Portsmouth’s Eastern Road used to be a racing track – Nostalgia

To provide work for the unemployed in Portsmouth, construction began on the Eastern Road in the 1920s. In the early years part of the southern end was used as a car racing track.

Monday, 18th March 2019, 5:04 pm
Updated Monday, 18th March 2019, 5:07 pm
Although construction began 20 years earlier, the Eastern Road was completed and opened on May 6, 1942.
Although construction began 20 years earlier, the Eastern Road was completed and opened on May 6, 1942.

A tablet was unveiled on the bridge over the railway by the Lord Mayor, followed by a luncheon. The total cost of the road was £312,789.

Although the photograph, right, looking north to the railway bridge, is captioned as the opening ceremony, the road looks a little rough to me and appears to be asphalt.

There are many now living in the city who would have no idea that we once had a infectious diseases hospital. It was alongside Milton Road to the north of Milton Cemetery.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A map including the former Kingston Prison which is soon to be used for residential purposes.

It opened in 1883 and was sometimes known as Milton Hospital until 1934.

From 1960 it was known as Priorsdean Hospital, and in 1967 was absorbed into St Mary’s Hospital, becoming the east wing.

The hospital closed in the 1990s and houses were built on the site.

Across Milton Road was Portsea Island Union House, although it was actually a workhouse. The proper address was St Mary’s Road. It was opened in 1846 after the original buildings in Old Portsmouth and Landport closed down. 

On the Coronation of George VI in 1937 a tree was planted on Portsdown Hill. Is it still there?

Much of the original buildings remain and have been turned into residential use. 

To the north was Kingston Gaol, below left. It was built in 1877 and over the years was used as a borstal. During the war it was a police station.

After capital punishment was abolished in 1965 the prison was used to hold inmates on life sentences. It later became the only prison in England and Wales to hold elderly prisoners serving life sentences.

It must have been one of the few prisons to have its own football pitch – where I refereed on several occasions. Of course, the prison team only ever played at home. 

A view of the Petty Officers' Mess, Royal Navy barracks - notice the hooks for slinging hammocks. Photo: George Millener collection.

It closed March 2014. 

In days past when Portsmouth did things in a big way there was a Coronation tree planting ceremony on Portsdown Hill and along Copnor Road to celebrate the Coronation of King George VI in 1937.

Councillor F.J. Spickernell can be seen doing the honours on Portsdown Hill, below right. Does anyone know if these trees survive? 

The picture, on the opposite page, shows the sleeping arrangements for petty officers at the barracks in Queen Street, Portsea. 

They slept in their living area, called a mess deck, in hammocks slung between heavy duty joists. One can be seen on the left.

This form of sleeping on ships ceased in the 1960s. I am told that they were very comfortable, especially if a ship was in stormy weather when the sailors would be rocked to sleep.