Childhood memories of music hall in famous old Portsmouth theatre

By 1977 the former cafe opposite the Theatre Royal in Commercial Road/Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth, had become an Italian restaurant.  Picture: John Rich.
By 1977 the former cafe opposite the Theatre Royal in Commercial Road/Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth, had become an Italian restaurant. Picture: John Rich.
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How many of you can remember attending shows at the Theatre Royal in Commercial Road (before it became Guildhall Walk) and afterwards popping into the cafe over the road for a cup of tea? 

John Rich can and he tells me: 'Every Friday night my father and mother and my sister and I would line up in the rain for seats in the gods, otherwise known as the highest balcony.

A view across Portsmouth Harbour in the 1940s. Picture: Ian Wilding collection.

A view across Portsmouth Harbour in the 1940s. Picture: Ian Wilding collection.

‘The show was essentially music hall with the likes of Doctor Crock and his Crackpots and we also roared with laughter at Jimmy James and ‘our Eli’ and many others. 

‘We always bought a programme and for many years saved them.’

He adds: ‘Afterwards we would pop over the road to the little cafe for a cup of tea before catching the bus home to Milton.’

Since the 1970s the former cafe was converted into an Italian steak house and Dorothy Dymond Street has become a cul-de-sac now finishing behind a supermarket.

An enlargement of the picture above showing the battleship/battlecruiser. Can anyone identify her? Picture: Ian Wilding collection.

An enlargement of the picture above showing the battleship/battlecruiser. Can anyone identify her? Picture: Ian Wilding collection.

• Reader Ian Wilding was going through some old photographs with his 95-year-old grandfather when he came across two pictures here which he thought would be of interest to us.

The one of the road being repaired was of an unknown location.

However, Barry Cox, a great friend of Remember When, and I had a good look and Barry recognised the Pelham Arms as it was his local at one time.

Of course, it still stands in Chichester Road, the Pelham Arms being on the corner of Drayton Road which runs out of the frame to the right.

Chichester Road with the Pelham Arms on the right. Picture: Ian Wilding collection.

Chichester Road with the Pelham Arms on the right. Picture: Ian Wilding collection.

The chap on the left with the moustache and bowler hat is Ian’s great-grandfather Richard Chandler who was the foreman of the works.

A steamroller (remember them?) is trundling along and flattening the surface of the ballast.

•  Another photograph Ian sent me was this one looking from Gosport across the gardens to Portsmouth Harbour and South Railway Jetty.

I know I published a similar photograph the other week but there is a difference between the two.

Of the buses on the left, two belong to the Provincial company and there are two independent ones on the left.

Alongside South Railway Jetty is either a battleship or battlecruiser.

Below I have enlarged the picture for those of you who might be able to identify her.

I know there are so many of you who enjoy ship photographs, especially those belonging to the Royal Navy of this period.

I expect my transport and naval ship buffs will let me know more...

We can also see that HMS Victory has her upper masts dropped.