A rarity in Portsmouth dockyard more than a century ago

This postcard photograph was taken before 1913 when Semaphore Tower in the dockyard was destroyed by fire.

Monday, 18th November 2019, 2:33 pm
The original Semaphore Tower, destroyed in 1913, and the sterns of two royal yachts. Picture: Mick Cooper postcard collection.

On December 21 flames were seen by a delivery boy leaving the battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary which was moored alongside South Railway Jetty.

He brought the flames to the attention of the ship’s quartermaster who raised the alarm.

It was all too late of course and the tower was razed.

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A view across the rooftops and up Portsmouth Harbour from the Still and West pub, Old Portsmouth. A painting by Michael North.

Two men were killed, ex-Chief Yeoman Samuel Pook, of Milton, and naval rating Alfred Stewart of Chatham, Kent.

The tower was eventually rebuilt and re-opened for service in 1930

What is more fascinating is that this photograph shows the sterns of two royal yachts.

Now, I stand to be corrected but I believe they are Victoria and Albert III and the Alberta, a tender to the V&A.

Not a sight well-known to many people - a postcard view of the back garden of 393 Commercial Road, Landport. Portsmouth, Charles Dickens's birthplace.

Alberta was built in Pembroke being launched in 1863. She had steam engines and paddle wheels.

She was broken up in 1913 so if that is her in the photograph she could be awaiting her fate.

The larger Victoria and Albert was the third yacht to be named so. She was launched in 1899 and was ready for royal service in July 1901.

This means that Queen Victoria could never have sailed in her as she died in January of that year.

Decommissioned in 1939 the V&A was not broken up until 1954. Her figurehead remains on show to this day on the parade ground at HMS Nelson barracks in Queen Street, Portsea, Portsmouth.

• Here’s another view of Old Portsmouth by a local artist that is of great interest.

It is, of course, a view from the rooftops along Bath Square looking down on the Still and West public house and the Gosport chain ferry. A paddle steamer is making its way towards the harbour station mooring point.

The artist is self-taught Michael North MBSA. He has created a number of works using oil on canvas. He also uses acrylics and watercolours . I will show more of his work in future pages.

Any artists who have paintings of quality and local scenes and would like to show off their work, please send them in.

• There are many postcard scenes of Charles Dickens’s birthplace at Mile End Terrace, 393, Commercial Road, Landport, Portsmouth, but I have never seen a view of the back garden. Does it still exist?

The garden once backed on to Flat House Road although there was some distance between the two. It now backs on to the southern end of the M275. I have not been to the building since I was at school. Can the garden be visited as well as the house?