NOSTALGIA: Changing Portsmouth from an eye in the sky

Now - a view of the Guildhall and square today.
Now - a view of the Guildhall and square today.
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Over the years I have taken hundreds of ‘then and now’ photographs for various books and my articles in The News but I have never seen then and now photographs taken from the air. 

A new publication of 160 pages and 260 photographs called Portsmouth – An Aerial View Through Time by Chris Brunnen has recently been published and all I can say is – it’s marvellous.

Then: Portsmouth Guildhall and the square, about 1970.

Then: Portsmouth Guildhall and the square, about 1970.

For all those people who have lived in the city for many years, you will not believe the changes that can be seen when you study the photographs either from a distance or more intimately.

Chris Brunnen set up CJB Photography in 1986 after art college training and five years working for a design and photography company in Portsmouth.

Now based in a purpose-built studio at Portchester. Chris frequently flies over Hampshire, Dorset and Sussex, in fact, most of the south of England to practise his speciality – aerial photography.

Portsmouth has long been a focus of Chris and he is now looking to share some of his favourite photographs of Portsmouth, taken during the past 30 years, in his book.

Author Chris Brunnen, right, with his former teacher Jim Bramble.

Author Chris Brunnen, right, with his former teacher Jim Bramble.

The photographs are all A4 and the book, in landscape format, is a hardback, coffee table one. Inside, Chris will guide you on an aerial tour of this wonderful island city of ours.

Flying in a helicopter at an altitude of about 1,000ft, you will see many sites of local and historical interest but this is not, strictly-speaking, a history book.

It is a glorious visual history: a record to show how Portsmouth has changed. And boy, has it changed.

The book also features work by Jim Bramble, Chris’s former teacher back in the 1970s.

An aerial view of the heavily bombed Guildhall, circa 1953

An aerial view of the heavily bombed Guildhall, circa 1953

Using Jim’s photographs as a basis, Chris has carefully selected shots from his archive to guide you around the city to see how it used to be and how it is now.    

What he has done is try to identify the buildings and places in these photographs that have been lost to history, or in some cases preserved.

I’m sure you will remember many more places in these photographs that may not appear in local history books.

Portsmouth, being an island city, has had to make use of every square inch of land so some redevelopments have been quite ruthless, while in other areas land has been reclaimed from the sea to allow space for expansion – like North Harbour and Port Solent for instance.

The book is available at New to You Bookshop, High Street, Cosham; The Golden Eagle, Delamere Road, Southsea, and at 7, South Street, Havant, at a very worthwhile £24.95.