Council homes laid to rest ghost of the old slums

Spooky ' children from the Beneficial School, Portsea, dressed up for a play in the 1920s
Spooky ' children from the Beneficial School, Portsea, dressed up for a play in the 1920s
Opening of the new school by the home secretary in October 1927. The headmaster, Canon Barton, is on the lowest step, on the left. Dorothea Barton is possibly there, somewhere. (PGS Archive)

NOSTALGIA: A red bluestocking at Portsmouth Grammar School

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Regulars at Portsea Venture Playground have recreated a photo taken during the 1920s to mark 100 years of council housing in Portsmouth.

The children imitated a picture taken at the old boys’ Beneficial School (now the Groundlings Theatre), which clearly shows the city’s first council houses in Curzon Howe Road, Portsea, in the background.

Ninety years on and youngsters from Portsea Venture Playground recreate the picture, above

Ninety years on and youngsters from Portsea Venture Playground recreate the picture, above

Today’s picture was taken in exactly the same spot at the Kent Street theatre to recreate the moment the old snap was captured all those years ago.

The picture was taken as part of celebrations to mark the centenary – on Wednesday – of the unveiling of the first completed council homes in Portsmouth.

Other events on Wednesday include a special plaque being installed next to the original commemorative stone on Curzon Howe Road, fireworks, and special presentations at the Groundlings Theatre, including ‘100 years in 100 minutes’, a colourful look at the past 10 decades.

For decades the condition of housing in Portsmouth had been appalling as demand grew from the fast-expanding dockyard.

The first council homes were built as a result of slum clearance in Portsea. In 1849 a cholera epidemic killed 1,000 people in the town, most of them in Portsea. Many houses comprised four rooms for nine or 10 occupants, with a foul open drain running behind which made housing areas a breeding ground for disease.