Passing hovercraft made Portsmouth pub regulars look twice - Nostalgia

Regulars in the Bridge Tavern must have thought they were seeing things when this hovercraft roared past. It must have been an amazing sight back in the 1960s when the vessel made its way past the pub alongside the Camber, Old Portsmouth.

Thursday, 4th July 2019, 11:24 am
Updated Thursday, 4th July 2019, 1:21 pm
Im sure it came as a big surprise to drinkers in the Bridge Tavern to see a hovercraft outside in the Camber. Picture: Graham Stevens

Graham Stevens, who sent me the photograph, tells me this small-scale hovercraft was used as a test bed for the much larger VT1 hovercraft built at the Portchester shipyard.

It is seen in hover mode passing the Bridge Tavern with the old dredger Lypta which can just about be made out in the background through the spray.

The hovercraft was powered by two Porsche 130 horsepower petrol engines for propulsion,and two VW (70hp) for lift. The superstructure was made of plywood.

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Boulton Road residents outside the Duke of Devonshire pub at the junction with Albert Road, Southsea.

The coal hopper on the right, which once helped feed the city’s giant power station in nearby Gunwharf Road has long since gone.

• My recent photographs of residents and children in Boulton Road, Southsea, was seen by Patricia Phillips, of Waterlooville.

She supplied the photograph on the right of residents outside the Duke of Devonshire pub at its junction with Albert Road.

Mrs Phillips does not know why everyone was in fancy dress but she does know one of the faces. 

Branksome House is in Clarence Parade, Southsea.

Circled is Lilian Smith, her grandmother. And the person on the extreme right who is dressed as a clown is also one of her relations.

In recent decades the pub was always known as the Duke of Dev. But a more popular nickname was ‘Mollies’, after Mollie Powell.

Until last year, when she retired at the age of 88, she had spent 35 years running the pub and 52 as a landlady.

When she called time on her illustrious career, she told The News: ‘You can get a taxi to Mollie’s and they will know exactly where to take you.’

An Edwardian family out for a stroll along Western Parade, Southsea.

• On Wednesday I asked if anyone knew where Branksome House was. Deborah Croker, who runs the picture desk here at The News, got straight on the case and found it. 

It turns out the house is opposite the pitch and putt golf course on the seafront.

It is 3, Eastern Parade, before Brading Avenue and opposite the 10th Hole cafe. 

• Our final picture today goes back more than a century to Southsea.

Seen at the Palmerston Road end of the Ladies Mile, with Western Parade in the background, are an Edwardian family out for a stroll.

Of course, there was not a car in sight. Bliss.

The air must have been so fresh in those far off days before petrol pollution.