Who can remember the Home and Colonial Tea Stores? I know I can. What superb aromas were emitted from the crates and boxes as you entered.
In Portsmouth there were stores at 149, Commercial Road, 8 & 210 Kingston Road and 77, Albert Road.
There was also a store in East Street, Havant and West Street, Fareham.
At Christmas they had a completely different aroma and I remember when you could buy fresh sultanas from a crate to make Christmas puddings. Imagine that today in ASDA or Tesco.
The customers were all served personally and no one seemed to mind waiting in those far-off, slower days.
The company was founded in 1883 in London. By the turn of the century there were 100 stores which eventually increased to 500.
In 1961, with the British Empire no more, it became Allied Suppliers and in the intervening years was taken over by many other companies. By 1987 it was part of the Safeway group.
The name came from the fact the goods were from home and the colonial countries.
I suppose if anyone tried to name a store such as that today the PC mob would be up in arms screaming of memories of the slave trade and how Britain once thought itself Great.
Well, we did rule over seven tenths of it, but I digress.
Robert Pragnell tells me: ‘I work in Fareham and often see the old Home and Colonial Tea Stores building in West Street with the writing still quite visible after all these years.
‘I did some research in to this years ago as the writing in West Street always fascinated me.
‘I assumed that it was an independent shop, but in fact the Home and Colonial Stores was one of the very first chain stores, which eventually became part of Liptons, if I remember correctly.’
If you worked for the local H&C and can remember the working conditions, please let me know more.
• My recent article on the signing of the Treaty of Versailles was seen by Richard Boryer who tells me that the parchment used was made in Havant.
Through the ages there have been many suppositions about Havant parchment, one that the Magna Carta was written on it in 1215 can be dismissed says Ralph Cousins in his book 'Parchment and Glove Making in Havant’.
There is no way can it be proved.
Another claim that the parchment was white because of the unusual qualities of the Homewell spring water cannot be substantiated.
The reason is simply that white sheep produce white fleeces which tend to produce white parchment.
The last parchment manufacturer in the town closed in 1936. The building still exists, although it has been converted to living accommodation.
We can be fairly sure that the 1919 Treaty was signed on Havant-made parchment as it was mentioned by people who worked there at the time.
In May 1899 an old fort overlooking Langstone Harbour and situated under the railway line at Hilsea was accidentally unearthed when an embankment subsided.
The fort was loopholed to command a view of the sea, a view long-since gone due to modern building.
The railway line was laid down in 1845 and the fort was no doubt part of the fortifications as parliament had granted the sum of £90,000 in 1813.
As the only entrance and exit to Portsea Island was the bridge over the creek at Hilsea, a fortification of some kind that had existed from a very early period?
A French plan of the island in the reign of Charles II, and perhaps drawn by spies, shows a line of fortifications on both sides of the creek.
Does anyone know if the map is still in existence?
• John Rich sent me an e-mail from Australia about the Kings Theatre revamp.
‘I remember back in the 1960s the stage manager showed me up to a room where the old spot light was housed’, says John.
‘The walls were covered in white dust and he told me it was from the old limelight system
‘The extremely bright light was emitted by heating a cylinder of calcium oxide.
‘I wonder if the room is still there.’
Can anyone answer John’s question?