A vibrant shopping centre of which Portsmouth could be proud

This is London Road, North End circa 1950. The epitome of an English high street with dozens of individual shops.
Barry Cox collection
This is London Road, North End circa 1950. The epitome of an English high street with dozens of individual shops. Barry Cox collection
The telegram received by William Halls mother  still upsetting to read 78 years on.

NOSTALGIA WITH BOB HIND: Curse of the telegram: Dear Mrs Hall – your son is dead

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When my colleague Barry Cox loaned me this photograph for a new book of Then and Now photographs I am putting together, I said to him: ‘Ah, yes. There’s the Gaumont cinema opposite the Odeon where my pals and I used to go to midnight pictures after a night out.’

That was in the early 1970s. One of my fondest memories was at the end of one film, about 1.30am on a Sunday, everyone got up to leave and there was a young lad fast asleep with his legs over the seat.

The same street today. Picture:  Google Maps

The same street today. Picture: Google Maps

No one knew anyone else but it was like everyone did and we all put our fingers to our lips as if to say ‘shush’.

Everyone crept out in dead silence leaving this poor chap to be woken up some time later by the cinema staff. I still wonder what he must have thought when he woke up to an empty auditorium.

That is how time plays tricks on the memory for in fact the Gaumont was on the left just out of shot. The corner of the awning can be seen in the bottom corner.

Opposite the Odeon was Wendover’s, house furnishers along with several other small private shops. The Odeon can be seen in the distance on the right.

Just look at the number of people out shopping. Perhaps it was a Saturday? With no big supermarkets to visit, different shops would have to be visited to acquire all your needs.

Let’s think back for a moment. From Kingston Cross heading north there would have been Burton’s the tailors; Willerby’s tailors; Boots the chemist; Dewhurst butchers; house furnishers Kayes; the Baptist church (now a bar); Timothy Whites followed by Croft Road (now closed off), then Pinks the famous Portsmouth grocers. Tesco was next and then Lipton’s grocers and Maypole Dairy followed by Marks & Spencer.

There was then shoe repairer Shoecraft; Sybil Stewart’s gown shop and Coopers the Portsmouth butcher with shops all over Portsea Island. The Black Cat Cafe, Lewis tobacconist and the Gaumont. Shoe shop True Form followed. And we have not reached Derby Road yet. This is not to mention the many shops on the other side of London Road. Yes, those huge supermarkets have a lot to answer for.