NOSTALGIA: The Portsmouth house that Henry built

This picture was among those found behind the fireplace. It looks as if its of First World War vintage and might have been taken at one of the forts on Portsdown Hill. John Hayes thinks one of the soldiers might be H Norris Jnr. Do you recognise any of the faces?

All John Hayes wanted to do was make space for a new cooker in a boarded up old fireplace.

But when he revealed the bottom of the chimney he was given a history lesson... the story of the early days of his Cosham home.

One of the pictures in the package

For there in a dusty package was a collection of fading photographs including one of the man who built 32 Magdala Road and was its first owner.

He was Henry Thomas Norris and he features in one of the pictures sporting an impressive set of whiskers and looking rather distinguished.

On the reverse, in pencil, is written: ‘H Norris. Born 1846. Died 1905. Original owner of this house.’

Another shows a family group with a baby in a christening gown. On the back of that one, in the same hand, is written: ‘H Norris Jun [sic], son of H Norris, built this house 1901. Born 1872. Died ?’ It is dated 1924, but that’s not necessarily when the photo was taken.

The christening photograph believed to show Henry Norris Jnr

That date tallies with a collection of newspapers among the hoard, including two of The Evening News, from 1924.

John, who has lived in the house for 23 years said: ‘I was amazed when I found it.

‘He obviously wanted future owners of this house to know the history and was proud to have built it.’

The christening picture

Included in the package secreted behind John Hayess fireplace was a slim, hardback volume of 22 scenes from the Isle of Wight. They might have been lithographs, but whatever the medium they were beautifully produced. Perhaps the family enjoyed holidays or day trips there? Meanwhile, on the front of one of the copies of The Evening News from 1924 is written in pencil: H Norris, foreman, works dept Priddys Hard. Here is a view of Ventnor from An Album of Isle of Wight Views.

An Album of Isle of Wight Views

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