Lost and in need to be found – Pompey memorabilia that’s gone AWOL

The Pompey boardroom pictured in 2005, with table and chairs, plus painting in their rightful place
The Pompey boardroom pictured in 2005, with table and chairs, plus painting in their rightful place
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There is a photograph hanging in the Butler-Reid Chairman’s Lounge depicting the directors and officials from the 1948-49 campaign.

It portrays 11 men lined-up behind a large table, with a sizeable oil painting of HMS Victory in the background.

Sadly, they are no longer with us at Fratton Park. And that includes the painting and table.

The painting, which features the Battle of Trafalgar, is valued at £250,000 and inhabited the Pompey boardroom from the 1930s onwards.

The table is claimed to be constructed with timber from the original HMS Victory back in the 1860s and for a while resided on the HMS Warrior.

Along with its 14 chairs, it was examined by the Antiques Roadshow when the television programme visited the Royal Marines Museum in June.

If the source of the wood can be authenticated, the value could be set around £500,000.

Both the painting and the table departed Fratton Park in 2006 under instruction from then owner Sacha Gaydamak.

His determination to put his imprint on the club involved crowbarring out the historic contents of the boardroom and modernising it.

That included the installation of four sockets specifically for Russian plugs. Incidentally, there are only two of the British type left.

At least Pompey know the whereabouts of the table and painting, safe and sound with people who have the club in their hearts.

More of a concern, others artefacts have long disappeared, fallen into the ether during the chaotic times of recent years or simply binned.

Among those absent is a model of a Viking longship, presented to then-division one champions Pompey during a tour of Scandinavia.

Another was a 17th century sumo wrestling fan constructed of ivory and presented to the club by the chairman of OKI after they became club sponsors.

There is a board outstanding which lists Pompey players who have represented their country.

Another detailing under-21 appearances has also gone AWOL.

Those at the club are currently undergoing a memorabilia stocktake in an attempt to identify what is missing.

‘People have just walked off with stuff over the years and it is desperate,’ said engagement manager Mike Hall.

‘To come in here and find items had to be taken away to be saved while some of it was taken without permission and scattered to the four winds is absolutely gutting.

‘We have actually dug out photographs of the boardroom so that we can look at what is in it.

‘Most of it has gone after Gaydamak’s arrival because he had the boardroom gutted, which is why people had to step in to save things.

‘During various other regimes there has been people wandering through and knowing things aren’t very well catalogued or cared for or whatever and they have just removed them.

‘Just because people have got it now doesn’t mean to say they took it or weren’t entitled to take it or didn’t buy it from someone.

‘But we will get a list of everything and will be working in our usual tireless, unstoppable and indefatigable way to get it all back.

‘We are going to look for it so if anybody has got it, they might as well just give it to us now.’

A stunned Terry Clark was the builder instructed by Gaydamak to gut the boardroom.

But he firstly called in club historian Richard Owen for a rescue act.

The pair plucked memorabilia from the condemned room, some even from skips outside Fratton Park, to safeguard them.

In Clark’s case, that included the table purported to be made of HMS Victory wood, its 14 oak chairs, the trophy cabinet and the boardroom’s oak fireplace.

The table is currently being looked after by a friend of the builder – a Pompey fan who has taken over the costly footing of the storage bill.

As for Owen, he initially stored some memorabilia in a police safe and, today, many of the items, including the first player honours board, are displayed in the city’s museum.

Incidentally, Pompey fan Matt Pantling recently rescued one of the three missing player honours boards after a friend noticed it for sale on the internet.

The 38-year-old was told by the seller, who lives in a flat in Northam, Southampton, that it was discovered dumped in a skip in a Southampton shipping yard.

Despite being up for sale for £500, Pantling paid £250 and a fortnight ago returned it to the club for free.

Meanwhile, Jake Payne stepped in three years ago to save items from being binned as the club moved back from its former offices in Anson Road.

As workmen cleared out a loft at Fratton a treasure trove was discovered, housing cabinets and boxes containing Jimmy Dickinson’s files as boss, old player and manager contracts, the original 1899 share records and secretary records from 1912.

He also tells the tale how he once saw five trophies connected with Pompey on eBay so contacted the seller voicing his outrage – but he did not received a reply.

As for the HMS Victory painting, it is believed to be in Sheffield Wednesday’s boardroom.

It is understood this was given to Milan Mandaric as a goodbye gift after the sale of the club to Gaydamak was completed in September 2006.

There is no suggestion Mandaric has done wrong and the club is confident an agreement can be reached.

After all, the rightful home is waiting – and that is not a skip.