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Portsmouth is not mentioned in Domesday Book (1086) but began to develop on Portsea Island as Portchester, on a Roman site, started to silt up. It was granted a charter by Richard I in 1194 and the growth of the navy in the 16th cent. established it as a major town. Henry VII began a dry dock there in 1495, the Mary Rose sank off Portsmouth harbour in 1545, and the duke of Buckingham was stabbed to death in the Greyhound Inn in 1628 when leaving for the expedition to La Rochelle. From the time of Charles II, Portsmouth became the chief naval base. The Royal Naval College was founded in 1720, the Royal George went down in the harbour in 1782, and on 15 September 1805 Nelson hoisted sail in Victory for Trafalgar. His flagship is preserved at Portsmouth today. By 1801 the town had a population of 32,000, 94,000 by 1861, and 189,000 by 1993. The naval presence has diminished but Portsmouth has developed engineering and tourism. There are ferry sailings to the Isle of Wight and to France and northern Spain.
J. A. Cannon