WATCH: The News Centre Portsmouth: Memories shared of a busy office at the site being demolished

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It feels like there isn't a person in the city who hasn't worked in or visited The News Centre during its heyday.

Its three main office floors were filled with staff - not to mention the busy printing press area at the back of the building. And whether you worked there, did work experience there or even had a school trip to see the presses, The News Centre was a buzzing hive of activity.

The first time I walked into The News Centre, as a very keen teenager doing my Trident work experience placement, it was a busy and exciting place filled with lots of people hurrying about and working on computers which were huge compared to the slim line laptops we use today. There was a busy mail room and switchboard, as letters and telephone calls were in abundance, and the machines which printed the newspapers seemed fantastical and huge.

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The News Centre - the front of the landmark building remains but much has changed at the back of the siteThe News Centre - the front of the landmark building remains but much has changed at the back of the site
The News Centre - the front of the landmark building remains but much has changed at the back of the site | Hughes and Salvidge/Horizon Imaging Ltd

The distribution operation was also slick and busy. I remember being at Fratton Park on a Saturday afternoon for the Pompey game, and then grabbing a copy of the pink Sports Mail at the shop on our way home - it having been delivered just moments before we arrived. Impressive indeed I always thought. Over the years I visited on a number of other occasions with more work experience, including a stint with The News' then free sister publication The Journal, as well as meetings and other trips over the years - especially after joining the company which owned The News.

Having also lived in Hilsea for a long time I also passed the building on a daily basis. So despite never working full time at The News Centre site before staff moved out of the offices in 2013, I still have many memories of it despite only becoming its editor at the beginning of last year.

The team at Hughes and Salvidge, who are new demolishing the site ahead of it being turned into a bus depot, invited me to pay a visit and I jumped at the chance - even though it was a bit of a strange and nostalgic melancholy experience.

We started at the back of The News Centre - the part hidden from view from the road - and I was stunned at just how much of the site had just disappeared. The area where the presses once proudly sat had just disappeared, replaced with neat piles of materials waiting to be taken away for recycling. All that remained was the outside wall and the internal walkways between the presses and the distribution area which were being pulled down in front of my eyes.

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The old press hall has been demolishedThe old press hall has been demolished
The old press hall has been demolished | Hughes and Salvidge/Horizon Imaging Ltd

But it was even stranger going through the old staff entrance at the side of the building and into what was the reception which gave me a hint of what was to come. A simple shell of a building replacing the buzz of the newsroom. Of course over the years the increasing use of technology meant that fewer and fewer staff were needed, but it was always busy.

The former reception of The News CentreThe former reception of The News Centre
The former reception of The News Centre | Hughes and Salvidge/Horizon Imaging Ltd

As we made our way up down the long corridor I once remembered we arrived at the main ground floor office space and a key reminder of what this building used to be all about - a wall with the mastheads of all of the publications once produced by staff there. These included not only The News, but also the Petersfield Post and Chichester Observer - two titles I have also worked for - amongst others.

This wall inside The News Centre tells the story of which newspapers had previously been produced from the Hilsea siteThis wall inside The News Centre tells the story of which newspapers had previously been produced from the Hilsea site
This wall inside The News Centre tells the story of which newspapers had previously been produced from the Hilsea site | Hughes and Salvidge/Horizon Imaging Ltd

The wall was battered and full of holes but felt weirdly historic and important, placed at the entrance to the rest of the plan space which has been stripped and ripped out ahead of its demise.

We headed up the staircase - which I always remember had a distinctive plasticky smell - to the first floor which was even larger and even emptier. The wall overlooking the old press site removed so you could see right out across the back of the site, and from the front you have a good view out across the new overgrown pond - not that the ducks seemed to mind one bit.

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And then finally we headed to the top floor to where the canteen used to be, with pipework leading to the kitchen still in tact, as well as the outdoor balcony area at the end of the building. It was all nothing if not surreal. Gone were the staff taking a well deserved break and in their place more empty space and memories of times which have passed. It was certainly a unique experience filled with a mixture of wonder and sadness.

The old staff canteenThe old staff canteen
The old staff canteen | Hughes and Salvidge/Horizon Imaging Ltd

After I left I found myself pondering what it will finally all look like once the main building which fronts London Road finally disappears. I just can't imagine Hilsea without The News Centre being there and I'm sure I am not the only one.

With thanks to the team at Portsmouth-based Hughes and Salvidge who facilitated my visit.

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