Purbrook then and now – Nostalgia

THEN: Paassing through Purbrook is a Portsdown & Horndean Light Railway car heading for Cosham.
THEN: Paassing through Purbrook is a Portsdown & Horndean Light Railway car heading for Cosham.
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My latest book, written with Barry Cox, should be in the shops in time for Christmas. You might think the title, The Portsdown & Horndean Light Railway Then and Now, is a book of tram pictures.

Fear not, it isn’t, for it includes many wide-angled scenes along the route from Cosham to Horndean before 1935 when the service ended. Most of the photos are from Barry’s collection and I’ve taken all the modern ones.

NOW: The same scene today and although the pub has long since gone the houses on the right remain.

NOW: The same scene today and although the pub has long since gone the houses on the right remain.

In coming weeks I’ll give you a taste of the book and begin with one of London Road looking north through the Purbrook village. The only thing to worry the children in the road was an approaching tram on the single track. From here the route took it up to the George Inn on Portsdown Hill with passing loops and then on a reserved track west of London Road down to Cosham.

Today the A3M takes most London-bound traffic away from Purbrook but it is still a busy road. I had to take this photograph at 7am on a Sunday to get a traffic-free picture.

On the left, the wall surrounds St John’s Church and where the children once played a bus stop lay-by has been added.

•Onion Johnnies, as these men were called, imported and sold their pink onions throughout most of the UK from as early as the 1920s.

Onion sellers with their wares in a Portsmouth street in the 1950s. Can you recognise where they are? Picture: Philip Pyke Collection

Onion sellers with their wares in a Portsmouth street in the 1950s. Can you recognise where they are? Picture: Philip Pyke Collection

Most came from the area around Roskoff in Brittany and although they could have sold their wares in Paris it seems the roads were so bad it was easier to cross the Channel.

The onions were imported in July and stored in hired barns. The Johnnies all came over together and stayed until December or early January. 

At one time there were more than 1,400 of these cycling sellers, but after the pound was devalued in the 1930s and by the end of that decade, only 400 remained.

By the end of the 20th century there were just 20 left.