Until the fire on December 9 last year when they were burned to the ground, a pair of semi-detached wood and clinker houses stood alongside the old Havant to Hayling Island railway line at Langstone.
They were always referred to as ‘railway cottages’ but they had nothing to do with the railway.
The houses were thought to have been built in the late 18th century. At one time they were owned by a Mr Longcroft, a solicitor who lived in a large house on the corner of Havant Road and High Street, Langstone.
I spoke to Lily Stone whose parents Richard and Hetty O’Shea lived in the left hand cottage, number 59, for many years.
Lily’s father joined the railway as a porter at Havant station after the Second World War during which he had driven lorryloads of munitions from London to south coast ports.
While at Havant he was asked if he wanted to become a crossing keeper at Langstone. Dick, as he was known, took it up immediately. At that time he and his wife Hetty lived in Botley Drive, Leigh Park.
Dickalso ran a taxi firm and used to take Mr Longcroft as a fare. Dick heard from him that the cottages at the crossing guarding the Havant to Hayling Island road were coming up for rent. He applied for one, got number 59 and he and Hetty moved there in 1961. Mrs Stone remembers a Mrs Howard lived next door. When she died a young married soldier and his wife moved in.
As a crossing keeper Dick’s workplace was literally outside his front door,and that’s how the cottages became known as railway cottages, which they were never intended to be.
In the photograph Dick and Hetty are outside the front door with family dog Sandy who came to a sticky end. He would take himself for walks by Langstone Mill where swans and ducks lived. One day Sandy walked too close to cygnets and was attacked by swans. He fell into the pond where the swans attacked him and sat on him until he drowned. The event was witnessed by a passer-by.
When the new Langstone bridge was being built Dick became became an occasional nightwatchman. Mrs Stone says she painted a sign and called the cottage Woodbine Cottage as her father always had a cigarette of that name hanging from his lips.
The house was lit by gas mantles and when North Sea gas was introduced in the late 1960s it was ordered that they had to remain in use as the cottages had a preservation order on it.
Mrs Stone’s mother died in her home in 1982 and her father in 1992 in a home on Hayling Island. Dick’s son Reg then took over the cottage and remained there until 2002.