Some people live at an address so memorable it is never forgotten. Rosemary Wilson is one of them.
Remember Tony Hancock residing at 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, or the Steptoes at 26 Oil Drum Lane, Shepherd’s Bush?
Rosemary’s childhood address trips off her tongue: 2 Carshed Lane, Cowplain.
If you come from Cowplain it is one of the most historic addresses in the village – and, yes, those who have lived there most or all of their lives still refer to it as a village.
Deep in her psyche, Rosemary must have absorbed the important relevance of her address for it has given her a lifelong interest in the history of the community on the northern edge of Waterlooville.
And that fascination is about to manifest itself in what she believes is the first book dedicated solely to the relatively recent history of Cowplain as remembered by those closest to it.
Rosemary, 69, with the aid of a small army of helpers, intends to have it published by the summer, around the time of her 70th birthday.
But she goes back to the beginning of those seven decades and her formative years at that notable address.
She says: ‘For the first three years of my life I lived with my grandparents.
‘My grandfather, Albert Southcott, was the head wireman for the Portsdown and Horndean Light Railway and with that job came a lovely place in Carshed Lane, number two.’
There was a huge shed for the trams alongside that lane which, after the railway closed in the mid-1930s, was bought by Foden, the truck makers.
‘That lane is now between Banks fish and chip shop and Lidl,’ Rosemary sighs.
‘But I’m pretty sure that living at that address has given me a fascination for the history of the village.’
She ran the Rowans Hospice shop at Waterlooville for 12 years and her daughter, Susan Willcox, managed the Baytree bookshop in the town.
Rosemary adds: ‘She would see all the books that came out about Waterlooville and they only ever included snippets about Cowplain. None of them went into any great detail and I knew there was a lot to talk about regarding the village.’
Then she started volunteering at Age Concern Cowplain at the Borrow Centre in Padnell Avenue, listened to the tales of old Cowplain among the regulars and hatched a plan to preserve it all for posterity.
Last September she launched a history society at the centre with the aim of garnering memories and photographs and was not sure if there would be much interest.
‘I couldn’t believe it,’ she says, bubbling with enthusiasm. ‘We had 64 people turn up and we get similar numbers at all our meetings.
‘People are bursting with their memories and I now have filing boxes bulging with notes and photographs for the book which we will call Memories of Cowplain. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response.’
Rosemary relates two stories which have come to light which give a flavour of Cowplain past.
‘One concerns a couple of ladies who lived in King’s Road back in the days of the Horndean Light Railway. They worked in Portsmouth and because King’s Road had not been made up they wore their Wellingtons down to London Road to catch the tram.
‘But before they caught it, they took off their wellies, turned them upside down, and hid them under a hedge before changing into their work shoes.
‘In the evening they did the same in reverse – day in, day out.’
Then there is the tale of the woman from Kille’s grocer’s, which was next to the post office, who recalls a woman from the greengrocer’s who made tea for all the troops parked along London Road waiting to sail to France on D-Day.
‘She befriended one of the soldiers and he asked her to write to his mother telling her he was all right and not to worry.
‘He survived and they struck up a friendship which lasted the rest of their lives and the two families would go to stay with each other.’
The book will be published by Tricorn Books in Old Portsmouth with a hoped-for grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. But there will be an important spin-off.
‘With the proceeds,’ says Rosemary, ‘we intend to build a war memorial in the grounds of the Age Concern building recording the names of the 10 or so men from Cowplain who died in the First World War and the 25 who were killed in the Second World War.
‘The village has never had a memorial and each year the Scouts attend a Remembrance Day service at the church, but then have nowhere to march to where they can lay a wreath.
‘This would give them that focal point and a place in the middle of the village where those men can be remembered.’
Rosemary Wilson is seeking readers’ help in putting names to faces in these three photographs she has been given for the book.
The shot of the village’s Brownie pack was taken in the early 1950s when they met in St Wilfred’s Church hall.
About the same time a picture was taken of Cowplain Boys football team and a decade on and the Cowplain unit of the Air Training Corps were photographed at Thorney Island. If you can identify any of them, contact Rosemary via cowplainhistorysociety.com – there’s a link at the bottom of that page through which you can e-mail her, or call and leave a message on (023) 9225 2123 and she will get back to you.
And she would also love to hear from you if you can offer any memories or pictures to be included in the book.