A Portsmouth shopping area in its heyday | Nostalgia

The North End area of Portsmouth is a shadow of its former self, as so many of you constantly remind me.

Saturday, 1st February 2020, 6:00 am
How Sandra Matthews remembers London Road, North End, in the 1950s.

Sandra Matthews (née Stuart) got in touch with her memories of what was once one of the city’s key shopping areas.

She says: ‘We moved to North End in 1954 when I was six and lived just inside Montague Road on the north side.

‘From the front bedroom, sitting on a large trunk, I could see what was being delivered to McIlroys, the large department store on the corner, and the furniture and other things being brought to, and taken from, Young and White’s auction rooms in London Road.’

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Sandra adds: ‘From time to time what seemed like hundreds of flower pots were delivered to Harvey’s the hardware store, which was also in London Road.

‘The northern section of London Road seemed to be predominantly owned by the Co-op.

‘There was Melanie’s department store on the corner of Stubbington Avenue. Also the Co-op bakery shop and restaurant around the back. Opposite McIlroys was the Co-op grocery store with the Co-op hairdressers upstairs.

‘As I got older I was allowed to walk the length of London Road on the east side, to the library at Kingston Cross, next to the old police station.

‘I wonder if anyone else remembers the stair rail on the stairs leading up to the library, with its wooden knobs so you couldn’t slide down!

‘I had to cross Stubbington Avenue, Laburnum Grove, and Chichester Road to get to the library.

‘I remember one early evening, the policeman on point duty at North End junction, leaving his spot and seeing me over Stubbington Avenue. Me, a little girl in a red wool coat with a velvet collar.’

Sandra concludes: ‘I left home in 1966 to train to be a nurse in London. I never really lived at home again, but when I came to visit, North End was never the same.’

Memories which will ring true for many of you.

• As you may have noticed, I have been asking readers for their memories of May 8, 1945 – VE Day.

Last Monday was the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz death camp.

Although I rarely touch on this subject I have written and researched about the displaced persons who escaped from the Baltic states to the UK at some length.

However, I knew nothing of what happened in a quiet corner of Hampshire.

To the north-west of Portsmouth, near Bishop’s Waltham, 200 child refugees from the Nazi concentration camp Belsen arrived at Durley in November 1945 to be cared for by the Jewish Refugee Committee.

The children were aged between four and 17 and all housed at Winter’s Hill Hall which had been the home of the National Fire Service during the Second World War.

For those children, the open fields of Hampshire must have been a haven of peace.

They would have been utterly bewildered. Not only were they without their murdered parents but also, just imagine what appalling scenes they must have witnessed.

A reporter wrote at the time: ‘Many of the children bear unmistakable signs of ill-treatment.

‘Their only home before Hampshire was the horrors they left behind.

‘Many had been born in captivity and no doubt thought that was how everybody lived, in filth and starved.’

I can’t help but wonder what became of these children?

Did some remain in Hampshire and become foster children to childless couples or were they integrated into existing families?

Are there any of these children remaining in the area?

I would very much like to talk to you if the memories are not too painful, even after all this time.