A grand old house which gave way to a motorway

Paulsgrove House in the middle of demolition in 1970
Paulsgrove House in the middle of demolition in 1970

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Afortnight ago I published a fascinating aerial picture from 1969 of work beginning on the Port Solent marina in Portsmouth.

On one side of the photo was a large house surrounded by trees and, in all innocence, I asked if anyone knew what it was.

Many of you wrote to say it was, of course, Paulsgrove House, one of the grandest houses in the city and one which had its roots deep in the 17th century. It was demolished in 1970 to make way for the M27.

It was owned by one of the city’s most famous families, the Coopers, and I was pleased to hear from Michael Cooper who said the building was owned by his grandparents George and Lily Cooper.

Michael says: ‘My grandfather was a butcher and farmer and racehorse owner who also owned the nearby racecourse [Paulsgrove].

‘His first shop was in Hyde Park Road where some of his 13 children were born. One of them was my father, Gordon Cooper DFC, who was, at one time, a city councillor.’

All four pictures today were sent by Paulsgrove councillor David Horne who said the house, on Southampton Road, was opposite Paulsgrove Quay which was used to transport chalk from the Paulsgrove pit.

David says: ‘The pit and the quay were part of the Paulsgrove estate in the 19th century along with 225 acres of arable land, pasture on the slopes of Portsdown Hill and the marshes on the foreshore, all owned by the Cooper family at one time.’

Of course, the Paulsgrove fields were sold to the council for housing and Farlington marshes, also owned by the Coopers, were gifted to the city.

David sent me another version of the original picture which is on the opposite page.

In it you can see the broad strip of land sweeping through the picture – the land reserved for the future motorway.

This caught the attention of Steve Morton, who was born and bred at Paulsgrove and now lives in Chichester.

He says: ‘As the council knew the land was earmarked for the motorway, the few buildings that existed there were simple single-storey metal boxes, not the more robust three-bedroom brick and pre-fabricated buildings that were constructed on the rest of the estate.

‘I went to infant and junior school in Paulsgrove and made the daily walk back and forth along the small pedestrian lanes that served these single-storey buildings.’

He adds: ‘The lanes cut across the swathe that joined Beverston Road and Falmouth Avenue.

‘I guess these lanes had names in order to provide postal addresses for the residents, but I can’t remember seeing any road signs.

‘All of the “boxes” were removed prior to the construction of the motorway. One of the pedestrian lanes is still there, with a tunnel under the motorway, but the only residents now are a few horses.’

Steve says he also remembers standing on a small temporary bridge used to span the huge conveyor belt that carried chalk rubble from the pit down into Portsmouth.

He continues: ‘The whirr and click of this machine dominated the Paulsgrove soundscape for a long time.

‘The rubble was the main material used to build up the embankment for the M275.

‘By the time the road was finished, the main pit/quarry had more than doubled in size, adding to the mythology that is ‘the White Cliffs of Paulsgrove’.