The day the new Langstone Bridge was opened with a solid gold key

Opening of the new Langstone Bridge in 1956. A procession of vintage cars passes over the old Langstone Bridge for the last time. Photograph: Steve Daily collection
Opening of the new Langstone Bridge in 1956. A procession of vintage cars passes over the old Langstone Bridge for the last time. Photograph: Steve Daily collection
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The present Langstone Bridge was opened at noon on Monday, September 10, 1956, by AHE Molson. Molson was the parliamentary secretary to the minister of transport, Harold Watkinson, and he opened the bridge using a solid gold key.

Opened as a toll bridge for the first four years, the bridge was an outstanding example of pre-stressed concrete construction.

All the beams and piles had been pre-cast at Langstone Quay car park which was levelled for the purpose, and an on-site laboratory had been built to test the materials.

The beams were taken out to the bridge on a small-gauge railway with a diesel locomotive and the piles were rammed into place using a 100-tonne pile driver which ran on rollers.

The contractors, Christiani and Neilson, completed the project five  months ahead of schedule, its estimated cost being £311,000.

At the opening ceremony the bridge was blessed by the Assistant Bishop of Portsmouth. The first vehicle to cross the new bridge was a black and yellow coach with two horses which carried the official party and was driven by Sir Dymoke White, vice-chairman of Hampshire County Council.

The dignitaries then lunched at Warblington Secondary School where they were served by senior girl pupils. At 4.30pm on the day of the opening, 21 vintage cars, which had been driven to Beachlands that morning for an Old Crocks Rally, returned crossing the new bridge.

One of the cars was a 1924 Standard 14 Tourer which had been owned for 28 years by Ben Sharp, a Hayling builder. Another was a 1910 Silver Ghost Rolls Royce driven by SJ Skinner.

As the cars went over the old bridge they were passed by the first of the cars to travel to Hayling on the new bridge. In the evening there was an informal party for the workers and their wives, at which the contractors’ 16mm film of the construction of the bridge was shown.

The demolition of the old bridge began on September 11.

The handle of the old swing bridge was presented to Alfred Stanford, of Northwood Lane, whose father had been a former toll collector for some 25 years. It was, however, 1960 before the residents got their way and the toll was abolished.

I have received a letter from Portsmouth Water about a new reservoir to be built to the north-west of Leigh Park.

The letter tells me that drilling will take place over some weeks in investigative drill holes.

Please do not think I’m scaremongering here but I hope they have a metal detector ready because, during the Second World War many Luftwaffe bombers released their loads late and they landed ‘safely’ in open countryside.

When considering the hazard posed by unexploded bombs and ordnance around the area it is important to remember how close Portsmouth is to Leigh Park and the likelihood that stray bombs may have landed in the area.

There was also the massive Stockheath Naval Camp which was no doubt a target of those Luftwaffe bombers. Most bombs were located and made safe by very courageous unexploded bomb officers.

A 250kg bomb would penetrate 15 to 25 feet and a 500kg bomb, 18 to 45 feet. In 2004 Zitica made a survey of unexploded bombs in the area, although most were found and dealt with.

Elm Grove in Southsea, which runs from the junction of Victoria Road North to King’s Road, was at one time lined with elm trees, hence the name.

Sadly, the last of the trees were taken down in March, 1929. It was described in the Evening News as: 'A one-time scene of great beauty that has disappeared for ever. 

‘To many of the older inhabitants of the city the spoliation of Elm Grove was regarded in almost the light of a sacrilege.

'Sixty years previously, the Grove, lined on both sides by magnificent elms and horse chestnut trees, presented a vista almost without parallel.'

Sadly, even back then, the utilitarian spirit of the age discarded sentiment and aesthetics, with the result that one by one the trees disappeared and after that March nothing remained of the trees that gave Elm Grove its name.

The article I wrote about the Circus Church was seen by George Millener, of Fareham.

George tells me that after the devastation in the Commercial Road area caused by the blitz, the church commissioners decided to reallocate funds for the building of a new church towards the construction of a new place of worship in Fareham to serve the residents of West End estate.

The church of Saint John the Evangelist was constructed on the corner of Redlands Lane and Saint Michael's Grove in the early 1960s.