About Portsdown

 Created 01-03-2004    Last update 01-02-2015

Then & Now Photos


About Portsdown

page 2 of 3


tea shop at the top of Portsdown

On top of Portsdown looking south down London Road to Portsmouth Harbour around 1911. The building is the  'Jones Belle Vue Tea Gardens' and around it are advertisements for: Nestles Milk, Barrells Printers and Smith & Vosper bread. Behind the photographer is the George Inn pub. A 'Portsdown Horndean Light Railway' tram can just be seen exiting on the extreme right.

Contributor: John Stringer


From David Francis - March 2004:

...apparently someone made a business of hiring out an extra horse for carts going up the hill - the extra horse being attached at the bottom and taken off at the top, just to provide extra power on the steep slope. 


From Pete Baxter - April 2012:

Have just been viewing your photos of Portsdown hill. One in particular of Jones Belle View Tearooms from the George public house with a comment beneath 'someone made a business hiring out extra horses for carts going up the hill'. My grandfather, as a boy prior to WW1, was employed by Portsmouth Corporation as a stable boy looking after horses used as additional horse power to pull buses up Portsdown. They were apparently stabled behind the now demolished public toilets just south of the junction with Southwick Hill Road; a block of flats now on the site. Maybe they were also used for private carts.

George Inn

NEW 12-03-2004

The George Inn. Photo by Welch & Sons probably around 1911. I've heard it said the the building behind the Pub was occupied by the owner of the Portsdown Horndean Light Railway and he ran a wire from the tramway  overhead power supply into his house to provide electric light.

Contributor: John Stringer

Portsmouth Harbour German Postcard

This is a German postcard of around 1910 and looks to me as if it depicts Portsmouth Harbour with Portsdown on the skyline. The lady complete with German flag has been added in the studio. The mostly illegible German text which accompanied the photo talks about extending friendship across the sea at time when Briton and Germany where great pals. 

Four years later the First World War began.


London and Widley Roads

Looking southeast towards Cosham, Drayton and Langstone Harbour. London Road runs from left to right. The road running away on the upper left is the present day Widley Road now completely built upon. The houses on the centre left are still there; the foreground has been 'landscaped'. A 'Portsdown Horndean Light Railway' tram can be seen on the centre right.

Contributor: John Stringer


London Road

Looking north along London Road around 1915 - i.e. during the First World War. A track on left side of the road can be seen leading to the present day 'Cliffdale Gardens'. On the centre left are the chalk cliffs of the old chalkpit were the 'London Road Deep Tunnel Shelter' would be dug during the next war.

Contributor: John Stringer


London Road and tram

This photo was probably taken on the same day as the shot above and again shows London Road looking north after the photographer moved a few hundred yards south. The Cliffdale chalkpit is visible upper centre and on the left is a tram from the 'Portsdown Horndean Light Railway'.

Contributor: John Stringer



Military Hospital

The Military Hospital in London Road was built in 1906, and this photo was taken a few years later. This later became the 'Ministry of Pensions Hospital' and is now the site of the modern day Queen Alexandra Hospital. In the late 1800s plans were drawn-up to build a Sanatorium for Britain's Clergymen here. The enterprise came to nothing but probably accounts for why a Hospital was eventually built on this site.

Contributor: John Stringer

Military Hospital

NEW 11-04-2004

The Military Hospital this time in colour around 1920. This photo was taken from the now demolished 'Portsdown Horndean Light Railway' bridge which passed over the Southwick Hill Road. Fort Widley is at the top right.

Contributor: John Stringer


Cosham possibly around 1930. I think this photo was taken looking east and the trackway is the now Medina Road. There are two Portsdown Horndean trams in the background.

NEW 01-02-2015

Thanks for an interesting site for an ex Coshamite. I suggest the track is
the site of the private road linking the south side of the Northern Road
bridge with the Corporation bus compound, although I cannot say where it led because presumably at the time of the photo the N Rd bridge did not exist.

The tram in the background is on the ramp to the railway bridge of the
Horndean tramway. The roof line in the background is that of the still
existing buildings on Portsmouth Road running South from the crossing gates.

The left end matches that shown in the photo appearing below. The trees right background were probably part of a line or copse whose southern extremity lasted until the 1950s when numerous families of crows or rooks were evicted to enable the triangle of land to be developed for housing, although for many years prior a radio repair shop cum house was on part of the site.

Probably the trees in the photo were lost to the Highbury Buildings parade
of shops and flats.
Roger Olding - February 2015


NEW 29-10-2006

The above photo is older than 1930, probably about 1910. The reason for my opinion is the length of the ladies' skirts, which are typical of the Edwardian era.

Graham Cullin - October 2006

Cosham Station Anti-tank blocks

NEW 17-04-2012

Cosham station in the early 1950s showing a line of anti-tank blocks which were part of the WWII invasion defences. The locomotive is a Southern Railway - Class D-15 4-4-0 - Drummond built in 1912 and cut up for scrap in 1953.

Contributor: Mike Foster



Here are some extracts from emails received about Portsdown. Any italicised comments in [] brackets are mine. I would especially welcome any contributions of stories or photographs for this section.

  NEW - 07-09-2008  

I grew up in Portchester and am fascinated by bunkers, tunnels, cave etc. I have been to Normandy and Jersey and as my wife could testify I was like a little kid again running around trying to find and get into as many bunkers as possible.

As a kid I remember seeing loads of things up on the hill that really intrigued me and now many years later your site has answered most of my questions and show me loads of things that I didn't know even existed. I eventually joined the army and am now posted in Yorkshire; I only get a chance to come back to Portchester every now and again to see my parents, but seeing your site has made me wish I could move back down there again.

I remember many times playing in the Portchester chalk pits (my parents would have killed me if they had found out). There was still quite a bit of machinery there then, notably a conveyor belt which looked like it was used to move chalk from the back most pit to the pit which is now the housing estate. That pit was at the time all overgrown and had a caravan/shack in which I'm guessing the owner lived, he caught us once in the back most pit and it was quite exciting being chased out!

A couple of times me and a few friends went further and ventured over the motorway (on the bridges!) and up the hill. We discovered the southern compounds for the Fuel Bunkers (didn't know this until I found your site) and to us it looked like the entrance to NORAD or something similar, very exciting. We also found the road below Fort Southwick that lead down to the tunnel portal No3 of the UGHQ (again I only just found out that's what it was).

On the road down to the tunnel portal we found something that I can't find any reference to on your site. It was on the right of the road, the southern side, and it was about 50 – 100 meters from the flat section that the tunnel exits onto. It was a big concrete bunker type building, it is hard to describe but I will have ago. The first bit we came to was a concrete square about 5 x5 meters, then at the front of this square ( facing south) there was a 1 meter( ish) drop onto another concrete square the same as the first. Looking back I think there was a slit running along the length of the front edge, like the ones for machine guns or viewing from. (I'm a bit hazy on that part; I might just be imagining it!). To try and clear up what I am saying, if you imaging a square pill box type bunker with a viewing or machine gun slit running the length of the front, then sit another one of the same shape and size in front of it and a bit down the hill so the roofs act like two steps. On the flat roofs of these bunkers/bunker there were square openings about 1 meter square (they were covered so I'm guessing they were openings). The top bunkers opening had a solid concrete block on it and was impossible to move, and the lower bunkers opening had a wooden board screwed over it, both had the words to the effect of 'danger do not enter' written on them. It looked like the covers had been put in recently and the immediate area around the bunkers was all cleared of vegetation and trees. [I researched this area over a period of 2 years, and it turns out that this structure was associated with Portsmouth Water Company; possibly some sort of valve chamber].

I'm sorry if that was very confusing but it's quite hard to describe what I remember especially as the details are a bit hazy. I'm not sure of the date when we found this but it will have been between 1995 and 1997.

Adam Shepherd - September 2008


  NEW - 30-03-2008  

I joined Hampshire Constabulary in the mid 1970s and worked from Cosham nick for 27 years. For the latter half of this time I was working as the beat copper for Wymering. My main interest in history is the Roman period, their engineering, buildings etc; but when walking around the same area for many years I became similarly interested in Wymering. Not only in the people, I was paid to do that! but also the buildings, roads and subsequently the history of that little part of Portsmouth.

Like you I was amazed to discover that although there were a lot of words written about the city, the docks etc. virtually nothing about the Village of Wymering, which predates the city by hundreds of years, also before Cosham and Paulsgrove which politically have now swallowed up Wymering. I too began noting down information, and the pile of notes, maps and photos became thicker and thicker; my ultimate intention with these notes ? ? I changed to a job in Southampton and then back to Havant; but whilst not working in Wymering still living nearby and still very curious.

Then we moved - to France, and consequently I had to put the notes, maps etc. away in their thick folder; eventually giving them to my daughter who lives in Purbrook and may? have an interest in continuing. Having spent a fascinating time reading your site may I share a few points that have returned to my memory, in no particular order, and obviously, without my notes.

One building is left, or was, of the Country Children's Homes that was on the site of Portsdown Park before the flats were built. Constructed mid 1930s, I think, it was the reason for the building of the footbridge
over Southwick Hill Road ( that too has now gone) to enable the children to attend the nearby schools without walking on the Road. I can remember when, after the flats were demolished, and the new houses were built one of the prospective owners was complaining to me about having a Children's Home so close to their homes. She was reminded that the home had been built a very long time ago and if she didn't like it….?

The farm to the west of the church, the flint covered house; I remember a small bridge was built into the adjacent railway embankment to enable farm traffic to move from the farm to the fields at the south side of the tracks. The three farms in this area changed names over the course of their existence, and I mean changed. It was something like the west became south and the north to Wymering, etc; I had to write all this down. There were about 8/9 changes in all - very confusing for the historian.

I had a good teastop in the Manor, at the time it was YHA, - You have mentioned about a tunnel? originating from the church - the rumour I heard was that it was between the church and the Manor, but having looked in the Manor cellar with the residents there was no noticeable indication in the wall of any irregularity. One popular story was that at one time when the Manor was inhabited by monks and rooms in the church by nuns they could meet discreetly, for prayers? The stonework in the cellar has been attributed the the Roman period; and following on from one of your comments, the two priest holes in the building are too small for me! There were rumours of a small hidden room in the Manor; and with the residents at the time we
believed this to be in the north part of the building where there is a wall between rooms that one can walk around. This wall is 12 feet square! ?

The sunken track north of Southwick Hill Road; near the top of the Hill I believe I remember it lies in line with Pigeon House Lane, is it an old route , used before the present road? Likewise in line with Wymering Lane is a depression in the hill which also appears to line up with P.H. Lane ; the Romans were at Wymering - and Southwick. I had copies of old maps that gave rise to this thought.

I have forgotten where I saw a reference, but there was a report of Roman grave/building found when constructing the electricity station in Cow Lane; also excavations in the graveyard, quite common I suppose, revealed probable traces of a road parallel to Medina road, a suggestion was roman.
Also at the southern end of Cow Lane , many years ago, was a ford across to Portsea Island; how long was the ford there for?, there were salt flats in that area, Roman period? Could this be the origin of Wymering Lane, as access from Southwick to the salt and Portsea? Perhaps the ?roman building was guarding the ford?

I was working in the police station on 6 October 1979 when members of the the Aviation Archaeological Group walked in the front door with (4?) mangled Browning machine guns - pilot Adiar [see here for details]. Legally these were prohibited weapons so they had to be stored at the nick although there was obviously no way that they could be used.

The QA Hospital; historical reference - There is at least one marker on the boundary with W.D. stamped on it, on the bend of the P.H. Road

When the wall was built around the Wymering Community Centre all the residents, and interested parties, were invited to inscribe their names into the bricks before they were fired, one of them is endorsed with the name the children knew me by, 'PC Don'

I hope my ramblings are of interest to you. My congratulations that you have achieved what I didn't, to put into writing your fascination for the history of this area. I will continue to rack my brains for info, and next time I come over and stay with my daughter I will check those notes. One thing is for certain Bob, you have here an interest that will keep you busy for a very long time.

Don Newnham - France - March 2008


  NEW - 30-03-2008  

As a kid we used to get into the chalk pits and go into the shelter ”caves” and get covered in chalk. I remember there used to be long pipes for the lighting in them, but not on, and we only ever went as far a day light shone. All the time we were watching out for the watchman on site. I also remember the chalk pits when they were working; the roads would be covered with chalk in the summer you just had clouds of white dust.

Five doors away from us there lived a copper who had the first police dogs in the south. I believe they spent money putting this big cage in the back garden to keep them in and along side of it was a footpath that you took to get to the hill. The hill was the kids playground. Every summer it would be covered with them making dens, sliding down in on bits of wood or if you was lucky on cooker tops. There would also be kids flying kites.

Or you could go over the hill and down the lane to what we called bluebell woods and then come home with arms holding tons and tons of bluebells for Mum. Later in the year we go on to the hill getting blackberries and Mum make jam for the next year, and if you knew where to go get apples so we have apple/blackberries pie.

As others have said the only shops where down in Allaway Avenue; ok going there but not much fun walking all the way back up. There used to be a lorry come round every week trying to sell stuff.

In them days the kids held the roads as there where only about 10 cars in our road some roads never had cars at all. I remember when they first run the no.3/4 bus it came down Deerhurst Crescent then a sharp turn into Hillsley Road and watch people jump off as it did so. One year they where saying as the road on that turn was so bad because of the ice and snow, the bus would slide so much they where not going to run, so every time a bus run all the kids and mums would be putting the ash from the fires or dirt on the road just to keep it running. No salt lorries then. I remember the shops being built in Hillsley Road: Co-op, newspaper, sweet shop, grocery and wet fish/fish and chip shop

Les Sir - March 2008



NEW - 22-03-2008


..I am sitting here really soaking up the stories and nostalgia on your site as so many memories race through my mind. I lived in Totland road ,Cosham ,until moving to Paulsgrove and attended the Paulsgrove secondary modern school, I lived opposite the school on the corner of Truro road. My brother still lives there.

My uncle Sam worked on the victory at the dockyard and I still bear the scars of colliding with the slab of seasoned oak above the entrance of Lord Nelsons cabin. Another sight to see was HMS Victory in a blaze of light and shadow in a re-enactment of Nelsons battle of Trafalgar.

On leaving school I worked in Cosham high street in the fruit shop and then at Canda in fashion despatch and finally in the hairdressers in Allaway Avenue a short stroll from the Old House at Home [a pub - now converted to flats] where we spent many a cold night playing darts and sipping Babychams, and wiled away other evenings at the highly popular Hillside Youth Club.

I also spent a lot of time with the Gypsies that camped by the chalkpits over the hill.( much to the despair of my parents,) but their Fairs were places of great excitement in those days. I think my mother had cupboards full of pegs to ward away bad luck.

I met my husband of 42 years( Mo) when he worked as an apprentice Plater at Vospers at Portchester in 1959 to 1964.We spent many hours amongst the Rockers on motorbikes at Bert's Cafe [now Mother Kelly's] on the Southampton road. Leather was the way of life during those years. Portchester Castle was a favourite stomping ground too with rumours of horror and hauntings of headless apparitions.

I was married in 1965 and we emigrated to Australia in 1968 aged 19 and 24 with two children aged 2 years and 3 months, and life has been very hard but we fulfilled our dream and returned to our homeland in 1998 and loved every minute of our 7 week holiday. We never left a stone unturned visiting and reliving my past, bringing back more stories that fascinate our four children and 14 grandchildren. Thank you Bob for giving me another chance to keep my treasured memories of Cosham and Paulsgrove alive by the touch of buttons from the other side of the world.

Patricia Heslam.( nee Jenkins) - Beachmere, Australia

March 2008



NEW - 22-09-2007


I was born in Portsmouth in the mid forties and was interested in your one-man site on the Portsdown Hill forts. I traced your site by following a link from Wikipedia. However I have some stories for you.

I am somewhat surprised to read of your mention that there was no hospital in the tunnels below Fort Southwick. According to my mother's story, she was offered a job as nurse on Portsdown Hill during the 2nd World War (for no pay!), which she turned down. [See FAQs]

The second story is also during the 2nd World War, whereby my father being a commercial traveller had coupons to keep his car running. One day he took my mother for a spin to on top of the 'hill', whereupon they both had to get out of the car and dive into a ditch to watch a dogfight between a spitfire and Nazi plane (there must have been a daytime air raid). It must have been a fantastic sight for the time.

I believe the R & S bus route ran at the same time as the A & B bus service in the late 1940s, but did not run along Allaway Avenue but along the A27 to Cornaway Lane via Portchester Castle Street. It was the bus service 21 which ran to Paulsgrove, Hillsley Road from Hilsea Lido via the upper access roads north of Allaway Avenue (now I believe swallowed up in a longer route).

 By the age of 13, I considered Paulsgrove too dangerous to venture into although I had a school friend who lived in Colesbourne Road! I was a cyclist and cycled everywhere. I used to love going up the 1:9 gradient Southwick Hill Road passing the QA and past the forts to Fort Nelson and then freewheel fast down to Portchester before returning along the old A27 (pre M27 days). There were, and no doubt still are, notices affixed to some of the forts' fencing saying 'strictly no photography'.

Also my father worked for the Admiralty in the early 1950s at Fort Southwick named as ASRE and then as ASWE (as indicated on Portsmouth Corporation and Southdown bus indicators).

I now live in Leicestershire, but have extremely fond memories of the City of Portsmouth within which boundary Portsdown Hill tunnels are sited. Any description of either can only include descriptions which are full of superlatives - not in the UK but worldwide - and I mean it. Was it King George V said of Portsdown Hill on which the tunnels lie, that from it was the best view in the world? I know, eat my heart out!
I get back whenever I can, especially to take in that breathtaking view from the hill at its highest point outside Fort Southwick.


Bernard Robinson - September 2007



NEW - 15-07-2007


Your research and content of your site has brought back memories of years ago when I was brought up in the prefabs in Collier Road in the shadows of Fort Widley.

I can't offer you any military experiences of the fort but you may be interested in the memories of a boy from 3 to 9 years old living in an area which was then shrouded in mystery and secrecy of the 1950s. I believe the fort was occupied by the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal squad from 1954.

My mother was a woman (although poor) full of fun and always joking. She said to me one day, "go up the fort and get me a soldier". Me, being a lad that was always eager to please his mum, did just that. I can't really remember what happened next, but I presume he got a cup of tea and was sent on his way. I got a clip around the ear from my dad when she told him.

Mr Bert was the local Bobby and always told the kids to stay away from the fort. Kids being kids always do as they are told, don't they? Exercises were held regularly on the "hill".

Walls Fun Fair came every year. Trolley Buses were still terminating at Cosham. Dr. Moon was the local doctor and Dr. Witherspoon was his partner.

I cannot remember the year but if you look in the records of around 1958 you will find that a car was left on top of the hill without the handbrake on. It ended up in our back garden after landing on the Anderson Shelter. My sister was in her pram outside the back door minutes before the car landed. My mum was pictured in the Portsmouth Evening News. As the years moved on, so did we, to Leigh Park-before it was fully built.

Many years have passed, I now live in Suffolk. It was back in the late 1970s that my interest in the Military History of Portsmouth was re-kindled and I made a study of the whole area including the Isle of Wight. In the course of my research I visited every fortification (except) the Sea Forts. Fort Cumberland was being used by the Portsmouth City Council. The Fort Cumberland Preservation Society was in its infancy. The defences at the Royal Marine Barracks were derelict and Lumps Fort was a rose garden. Farlington Redoubt was being used as a store by the then Southern Gas. The Hilsea Lines were mostly in a state of dereliction and Fort Fareham became an industrial estate and the Dungeon Night Club. Fort Southwick was still in use as ASWE. Fort Purbrook was in the hands of the council and was not accessible to the public.

Along came 1975, when the film Tommy was released by the director Ken Russell. A good deal of filming was done at Fort Widley, above and below ground. Also during filming, South Parade Pier went up in smoke. The official line was the fire was caused by overheating of the lighting among the old wooden beams. Others said at the time it was caused by the film crew "for effect".

My interest in the Military History of Portsmouth & Surrounding Area (1860 on) led me to write a book of the same name, taking over 2 years to write. The book was duly sent to several publishers but was refused by all because it was deemed that there would be no interest in the subject.

One interesting publication at the time was The Coastal Defences of England & Wales by Ian V Hogg. He did note that Fort Widley was the only fortification with a Haxo-Casemate when in fact I think it was Fort Nelson [correct].

I feel so proud that someone has actually taken on the subject of the Victorian architectural wonders and it seems to have beaten the stuffy publishers with the help of modern technology - THE INTERNET.

Paul Bayliss-Marten - July 2007



NEW - 26-05-2007


Whilst sitting at work, bored in Australia, I decided to 'Google' the name of the road that I grew up in and lived for the first 24 years of my life (1982 - 2006 my parents still live there). Various local council pages came up for the search on Lendorber Avenue, East Cosham but the site that caught my eye was your 'Portsdown Tunnels' website.

I began to read down the 'Cosham War Diaries' page and was absolutely fascinated to learn that the neighbours house that I would babysit for as a teenager could possibly be the house described as Havant Road and Lendorber Ave junction where a boy was killed during WWII.
I recall loving the family that I used to babysit for, but could never understand why the feeling of dread would come across me every time I walked over the threshold into the house. I remember never wanting to go and use the bathroom whilst babysitting as I was so petrified that someone was on the stairs watching the movements of the house!

Years later I spoke to an elderly neighbour who lived in the avenue since the 1930s and told them my story of feeling guilty for never wanting to babysit in the house on Havant Road. They informed me that a small boy was killed during the war in that house, he was put under the stairs to safety during a raid by his aunt but tragically was killed by a bomb and ironically the aunt survived. I never knew whether to believe the neighbour who I thought was winding me up, as he was always a real joker. I can now see that the story was in fact true from your website. Next time I visit home from Australia I will have to call in on the elderly neighbour and apologise for doubting him.

The family still live in that house, the boys are grown up now who I used to babysit for, I only hope they never got the spooky feelings I used to.

Claire Smith, Australia - May 2007



NEW - 21-05-2007


I'm not sure quite how but, today, I happened across your marvellous website. I grew up in Farlington (Old Farm Way) and, naturally, Portsdown Hill played a large role in my childhood. I'm 41 which means that I got to play "up the hill" during the 1970s. I believe those were the best years to experience the various structures that are dotted along the hill. When I have visited as an adult, I have seen notably deterioration and the chalk pits are pretty overgrown. I used to play in the chalk pits in Farlington and Drayton. The Paulsgrove ones were a bit too far!

Sometimes, instead of the hill, we would play in Farlington Marshes - this meant having to cross over the main railway line. We used to play in some of the old buildings on the railway line towards Bedhampton. On the south side of the line there are (were?) a number of pill boxes or similar WWII-era structures.

Growing up, I never really appreciated everything that Portsmouth has to offer - but, now, whenever I am in the area, I make sure I catch up on things. After all, how many places can you go up a hill and see an entire city?

Congratulations and 'Thank You' for a fascinating site!

John Miller, North Carolina, USA - May 2007



NEW - 06-05-2007


I have been reading your account of the tunnels beneath Portsdown Hill with interest. I grew up in Farlington during and after the war and remember the tunnel between Fort Purbrook and the redoubt. There was a small tower to the South West of Fort Purbrook, not far from the access road to the fort, that lead to the tunnel connecting the fort and the redoubt. I can remember that it was very dark and damp and that the redoubt end had been blocked at the end of the war. There was a ventilation shaft whose access was in the small copse where there are some commemorative stones to pilots that died during WW11. I should imagine that the concrete and metal cover to the shaft is still there.

As children, we discovered a tunnel behind the Sunshine Inn at Farlington. We were told that the tunnel connected Fort Purbrook to some installations that are now between the A27 and the railway. Unfortunately the tunnels had been blocked both at the Sunshine end and at the installation on the edge of Farlington marshes. During the war a decoy town was built on Farlington marshes and the installation adjacent to the railway line was probably an anti aircraft battery. I remember the ROC monitoring post the western side of Farlington redoubt. We used to talk to the Observer Corps people when it was being used for exercises.

Thanks for letting me reminisce. They were halcyon days for young lads
growing up in the 1940s and 1950s.

Dennis Crassweller - May 2007



NEW - 13-03-2007


I've lived in Fareham since the age of three, and can remember the view, and especially the green roofs of Paulsgrove, from a very early age. I commuted by bicycle to Horndean from January 2000 to October 2004 in all weathers. I usually used the road along the hill, turning northwards up the old A3 by The George. I've also used the diagonal Boarhunt, Southwick, Denmead, Catherington route. Either way, the climb of Portsdown was something to look forward to twice in every working day! Travelling north-east in the morning and south-west in the evening meant that I was always heading into the light. There were some amazing sun rises and sunsets. The absolute highlight of all this commuting was the crop circle just to the east of Monument Lane that appeared in 2004. I had a good look at it on its first morning, and waited while a helicopter buzzed low overhead to take photos. It was a balmy morning and I was very late for work! I then used Monument Lane on my homeward journey until the crop was harvested. The formation was almost identical to one in Wiltshire in 1996, but nobody picked up on the obvious similarity at the time.

I hate what has been done to the road at Fort Southwick. This smacks of incremental development. The Park and Ride scheme just completed at Spurlings is also very unwelcome. Such things are further eroding the remoteness and rurality of Portsdown Hill. The magic of the place is being lost to street furniture and alternative use of the once semi-derelict sites that gave a strong sense of mystery and abandonment. And, over-use continues to damage the edges of what should be a quiet country lane. As a keen cyclist I often cross or ride along Portsdown Hill. It never fails to provoke thought and uplift the spirit. Let's hope they don't spoil it any more.

Portsdown Hill is now a favourite place for my children. When asked where they would like to visit on a spare afternoon, Portsdown Hill and Fort Nelson (with fish and chips from Mother Kelly's) are usually top of the list. I hope that they will learn to value and appreciate it as much as I do.

David Palk - March 2007


NEW - 19-05-2006

It is great to read other peoples comments about there memories of Paulsgrove. I have very good memories of Paulsgrove as I grew up here since the age of about 3. As lads we would spend our time either on or over Portsdown Hill on our sledges or at Southwick doing things that lads done in those days. As other readers on your site have said, Paulsgrove hasn't changed too much. I also would spend time on the humps and bumps which I suppose covered the old racecourse adjacent to the railway lines. Perhaps this spoil was the result of the building of the housing estate? 

In those days there were always horses and the odd goat tethered in that area. I had spent many a Saturday at the Racecourse Lane bridge trainspotting with many other lads. I also remember creeping into the football pitches that were on the site of the C&A factory and the the rest of the factories that are there now. I am almost sure there was an entry fee to watch these games. I can also remember getting into Cooper's Farm via the Tunnel that went under the railway line, either getting conkers or scrumping. This tunnel was best part filled in and you only had about 3 ft head room in the centre of the tunnel. This tunnel I believe could be possibly still there in the undergrowth. I think it was just to the east of the motorway bridge at the northern side. I suppose this was another entry to Coopers farm from the northern side and it was probably their way to get to there shelters in the chalk pits. It seemed to be in the same design as the tunnel in Connaught Lane. 

Just near the bottom of Wooferton Rd was the air raid siren which would be tested on a regular basis. Also Bob getting back to the photos of the tunnels in Paulsgrove chalk pit, I should think most lads in the Paulsgrove area have been in these caves and most have etched there initials into the chalk; I for one have. Please keep up this nostalgic site Bob, it brings back wonderful memories of myself and many others especially the wonderful pictures of Paulsgrove of old.

Barry Jenson, Paulsgrove - May 2006


NEW - 26-02-2006

Bob, I was looking for a link to Portsmouth Northern Grammar which I attended between 1960 and 1965 and ended up on your website. I lived in Paulsgrove for most of my younger years, but have been resident in Perth Western Australia since 1974. 


In regard to Paulsgrove it seems like everyone has said the basic stuff about the place so my story is not unique. Born 1948 in Southsea, my father was an able seaman in the Navy and my mother worked in an aircraft factory in Liverpool during WW2. My family moved around Portsmouth (a lot) until I was about 7. We then got a band new Naval house in Keats Avenue - number 28. I recall they were still building the one next door when we moved in! Talk about mud. We were there for three years during which time Browning Avenue was being built, but immediately north of Browning was "The Hill" where I would spend a lot of time. 


After 3 years we got moved on by the Navy - they did not let anyone stay longer than 3 years. We then moved to Portsdown Avenue. I first attended the Paulsgrove infants then junior west school. passing the 11+ I went to the northern grammar also on the number 2 bus like others before and after me. I thought it was luxury having the bus stop outside my house. I was there from 1960 to 1965. One of my most vivid school memories was peeping through the door in the shared hall between the girls and boys schools at those wonderful girls getting changed for gym!!


 Going to school I recall sometimes getting off at Cosham and changing to the trolley buses which were great. Going home was via the Western Road on a  number 45 if you could find one or  number 1 via Cosham. If you were really desperate the Southdown bus to Portchester would do with a long walk - the conductors mostly, unofficially, allowed the use of the season ticket for the corporation buses, but some demanded cash - which I did not have. Mostly they turned a blind eye to lack of cash. 


After three years we were up against another move on notice from the navy. We ended up in Portsview Avenue where I remained until 1974 when in desperation for some space of my own, at the age of 25 I left for Australia with my new bride. 


When I look at the work opportunities around Portsmouth then, they were mostly related to defence work. I started with the MPBW as an electrical fitter apprentice and ended up as a degaussing officer in Gosport based in one of those forts. Right at the end I worked for Marconi pending a shift to Australia to "escape" my lot in Portsmouth. 


I seemed to drift through the 5 years at the Northern Grammar with a distinct dislike of French and most other subjects except science. I recall taking old used TV sets apart which were given to me by a school friends dad who was the general manager of Weston Hart in Portsmouth. I wonder if that chain is still going? [Went bankrupt and closed in the mid 1970s]


A few comments from writers about Portsmouth council being stingy is right. They (or the school governors) only offered to pay for GCEs they absolutely thought I would pass. They offered my parents the opportunity to pay privately for me to take more GCEs they thought I might not pass. Talk about keeping school averages up! Stuff the kids. 


Anyway my folks did not have the money being burdened with a large mortgage and maybe I would not have passed some of them. It was not until later that I realised that Portsmouth was not a council to spend money on entertainment for kids either. If you had a bat and ball you could play cricket on the grass on the bend of the road in Allaway Avenue - this was later fenced off for the secondary modern schools exclusive use and now lies under the motorway. There were no organised sporting activities around Paulsgrove that I recall. 


My first taste of organised sport came at age of 14, I went ice skating in Southampton on the train, that lasted 6 months then the rink was closed down by the Southampton Council. I was devastated and could never understand why Portsmouth did not have one. I note there's a small one now in Gosport run as a commercial venture not a sports outcome facility. 10 years ago here in Australia my business ventures were going so well that as a sideline I built an Olympic sized Ice Rink www.cockburnicearena.com.au for the kids in my area, including my own (and me - I've never grown up and still wonder at the age of 57 if I will!). I've often wondered if kids in the Portsmouth/ Paulsgrove area would take to ice skating! Of course they would. 


Anyway I digress. All the places mentioned in your site are well remembered so I'll just add a little trivia which has not been mentioned. I recall searching for slow worms and lizards "up the hill". There were two kinds of slow worms if my memory is right. The best place to find them was under bits of tin, which were warm hiding places. I never saw any snakes but wished to find a grass snake. The blackberries were a summer delight too as were minnows caught in the stream in Southwick. The chalk slide below ASWE was a favourite climbing spot. I used to ride my bike up skew road past those great big houses, all along the top of the hill down the eastern road to Southsea and home via Hilsea lido. My mum never wondered where I was. I guess these days parents would be freaked to have their 7 or 8 year old taking such trips but kids never went missing or got murdered. 


There was a lot of mud in the harbour and on me when I ventured down there, and an old submarine on the shore side of Horsea Island, which I guess has finally been moved. You could fish under the road bridge at Hilsea for flounder after you had got covered with mud looking for ragworm bait. There were plant nurseries between Portsdown road and the Smiths Chip factory, one of which got built on for houses. I used to earn 3d per tray pricking out plants to pay for my ice skating. That was in Jones's nursery next to the Smiths crisp factory. People building on the nursery closest to Portsdown Road is my first memory of the human race messing up good land! The railway from Cosham to Portchester was a favourite place to watch steam trains, sometimes too closely! Then they stopped and the diesels took over - they were never as good as the steam trains. 


I have returned to England only once since coming to OZ, that was in the 1980s on business. I made a point of visiting the area and like another writer could not see much change in the place but I did see a few "dark" faces. I noted how small everything looked and how steep the roof on the old house was. The Portsdown Inn was still there. 


In your site is a mention of the Harbour Lights pub on the Southampton Road. I had a road accident there - used up one of my nine lives when I pulled out behind a furniture van on my scooter and whacked the rear of a car turning right into the pub. I flew over the car and landed totally unharmed in the road flat on my back. The ladies from Johnson and Johnsons [now demolished and rebuilt on] came out to see a dead body. I was lucky to be totally unharmed - scooter looked very poorly. Whilst off the road I got lifts to work with a mate. I stopped that very quickly as he was worse than me (driving) and a few weeks later he was killed on the wrong side of the road on the Western Road. The other driver was blamed for being drunk at the wheel but I know my mate was a mad driver looking for trouble, seems he found it. 


One last bit of trivia is that the Paulsgrove west junior school was overloaded in year 1 and 2 and hence we were shipped to an annex on a bus just around the bend in Allaway avenue. The annex was a Baptist church I think. Can't recall the street name. I guess that was the bulge of the boomers going through. 


 Nice to see you have such a passion for the area. Cheers. 


Tom Barrett. Perth, Western Australia - February 2006


NEW 23-01-2006

Portsdown, Portsdown Hill, or just 'The Hill'. Having stumbled across Bob Hunt's web site on an evening just two weeks after my seventy fourth birthday my mind did not stop racing until well into the early hours of the following morning.


What brought me and our family to virtually the foot of the hill was the German raid on Portsmouth on Monday August 12th 1940. A mass of German bombers skillfully flew through the barrage balloon defences about noon on that day and dropped their bombs on the Portsmouth Dockyard and all in the close vicinity. The Brickwoods brewery at the end of King St. was hit and all about seriously blasted including No. 16 which was where we lived. After extricating ourselves from the Anderson shelter and over the rubble we vacated via the midwife's car, my younger brother was just a week old, to an Aunts in Milton and from there some weeks later to 38 Peterborough Road, Wymering one road back from the foot of the 'Hill'.


At the age of eight and a half that was the start of my association with Portsdown Hill. School days were somewhat hit and miss, I remember we had a half day at the Cottage Homes and then further half day at a school off the Southampton Road, the name is lost forever but I do remember joining the St Johns Ambulance Brigade cadets at this place.


I think my first solo foray up the 'Hill' was under instruction from my father. A little preamble before the reason becomes apparent. The new garden was virgin and full of weeds and chalk. My job was to get rid of the weeds and as much as the chalk as possible. We had to grow as much as we could to feed ourselves; a family of five.

My father, a plumber, found access to a large galvanised tank which was sunk in the ground at the end of the garden. This was filled with water and I was dispatched with a sack over 'the hill' to collect cow pats which were then deposited in the tank to form liquid manure. A long way these days from going to the local garden centre to get it in a bottle. I often wondered why in those days I had few friends.


Access to ' the hill' was legitimately to the Wymering Lane end of Peterborough Road and up ' the hill'. This was tiresome and we soon found a way through someone's garden in Mablethorpe Road that took us directly under the approach to Fort Widley. It was always a bit of a heart rendering occasion to make the run from the lane through the garden to the safety of Mablethorpe Road then a somewhat cocky jaunt down Boston Road to home.


From the late summer early Autumn of that Battle of Britain year of 1940 to the early part of 1944, when I was evacuated to Winchester (along with Henry Deacon, Fred - FAS - Smith and Alan -Tup- Pannell) with the Northern Grammar School, the 'hill' was our playground and adventure. We had our gangs the most feared was the O'Mara's from Harleston Road. God forbid if you were caught up that end of the patch. I was a pretty speedy runner in those days; no weight to carry on war time rations.


Fort Widley was always a source of interest and the Moat around it to us kids was a challenge. We once found a pole to slide down into the moat and I remember very well the frightening feeling that I would not be able to get back out again. Why that scared me I will never understand as practically every night we spent in the Anderson shelter trying to evade the bombs. By day we often watched the air battles that went on over Portsdown and I can distinctly remember watching a pilot bale out and float down somewhere over towards Drayton. By night we would sometimes have the Ack Ack guns parked right outside the house banging away at the bombers as they flew presumably to London and to Portsmouth. From a bedroom window on a clear day we could see as far as the Portsmouth Dockyard. Often at night when the all clear sounded we would watch the fires burning all over Portsmouth.


The Wymering tunnels became available to shelter in at night. We were issued with a plan of where to go and what bunks we were allocated. It was as I remember a miserable dank cold place. People would start moving up to the tunnels early evening pushing prams loaded with the necessary bits and pieces. If my memory serves me correctly we went a matter of two or three times and then took our chances in the Anderson or if we could not make it in time under the sideboard, me that was.


As kids during this period we still made forays over 'the hill'. On a trip back from Southwick [village] way we were caught in an air raid, running as fast as our legs could carry us we passed the soldiers parked in what was probably Pigeon House Lane, manning and firing the Ack Ack guns. We took cover for a bit then pressed on, passing the top of the Wymering chalk Pit the surrounding grass was on fire, we made a valiant attempt to put it out but decided to get back home. I went straight down our shelter with the rest much to my mother's relief I am sure.


I read the reports of the Cosham Wardens. One mentioned the house in Peterborough Road that was hit by a HE Bomb. This was on the opposite side to us and just a few yards up towards Boston Road. In fact I have a photograph that was taken of my younger brother standing in our garden and through the gap between the houses. The remains of that house can be clearly seen


The summers on Portsdown saw us on the hill with our own made sledges. Just below Fort Widley was a steep gulley and it was there that we would tear the grass back to a reasonable height spread candle grease on our runners and spend hours going up and down. We would also make kites out of whatever materials we could find and try to fly these on the hill. The handles for our catapults were carved from the hedgerows at the top of the hill as was the hockey sticks that were used by sometimes up to thirty or forty youths in games up and down Sevenoaks Road.


I have tried to keep my reminiscing specifically to Portsdown, but Cosham was also a very integral part of my life during that time. The area alongside Portsdown School that ran from the bottom of Sevenoaks Road to Spur Road was known as the fields. I spent a good deal of my time racing across this area to the shops to do the shopping for my mother. I was then a whiz kid with the ration cards and the points system. Leal's the greengrocers was always a target, if the word was out they had potatoes I was given three pence and a bag and dispatched to stand in the queue for my allocation.


Your photographs of the then Carlton Cinema brought back the memory of my older brother getting back home on the day the cinema was bombed to tell us that he had only twenty minutes or so before got out of the place.
On my return from Winchester, in early 1944 (I did run away once but was promptly returned following a doctors diagnosis that there was nothing wrong with me) life in terms of the air raids was much improved. What was the attraction to us youths was the build up to the second front. Portsdown School was full of American soldiers. We would get across the fields to the furthermost gate which was always locked. I have an everlasting memory of trying to extract chewing gum from these guys who always asked the question "have you got a sister kid?". In later years as I realized the significance of the situation I often wondered how many of those fellows actually got home again. My subsequent visit to the American War Graves in France gave me some indication.


The Southampton Road as it was then was constantly in use with very heavy transport, so much so that the tanks tore the road surface to bits. The May and June of 1944, weather wise, was in my memory as quite pleasant. Later recording of the events of that period made it clear that the actual timing of the D-Day landings was seriously affected by the weather conditions.


In the period before June of 1944 Portsdown was covered in grass some two feet tall. On our forays over the "Hill" we came across a good number of breaks in the tall grass pinpointed by the blue of naval or the khaki of army greatcoats. Activities beneath those covers we could only partly understand but it gave us a the chance to giggle. When I look back on this memory and in light of my subsequent age and experience I realize that in most cases it probably was not just a frivolous act but one sought in the realization that maybe in a matter of a few days, hours even, a life could and was extinguished. Portsdown will have many secrets stored on its slopes.


Forays over the "Hill" after this became less frequent. Goodwyns Boys Club in Highbury opened and I joined the Royal Marine Cadet Corps at Eastney Barracks, so activities tended towards the south rather than the north.
In 1947 I left to join the RAF Boy Entrants returning home to civilian life in December 1954. The family was still at Peterborough Road. Within a few months I became a salesman travelling the south of the country from Mondays to Fridays. 

Portsdown still featured for me because on some of my homeward journeys it was always a pleasure to hit the crest of the "Hill " by the George Inn to see Portsmouth spread out before me. I left Wymering in 1958 with my new bride, from Southsea, to live in East Surrey. Even to this day, forty eight years later on the occasions we get that way we still enjoy coming over the top of the "Hill" to see the sea. 

Gerald White - January 2006


NEW - 04-12-2005

I must thank you for the pleasure you've given me in surfing your website for the last two hours. I was born at the Royal in 1947, my father being in the Royal Navy. We lived in Hartley Road near Alexandra Park and our play route was to follow the promenade all the way to the foothills of Portsdown, sometimes on foot but more often on our bikes. The hill and its chalk pits were our playground. After hours of fun, we would come home via my grandmother who lived in Allaway Avenue, drinks, biscuits and a bit of pocket money.

Your detailed knowledge of the area and the photos bring back so many memories. Cosham was another place to visit because of the steam trains and playing on the waste land south of the track( now built on), or by the old fortifications by the Lido. My uncle, Mr Ockendon was I believe head or deputy of the Portsdown School and lived out at Cowplain. My longest lasting memory was as a Sea Scout( 38th. St. Marks) making our way to Southwick, pushing and pulling a cart of equipment to our camp at Dryad. We must have been fit lads in those days!!

Peter Madden, Worcestershire- December 2005


Then & Now Photos


About Portsdown

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