Campaigners’ joy as final mudlarks’ plaque is unveiled at Portsea memorial

UNTIL the 1970s, youngsters spent decades singing, dancing and play-fighting in the mudflats of The Hard. 

The efforts of these so-called mudlarks were not without merit, as people walking the nearby harbour bridge would throw them change and spur on their antics. 

From left, campaigners Margaret Foster and Sarah Shreeve, with deputy Portsmouth City Council leader Steve Pitt - with his seven-year-old cockapoo, Finn. Picture: Sarah Standing

From left, campaigners Margaret Foster and Sarah Shreeve, with deputy Portsmouth City Council leader Steve Pitt - with his seven-year-old cockapoo, Finn. Picture: Sarah Standing

But while the entertainment itself is now consigned to history, their memory lives on in the form of the Mudlarks’ Memorial.

And its founder says years of campaigning to embellish the statue have now concluded – after a ‘final’ plaque of 32 mudlarks’ names was added to it last week. 

Campaigner and former mudlark, Margaret Foster, said: ‘When I got involved with this campaign in the year 2000, I had no idea how many mudlarks there were in Portsmouth – I thought it was just us as kids. 

‘But so many people have come forward over the years and I’m chuffed to bits with these plaques.

‘Portsmouth City Council (PCC) has done such a brilliant job of them and everybody whose name appears on the new one is extremely pleased.’ 

The bronze statue, created by Hayling Island sculptor Michael Peacock, now carries more than 300 names.

Among those added to it last week was the late Bert Moore, who died 18 years ago aged 70 – having taken to the mudflats as an eight-year-old boy. 

His name was immortalised on the monument thanks to his son, David, and his sisters Catherine and Sophie. 

David, 60 from Southsea, said: ‘My grandfather worked in the dockyard earning £5 per week. But one week – as a mudlark – my dad managed to collect £6, to my grandmother's surprise. 

‘I’m really happy to know people in the future will be able to see my dad's name and his place in this quirky part of city history.'

As a line is now drawn under community efforts to add to the Mudlarks’ Memorial, Portsea campaigner Sarah Shreeve said she is ‘over the moon’ with the legacy the statue will leave for future generations. 

‘I’ve been involved with campaigning in Portsea since 2011, but there have been significant, modern developments since then – particularly with the new Hard Interchange and Gunwharf Quays,’ she said. 

‘But it is so important that younger people can come here – so close to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard as well – to learn about local history like this.’ 

Deputy PCC leader and cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, councillor Steve Pitt, has hailed mudlarking an ‘important’ tradition for Portsea and the city. 

‘I remember as a small boy in the 1970s going over to Gosport with my grandparents and seeing mudlarks writhing about at The Hard,’ said Cllr Pitt. ‘So, even though I wasn’t one myself, it’s part of my history too. 

‘The work Margaret has put in is fantastic and I’m delighted this statue and these names are going to be here for many years to come.’’