Days when teenaged girls were taught to be ladies in Southsea

Fond memories of the woollen swimsuits on Southsea Common in the 1940s PPP-140624-105825001
Fond memories of the woollen swimsuits on Southsea Common in the 1940s PPP-140624-105825001
jpns-19-08-17 retro Aug 2017

Vicky - Vicky Sawyer, a one-year-old born without legs and only one arm

THIS WEEK IN 1980: One of the richest babies at Leigh Park

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Last week I asked for help with some mystery pictures from The News archive which featured members of a dance troupe and the massed ranks of the Portsmouth Dancing to Health League.

We saw them demonstrating their prowess on Southsea Common and in the old Guildhall, as seen in the pictures here.

Part of the annual dance display in the old Guildhall, Portsmouth, about 1948 PPP-140624-105858001

Part of the annual dance display in the old Guildhall, Portsmouth, about 1948 PPP-140624-105858001

Jackie Gauntlett got in touch to say that her late mother was a member of the group and says they wore woollen swimsuits with sashes.

‘They gave demonstrations before the war on the land between Canoe Lake and the sea and were trained by Miss Southwell Pearce,’ says Jackie, of Portsdown Hill Road, Cosham.

‘I remember her in the ’50s and ’60s walking around Southsea. She was a large lady with a lot of grey hair worn in a huge bun on her head.’

Jackie says other dance teachers of the time – names which will doubtless spark memories for readers – were: Miss Jean Hapgood, Miss Mary Tomkin ‘who also taught many of us ballroom dancing’, and Audrey Brown.

Who is she? PPP-140624-105836001

Who is she? PPP-140624-105836001

Of the girls I featured in the satin white shirts and black pants, Jackie confirms they were members of the Portsmouth branch of the Women’s League of Health and Beauty. ‘They also had a junior section which I belonged to. I still have the silver badge we all wore.

‘I remember going to the Royal Albert Hall to take part in a huge national demonstration when we all did the same routine. This was about 1956.

She also thinks many readers will recall the Margaret Spillman model agency in Clarendon Road, Southsea.

‘She organised fashion shows and her models would always be in Handleys [now Debenhams] on Saturday mornings, in the restaurant at coffee time showing off the clothes on sale in the fashion department. This was in the early 1960s.’

And with a nod to those days of decorum, Jackie adds: ‘Margaret also ran courses for teenaged girls – a week of daily lessons in which they were taught how to talk, sit, get in and out of cars, how to wear gloves and stoles and generally behave like young ladies.’

We’re doing well solving picture mysteries, so here’s another. This photo has emerged from the Remember When files. It arrived anonymously and with no clue about the girl’s identity. Anyone recognise her?