Sergeant Major Richard Wicken's pocket watch - and some other material in our collection relating to the history of Southsea Castle
A pocket watch that was given to a soldier who served at Southsea Castle in the 1850s was donated to Portsmouth Museums Service several years ago. It is now on display at Portsmouth Museum (not at Southsea Castle), in our permanent exhibition "No Place Like Pompey".
Sergeant Major Richard Wicken was “Master Gunner” at the Castle from 1852 until his retirement in 1857. At this time, Southsea Castle was the key to the defences of Portsmouth Harbour. All ships that wanted to enter the harbour had to pass by the Castle, following the deep-water channel. To fulfil its defensive role, the Castle was armed with many cannons, and the Master Gunner had responsibility for the guns.
An engraved message on the watch states that it was given to Sergeant Major Wicken “…by the Non Commissioned Officers of the 12th Battalion, Royal Artillery, as a mark of their esteem on his leaving the service, 1857”. When Richard Wicken was discharged from the army in that year, having served for 22 years, his records stated that “his conduct has been exemplary”. He is buried at Kingston Cemetery. The watch was kindly donated to us by Richard Wicken's family.
Top: close-up of the inscription on the watch.
Above: the watch and chain, with a winding key and a small seal on the end.
Below: Richard Wicken in army uniform, seen in around 1857.
Below: The uniform of another of the Castle's Master Gunners, Arthur Pointing of the Royal Garrison Artillery. He served in the Portsmouth area from around 1910, and held the position of Master Gunner at Southsea Castle in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Below: officers of Southsea Castle's garrison, infront of the Castle entrance in 1915, during the First World War. The Castle commanded the nearby guns that defended the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour.