Spit, sawdust and a cat fast asleep in the crisps of a Portsea pub

Dean Street, Portsea, at its junction with Britain Street in 1960 with the beer house the White Hart on the corner
Dean Street, Portsea, at its junction with Britain Street in 1960 with the beer house the White Hart on the corner
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More readers’ memories have come in about the old White Hart beer house in Britain Street, Portsea, Portsmouth, which I featured recently.

John Fehrenbach talked to his mother Brenda about the pub as she remembered it as a child.

Alfred Walter Stocker was her uncle and she remembers visiting him at his pub as a child. She liked her uncle and remembers him as a friendly and cheerful man.

Those visits would have happened when she nine in 1934 when she and her family lived at Cowplain.

Her father, Frank Stocker, used to take his family to visit his brother at the pub, sometimes on the way back from visiting other relatives in Gosport. The Stockers were a large Gosport family.

Frank was the youngest of at least a dozen children and Alfred was just one of his older brothers.

She remembers visiting her uncle, Aunt Lil and cousin Alfie and sitting in the living room in the back of the beer house. She wasn’t allowed in the pub itself as it was deemed not suitable for children.

Brenda describes it as quite a rough, tough establishment.

She also remembers the floor being covered in sawdust, which was apparently quite common in pubs as spitting didn’t always reach the spittoons). The pub was always full of sailors, with everything that entailed.

There was also a piano and Frank, who was a local dance band leader, would go into the bar and play the piano to entertain the beer drinkers.

Running a pub was in Alf’s family. At one time his parents ran The Railway Tavern and his sister, Mabel, and her husband George Turner, ran The Alma and his parents The Wiltshire Lamb – all Gosport pubs.

This was all well before John’s time and he never visited any of the hostelries although he drove past what used to be The Wiltshire Lamb a few months ago.

When John was taken to visit his great Aunt Mabel and great Uncle George in the 1950s they were retired but their house in Ann’s Hill Road was called Alma after their pub.

Although John did go with his grandfather to visit relatives in Gosport he remembers being very excited about going across the harbour on the floating bridge.

Frank Stocker was well known locally as the leader of Frank Stocker’s Dance Band and was also, for a few years, a conductor and then a driver for the Portsmouth and Horndean Light Railway.

Jay Rimmer, from Copnor, also remembers the pub.

She says: ‘The White Hart in Portsea brought back memories of my childhood. It was always referred to as Stockers.

‘There was just one bar which you would walk through to a room beyond the bar which sold sweets and crisps.’

Apparently, Mrs Stocker, Lil, was usually found lying on a makeshift bed in that room. ‘She was always in the same place. I think she suffered from arthritis because she had very badly-gnarled hands,’ adds Jay.

‘They had several cats that used to sleep in the crisp boxes and there was cat hair everywhere. Health and safety would have a field day today.’

Jay adds: ‘My elder brother was arrested in the White Hart one night when he was caught drinking shandy when he was only 16. He was taken to court and fined £5, a week’s wages.

‘Mr Stocker was not prosecuted for serving an under-age drinker, the police simply had a quiet word with him. How times have changed. What a great childhood I had growing up in St George’s Square, Portsea.’

n On the recent subject of Church Path, Portsmouth-born 96-year-old Dorothy Aslett tells me Church Path crossed Landport in a diagonal line, running from Commercial Road to Fratton Road.

From Commercial Road to Arundel Street it was Lower Church Path until it reached Arundel Street School. From there to Charles Street it became Church Path and from Charles Street to Church Road it was Upper Church Path. Then it was a stroll through to Fratton Road. As a child Dorothy lived in Jacob Road where Tesco’s car park is now.