One hundred years ago it was one of Havant’s most affluent thoroughfares.
A testament to the town’s industrial prosperity, it was a thriving street with grocers, shoe shops, pubs and a hotel.
But fast forward a century and many of East Street’s weathered Victorian buildings stand empty.
A victim perhaps of out-of-town shopping, many of the tradesmen and shoppers have left.
But within the bricks and mortar the street’s architectural charm remains.
The decline of this corner of Havant presents a headache to the authorities which are keen to regenerate the town centre.
On the one hand it is one of the most attractive parts of Havant.
But behind the period street facades are buildings which many agree are not fit for purpose.
The debate has heated up lately as the council is carrying out a consultation next week on how to regenerate the area.
Landowners have been presented with one set of speculative plans which could involve the demolition of the 123-year-old White Hart pub, as well as several old buildings in East Street, and replaced with a new residential and commercial development.
While many have welcomed the prospect of regeneration, local historians are mounting a spirited campaign to save the old buildings.
Ann Griffiths, a local historian from Langstone, has uncovered a fascinating history of East Street and one affluent Havant family who were instrumental in its construction.
The White Hart was designed by the noted local architect Alfred Edwin Stallard, several members of whose family were Havant parchment manufacturers.
Mr Stallard, whose father built St Joseph’s RC Church in West Street, was a surveyor for Havant Urban District Council for many years.
Several late Victorian buildings in Havant were designed by him, including Fairfield School and Havant Congregational (URC) Church, as well as the old post office in West Street and The Havant Club, which is still going strong next door to the White Hart.
As architect to the Havant Town Hall Company, Mr Stallard was responsible for designing the attractive late Victorian front to the East Street Town Hall in 1890, now part of The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre.
Mr Stallard also designed the majestic Wheelwright Arms in Emsworth Road.
Mr Stallard’s brother-in-law, Tom Collins, ran a successful grocers business in East Street for many years.
Ann says: ‘They had a lot of power. Being on the council, being an architect and surveyor, they were an important family.
‘We shouldn’t just knock their buildings down.
‘I feel that buildings like the White Hart and other important Victorian buildings around the centre of Havant show the wealth of the town at the time.
‘It’s a great example of the prosperity of Havant in late Victorian times. You don’t want to go knocking them down willy-nilly.’
Fellow historian John Pile is in the process of applying to English Heritage to get the White Hart pub listed so it can never be knocked down.
Hampshire County Council’s Hampshire Treasures Online refers to the building as ‘particularly important as an example of Victorian corner building, having brick walls with decorated panels, which were probably made at the Rowlands Castle Brickworks’.
The building is perhaps afforded some protection as it is in the St Faith’s Conservation Area for Havant Borough Council.
An appraisal in 2007 described it as a one of the ‘key corner buildings to the crossroads’.
Mr Pile, from Bedhampton, says: ‘It’s a very important visual landmark in the centre of Havant.
‘It very much gives Havant its present character and Havant would be a very different place if the White Hart were to go.
‘I think it’s inevitable that East Street will be a residential area but in my opinion, that’s no reason why some of the more interesting buildings that give Havant its character should not remain.’
Mr Stallard died in 1953 at Riversdale, Leigh Road, Havant, a house he had designed himself some half a century earlier.
But walking through Havant today, his legacy is everywhere to see.
Ann adds: ‘Getting people interested in the history of Havant is important.’
HAVE YOUR SAY
PEOPLE will be asked to have their say on the future of East Street at a council-run consultation.
Planners at Havant Borough Council have come up with a range of options for the redevelopment.
Council leaders say no developer is involved at the moment. No decisions have been made and the council is keen to hear everyone’s views on the future of the area.
The public exhibition will take place at the Meridian Centre in Havant, starting next Tuesday and running throughout the working week until Friday.