1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Spithead
SPITHEAD, a strait of the English Channel, between the mainland (the coast of Hampshire, England) and the north-eastern coast of the Isle of Wight, forming the eastern entrance to Southampton Water, the Solent being the western. Its length is about 12 m., and its general breadth about 4 m., though the distance between Ryde and Gilkicker Point is almost exactly 3 m. The Spit Sand, extending south-east from this promontory, gives name to the strait. On the north side opens the narrow entry to Portsmouth Harbour, with the towns of Portsmouth and Gosport east and west of it. On the south the coast of Wight rises sharply though to no great elevation; it is well wooded, and studded with country residences. Here is also the favourite watering-place of Ryde. Spithead, which as an anchorage is exposed only to the south-east, shares in the fortifications of Portsmouth Harbour, the principal station of the British navy. In this connexion the strait has been the scene of many splendid naval pageants, such as those attendant upon the jubilee in 1897, and the funeral in 1901 of Queen Victoria, and that which celebrated the coronation of King Edward VII. on the 16th of August 1902.