Over the years I’ve written quite a few pieces about the streets of Portsmouth. But nothing has grabbed the attention quite like the photograph of Surrey Street, Landport that was featured here a month ago.
The way readers have described what was basically a back street side-road off Commercial Road, one would think it was the centre of the universe. Very strange indeed.
Mrs Auty, of Daisy Lane, Gosport, tells me that she was born in Bridport Street, off Surrey Street, in 1923. One end led to Surrey Street and the other to Jacob’s Ladder, a bridge over the railway line to Greetham Street.
On the Surrey Street end were two shops called Knoller’s. One was a grocer and the other a greengrocer. They were related and one was called Papsy.
On voting days the family would bring a horse and cart and load up all the local children. They had banners and were transported around the area, singing ‘Vote, vote, vote for...’ – whoever the Knoller’s told them to vote for!
There was a street off Surrey Street called York Street and there were small houses down one side, one of which was used as a betting house. This was long before betting shops were legal. The house was run by a lady called Rosie Houghton, who had a daughter by the same name.
One day Mrs Auty was walking down this street and saw a big Black Maria parked up and the police were bundling men into the back of it. There was a raid on and it was all very exciting.
Also in Surrey Street was the Circus Church School, which was on the corner opposite Pinks grocers in Commercial Road. A family called Clements lived on the corner and they had a large family of boys and one girl called Queenie.
On Jacob’s Ladder there used to be a man with no legs who displayed paintings and he was always there when Mrs Auty went to Omega Street School in the morning. On passing the same spot on the way home, the man had gone and she always wondered how he managed to get about with all his paintings.
She remembers he looked like the sailor on the Player’s cigarette packet with the same sort of beard.
Mavis Alcock of Cosham tells me that her aunt used to work for Henry Martin & Son, wholesale wool merchants. This was back in 1927. They closed in the late 1960s.
They were previously in Stanhope Road near the old Evening News office. They had to be near the railway station yard to receive bales of cloth from Yorkshire.
Henry Martin supplied the cloth for the armbands used by the matelots at Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral in 1965.
In a previous article I mentioned the fish market in Surrey Street, run by James B Handley. I received an e-mail from his grandson, Stuart, who now lives in Caen, France and a photograph of the market workers.
Stuart tells me he worked in the market for about 20 years before it was compulsorily purchased in the 1960s and closed down.
Stuart’s most vivid memory is that every day at five-past-12, the street was filled with hundreds of dockyard men on their way home to lunch. Then 45 minutes later they all returned in the opposite direction.
It was impossible to cross the road for a good 10 minutes and any deliveries arriving at the station had to wait.
A Mrs Osborne of Wych Lane, Bridgmary is the daughter of Irene Osborne and she tells me her mum worked in the original Surrey Arms. The landlord and landlady were Mr and Mrs Dunn and Mrs Osborne used to play with their dog, Sandy, It was a super pub with snooker tables by the side door.
Mrs Jill Smith of Emsworth tells me that her father, Pat Jackson, worked at the fish market under a foreman she thinks was Philip Handley. Was this in fact Stuart?
Jill was always impressed when she saw the foreman talking into two telephones at once, trying to get the best fish deal.
Pat and his family lived off Hyde Park Road in Forebury Road next the Florence Arms pub. Pat had a sideline where he hired out carrier bikes to local traders and it was Jill’s job to collect the rents for the bikes.
I then spoke to Ellen Paddon, nee Curtis, and her daughter, Ellen Rosina. Ellen senior tells me that her parents moved into 100 Surrey Street just before the start of the war. It was originally the Bridport Arms pub on the corner of Bridport Road.
To finish off this tale of a Portsmouth street, I heard from Sue Bryant who was born in and lived at 6 Dorset Street, which had a junction with Surrey Street where the post office is now.
Sue was born there in 1947 and her father was Albert Pilgrim. Sue tells me she ended up working at the post office serving counter and behind her was the loading bay, which was just where her house used to be.