts which led to a drawbridge over the moat and a small sally port which opened onto the beach. Here a barge was waiting to take him to HMS Victory which was heading for the Battle of Trafalgar. An American, Benjamin Silliman, described the scene: “… by the time he had arrived on the beach some hundreds of people had collected in his train, pressing all around and pushing to get a little before him to obtain a sight of his face… …As the barge in which he embarked pushed away from the shore, the people gave three cheers which his Lordship returned by waving his hat.”
Portsmouth Cathedral houses a cross made of timber from HMS Victory and a piece of the flag that was laid on Nelson’s coffin at his funeral on 9 January 1806.