Colourful history of a community celebrated

Teacher Caz Walkling works with (left) Nadeen Hussain, 7, and Kylah Collis, 7.  Picture: Ian Hargreaves (113742-1)
Teacher Caz Walkling works with (left) Nadeen Hussain, 7, and Kylah Collis, 7. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (113742-1)
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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Creative children went back in time when they recreated a scene from their area that pre-dated the founding of their school.

Hundreds of boys and girls from Somers Park Primary in Portsmouth took part in the ambitious project to reconstruct shops and stalls that used to be on Somers Road in the 1940s – and even made items to sell to visitors and their parents.

From left: Mahdi Kalam, 7, and Fahmida Ali, 6. (113742-2)

From left: Mahdi Kalam, 7, and Fahmida Ali, 6. (113742-2)

Year Threes were clockmakers and made small hand-decorated clocks, reception children opened a bakery and sold cakes, Year Twos ran a sweet shop, while Year Fives were in charge of a tailor’s and made cushion covers and friendship bracelets.

Their authentic produce was the result of weeks of exploring older maps of Somers Town dating from 1952, 1933 and 1890, as well as analysing archive photos of the area and listening to old radio shows like Children’s Hour.

Head Jan Fleming says: ‘Many of our children and families didn’t necessarily see themselves as being part of the Somers Town community, so we decided the best way to help that was to do something to open their eyes up to the area’s colourful history.

‘The children were so enthusiastic to learn about Somers Town and its community and the project gave them a real sense and passion for their local history.

‘We were very fortunate as our chair of governors was a pupil at this school when it first opened in the late 1950s and he was able to talk to the children about what it was like for him.

‘Seeing them running their shops and stalls made me feel very proud of all of them.’

The primary school’s project forms part of a wider Somers Town Stories scheme supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has given £24,500 towards a series of activities in the new year including a 1940s Family Fun Day at the Somers Town children’s centre, free adult literacy courses focusing on local history and 1940s film screenings.

Project leader Sharon Court says: ‘The children found it fascinating to discover a Somers Town they didn’t know existed, before the tower blocks, Winston Churchill Avenue and before their school was built.

‘We’re hoping that this will be the experience of the wider community as well.’

To get involved, contact Sharon at sharon.court@gmail.com.