History

Portsmouth Chimes

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Ding dong, ding dong! We all know and love our Chimes… ?

Played from the five bells in the Guildhall bell tower, collectively nicknamed The Pompey Chimes, as they inspired the football chant of the same name. The largest of the five bells, Victoria is named after Queen Victoria and is inscribed with her name, and chimes on the hour. The four quarter bells chime at 15, 30 and 45 minutes past the hour and play the Westminster Quarters, just before Victoria tolls on the hour.

The origins of the ‘Pompey Chimes’ chant lies with the Royal Artillery, Portsmouth’s most popular and successful football team for much of the 1890s, who played many of their home games at the United Services ground in Burnaby Road. The nearby town hall clock would strike the quarter hours and the referees would use the clock to let them know when the match should finish at 4 pm. Just before 4 pm, the crowd would lilt in unison with the chimes of the hour to encourage the referee to blow the whistle signifying full time.

The original words to ‘The Chimes’, as printed in the 1900/01 Official Handbook of Portsmouth FC were: ‘Play up Pompey, Just one more goal! Make tracks! What ho! Hallo! Hallo!’

With the demise of Royal Artillery after their expulsion from the 1898/99 FA Amateur Cup for alleged professionalism, many of Royal Artillery’s supporters transferred their allegiance to the newly formed Portsmouth F.C. and brought the Chimes chant with them.

However, our fair city also has a much older “theme tune” pre-dating the chimes by a good 230 years. “Portsmouth” is a traditional English folk dance tune, similar to an Irish or Scottish hornpipe melody. It is sometimes referred to as the “Portsmouth Hornpipe”. It originated in 1651 (and published till 1728) from a collection of works known as “The Dancing Master”.

It is also one of the three arrangements on which English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams based his Sea Songs, originally arranged for military band in 1923 as the second movement of his English Folk Song Suite, and subsequently re-arranged for full orchestra in 1942 by the composer. In the 1950s it was used as the signature tune for BBC television series Billy Bunter.

 

Some listening materials for you to enjoy… Perhaps while browsing our fantastic online store!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkD84AP0LUQ played by the English¬†Dancing Master of Playford’s…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eT3svnXmDBk A flute version of Vaughn Williams take…

 

and for the poptastic pop-pickers,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CCf7gvmDEU Mike Oldields 1976 No.1 take…

 

We hope you enjoyed!

 

 

Credits: Image: Smith of Derby

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