Gez Groom’s evocative recent picture of the old Black House on Farlington Marshes certainly brought back memories for Noel Pycroft.
Those of you who have been following the story will recall that the house was built by the Russell family in about 1820 after they took the lease on the island.
Their job was to maintain and guard the valuable oyster beds in Langstone Harbour.
Noel, of Havant Road, Hayling Island, knew the Russells, descendants of the original family.
He says: ‘I was told they came from Lymington and the lady of the family carried contrabrand in pigs’ bladders under her skirt.’
Noel adds that the family, who were also winkle pickers, objected to the proposed course of the railway to Haying in the 1860s ‘because they would have lost the winkle trade’.
He continues: ‘They had several winkle pens around the Black House. These were like wooden sheds without a roof.’
He remembers the Russells when they later lived at Langstone – Gus, Horace and Percy were all born in about 1870 and ran a winkle market at Langstone.
‘Gus served in a patrol boat in Langstone Harbour during the First World War, commanded by John Buckle of Farlington.’
Noel sold winkles he gathered in Chichester Harbour, which were put into bushel sacks, taken to the old Langstone railway halt and sent all over the country.
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