Portsmouth’s colourful history never ceases to throw up fascinating nuggets, usually from the least expected sources.
And Carole and Richard Stafford have come up trumps with this one to bandy around the dinner table.
Ever wondered why the former Wheelbarrow pub on the corner of Kent and Castle Roads in Southsea got its name?
Richard and Carole are the newish owners of Sellers Coffee House which was once the Wheelbarrow. It gets its name because it is opposite the birthplace of comic genius Peter Sellers.
The couple got in touch after my recent pieces about the pub and that notorious road junction there which was referred to by Frank Holt as ‘a bad corner...’. He grew up there when his parents ran the pub in the early 1960s.
Carole said Frank’s comment made her smile and she wonders if that has always been the case.
She takes up the story. ‘The deeds given to us when we purchased indicate that there has been a building on this site, called the Wheelbarrow, Wheelbarrow Castle or Castle, for at least 350 years.
‘The first purchase from the Crown was in 1661 when John Morreau, a merchant of West Cowes, bought the premises.
‘Local historian Dr Henry Slight recorded in the 1800s the story that the house was a favoured stopping place for officers on their way home to Southsea Castle after a night in town.
‘Those in no fit state to walk across the common were trundled home in barrows specifically kept for the purpose. No wonder the castle fell to the Parliamentarians in 1642 without a shot being fired as a result of the drunkenness of the governor. I wonder if Governor Challoner considered it ‘‘a bad corner’’ to have stopped off at.’
So, there you have it. Tired and emotional officers bundled into wheelbarrows and trundled back to their billets. Plus ca change...
More prosaically, Carole says the squeal of brakes is a daily occurrence as drivers try to negotiate the junction.
She adds: ‘ Even today, with the road sweeping round from Southsea Terrace to Western Parade, no-one is quite sure when cars are approaching indicating left whether they intend to turn up Castle Road or Kent Road and the same is true for cars travelling in the opposite direction indicating to turn right.
‘A day rarely passes when we are not serenaded by horns and unsavoury vocals.’