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The Highbury Estate in the 50s - Part 4

Author: David Joyce Published: 17th January 2017 16:27

MOVING HOME - 1951
In 1951, we departed the pre-fab in Hawthorn Crescent and moved about a mile to one of the 1935 built 'Highbury Homes' at 9 Dovercourt Road.
This road was a small cul-de-sac offshoot that crossed, at right angles, the three main roads that constituted the Highbury Estate and, at that time had the sports field for Vospers boat builders behind it, with a large piece of spare land at the road end. This piece of land was to eventually house the Highbury junior and infants school, construction of which had not started when we moved in.
The Vospers field was later used for the 1960s built Highbury Technical College, which itself has now een superseded by student accommodation for Portsmouth University.
               

The two photographs above show (left) how the house looked when we moved in, with walled and grassed front garden. There were no car parking facilities as they were thought superfluous when construction took place.
However, by 2015 (right), the wall had gone and the garden concreted over to provide hard standing for two vehicles (a sign of the times). With the School still present and a student village behind, the house is in a far busier environment than it ever was in my youth.
Note also the storm doors fitted to the edge of the distinctive porch, work not done on No.7 which shows the original profile of the main entrance.
The ground floor, front room was my grandmother's, who lived with us then. She had a bed, two comfy armchairs and, most importantly to me, a radio. I spent hours in that room, while she knitted, listening to my favourite programmes, and in the days before television (we did not acquire one until 1955), the radio was a source of great adventures to me. Journey into Space, Dick Barton - special agent and Round the Horn were my favourites. The great thing about radio was that each listener put their own imagination to the dialogue, something television took away. How often I imagined myself on some distant planet with all its inherent dangers, waiting until the next episode gave me the answer! Grandmother also had a passion for jigsaws, which she passed on to me and has stayed with me all my life. She also loved trains, we would often walk down to the railway lines and my love of railways grew from passing so much time watching them go by.
I lived at No. 9 until I got married in 1970, and moved out, initially to a flat in Southsea, followed later that year by the purchase of my first house, following a job move to York.
Houses on south side of Highbury grove, the north side of Hawthorn Crescent and the bottom portion of Dovercourt Road all had rear alleyways. Why only them, I don't know, except that originally, they bounded open land (to the south), and the railway lines (to the north), which allowed for the provision of an alleyway
The Highbury houses also had generous rear gardens, bounded by concrete-lattice fences, and the two photographs below show them quite well. There was considerable use of concrete for fencing, walls etc. on the estate and by the 1970s, some of these were beginning to show their age. 1930s concrete did not always last too long as the panels on the walling in the photos below are beginning to indicate.
                  

These photos above are of me in the rear garden of our new home were taken during the summer of 1951, not long after we had moved in.
In the left one, I am sat playing boats in a large tin bath in the rockery that we had at the top end of the garden. The structure was single-brick walled with hollow square corner buttresses and a central semi-circular planting area (on which I am sat). To my memory this was not a general feature of the estate gardens but had been specifically built for the house by the previous owners.
I remember dad (who was not strong on d.i.y.) sawing a plank of wood on one of these buttresses one Saturday. It was hot summer's day and he was struggling to cut through this plank.
'Alright dad?' I enquired.
'B....y hard work this wood, son' He responded - dad rarely swore.
Suddenly, the plank of wood fell in two .... followed by a portion of the corner brickwork! He'd sawn through the wood and the bricks beneath it!
Dad just looked at the neatly sawn brickwork. 'B.gg.r' was all he said ..... I beat a hasty retreat, dad was not the best person to be around when things went wrong.
The right photograph was taken at the same location, but with dad. The large bush behind the rockery did not last long, it had gone by the end of summer 1951, although I don't think my dad had sawn through that by mistake as well!. The rockery (as we called it) disappeared later in the fifties, but I can't remember why ... or when. It had been a great play area when I was younger and we often used it as a fort for war games or cowboys and Indians.
                                                       

This photograph of younger brother Richard, shows the extent of the garden looking toward the Vospers playing field that was at the back of the house. Actually, two rather dilapidated tennis courts with associated with cracked, weedstrewn asphalt and broken down mesh fencing occupied the area directly behind our house.
Apart from my brother, it also shows the high washing line made from joined-up scaffolding poles embedded in a large concrete base which later rotted at ground level and collapsed - luckily with no-one under it at the time. Also seen is the concrete rear fence, back gate to the rear alleyway, and part of the garden shed which, in 1957, became the stage for an unforgettable incident - of which more later ! Oh and yes TWO more 'rockeries' - the place was full of them .... no wonder they were all demolished later, perhaps dad had used them as sawing benches also!

TO SINGAPORE - 1952

                                                  

In the summer of 1952, a year after we relocated to 9 Dovercourt, Dad was posted to the Naval Base at Singapore, and we sailed to join aboard the HMT (His Majesties Troopship) Empire Windrush. We left Southampton at 12.00 noon on Wednesday, September 17th, and travelled via Gibraltar, the Mediterranean Sea, Suez Canal. Aden, and Colombo, arriving in Singapore some four weeks later.
I remember dad having access to a car whilst we were there, and they had some friends, the Charmans, who had a son, Roger somewhere near my age. He was a spoilt little brat, and I didn't like him at all. He always wanted (and usually got) his own way, and trying to play with him was a nightmare. He would wail and whine at the first thing he didn't like, and I was always being told to 'let Roger win' whenever we had some sort of game. One day when we were out in the car, he wanted to sit next to the window for the journey back, even though I'd been told he could sit there on the way out, with me having a go on the return trip (such arrangements were important when one was seven).
As usual, whining Roger wailed and complained to his mum, and Mrs Charman ordered me to get out and let her precious little boy have the window seat. It was pointless arguing, so I did, slamming the door in temper behind me. Unfortunately (or was it?), darling Roger was trying to scramble into my place, and the door slammed shut on his foot! God, he made a SUCH a fuss, it only needed a couple of stitches to hold his little toe in place while it healed. As usual, I got it in the neck ... but he never tried playing up to me again after THAT one !
We were supposed to be in Singapore for three years, but about nine months later, Dad retired from the Navy and we left for home in April 1953, or rather everyone but me did, as I was careless enough to fall into the monsoon ditch opposite our bungalow two days before we sailed, broke my leg, and was not deemed fit enough to travel by ship at that stage. I spent almost a week in hospital at Changi RAF base and was then flown, in an Avro York transport plane to Colombo, where I was duly reunited with the rest of the family for the voyage home. The flight was fantastic for me, especially as I was able to sit with the pilot for some of it, and he had a great time pointing out all the various places we flew over (these types of planes were not pressurised, and so did not fly at great heights). The plane was half cargo and half seating although the seats were not much more than canvas 'deck-chair style' types. Most of the passengers were Officers and female office staff/nurses being transferred to Ceylon (Sri Lanka now) for military duties, but they did make a great fuss of me, especially the nurses and I loved it!
The house had been left in the care of my grandmother whilst we'd been away and was waiting for us on our return. At the start of the Summer term in May 1953 I returned to school and, surprisingly, found myself reunited with nearly all my friends (including Angela) from my infant schooldays when I re-appeared at the temporary home of the Junior School, based at the Tudor Crescent Drill Hall, about half-mile from where I lived.
There was an even more amazing coincidence when I was placed next to my friend Tony once again. It was as though I'd never been away.

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Comments

richard t
At 22:30 on 17th January 2017, richard t commented:
Another brilliant article David.
ruth
At 17:40 on 28th January 2017, ruth commented:
Your articles bring back such lovely memories, I'm sure we must have known some of the same people. My next door neighbour was Stephen Eynon and he went to Singapore with his family in the 50s does the name ring any bells?
Melvyn Griffiths
At 15:09 on 16th February 2017, Melvyn Griffiths commented:
I too was raised in one of the Highbury prefabs and the family left in 1951 to a new build house in Purbrook and then back to Drayton in 1955
My Mother would have known the people you are talking about as she had lived during the war years in a flat in Highbury Grove before moving into the prefab in 1945/6
Enjoying the stories though.
Melvyn Griffiths
At 14:53 on 18th February 2017, Melvyn Griffiths commented:
48hrs. later and having carried out a bit of research I have an addressed letter of 279 Highbury Grove BUT I am not too sure whether this was the flat my Mother lived in before she married or one of the prefabs.
I always thought that the prefab house number we lived in started with a 3 but the memory dims and plays tricks with your recollections. Melvyn Griffiths
davidjoyce
At 15:31 on 19th February 2017, davidjoyce commented:
Mel It can't have been a pre-fab as there were none in Highbury Grove, they were all in Hawthorn Crescent. David J
Melvyn Griffiths
At 15:50 on 19th February 2017, Melvyn Griffiths commented:
Good point Dave! So that must have been her flat? I have letter's addressed to her to 279 Highbury Grove from that WW2 period.
I seem to think it was 3** ( 343? ) Hawthorn Crescent but I am still searching through a pile of old docs. to confirm that prefab number.
My Mum was a RN Wren or at least she was signed-up at the outbreak of WW2 in 1939 and I know for 100% certain she had a rented flat on the Highbury estate.
Once I have mastered the posting of photo's on here I'll put a photo up of Mum and me outside the prefab.
davidjoyce
At 16:00 on 19th February 2017, davidjoyce commented:
Very possibly 343. As I stated we lived at 330 and that was almost opposite the pathway that led to the footbridge over the rail lines to those railway cottages (that are still there today). I remember grandmother often taking me down that path on my trike to watch the trains go by - she loved them. Our pre-fab was on the Chatsworth Avenue side of Hawthorn Crescent and my friend Angela (who appears so often in these missives) lived in the next block of five towards the church (318 I think)
davidjoyce
At 16:01 on 19th February 2017, davidjoyce commented:
davidjoyce
At 16:03 on 19th February 2017, davidjoyce commented:
A bit more grif. David Wellington (who was a couple of years older than me lived on the last pre-fab, at the very corner where Hawthorn and Highbury joined. His number was 392 I think.
Haley Storey
At 17:03 on 19th February 2017, Haley Storey responded:
Melvyn, you can send photos to me if you wish along with a few words and I will add for you. My email is portsmouth@aboutmyarea.co.uk. You can't add photos in the comments on stories but we can set up a new one.
Melvyn Griffiths
At 18:32 on 19th February 2017, Melvyn Griffiths commented:
Thanks Haley. I will sort a photo out tomorrow. Regards.
dave h
At 15:22 on 7th March 2017, dave h commented:
Hi ruth,I knew Steve Eynon well he quickly made contact with me on his return. I am pretty sure you are the Ruth i chased around the horses field!! (say no more) .Other friends of Steves would be John Lodder, Al Gray,Rick Tovery,Colin Blake do those nanes ring a bell?
ruth
At 16:15 on 7th March 2017, ruth commented:
Hi dave

The horses field was brilliant for us kids, hiding in the bushes etc. Did you manage to catch me , I could run pretty fast in those days. I can't recall any of those names unfortunately, I went on to marry Harry Bligh who lived in Hawthorn Crescent. Whereabouts did you live?
Melvyn Griffiths
At 17:06 on 7th March 2017, Melvyn Griffiths commented:
Ruth......I remember Harry Bligh from Court Lane. He was in my Sister's year I think. I was 3 years below my Sister.

Dave H.

Colin Blake was in my year at CL& MC and I believed he joined the RN as an apprentice artificer from school.
I was informed some years ago now when we were looking for him to let him know about a school reunion that he rose to the rank of Lt. Commander in the RN but that fact has never been verified.
dave h
At 19:19 on 7th March 2017, dave h commented:
ruth i think your surname was allen. I remember Harry Bligh growing up ,he lived in Chatsworth then about 50 yds from me.
And yes you did LET me catch you!! Our paths crossed in the mid 90,s one friday night in a pub,and there was some banter between your friends and mine but you did not recognise me .Any names you can remember? Dave H.

dave h
At 19:31 on 7th March 2017, dave h commented:
Melvyn G
Colin lived in Highbury Grove our mums were good friends.They once put us in the fancy dress at the Highbury Juniors fete as Gert and Daisy (and we had NO idea who they where).Your right he did join the navy and was very homesick for a bit, glad to hear he did OK. Dave H
ruth
At 10:08 on 8th March 2017, ruth commented:
Dave H
You're right I was an Allen. Sorry I didn't recognise you was I wearing my glasses! What was your surname Dave? I had a friend who lived at the bottom of Highbury Grove called Keteesha Forbes, her Dad was a local councillor and had a shop that sold prams etc in Cosham High Street. Also Margaret Campbell who lived in Hawthorn Crescent, she had a sister called Ivor.
ruth
At 10:22 on 8th March 2017, ruth commented:
Dave H
Another name has just popped into my head, Terry Moseley, I think he lived on the Estate, I know he did a paper round for the Post Office in Chatsworth Avenue. He had a copy of the banned book Lady Chatterlys Lover which he loaned out to everyone.

Melvyn G
Your name does ring a bell, I was born in 1946 so was a year younger than you but we would have been at Court Lane at the same time I think.
Melvyn Griffiths
At 10:29 on 8th March 2017, Melvyn Griffiths commented:
Hi Ruth.......1946 for me as well. My birthday tomorrow 9th March.

I knew of Terry Mosely as well. I was having an email conversation with David Joyce and I mentioned the fact that Court Lane and later on Manor Court schools had a huge pupil/student catchment area of high density housing which spread from Farlington in the East to Cosham in the West plus of course the Portsdown Hill slopes.
ruth
At 10:57 on 8th March 2017, ruth commented:
Melvyn G
Happy Birthday for tomorrow Melvyn, so like me you celebrated the big one last year. We were obviously around those schools at the same time, amongst hundreds of others. I wonder if there are any web sites with school pictures of that time. I wish my memory was as good as David Joyce.
dave h
At 13:43 on 8th March 2017, dave h commented:
Ruth
my surname is harding and i do remember Keteesha (long curly blond hair),also Terry Mosely Terry Salmon,Paul Jenson among others who were a bit older ( and scary). Check out manorcourtupdate.blogspot.co.uk by Peter Keats for some great memories and photos.
Melvyn
did you know Johnnie Roberts ?
Melvyn Griffiths
At 15:03 on 8th March 2017, Melvyn Griffiths commented:
Hi Ruth.......I was a founder member of Peter's website some 15 years ago now when we both organised the school reunion in Havant.
I was saying to Dave J. by email that Peter now runs the MC website in his own right as he has written books on Drayton and other local topics. I have contributed articles in the past to the website which you can see. Have you seen Peter's dedicated photo page? You may well feature.

Yes, I remember Johnnie Roberts very well. He was friends with Alan Clarkson and John Wilson. Alan lived in the end flat above a shop in Highbury Buildings. His Dad was the landlord of the Portsbridge Pub at some point around that time. Alan and I both joined the RAF at the same time straight from school.
dave h
At 17:23 on 8th March 2017, dave h commented:
Melvyn
Alan Clarkson moved to the Empress Of India pub in Commercial Rd(long gone).It was huge and we great fun there as kids.

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