Guildhall Walk is an area of Portsmouth, UK that houses the vast majority of pubs and clubs in the city. Because of how densely packed the area is with pubs and clubs and its proximity to one of the many halls of residence for Portsmouth University, it has garnered itself a reputation. The reputation that it has brought on itself is not exactly a positive one. It is one of the three main drinking areas, ‘areas of culture’, in the city. The other two main areas are the shopping slash drinking are of Gunwharf and the self styled bohemian centre of Albert Road.
Each area seems to attract its own rough demographic of drunk punters. These are hard won reputations forged over years. Gunwharf, as the most recent pretender to Portsmouth’s drinking area crown, has the least set in stone demographic. This may be because of the range of venues in such a small space. You have the large clubs such as Tiger Tiger that manage to bring in different demographics all by themselves. Early on in the week they are mainly the preserve of students, offering cheap deals on drinks all night. Once the weekend arrives they are flooded by preening mid twenties to early thirties clubbers looking to impress. Entry prices and drinks prices go up accordingly.
Gunwharf also houses a few smaller pubs, a Jongleurs comedy club and a casino. The casino brings in the kind of crowd that you would expect a casino to bring in. Plus it is open until 4am so pulls in the dregs of the nightlife down Gunwharf once everything else starts shutting.
Albert Road has recently been trying to reinvent itself as some kind of boho chic haven. Modelled extensively on the more boho student areas of Brighton. It never quite reaches what it’s aiming for, but tries its best. Which is admirable. This leads to locals from the old days mixing with students and the artsy types. The split is usually pretty obvious with a lot of the student aimed pubs at one end of Albert Road with the the old locals pubs situated at the other end, near the cemetery.
There is an anomaly in the student pub area of Albert Road, a pub named The Goose at the V&A. So named because it is situated on the crossroads of Albert Road and Victoria Road. It’s a particularly cheap pub and brings in a much different crowd to the surrounding student pubs and bars. Somehow, in the way that these things sometimes work, everything falls into place. It can get a bit aggressive in those parts, but that’s generally what happens when you get several thousand drunk people stumbling along one stretch of road. Generally the atmosphere is quite peaceful. The only downside is that the vast majority of the pubs don’t feature beer gardens. This is especially an annoyance in the winter when you want to have a quiet smoke outside where there are no heated areas. Also having to leave your pint behind when you want to go outside is a bit much.
And finally we move on to Guildhall Walk, the most notorious of the three areas. Most recently it has been trying its damnedest to cement its reputation as being a bit rough. Most recently a man was glassed in Scandals nightclub. Over the summer one man was murdered in Yate’s bar slash nightclub and one man was murdered in Walkabout pub slash nightclub. These were just the most violent incidents to make the newspapers and by no means exceptions that prove the rule.
The idea behind Guildhall Walk was to make Portsmouth more easy to police at night by moving the big clubs into one area. The clubs that were originally placed along the seafront have been shut down after it was identified as a trouble spot. This was a case of an idea backfiring pretty spectacularly. With all of the trouble spots moved into one area somehow made it worse. While the main walk is well lit and well policed, there are many back streets and alleyways surrounding the main walk that just can’t be suitably lit and policed. This leads to the many lewd and or violent happenings that have coloured the area distastefully in the past.
Many police measures have been enforced recently, with varying degrees of success. One of the recent initiatives that was surprisingly successful was to install floodlights at one end of the walk which were then activated at 4am. It cleared stragglers efficiently. Unfortunately it did have the side effect of pushing those stragglers into unlit non-policed areas. There is no real way around this situation, as far as I can see, as you are never going to have enough police in any one area. Without the risk of developing into an even more unfriendly environment.
Guildhall Walk does have its plus points however, as it features performance venues. One being the Guildhall and one being the New Theatre Royal. Each venue having its own plus and negative sides, as any venues do. But these help to bring in new trade to the city centre. Unfortunately for the Theatre, it happens to be placed directly in the middle of the walk. Thus leaving guests the unenviable experience of walking out of a performance straight into the middle of a street flooded with drunks shouting and flailing wildly. This kind of positioning is not rare within Portsmouth. With the Kings Theatre being prominently placed in the midst of Albert Road. Making drumming up dwindling theatre crowds quite difficult when the crowds then have to deal with the surrounding areas. The Kings Theatre less so than the New Theatre Royal.
In conclusion there are a multitude of reasons to visit Portsmouth that I have managed not to cover in my overview of Guildhall Walk and the drinking areas of Portsmouth in general. Guildhall walk during the summer is very nice during the day, as is the adjoining Victoria Park. I would highly recommend you come and visit them.