One man’s photo record of Guildhall’s rise from ashes

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An immaculately-kept old photograph album landed on my desk recently. It contains dozens of pictures taken between 1955 and 1959.

They are all of the Guildhall, Portsmouth, and follow its reconstruction from bombed shell to its restored grandeur.

The Guildhall ablaze on the night of January 10, 1941 in this famous picture from The News archives

The Guildhall ablaze on the night of January 10, 1941 in this famous picture from The News archives

Each was taken by the late Reginald Fletcher and the album is an important historical document tracing the return to glory of the city’s number one civic building.

The album was sent to me by his daughter Jill Matthews, of Grove Road, Havant. She says: ‘My father was a keen photographer despite having poor eyesight.

‘For many years he had a laddermakers’ business in Arundel Street and was a keen contributor to the letters page of The News, having opinions on most topics.’

On the first page of the album Mr Fletcher had typed the following introduction to his work: ‘The Portsmouth Guildhall, almost completely destroyed by enemy action on the night of January 10, 1941, lay derelict for 14 years.

‘On April 23, 1955 the work of reconstruction was begun. The following pages are a pictorial record of the work as seen from the outside from the beginning, through all its stages, until the opening day on June 8, 1959.

I shall return to his pictures at regular intervals in the coming months as we watch the building rise from the ashes.

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