Hard times – family of eight lived in two Portsmouth rooms

The rear entrance to Red Lion House formerly the Red Lion Inn. PPP-160727-083413001
The rear entrance to Red Lion House formerly the Red Lion Inn. PPP-160727-083413001
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I’ve received more memories of Tudor-built Red Lion House in High Street, Old Portsmouth.

Anne Wayman’s aunt was born there and told Anne, who is researching the building’s history, of those times. Her mother lived there from 1922 until 1932.

Her Aunt Margaret (née Tucker) was born there in 1923 and has recently dictated her childhood memories to her. Here are some of her memories. If you think you had hard times growing up read on:

‘Mum and Dad moved from Chichester in about 1922 and found accommodation in Flat 4, Red Lion Yard, Old Portsmouth. This is where I entered the world in 1923 and spent the first nine years of my life.

‘Red Lion Yard was an old coaching house separated from Portsmouth cathedral by Church Lane and situated between St Thomas’ Street and High Street. There was a pathway from the yard into Church Lane.

‘There was a smithy run by Mr Baxter on the corner as you came into the yard from St Thomas’ Street. The Red Lion Inn was at the end of the yard on the right. Wymark’s grocery shop was in Oyster Street.

‘Butt’s greengrocers and coal merchants was in St Thomas’ Street. There was a grocery shop in St Thomas’ Street opposite Red Lion Yard which was owned by a Mr and Mrs Way who were very nice people.

The French Onion Store was in Oyster Street and the ‘onion Johnnies’ would come on their bicycles to collect the onions to sell around the streets

‘Flat 4 was tiny with only two rooms and a small wash room on the side. To get from the living room to the one bedroom we had to cross a landing. The whole family slept in one room, all of us children sleeping on one mattress.

‘By the time I was old enough to have any memories, my two oldest brothers had left home and joined the army, but that still left six of us living in two rooms.

One of our neighbours was an old lady called Granny Oakes. We children were quite scared of her and called her a witch because she dressed all in black. She was drunk most of the time and she would stand in the yard and yell out to her husband, frightening my sister out of her wits.

Another neighbour was called Granny Smith. She had a son John and a daughter Dorothy.’

Mr and Mrs Kerridge lived above Margaret with their sons William (known as Nonny) and Frederick. When Margaret was about three, the trap door to the cellar of the Red Lion Inn had been left open and she fell in. John Smith came and carried her back up the stairs and poor Nonny Kerridge thought she was dead. He was in quite a state about it but Margaret was only badly bruised.