A look at Portsmouth at work – from the merchant navy to breweries

The cover of Portsmouth at Work by Philip MacDougall.
The cover of Portsmouth at Work by Philip MacDougall.

A superb book on the industries of the city has been published by Amberley. Portsmouth at Work, by Philip MacDougall, tells of the work ethic in the city through the years.

The dockyard and the Royal Navy take centre stage, of course, along with banking, tailoring and boot making, breweries, passenger transport, The News, merchant marine and the canal.  

They are all included in this superbly illustrated book of 96 pages.

The many theatres, music halls and cinemas that once inhabited the city are in there.     

I would have liked a little more detail perhaps but for the casual reader with a passing interest in Portsmouth it is more than adequate. Pick up a copy from  New to You Books, High Street, Cosham on (023) 9232 1089. 

n Here’s me playing catch-up in reply to your many letters. 

Picking spuds for pocket money, published on Thursday, September 13, brought a memory back for Cliff Johnson.

Until 1973 he’d lived in Westbourne, Hayling, Leigh Park, Fareham, Old Idsworth, Gosport and Southsea, but now lives in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. Mike says: ‘I lived in Gosport during 1965-67 and would cycle to a farm in Segensworth on summer evenings after school, weekends and holidays to pick spuds as you describe, plus other crops.

‘I hated the spud-picking, continuously stooping whilst shuffling forward. I hated tomato-picking even more, it was stifling in those glasshouses and the tomato plants were unpleasant en-masse, quite astringent to the touch.

'I liked picking radishes and beans the most, easy posture and manoeuvring, and the bagged-product was manageable for an 11-year-old.

‘I was paid 1s/6d (7.5p) an hour, and handed 1s/2d (6p) of it over to my parents.’

The time trials photograph published on the same day as the spud-picking article brought back a memory for Dave Quinton. 

Dave tells me he remembers speed trials being held along Ferry Road, Eastney in the 1950s.

He says: 'I believe a driver was killed after going off the road and crashing into concrete shore defence blocks.

‘That brought an abrupt end to the sport in Portsmouth.’

On Tuesday, September 11, I published a photograph of a motorcade proceeding north after Princess Elizabeth, our present Queen, had been in the city to open the Nuffield Centre, in St Michael’s Road, and later the rebuilt Connaught Hall, in Stanhope Road.

I wondered why the motorcade was proceeding north along Commercial Road and not to the railway station.

Again, Dave Quinton came up with the answer: ‘According to The Records of the Corporation, Princess Elizabeth opened the NAAFI Club and had a private lunch in the main dining hall.

‘In the afternoon she took part in the reopening of the 383 Light Debt RA during which the band played Charlie Is My Darling after her son, Prince Charles.

‘HRH unveiled a memorial to past members of the regiment followed by a dedication by the Bishop of Portsmouth.

‘In the evening Princess Elizabeth was the guest of the commander-in-chief Sir Arthur and Lady Power at a dinner aboard HMS Victory followed by a private dance in a marquee in the grounds of Admiralty House.

‘A  21-gun salute and hauling down of the Royal Standard signified the departure of Princess Elizabeth from Portsmouth at just after 10am on the 21st of July.’

There we have it, the princess’s motorcade must have been on a short tour of the city to be seen by flag-waving residents.

n Gareth Derbyshire has asked me to remind you a Service of Remembrance to HMS Royal Oak will take place in HMS Excellent, Whale Island on Saturday, October 6 at 11am.