Derelict Portsmouth homes were vandalised by council to keep squatters out - Nostalgia

Houses wrecked to order. A painting by local artist George White shows houses that had to be wrecked on council orders in the 1960s. Picture: John Porter collection
Houses wrecked to order. A painting by local artist George White shows houses that had to be wrecked on council orders in the 1960s. Picture: John Porter collection
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My photograph of Blackfriars Road, Somers Town, on Monday last brought a tale from John Porter, a demolition man in 1960s’ Portsmouth who also sent me the painting above.

John says: ‘When the houses were vacated as unfit to live in they became an attraction for vandals and homeless people.

Pooling The News - three lads who thought the pond outside The News Centre, Hilsea, was Hilsea Lido across the road, 1984.

Pooling The News - three lads who thought the pond outside The News Centre, Hilsea, was Hilsea Lido across the road, 1984.

‘Portsmouth council actually vandalised them even more. Local roofers were asked to help themselves to the roof slates but told to wreck the rest of the roofs. 

'I was given the contract to disconnect the water supply for which I was paid £12 a house. I managed to get some Tarmac off a road gang and filled all the stopcock pits in the pavement. I then stripped the lead pipework out of the houses which was far more profitable than the £12 contract money.

‘All inside doors were ripped off and a lot of the flooring used as firewood. It caused a lot of political upheaval within the council. We even had a visit from Barry Westwood of SouthernTelevision and it was the first time many of us had heard the term “squatters”. I thought the council should just have demolished the lot and saved them a lot of bad publicity.’

• In April 1984 three 12-year-olds from Copnor, Matthew Starkings, Jack McNeely and Art McFall, took a dip in the pond outside The News Centre, Hilsea.

Polish soldiers settled in Emsworth until they could make a new life for themselves.  Picture: The News archive

Polish soldiers settled in Emsworth until they could make a new life for themselves. Picture: The News archive

Temperatures were in the 70s so the boys thought nothing of having fun care of The News. Their fun was soon stopped when it was pointed out they were on private property. The boys said they mistook it for nearby Hilsea Lido. Of course they did...

• In April 1947 the Evening News reported on a Poles who were making a former Free French Camp ready to receive demobilised Polish troops. After the war the Polish army in exile had no intention of returning home.

The Russians had annexed eastern Poland while the remaining part of the country had become a puppet state with a communist government run by the Soviets.

By staying in the West the 250,000 Poles could keep their language and traditions and fight on for an independent Poland. They had to wait until 1989 although the last Russian soldiers didn’t leave until 1993.

One of the pictures in an anonymous package sent to The News. Did you send it and can anyone put names to the faces?

One of the pictures in an anonymous package sent to The News. Did you send it and can anyone put names to the faces?

The Poles settled throughout the UK including the former Free French camp at Emsworth. The French story is another tale. 

• I have received a large envelope full of photos from the distant past and some more recent ones. Unfortunately there was no covering letter telling me who they are from or who is in the pictures. If the owner would like to ring The News office for my phone number or e-mail me then please do so.