Another Pompey Link, Mary Hinds 2011
Isn’t it strange how one thing leads to another. I read last year’s FOOPA Review and recently met with Terry Halloran who had written how Pompey Football Club had been formed in the garden of Felton House in the High Street. I started telling him of my links with Pompey and he said I should write it down so here are some of the loosely related things we talked about in Pembroke Park.
I was born as Mary Tilbury in the Wheelbarrow! Well actually the pub was called the Castle Hotel at the time. They did however find a wheelbarrow in the basement and someone remembered that it was used to cart inebriated matelot’s back to their ships, so they changed the name. I was born in the same year as Peter Sellers, who is remembered on a blue plaque across the road from the pub for those who want to guess my age. I went to Portsmouth High School and went to work in the National Provincial bank on the Hard (now the Genesis Museum) and surprise surprise met a sailor, Andy – my husband of over 50 years.
I’ve always been a keep fitter and still swim, but apart from my Grandad (and more of him later) my husband has some interesting history. Andy is a rarity – a tee-totalling Scot with his own strong sporting links. He played professional football before being called up in 1950 and we still have a photo of him scoring for Brechin City against Dundee in the Forfar Cup. He was paid £4 a week and with all the talk of bonuses at the moment he was incentivised enough with an extra £1 for a draw and massive 50% or £2 for a win !
After coming out of the Navy he had trials with Pompey but settled down to have a ‘proper job’ whilst playing number 10, or inside left as it was then, for Fareham Town who were the ‘bees knees’ in the Hampshire League. He lectured in mechanical engineering at Highbury College and finished up as Deputy Head, and it was whilst there that he made an interesting and little known contribution to the Cathedral. David Stancliffe, the then Provost had seen a Peace Globe in Stockholm Cathedral and liked the symbolism and contacted Andy asking if he could have one made. Andy pointed out that the Swedish version was in gold and his students at the time only had 12 weeks experience so it wasn’t such a good idea. He then did some research including having an atheist student study all the types of Christian crosses and then came up with the final design, which his students fashioned out of scrap metal into the handsome version hanging in the Cathedral today.
Andy hung up his boots in 1965 and whilst playing squash he watched a Real Tennis game at Hayling Island and has been playing the game ever since. This is the game where the court is a courtyard and you can hit the ball off the walls and roof ! He tells me that its a bit like chess on the move and that a better tactician can beat a better tennis player. I know the club used to be the only place in the world where five racquet sports were played. Can you name all five?
Anyway at last I can get back to the reason which started me off on this article and that was Portsmouth FC. My Grandad was Bob Blyth (1870-1941) another Scot, who is in the 1899 Pompey photo (2nd from left on the middle row). Interesting that there are just 11 of them, not the 23 + hangers on that we took to the World Cup. They had only been formed the previous year and 1899 was their first year in the Southern League. He probably played in their first game at Fratton Park; a ‘friendly’ against Southampton, which they won 2-0. He must have been coming to the end of his playing career then, as he managed Pompey from 1901 to 1904 and later became a director and then Chairman. Previously he had played for Rangers and Preston North End who were a big club then, as did his nephew Bill Shankly of Liverpool who once said of football “It’s not life or death – it’s much more important than that !”
At one stage while he was still playing, my Grandad also used to manage the Talbot Hotel which is still there in Fratton, and my mother told me that she got married from there. His brother William Blyth and his son (my uncle) also played for Pompey so quite a strong connection with the Blues.
Another interesting event in our family football history was when Pompey won the FA Cup in 1939. It was brought back to Portsmouth and, for the want of a safer place overnight it was placed under my parents’ bed in the Castle Hotel! (You could have a quiz question: When was the Cup left in a Wheelbarrow?)
Well that’s my tale; sorry it rambled a bit but they say there’s a story in everybody and this is just some of mine. I look forward to reading yours.
P.S. The five racquet sports at Hayling are: tennis, real tennis, squash, badminton and racquets.
Local people, Ros Watson
I wrote and agreed this with Ros Watson early in 2015. Sadly, Ros died suddenly on 26 July 2015 and I’ve had to change some tenses but hope this is a fitting tribute. I sadly missed her funeral but she made me smile by choosing as her closing tune ‘A Life on the Ocean Wave’. I wish I’d been there. This is a picture of her still working at the Cathedral House weekly lunch on her 90th birthday!
I knew Ros had been in the Wrens and thought I’d get a couple of paragraphs out of that. As it was, we had great fun chatting about anything but the Wrens because she had a great story to tell. On a number of occasions she shyly remarked that she’d been lucky; so I thought I’d highlight this in a brief synopsis of some of her life where I’m sure she wasn’t just lucky but earned her successes. As Gary Player said, ‘the harder I practice – the luckier I get’!
Rosamond Millicent Watson was a Pompey girl, born in Fratton Grove and went to Fratton Street school which she said wasn’t very good and from where she was ‘luckily’ chosen to be coached with a few of the pupils to take the Secondary exam, later known as the 11+. She passed the exam and went on to Southern Secondary School in Fawcett Road but was only there for a year when their family had to move away from Portsmouth to the Midlands.
(Her dad was in the Royal Marines, fought at the Somme in 1916, and left his regiment in 1935. Along with many fellow ‘demobbers’ he returned to Portsmouth to find there were no jobs to be had, hence the upheaval up to Leicester to find work with the Post Office. )
Ros turned up at Wyggeston Girls Grammar School in Leicester as she had ‘luckily’ won a scholarship. She modestly recalled that she went from being near the top of the class in Fawcett Road to being near the bottom at Wyggeston. She recovered from this initial dip in form but said that the academic standard was much higher at her new school and that she was privileged to be there as there were many very bright children and that ‘most of the parents were professional people’. Ros added that she’d passed her school certificate aged 16 and maybe she’d been lucky with the timing as just after this occasion her dad was called up again and the family returned to Portsmouth. Her dad was one of the few who served in the Royal Marines and came through both World Wars unscathed.
She spent World War II with her family settled just off Fawcett Road and she started work, first in the naval stores and then at one of the then two Post Offices in Albert Road. She said there were times when you almost got used to the threat of bombing and the bombing itself and she remembered the Portsmouth Blitz of January 1941 and being a foolish teenager: a bomb had landed in the street just outside and with curious youth she opened the front door to see what was happening and at that moment a piece of shrapnel hit the canopy over her head and bounced onto the street. She thought afterwards how ‘lucky’ she’d been but at the time thought nothing of this, just rushed out to collect the potential memorabilia shrapnel and ‘luckily’ only touched the object before discovering how very, very, very hot it was, so left it there until the next day. She did recover it and like many of you she kept it for decades before discarding it ‘as I thought nobody would know what it was’.
Continuing the lucky theme, she said that her brother came through the second war serving on HMS Kenya and on the Malta and Russian convoy. I researched HMS Kenya and learned that she came through the war and was nick-named curiously the Pink Lady! Amazingly they used Mountbatten Pink for her camouflage paint for a Norwegian commando raid. The Germans were using pink marker dye in their shells and their spotters couldn’t distinguish between shell splashes and the ship’s camouflage.
Ros showed me a picture of her family with her dad and brother alongside her and her mum outside Town station which we know as Portsmouth and Southsea. She said there was always a photographer there. I found this quite sad as they were photographing people returning to their units possibly never to return. Like her cousin Frank Austin who was last seen with his captain on the bridge of the battleship HMS Barham before it was sunk by German torpedoes in the Med. The dramatic end when the magazines exploded and two thirds of the 1,000 crew died was filmed by a Pathe reporter from another ship but not released until after the war to protect both those who lost loved ones and also public morale. (The sinking is often used now as stock footage in documentaries and featured in a number of films including The Guns of Navarone). In fact news of the ships demise was not released for two months and even the Germans didn’t know of their success.
I set out to write a paragraph on Ros in the Wrens so I’d better do it. Her dad and brother were in the Marines and as she put it ‘everybody then had to do something for the war. You had to be interviewed for WRNS as it was the smallest service but the most popular with women. She was accepted and then ‘you just went about your work again and waited until you’re number came up’ and hers did in 1943. With her School Certificate and experience from the costing office at the British United Shoe Manufacturing Company in Leicester she was posted as a Leading WRN to be a pay writer at Lee on the Solent.
She recalls that the weekly pay was rounded down to the half a crown below and that the amount owing was paid to the sailors as a ‘settlement’ every quarter. Ros had her own system though, and thought it better if she paid the settlement to her men in their pay when they went on leave. As you would expect Ros’s system pleased the men and she said they often brought her flowers on their return from leave. She didn’t find out until much later that they stole the flowers from the officers’ gardens!
As you’d expect, she was good at her job finally getting promoted to Petty Officer and doing the pay for the Fleet Air Arm pilots. She is proud of her PO uniform ‘cos you got a tricorn hat and brass buttons’!
Before I finish this piece on Ros I must say its been me who’s been lucky. Lucky to meet someone like Ros, R.I.P.
I didn’t want to take any more of Ros’s time but just as I was leaving her flat she came up with a sad but fascinating story about her dad, who like most veterans didn’t talk about the wars he was in, although after his wife died he did start reminiscing. When in his ‘80s he decided he wanted to see his brother’s grave in Belgium. They had both fought at the Somme and were to meet up there but sadly couldn’t. Ros decided to take him on an organised tour of the Great War battlefields and as someone who actually took part in the war, the tour made a fuss of him and made sure they included the cemetery he wanted to visit.
There is no grave as, for so many, the body could not be identified. However being called Dudley his name is remembered on a panel with 20,000 others on the Loos memorial which surrounds the Dud’s Corner Cemetery. (So called not after her uncle but because of the large number of unexploded shells found here after the Armistice).
She remembers finding her uncle’s name on one of the many panels and not far away was the name of John, aged 18, the son of Rudyard Kipling. As many of you will know John, like his Nobel-prize-winning-father was very short sighted. Rudyard couldn’t join the Royal Navy for this reason but despite his son failing the medicals his imperialist father pulled strings to get him into the Irish Guards.
Rudyard was to regret this all his life when John was killed in his first and last battle. After the war he worked tirelessly with the War Graves Commission and it was him who came up with the phrase on unknown service graves ‘Known unto God’.
Sorry to end on this truism but filled with sadness and regret Rudyard wrote in his Epitaphs of War:
‘If any question why we died – tell them because our fathers lied.’
Norman Barber passed away peacefully at home on 27th April, just two weeks before his 97th birthday. He was, until recently, an active member of FOOPA.
The Funeral Service will be held at Portsmouth Cathedral at 1.30 pm on Friday 26th May 2017. All are invited to refreshments afterwards at the family home.
There will be a private committal at the crematorium.Family flowers only please, but charitable donations, if desired in favour of the Royal Artillery Charitable Fund (Charity No 238197), may be made to Barrells Funeral Directors at 245 Fratton Road Portsmouth PO1 5PA (023 9282 4831).
Sir William Robert Patrick aka ‘Robin’ Knox-Johnston, CBE
Robin Knox-Johnston was born in Putney in London and was educated at the Berkhamstead Boys school. From 1957 to 1965 he served in the Merchant Navy and the Royal Naval Reserve.
This shot was taken off the coast of India before his tiny ketch Suhaili was rigged in 1965. Robin was diving for gold for the Indian Customs at the time. Sadly he says he didn’t find anything – but if he had, would he have gone on to do what he did? Later that year he sailed Suhaili from Bombay to England. Due to a lack of money he had to interrupt his voyage for work in South Africa and was only able to complete it in 1967.
Robin is the eldest of four brothers. In 1962 he married Sue, whom he had known from the age of 8 and they had one daughter, Sara, who was born in Bombay whilst he was at sea. Interestingly he describes producing Sara as his greatest achievement – (although not single-handed)! Sue left him when he proposed taking her and the child back to England in his new boat Suhaili, and they were divorced in 1967. However, in 1972 they re-married and now have five grandchildren. Sue sadly died of ovarian cancer in 2003.
Single-handed round the world
On 14 June 1968 Robin Knox-Johnston left Falmouth in his 32-foot (9.8-metre) boat Suhaili, one of the smallest boats to enter the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. These were early days in long-distance sailing and the sort of dried provisions used today did not exist. Robin’s food was in cans which rapidly lost their labels contributing to a ‘varied’ diet containing much curry powder!
By the time she passed the Cape of Good Hope Suhaili was in the lead, but had already been knocked down, her coach roof shifted, her water tanks polluted and her radio out of action. For the next 8 ½ months the only contact was when sighted from the shore or by a solitary ship. There was no means of communication and no way to tell anyone if the boat got into trouble. The loss of the radio also gave a navigational problem as it was no longer possible to obtain time checks, and accurate time is essential when using a sextant to calculate position, which was all that was available then. Weather forecasts too were now unobtainable, reliance being placed on a barometer removed from a public house!
Despite surviving 25 metre waves in the Southern Ocean and losing his self-steering gear off Australia, he rounded Cape Horn on 17 January 1969, 20 days before his closest competitor Bernard Moitessier, who subsequently abandoned the race and sailed on to Tahiti.
Robin carried out ‘running repairs’ to Suhaili throughout the 312 day passage. Several times he had to go over the side to repair the hull planking sometimes for as long as 4 hours. Off Cape Verde he had to shoot a shark so that he could carry on doing repairs to Suhaili’s hull.
The other seven competitors dropped out at various stages, leaving Robin Knox-Johnston to win the race and become officially the first man to circumnavigate the globe non-stop and single-handed on 22 April 1969, the day he returned to Falmouth. He characteristically underplayed this:
‘Where from?’ called the senior Customs Officer as he approached Falmouth port.
‘Falmouth’ came the reply.
In recognition of his achievement, he was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
In his talk, Robin made light of the fact that he had to delay his arrival so that the Lord Mayor of Falmouth’s wife could have her hair done in time. He omitted telling us that he generously donated his prize money for fastest competitor to the family of Donald Crowhurst, who committed suicide after attempting to fake his round the world voyage.
Designed in 1923 by William Atkins, Suhaili is a 32 foot Bermudan ketch based on a Norwegian sailing lifeboat. She was built in Bombay in 1963 and is actually 44 feet from bowsprit to end of mizzen boom. She is obviously part of a long term relationship with Robin who describes her ‘No one would call Suhaili a greyhound, but she is solid, strong and a very good seaboat.’
In 1997 Suhaili went to the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich as an exhibit, but the controlled atmosphere began to shrink her planking, and, unwilling to see her die this way, RKJ removed her in 2002 and re-fitted her. Suhaili was last seen in action with Robin together with 1000 other boats invited to take part in the Queen’s Jubilee pageant on the Thames in 2012 and is currently being refitted again at Portchester.
I didn’t know what it meant either but Suhaili is the name of the South-East wind in the Persian Gulf. If your first voyage under sail is from Bombay to London then it must be a good feeling to have Suhaili helping you along.
In 1970 (with Leslie Williams) and in 1974 (with Gerry Boxall) Robin Knox-Johnston won the two-handed Round Britain Race. Robin Knox-Johnston, Les Williams and their crew, which Peter Blake was also part of, took line honours of the 1971 Cape Town to Rio Race. Les Williams and Robin Knox-Johnston jointly skippered (Peter Blake crew member again) maxi yacht Heath’s Condor in the 1977 Whitbread Round the World Race. They took the line honours in the second and fourth leg, the ones which Robin Knox-Johnston skippered.
Robin Knox-Johnston and Peter Blake (who both acted as co-skippers) won the Jules Verne trophy for the fastest circumnavigation of the world in 1994. Their time was 74 days and 22 hours.
He was made a Freeman of the City of London in 1992 and from then until 2001 he was President of the Sail Training Association. During his tenure he raised £11 million to replace the STA’s vessels Sir Winston Churchill and Malcolm Miller by the new, larger brigs Prince William and Stavros S. Niarchos. He served as a Trustee of the National Maritime Museum, at Greenwich from 1993 until 2003, and on the Sports Lottery Panel and Sport England Council from 1996 until 2002.
He was created a knight bachelor in 1995 and in 1996 Robin established the first Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and is Chairman of Clipper Ventures plc. He now employs 70 staff and has a new fleet of twelve identical 70 foot racing yachts. It is perhaps his greatest achievement to have introduced so many people to competitive sailing via their involvement in Clipper Ventures. 40% of his customers have no sailing experience and they start with a 4 week course learning to sail ‘Robin’s way’. Then although at first you might think its expensive; if you complete the tour rather than doing one or a few legs of the trip, it costs £45,000. But if you work out that you have a round the world trip, learn to sail well, make lots of friends and get fed and charter a yacht for a year its actually very cheap. (If you’re interested look at www.clipper-ventures.com or call 9252 6000) .
He has uniquely been awarded the British Yachtsman of the Year award three times, and was the first, with Peter Blake, to be awarded International yachtsman of the year in 1995. In 2006 he became at 67 the oldest yachtsman to complete a round the world solo voyage in the VELUX 5 Oceans Race. Following a canny spot of opportunistic sponsorship negotiation, he completed his second solo circumnavigation of the world in the yacht SAGA Insurance on 4 May 2007, finishing in 4th place in the VELUX 5 Oceans Race. At 68 he was the oldest competitor in the race.
In 2009 he took part in a new BBC programme called Top Dogs: Adventures in War, Sea and Ice. The program saw him unite with fellow British legends Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the adventurer, and John Simpson, the BBC World Affairs Editor. The team went on three trips, each experiencing each other’s adventure field: a news-gathering trip to Afghanistan, a voyage around Cape Horn and hauled sledges across the deep-frozen Frobisher Bay in the far north of Canada.
As well as his Clipper-Ventures initiative, Robin is currently President of the Little Ship Club.
Sir Robin towards the end of the race in his Open 60 yacht Grey Power. On finishing he said “the end was as hard as beating down the English Channel. If I said in Saint Malo I felt 48, then perhaps tonight I feel 50 – but no more!”
He also said he will be back for the next race in 2018 !!
P.S. 22 November 2014. Yet again holding the oldest competitor title at 75, RKJ today finished the Route du Rhum in 3rd place in a faster time than when he last completed this single handed race 32 years ago. He sailed 4,416 miles from Saint Malo to Guadaloupe at an average speed of 9.05 knots.
Memories of Old Portsmouth, Keith Feltham
Although many of the buildings in Old Portsmouth had been destroyed during the war, there were also many which had survived but have since been demolished. On the corner of Lombard Street and St Thomas’s Street there was a bombed site but, as I remember it, most of the houses on the northwest side from No 81 up to the Penny Bank on the corner of Highbury Street had survived. These were imposing residences and appear to have been of some importance. You can see the steps leading to these houses on the left of the photo and access to our house was through a narrow passage between these two houses just where the car is parked.
At that time, we were living at 81A St Thomas’s Street which was in the back garden of No 81 and must originally have been built for the servants and staff looking after the occupants of the big house which fronted onto St Thomas’s Street.
Little did I know at the time, but the gap in the housing on the right hand side of the road would become the back of the Portsmouth Town Court development – for which I would be the project architect!
I’ve included another photo of one of the street parties. This one looks a bit better organised and must have been to celebrate VJ day in the summer of 1945. This picture also shows the air raid shelter built on the carriageway of St Thomas’s Street near the Lombard Street junction.
Old buildings were still in existence in Oyster Street which then continued through to White Hart Road. There was a small general shop by White Hart Alley and, further along, the buildings were used for government surplus stores which made available useful items which were generally unobtainable in those austerity days. At one time they had a consignment of large kites which seemed big enough to support a man and these were much sought after for the bamboo poles and the fabric (silk or nylon?) of which they were made. In White Hart Road, there were storage buildings which were rented to French onion men who would tie their onions into strings and hang them over the handlebars of their bikes then ride around the town offering them for sale.
In High Street in front of the Cathedral, there was a row of shops including a butcher, a greengrocer and a men’s hairdresser, all long since gone. There were also shops further up High Street, past the junction with Highbury Street. The ones I remember are a tobacconist, High Street Fur Stores and Barrels, who seemed to sell mostly typewriters, and of course the Tuck Shop opposite Portsmouth Grammar School; the buildings containing these particular shops are still in existence but have now been converted into dwellings. Another building which has been lost is the Fountain Hotel in High Street near Grand Parade.
In the 1950’s, Old Portsmouth was given over to industry and trade as well as providing residences for many who worked in the area. Coal merchant’s, Fraser and White’s had huge concrete bunkers on the quay to the inner Camber between Seager’s Court and the Bridge Tavern. Three travelling cranes ran on rails along the top of the walls to the bunkers and were used to unload the bulk cargo ships (colliers) which docked by the quay to deposit their coal into the bunkers. Fraser and White’s also had barges. These were mostly constructed of concrete, and presumably were used for transporting coal to the Isle of Wight and other local ports.
Local distribution of the coal in the Portsmouth area was by four-wheeled rubber-tyred horse-drawn carts. The horse stables were in Lombard Street, on part of the site now occupied by Lombard Court, and backed onto our garden.
The Power Station also used coal at that time and, for a period after the war, the land bounded by St Thomas’s Street, Highbury Street and Warblington Street became a storage facility for its fuel. This coal was fairly fine stuff and stacked up to a good height, sufficient to make an exciting slope for us children to slide down on tin trays! As the Power Station was enlarged in the late forties, the dry dock in the outer Camber (where the Isle of Wight link-span is now sited) was taken over for the C.E.G.B’s (Central Electricity Generating Board’s) own colliers to bring coal direct to the Power Station. The coal was unloaded from the ships by crane onto conveyor belts which carried it over Gunwharf Road into the building. Two of the regular colliers which used this dock I remember were aptly named the Pompey Light (who’s bell can be seen in Viviers) and the Pompey Power.
With Fraser and White’s operations, the Power Station and most people relying on coal for heating, it will be readily appreciated that the atmosphere contained considerable amounts of dust and pollution. Additionally, most houses had sliding sash windows or ill-fitting casements (no weather-stripped double-glazed units in those days) which allowed dust easy access into people’s homes. Washing hung out to dry would also attract soot and so cleaning was a never-ending battle.
The other major industry was Vosper’s Shipbuilders which had its yard in White Hart Road with slipways into the Camber – now the site of the King James Quay housing development. The Camber was also the destination for ships bringing in fruit and potatoes which were off-loaded by the ships’ own derricks or by mobile cranes on the quay. Add to this the small fishing boats and privately owned boats which were moored in the Camber, together with boats run by Pickfords and Crouchers between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, and you can get the picture that this was a bustling little port.
My grandfather, George Feltham, had a boat-building business (G.A. Feltham & Sons) and his workshop had a slipway onto the Camber. The building is still there at the top of the Camber but has been altered to provide living accommodation over a boathouse. The Camber has now been partially filled in for the new housing development and to form part of the Millennium Walk, this section being known as Feltham Row. The boats were entirely of wooden construction and were limited in size by the nature of the premises. During the war, I believe that the work was entirely for the Admiralty, building whalers which were 27 foot clinker double-enders for use as ship’s boats etc. These boats were propelled by oars or sails but, after the war, a new design was adopted which were of double skin construction and had engines although I don’t remember many of these being built.
The extensive bombed sites had been cleared of rubble by the end of the war and nature had started to take over. Buddleias grew in profusion and, when in flower, attracted a wide variety of butterflies. Being children, the tragedy of the lives and buildings lost through bombing did not at that time impact on our consciousness – we just regarded the cleared sites as our playgrounds.
In the early 1950’s, the CEGB compulsorily purchased the houses on the north and west sides of Lombard Street and St Thomas’s Street, including our house, to construct their new offices (which is now Lombard Court) and so we were forced to move out and we then went to live in Southsea!
Old Portsmouth has changed beyond recognition in the last fifty years, undoubtedly for the better. Large areas have been redeveloped following the devastation caused by the war but there are still parts where the original buildings have survived to remind us of the history and interest which it still provides.
Half a century of memories, from Peter Richmond
She said that she chose their future home ‘Quaygate’ in High Street after spending a couple of hours with a local house agent with her 18 month old son Jeremy in tow!
Mollie now lives in St Thomas’s Court where, back in 1957, she was shown a house then newly built. She remembered how bleak it looked because none of the houses had front gardens as very few were occupied. These were then on the market for £2,500 – what a difference 50 years makes. Mollie really needed a larger house with more outside space so ‘Quaygate’ suited very well but was more expensive at £3,500!
Mollie recalled how very welcoming and friendly everyone was in Old Portsmouth – less of a social hierarchy than in her old village. ‘You were accepted for who you were’ she said. Soon after moving into ‘Quaygate’ she received a visit from a Canon of the Cathedral, followed by the Chairman of the Cathedral Ladies. Shortly after, Mollie started as a regular worshipper at the Cathedral, became involved with the Cathedral groups and the week the gift and card shop opened she was one of the very first volunteers – a task she only relinquished a couple of years back.
Life was pretty much self-contained for the family in Old Portsmouth. In those days many more shops existed, including an excellent grocery shop on the corner where Balfour’s is today. However, it was much smaller because the left-hand side of the shop was the chemist’s run by Mr Price – almost next to Lloyd’s Bank. But in the early 1950’s, the Bank was operating from the building on the corner of High Street and Grand Parade, as the Lloyds Bank building had suffered war damage and had to be rebuilt.
Across the road on Cathedral Green, where the rose beds are today, stood more shops and a dwelling which somehow escaped the bombing. Allan’s the butchers, a greengrocer’s run by Mrs Glazier and Freeman’s barber’s shop did brisk trade – all to be demolished in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s.
Mollie had to walk down into Broad Street for stamps, postal orders or to send a parcel as the Post Office was then where Cobbles is today – run by Miss Smith and her brother. Later it moved across the road to Lucas’s (yacht chandlers) building, since developed as ‘Spinnaker Quay’. Its final destination was where Cubitt & West are now situated until it closed in January 2005.
Opposite Portsmouth’s Anglican Cathedral was the doctor’s surgery located in the home of Doctor Eddings and his wife Joan. Joan still lives in Old Portsmouth. The house with the purpose-built surgery was completed and opened in about 1953. Dr Eddings and his partner, Dr Whitwham, provided medical care to Old Portsmouth residents until the early 1980’s when Dr Eddings retired. Mollie’s two younger children often went out sailing with the Eddings family and no doubt had a thoroughly good time ‘messing about in boats’.
Back in Pembroke Road was the hairdresser’s called Barbara Villiers, run by Mrs Daphne Fisher, in the premises presently occupied by The Beauty Retreat. Mrs Fisher was a great character, kind hearted and a ‘larger than life’ person. In 1966 Popingays dress shop opened in the premises occupied by Mellors today. It was run by Mrs Beth Miller and young Sarah Linington (later Sarah Younghusband). Mollie told me she purchased several dresses there and no doubt also dropped in for coffee and a chat with friends as the shop also had a coffee shop and provided light lunches – it was the ‘in place’ to go for the ladies of Old Portsmouth on a Saturday morning. The shop closed in 1980/81 when it was taken over by Pamela Legge as an antique shop.
The Lemon Sole restaurant was previously a furrier’s which sold fur coats and provided an alteration and repair service. Dotted around Old Portsmouth were other retail premises including a grocer’s in Oyster Street, a bakery in Peacock Lane and, outside the present west doors of the Cathedral, a marine store dealer.
Jeremy and Sally, Mollie’s two youngest, attended the Garrison School in Cambridge Road, located in the building which is now the Armed Forces Recruiting Offices. Younger children were also provided for by Mrs Harrison who set up a kindergarten for pre-school children in a wooden hut behind the lodge Williamsgate in Pembroke Road.
One of the young family’s favourite walks was up to the then recently erected Nelson Statue in Pembroke Gardens. Jeremy enjoyed riding his tricycle around the path whilst Mollie met friends and would enjoy a chat on the seats which she said surrounded the statue in those days. The statue was relocated in 2005 to Grand Parade.
Mollie’s favourite local lunch venue is currently The Duke of Buckingham pub on the corner of High Street and Highbury Street. When she first lived across the road she looked out onto bombsites until the pub was rebuilt in 1969. The interesting ‘modernist’ house on the other corner was built by an architect, Mr ‘Andy’ Anderson as a home and business. Also in the High Street, where the three ultra-modern town houses were built in 2001, was Cambridge Garage run by the Bartlett family – very handy for the Colemans who bought a car there and could ‘fill up’ and get it repaired on the doorstep as well.
Eric, Mollie’s late husband, was at one time Chairman of FOOPA and later on Diana, one of their daughters, was also on the Committee. Diana remembers the FOOPA tennis tournaments played on grass courts next to where the bowls club is today. At the end of the season a supper for players was held in The Pembroke. After the tennis courts were closed the land was used for hockey and the ‘Southsea Ladies’ played on it.
If Mollie needed other than day to day items from the shops or, as we would put it now, some ‘retail therapy’, then a walk along to Palmerston Road, Southsea would bring her to Handley’s Department Store (now Debenham’s). It had a splendid restaurant and café where a pianist played, just the place to go for afternoon tea.
Mollie enjoyed recounting aspects of family life almost 50 years ago and, although her husband’s naval career took him away from Old Portsmouth for some time in the 1960’s, when Eric retired they both threw themselves wholeheartedly into the social life of Old Portsmouth.
(Mollie Coleman was talking to Jackie Baynes who compiled this narrative. Some names and details of shops were provided by Julian and Marnie Linington. Joan Eddings confirmed the surgery details. Thanks to everyone who gave their time to make this article possible).
106 and 109 Penny Street, Rob Wood
By the end of the 1700s, the tavern had degenerated into a place of notoriety before becoming a private home “The Little Endowment House” in memory of a Colonel Little of the Indian Army.
In 1860 it was known as “Marine View Hotel” for Officers later renamed “Tufnell’s Private Hotel” after the owner. On the 10th September 1874, Edwardian Grand Parade looking towards Penny Street and Garrison ChurchMrs. Sarah Robinson purchased it to be used as a Soldiers’ Institute and Officers’ Home for the promotion of temperance beliefs. Besides support of the then Governor of Portsmouth and the Duke of Cambridge, Florence Nightingale assisted with £100 per year towards running costs for 5 years. In 1882 the Prince of Wales (later King Edward) visited. A large building was added in 1892 – currently the site of Old Harbour Mews – to accommodate Soldiers’ families, with the original reverting to the Officers’ House.
.In 1910, the total complex was renamed “The Soldiers and Sailors Help Society”, including sailors for the first time, with a final name change in 1940 to “The Prince’s Christian Home”. Between 1948 and 1958 it was used initially as a “Bonding Wine & Spirits Store” then “Sadlers and Co – Building Contractors” and from 1971, the YMCA. Modern Grand Parade and 106 – 109 Penny Street
Persimmion purchased the site in 1996 from owners Southern Electric, for the development of Old Harbour Mews. However, the original house remains as 106 and 108 Penny Street, a Grade II Listed building containing 2 very pleasantly proportioned and comfortable private homes.
The Square Tower at the top of Broad Street was built in 1494. This served as the residence for the Governor of Portsmouth but also had provision for guns to be mounted on the roof. This building was subsequently used for the storage of gunpowder and, in 1779, was converted for use as a meat store. In 1827, the tower was refaced in stone.
Henry VIII’s break with Rome resulted in the threat of invasion from both France and Spain and so, as well as commissioning a series of castles to protect the south coast, of which Southsea Castle was one, the town’s fortifications were strengthened. However, the town’s defences were still considered inadequate and in 1665 Charles II appointed Bernard de Gomme, a Dutch engineer, to put in hand a major programme to improve the fortifications and this work resulted in the defences achieving the form they held until they became redundant.
In the 19th century advances in ordnance with the introduction of rifled guns improved their range and accuracy and resulted in the Old Portsmouth defences becoming inadequate. A ring of forts along the crest of Portsdown Hill together with sea forts in the Solent were constructed and, in the 1870’s and 80’s, the major part of the Old Portsmouth fortifications was demolished. However, the seaward defences were retained to protect the harbour entrance.
Further changes in the way conflicts were conducted saw the Portsmouth Garrison being dissolved in 1960 and the remaining fortifications were acquired by Portsmouth City Council.
What to See
Round Tower & Saluting Platform
Access to the Round Tower can be obtained across the open space about half way down Broad Street. Although the Tower is not generally open to the public, the adjacent steps lead to a good viewpoint at the top of the Tower.
Long Curtain & The Moat from Spur Redoubt, there is a tunnel which passes through Long Curtain and is reputed to be part of Nelson’s route when he embarked to board H.M.S. Victory prior the Battle of Trafalgar. Passing through the tunnel there is a ramp to the left leading to the top of Long Curtain and King’s Bastion or the path on the right runs through to Pembroke Road. By the end of this path, the cottage named Williamsgate was originally the guard house to King William’s Gate (1833) which stood at this point on the south-eastern side of the fortified town. In St George’s Road, opposite the end of Warblington Street stands the Landport Gate which was the main entrance to Portsmouth from London and is at the north-east limit of the old town.
No 4 Broad Street
Written by Peter Richmond
From my earliest memories, everyone was always welcome and the back door was never locked. The front door was seldom used and anyone who visited, whether it was the milkman or a potential client wanting a boat built, came in by the side passage, through the scullery and into the kitchen/dining room. Far more casual and easy going than these days.
An early sketch of the old Point Gate shows the house with a shop front at ground floor level with the sash windows to the first and second floors being divided with glazing bars in true Georgian fashion, as was the shop window. The panoramic sketch made from the top of the semaphore on the Square Tower by the officer in charge of the signal station in 1805, seems to indicate that the shop window had, by then, been replaced by two separate windows and an entrance door. There was always a step down from the entrance passage into the two main rooms at ground floor level which was presumably the area of the shop. The sashes to the windows subsequently lost their glazing bars, probably in Victorian times, and the entrance door and two windows in lieu of the shop window gave the house a very plain and austere appearance with no decoration or features on the front elevation to relieve it.
In my grandparents’ day, the ground floor consisted of a front sitting room and behind this was a room which served as a small workshop, mainly for the fashioning of metal fittings for the boats, and behind this again was the kitchen/dining room which had access from a scullery with the back entrance through an area with a glazed roof. This last area was a convenient space for depositing the fish after a nighttimes trawling session or a day of line fishing. Many is the time that I found several lobsters languishing on the stone paving prior to being cooked by boiling in the copper in the scullery. The kitchen in the fifties had a black iron range set in a large fireplace which kept the room cosy in the winter months. When the range was taken out and a modern tiled fireplace was installed, although more convenient, the room was never as warm again in the cold weather.
At mezzanine level off the stair landing was the bathroom with a fine old bathroom suite panelled in mahogany for which any architectural salvage company would, these days, give a small fortune. However times were different in the years after the war and this was sacrificed in the name of modernisation and hygiene.
At first floor level was the principle bedroom with a bay window on the side of the house and across the front of the building was one large room which at one time contained a billiard table.
The top floor had four or five bedrooms which would, no doubt, have been used to capacity with a large family of five boys and a girl to accommodate.
Records show that the house and, presumably also the workshop, was occupied in 1830 by Robert Hatch who is described as ‘ironmonger’ and in later years he expanded his interests so that ‘packet office’ was added to the description and subsequently he became agent to Atlas Life & Fire and to the Consolidated Investment & Insurance Company. However by 1879 he seems to have moved to 10 Broad Street as a ‘shipping agent’. In 1888, John Read, a boat builder, had No 4 as well as No 2 Broad Street (this latter property, which has long since disappeared, was previously The Albert Tavern). In 1898 Robert Curtis had taken over No 4 and John Read had No 2. It is interesting to note that in 1871, John Read had two addresses recorded – ‘Camber Slip’ and 10 St Thomas’s Street and is described as ‘shipbuilder’, presumably the precursor to Vosper’s Shipbuilders. It is also noted that, in 1911/12 John Read still had No 2, while William Read was living at No 4.
The house is described as a private residence from about 1898 and was the home of a Miss Bond from 1899 to 1910/11 when William Read took it over for a short while until Edward Ranken moved in during 1914 or 15.
My grandfather had acquired the property by 1918 and the workshop again became used for boat building until his death (and on the retirement of my father) in 1975 when the property was sold. Considerable alterations were then carried out which included forming a garage at ground floor level, the installation of bay windows on the front elevation and a further floor being added under a mansard roof as well as internal alterations, all of which were a considerable improvement both to the living accommodation and visually, although I have little doubt that this work would not meet with approval from the planners or – dare I say it – FOOPA if it had been proposed thirty years later. The living rooms are now on the top two floors with a delightful roof terrace with magnificent views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight.
Since 1975 occupation of the house has been subject to regular changes until Fiona Edgley bought it in the year 1999. Fiona uses the house to its full advantage and gives the impression of enjoying living there with all the facilities it now offers which are well suited to her artistic pursuits.
Buckingham House acquired its name from George Villiers, the first Duke of Buckingham, who was murdered in the house by John Felton on 23 August 1628.The Duke of Buckingham was responsible for paying the army and navy, and was unpopular because he regularly failed to do so.
Although John Felton considered that his act was a favour to his country and the Commonwealth, he was hanged at Tyburn for his crime and his body hung in chains on Southsea beach.The origin of the house is, however, much earlier than this.The first known record was in 1523 when the house is referred to as “le Greyhounde” and licensed as “a brewery, granery and garden”. Shortly after that time, it was rebuilt although it is said that many of the original features were retained. In 1544 it was the home of John Chadderton, Captain of Southsea Castle, and in 1626 it was purchased by Captain John Mason, a Governor of Newfoundland and founder of New Hampshire in America. He used the house between his many voyages to America. There is a memorial plaque to John Mason in the Royal Garrison Church in Penny Street.Major rebuilding work is thought to have taken place in 1627 and in about 1700 the adjacent building (now number 11, High Street) was incorporated into the premises. It was then refronted and internal alterations carried out. In 1705, it was purchased by Dr William Smith, who founded Portsmouth Grammar School, and who seems to have made a few changes of a minor nature.In 1760 part of the house was demolished to permit the construction of the building of 10 High Street and then, about 1800, the house was divided in two becoming 101/2 & 11 High Street.Further major work was carried out in 1818 when the owner at that time, Rev. George Cuthbert, had the west wing refronted, so destroying the symmetry of the façade. The building stayed as two dwellings until it was damaged in the blitz of 1941 during WW II when No.11 became derelict although No. 101/2 apparently remained intact and in use.In 1947, a local architect, Mr R A Thomas, acquired the building and commenced restoration. The damaged parts of the structure were reinstated, partitions separating the two halves of the building were removed and the many original features exposed and preserved, the most notable, perhaps, being the Tudor panelling in the ‘Red Room’, which had been decorated in tempera colours in the William and Mary period.In 1953 the building was listed Grade II* as being of special architectural and historic importance. Since then it has been used as offices for R A Thomas & Son, Architects, and subsequently as offices for other architects, estate agents and advertising agents.
The Royal Garrison Church Print Email Details Written by Keith Feltham Hits: 6072The building was originally established as a hospice for pilgrims, the sick and the elderly in 1212 and known at that time as the Domus Dei (God’s House). The Chancel was the Chapel and the Nave the Hospital. This use continued until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century. During the twenty years following this, the buildings were neglected and the Church used as an armoury. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, plans were made for strengthening the fortifications of Portsmouth (the extent of the town being the part now known as Old Portsmouth) and the Domus Dei and its adjacent buildings were put into good order for use by the Garrison; a house was built for a Governor. In 1662, Catherine of Braganza landed in Portsmouth to marry King Charles II. He arrived a few days later and married her in the Presence Chamber of the Governor’s House.
The Church has been visited by all of our Heads of State since 1672 when King James II (then the Duke of York) visited Portsmouth, and they have usually presented books to the Church, with the exception of Queen Anne who gave a massive set of silver Communion Plate. Government House was last used in 1814 for a meeting of Allied Sovereigns and the buildings were demolished in 1826 with just the Church remaining. Parade services continued, but by that time the building had fallen into a poor state of repair.In 1866 restoration was begun. The floor was concreted and tiled, the oak choir stalls were provided, windows were enlarged and glazed with stained glass, the organ was installed and many more improvements were carried out. Much of the work perished when the Church was hit by an incendiary bomb during an air raid on 10th January 1941, but the Chancel was saved although the stained glass to the windows was destroyed. Temporary repairs were carried out to enable the Chancel to be put into use by the following Easter. There have since been further repairs and new stained glass windows have been installed.
The fabric of the building is now maintained by English Heritage. A group of volunteers forming The Friends of the Royal Garrison Church care for the interior of the building and the artifacts which it contains. The Church is open to the public from 1st April to the end of September on weekdays from 11am to 4pm. Admission is free. Opening is dependent, however, on there being sufficient volunteers available and currently helpers are being sought to become, initially, assistants to the guides.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer is invited to contact the Secretary of The Friends of the Royal Garrison Church, Trevor Gale (telephone 023 9273 5521). April 2006
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the number of poor people in the town became a problem and in 1725 a Poorhouse was built on a site at the north east end of Warblington Street. The land is now occupied by part of the electricity sub-station buildings. Highbury Street was originally known as Colewort Garden Street, and extended through to Gunwharf Road (then Prospect Row).
In 1838/39 St Mary’s Church was built on vacant land at the north end of this street, adjacent to Colewort Barracks and near to the site of a mediaeval chapel of Our Lady of Clozse. St Mary’s Church served as a chapel of ease for the increasing population of this part of the town before being demolished in 1921. The site, including the graveyard, was designated to be preserved as open space in perpetuity! Colewort Garden Street had become St Mary’s Street during this time before eventually being renamed Highbury Street.
Not far from St Mary’s Church, John Pounds, the cobbler who set up the first ragged school, had his workshop and house. A replica of this building has, of course, now been constructed behind the John Pounds Memorial Church in High Street.
In 1878, Portsmouth Town School was established fronting onto Gunwharf Road and this provided basic education for the children of Old Portsmouth until it was closed in 1934. Portsmouth Town Court in High Street was named after the school and was the inspiration for a small group of the ex-pupils headed by Jim Butcher who had earlier been the Mayor of Reading. The foundation stone in the entrance was laid in 1976 by George P.Clark who had been a long serving teacher at the school and was the last headmaster.
Next to the school was the site of the old “Blue Bell” music hall and it was on this site together with land occupied by a number of houses of ‘ill repute’ that the electric light station was built. This was commissioned in 1894 with the Mayoress, Mrs A.L.Emanuel, performing the switching on. The electric light station was extended over the years and eventually took over the whole of the land now forming Gunwharf Gate to become the Power Station.
Initially the generators relied on coal fired boilers and a dry dock in the Camber was used for the colliers, with the coal being off-loaded by cranes and delivered to the Power Station by conveyors running overhead across Gunwharf Road. The dry dock now contains the link-span for the Isle of Wight car ferries.
The Power Station was converted to use oil instead of coal before being relegated to a stand-by station and eventually demolished in 1983/4. This then enabled the site to be released for the Gunwharf Gate housing development to be built, except for those sections where electrical installations have been retained at the top end of Warblington Street and for the Wightlink marshalling area.
The construction of the Power Station buildings was carried out at in times when little heed was taken of conservation. Preservation of the open space previously promised was ignored and, although John Pounds’s house was dismantled and stored, it was never re-erected as it was reported that the timber structure had rotted. And so, the land having been comprehensively redeveloped on two occasions, first for the Power Station, then for the new housing, any remains from the years before the early 20th century have been lost although I believe that ancient bones have been found in some gardens. However, evidence of previous uses will now have been disturbed or destroyed by such extensive reconstruction.
The people of Portsmouth, given the opportunity to vote for their particular preference, selected the design of the Tower from three schemes, although there were those who would have liked another option – no tower at all. However, for better or worse, the Tower is now complete and it is in everyone’s interest that it should be a success.
It was originally intended that the Tower would be named The Millennium Tower but as completion was five years late, it was renamed The Spinnaker Tower, to reflect its shape. It was considered by some that The Trafalgar Tower would have been a more appropriate name, as it was first opened just a few days before the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. And Adam Hart Davis has suggested the name should be The Isambard Kingdom Brunel Tower in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Brunel’s birth. However apposite these suggestions may be, it is unlikely the name will be changed now.Unfortunately, access cannot yet be offered to those who are disabled. The external glass lift must first be operational, since this provides the means of escape in case of emergency for those unable to negotiate the stairs. We are promised that this lift will soon be accessible.
Here he has his back to the 11th century Royal Garrison Church (known as Domus Dei and where one of the choir stalls is dedicated to him) and he can see over the Saluting Platform to the entrance of the harbour.
When in 1951 Dr Aldous gave the statue to the city, the original site was chosen as being near where Nelson took his last walk down to the beach where in 1805 his barge was waiting to take him out to H.M.S. Victory. However, over the last ten years Dr Colin White has researched his walk and it has emerged that Nelson actually left from some yards further west.
It was also proposed to move one of H.M.S. Victory’s anchors: this has been by the hovercraft terminal for as long as anyone can remember. It was Lord Frederick Fitzclarence who, when he was military governor of Portsmouth, managed to get possession of one of the famous ship’s anchors and he had it put on the beach, west of the Clarence Pier and nearer where Nelson really did leave England for the last time.
In the 1880s the Portsmouth Corporation, having built the first Clarence Pier twenty years before, decided that the Victory anchor was in the way, so they moved it further east to where it is today. It was a strange site to choose as it is nearly on the spot where the French landed in 1337 and then proceeded to burn the garrison town of Portsmouth, killing many of the inhabitants. However, the plan to relocate the anchor back west to the King’s Bastion, part of the old fortifications, has been abandoned.
There is a third memorial to Nelson that is not going anywhere for it is the 110 feet high column at the west end of Portsdown Hill, where a bust of Nelson sits in a niche at the top. This was one of the first Nelson memorials to appear, as it was erected two years after the Battle of Trafalgar. It was designed by J.T. Groves and the bust was exhibited in 1807 at the Royal Academy in London. It was paid for by Nelson’s surviving comrades, who each gave two days of their pay.
Two centuries ago 300 feet up on Portsdown was considered an ideal position for the heroic admiral to watch the sea and for many years it acted as a landmark for shipping and many a telescope would have been trained on him. Now the column has rather disappeared amongst the Victorian forts, the radar masts and an abundance of 21st century technology, but Nelson can still see the Solent and Spithead from where he left to go and fight the enemy. Never to return.
(This account by Diane Villar was first published in the August 2005 edition of Hampshire magazine, but has been brought up to date following completion of the work in re-siting the Nelson statue.)