Readers’ quick march to solve mystery of Guards

Women in the canteen at the Guards factory at Fratton Bridge in 1957
Women in the canteen at the Guards factory at Fratton Bridge in 1957
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Rarely has a Remember When picture sparked such a response as the one on the right.

I mentioned last week that the photograph had turned up marked simply: ‘1957 – guards on Fratton Bridge’.

I was puzzled. The photo clearly shows a bevy of female workers enjoying a break in their canteen. I could only associate ‘guards’ and ‘Fratton’ with trains.

Oh, how wrong I was.

More than 110 of you e-mailed and wrote letters to put me right.

Guards was, of course, the men’s clothing factory on the south-west side of Fratton bridge, and many of you gave the address as Victoria Road North. The site is now occupied by flats.

Jerry Knowles was one who remembered it well. ‘I had a couple of pairs of their trousers in the early 70s and very dashing I looked,’ he says.

Sandie Allen wrote to say she walked past it every day from 1967 onwards on her way to work at Telephone House, Southsea.

Brian Jones said the address was 189 Victoria Road North and that Guards was owned by Schneider and Sons. ‘I can recall delivering parcels there to the back entrance in Cumberland Road,’ he says.

Ted Brown was another who dropped me a line. He says: ‘When I was courting my wife Val Ellins in the 1950s I regularly dropped her there and picked her up on a Lambretta. She worked in the trouser section and there was a rear entrance to the building in Froddington Road.’

Nigel Butlin has a memory of Guards which conjures wonderful images.

He says: ‘The factory was owned by a Joe Webb who used to ride motorbikes in the factory because it was so large inside.

‘He had owned a smaller Guards factory previously and was well liked.’

Marilyn Coleman says her mother worked there when Marilyn was a child in the 1950s.

‘She was a trained sewing machinist, actually a tailor, and at one time was responsible for teaching trainees, and she may well be in the picture.’

And my colleague Bob Hind particularly remembers the neon-lit sign of a guardsman outside the building.