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The Highbury estate in the 1950s

Author: David Joyce Published: 14th December 2016 18:16




                                       1950                                                                       1960

Having moved to the Highbury estate in 1949, I lived there throughout my school life, and indeed beyond those years until I left Portsmouth in 1970. I started infant school at St Philips Church in September, 1950, and by 1960 was in my fourth year at Portsmouth Northern Grammar School.

For a young boy, it was a decade of exciting events, a trip to Singapore and passing the eleven-plus to name but two. It was also a decade of a long, close-developed friendship with some great pals, all of whom figure in my memories at some stage or other.

    The map above shows the Highbury Estate and its surroundings in the 1950s. This entire area, streets, fields, and waterway was the domain of my group of friends during those ten years. We all lived locally, went to Highbury School, knew the area intimately and could be found roaming all over it during that decade. 

    The Estate was built during the 1930s with the exception of the lower end of Hawthorn Crescent, which was never developed until after WWII when prefabricated bungalows - the famous 'pre-fabs' - were constructed to provide quick, economic housing. They lasted until the 1960s when a range of 'maisonettes' were built to replace them.

    Our family first lived in a pre-fab, 330 Hawthorn Crescent, from 1948 until 1951, when we moved into No. 9 Dovercourt Road. Highbury school was opened in 1954 and one of our favourite locations was the Vospers playing fields, which lasted until 1960 when the new Highbury Technical College was built on the site of it. This in turn was replaced by student accommodation for Portsmouth University in the 1980s.

   The creek was a tidal waterway that separated Portsmouth from the mainland, and was originally about 200 yards (60m) wide. It was, of course, partially filled in when the new M27 motorway was constructed along its length and today it is vastly reduced in size to about one third of its original width.

    On the Portsea Island side of the creek was the man-made moat and rampart fortifications of the 'Hilsea Lines' as they were known. When we ventured into that area, we were at the edge of our 'comfort zone' and for a bunch of lads between the ages of eight and thirteen it was a major adventure to explore them. There was (as can be seen) only one access to the Lines, via the Pitreavie road causeway, and once we entered the area between the moat and Scott Road, we were 'off the map' as far as our local knowledge was concerned - not that it stopped us on a few occasions. That whole area of the Hilsea Lines was military-owned land in those days, although it was largely disused and wasn't fenced off (well not properly fenced off anyway), and none of it was developed until the late 1960s.

    Now also covered by an industrial estate, the Farlington 'marshes' (as we knew them) were accessed via the underside of the railway bridge over the creek (at low tide) or via the 'Triangle Field' as the area of land within the rail lines of Cosham triangle was known. Halfway along the London lines was a farm crossing which would give us access to the wasteland beyond. It was a fantastic adventure ground for a bunch of lads such as us, criss-crossed by paths, with masses of wild vegetation, large concrete block 'tank traps' and even a concrete bunker (both built in WWII).

    Then there was the 'Horses Field' (nobody knew why it was called that - we never saw any horses on it), along Pitreavie road and across the causeway over the creek. Another great area for games of hide and seek, and of football and cricket once the Vospers field was developed. It was wide at each end, with a narrow 'neck' in the middle, and to go as far as the Lido end, by the Southdown bus garage was a real 'trip'.

     From ages 8 onwards, in summer evenings, at weekends, or especially Mondays, during school holidays, when our mothers 'wash-days' meant we were all evicted from home straight after breakfast and not wanted again until teatime, all these locations were our world, one of adventure and fun. It was great being a boy (girls apparently did not have anywhere near the same freedoms), and happy memories of those days have lived with me all my life.

      On colder, winter evenings, when darkness fell early and the estate often became shrouded in the fog from   numerous coal fires that every house had in those years, we would roam the streets, usually meeting up down by the railway signal box at Portcreek Junction and wandering our way up Chatsworth Avenue or Hawthorn Crescent (we hardly ever used Highbury Grove) to visit the local 'chippy' up at the Highbury Buildings which formed the head of the estate. We rarely got into trouble, and weren't that noisy, except when we sometimes passed one or two houses where local girls we knew lived, and made sure we attracted their attention (often it was their dads who responded - and not very politely). To be fair, some of the girls were really envious at the freedom we had, telling us at school how much they would have loved to have joined us, but it was a different world for them in those days, modern girls need only ask their mothers to realise just how restricted their lives were. Even the estate 'bobby' knew us all by name, and would often raid a chip from each of us if he passed us at, or after a visit to, the chippy. He was a good guy, but unfortunately he moved on in 1958 and the new one was nowhere near as friendly, calling us 'ooligans' whenever we met (or whenever he could catch us). He was so bad, he will get an 'memories' episode all to himself and was the only individual we ever had any bother with.            

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At 10:39 on 15th December 2016, ruth commented:
Loved this article on growing up on the Highbury estate. I also grew up near there in Tudor Crescent in the same era 1947 - 1966 and it brought back wonderful memories of playing in the Horses field and the creek. I would like to know where I could get a copy of the whole book please. Can you tell me where I could find this?
richard t
At 12:13 on 15th December 2016, richard t commented:
Hi Dave

We used to go to Fratton Park together and played football for St Philip's Youth Club.
I still live in Chatsworth Avenue.

regards Richard Tovery
richard t
At 12:13 on 15th December 2016, richard t commented:
Hi Dave

We used to go to Fratton Park together and played football for St Philip's Youth Club.
I still live in Chatsworth Avenue.

regards Richard Tovery
At 16:33 on 15th December 2016, Kay commented:
Hi Dave, I think our paths probably crossed many years ago although you are several years older than me. I certainly remember your mum, Vi, very clearly. From memory, did you live next door to the Clayton, then there was Jack and Vera Munday and the at no. 15 my grandparents, Bill and Dorrie Dick. I still have photo of Vi, Vera and my nan, they were all friends as well as neighbours. I have live at Highbury on and off throughout my life, and have now lived in Chatsworth for over 30 years. My name then was Kathryn Newman although I was.known as Kay.
Barry Farmer
At 14:44 on 12th January 2017, Barry Farmer commented:
Hi Dave
I loved the article on Highbury i have a photo taken back when you were about 16-17 along with Tony Nuttall and others, if you would like to get in touch i will send it to you.

Regards Barry Farmer
dave h
At 19:19 on 14th January 2017, dave h commented:

Farlington marshes,the Horses field,swimming in the creek and building underground dens now they were proper adventure playgrounds!! despite the many cuts,bruises thorns and splinters it was a great childhood.Names remembered from my patch, Harry Bligh,Anne Howard,Brian Small,Jack Linnett,Harry Slidall Cliff Rattley,Trevor Munden,Dave Washington,John Roberts
regards dave harding

Jim Perkins
At 16:36 on 26th July 2018, Jim Perkins commented:
Hi Dave,
I have just found this site and find it amazing.My name is Jim Perkins and I lived at number 364 Hawthorn Crescent. My neighbours were Johnnie and Arthur Roberts on the one side, and the Emerys on the other. Mr Emery drove a fruit and veg van and kept it on a piece of waste ground by the builders yard at the end of the road. As well as having the patch of land by the the builders yard to play in I and Arthur Roberts used to play in the builders yard.We would have great fun, not only the play but avoiding the local bobby who used to patrol it regularly. If caught it was a clip round the ear and the thteat of telling our parents. I was born in the prefab and lived there until we had to move out to Leigh Park and I hated it. we only stayed ther for two years and then moved to worcester. Living in the prefab was wonderful. I had the freedom to roam without my parents worrying. I started school at St Philips, a large room split into two parts with the toilets outside. During playtime we would rush to the fence to see the steamtrains go past and chant to the guardsman.Please blow your whistle and when he did we shouted hooray.
I am hoping I can get in touch with others from around the area as I am trying to put together a photographic book for my family about my early days, and like a lot of the comments I have read I am not the only one that had a wonderful life in Cosham.
Regards Jim Perkins
At 20:18 on 9th January 2019, Tessa commented:
I was in highbury grove then pitreavie road from
The mid 50s to the 70s but my grandmother was
Living there from being built. She wrote a short
History of the start of the houses in P road, really interesting. I also have an old school class photo
And amazingly can name many faces on it.
Jim Perkins
At 12:36 on 12th January 2019, Jim Perkins commented:
Hi Tessa
I lived in Hawthorn Crescent since 1948. I would love to read your Grandmothers history, and maybe I might know some of the people in your photo.
Jim Perkins

At 16:38 on 12th January 2019, Tessa commented:
Hi, I will look out for the article, I have the photo but a little hesitant about putting it on here due to privacy, I know that I wouldn’t mind but unsure about everyone in the photo, even 55 or so years on
At 16:41 on 12th January 2019, Tessa commented:
Many of the names I see such as gauntlet, Munday, small, pilbeam winslade I recognise but I think it possibly the younger members of the families rather than the ones stated in earlier articles contained here
At 13:55 on 12th July 2019, SAABMAN commented:
I didn't know you and you probably don't know me either but I was in the same classes as your sister Maureen, I walked to and from Highbury school with John Roberts and had my first underage pint at the Portsbridge with Valerie Emery, Jo Fisher and a bloke who worked in the signal box. Good days.
Best Ones Mick Dryer.
Peter M
At 16:46 on 18th January 2021, Peter M commented:
Hi Dave.
I am Peter and Lived at 176 Highbury Grove (on the corner of Dovercourt Road), I was a pal of your brother Richard. I can identify and recall all of the places that you mentioned, it all seems so long ago and far away now, sigh. Whether you ever pick up this message or not, considering this thread is several years old is dubious. However, if you do what did Richard do next?
At 18:34 on 24th January 2021, SAABMAN commented:
Hello Every or Anybody reading this, just want to wish all concerned a belated Good New Year, never mind the wealth bit, but it's the health bit that is most important in these difficult times.

Stay safe and well, Mick Dryer

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