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Exploring the Highbury Estate

Published: 24th October 2007 10:14

By Peter Keat, Manor Court Nostalgia Writer 

Back in our school days at Manor Court every summer was one long sunny day with hours of interesting things to do - not a Playstation in sight. A recent wander down memory lane, well actually around the Highbury Estate revealed pastimes which would have had my mum hitching up her floral apron and wagging a disapproving finger. The Highbury Estate was built during the early 1930s and was a masterpiece of how not to design suburban housing. Three roads, 7/8th of a mile long with no bus service and no pub!

The Northern boundary was formed by the railway line, which included 'The Triangle' where there were some railway workers cottages and a footbridge, which allowed access from the Highbury side, but no footbridge to allow those intrepid explorers to reach the wild lands to the north. Nothing for it then but to risk all by nipping over the railway tracks, to be rewarded with the perfect place to find newts, frogspawn, blackberries and ride those bikes over the dips and dusty tracks.

The Southern boundary was Ports Creek and to adolescent boys this was the perfect adventure playground. Add to this a friend who was the owner of a rowing boat kept at the Tudor Sailing Club on the Eastern Road and it was truly a boy's heaven. Before the massive construction work associated with the M27 that swept away any remnants of the past, the main road into Portsmouth went over Portsbridge. Built in the 1930s it replaced a much older bridge. There had been a crossing over the creek at roughly this point for many hundreds of years. Until the M27 it was possible to make out remains of wooden quays and the piles for the old bridge. After the war, however, the creek became a real boy magnet - as was the German submarine which was beached off the shore at Portchester and remained there slowly rusting away. Picture our two intrepid explorers - in true Swallows and Amazon style - rowing out to the submarine, determined to mount an assault on its rusting deck, only to be deterred at the last moment, well there might be a dead German or two lurking below and we wouldn't want to disturb them or anything! Fascination indeed - but what would Mum have said?!

At the other end of the Highbury Estate where the houses petered out and the land became marshes once more, the railway runs over the creek. This was the swimming place, additional excitement being added by watching steam trains rumble across the bridge at intervals. Another place for watching the trains was the footbridge, which led from the Estate into Knowsley Road and standing on the bridge with the train passing beneath was a joyful moment, despite the smuts and smoke. Looking down from this bridge away from the Station the cattle pens could be seen, these held the livestock before taking them to the market at the top of the High Street.

The Highbury Estate may have had no pub and in the early days no school, but it did have a Church - St. Philips, designed by Sir Ninian Comper and built between 1936-38, it is masterpiece of interwar Gothic Revival and thought by some to be his most brilliant creation. It was one of the first churches to have a central altar, which is richly decorated, in contrast to the rather plain brick exterior and simple white interior. Perhaps money was short, however, or it was felt frivolous or at odds with the simplicity of design to have more than one bell in the tower. What a mournful sound that bell had, each Sunday as its dreary, toneless peal would attempt to call the faithful to church. To those who lived on the other side of the tracks it was the signal to pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep!

Because of its rather strange street plan, the Highbury Estate remained a rather isolated place, you only had to go there if you lived there. For this reason, however, it was very much a community with families all moving in at roughly the same time and growing up together through those long hot summers ~ well they were, weren't they?

What is the connection with the picture below? The answer is simple. It was taken in 1960 in the front room of a house in Highbury Grove and yes that is me!  

Find more of Peter's memories at manorcourtupdate.blogspot.co.uk.

 

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Comments

richard t
At 13:55 on 24th October 2007, richard t commented:
Peter

Your articles are great.

Whose house in Highbury Grove?

Probably still got that wonderful wallpaper!!!!!!!

Keep up the good work

regards

Richard Tovery
Peter K
At 16:13 on 24th October 2007, Peter K commented:
The house was the home of my first real girlfriend, Maureen. It was No 2 Highbury Grove.

Peter

Glad you like my offerings
David C
At 14:53 on 20th December 2007, David C commented:
Hi Peter
great reading your past exploits around the PO6 area. I have lived in the Railway Cottages for the past eight years and am very interested in finding out more about them and wondered if you had any pictures to share.
regards
David
Peter K
At 18:18 on 20th December 2007, Peter K commented:
Hi David

I'm afraid that I have no more info about the Railway Cottages although I did find a pic of a goods train in the 1950's passing them but I did not make a note of the web site and have spent many hours looking for it again. I had a friend David Harris who lived in the far cottage in the 50-60's don't know where he is now but would like to contact him, can you help.

Thanks for your comments about my articles, plenty more to come.

Peter
Fred C
At 14:11 on 7th September 2008, Fred C commented:
Peter - I like reading your postings, but I have to disagree when you said there was no school on the Highbury Estate in the early days.

I'm a little older than you, and I attended an infants school which was located very close to where the junior school was later built, on Dovercourt Road. I remember the old infants school as a small building with either a parking area or playground of black cinders. They were not kind to knees if you fell over!

My younger sister went to the new Highbury Junior School, but I went to Court Lane, and after the 11+ to the Northern Grammar.

Incidentally, I asked my older sister if she remembers the infants school that I attended, but she did not. It is possible she never went there, as it may have been before the family moved to Chatsworth Ave.

There is more background on the schools on the Highbury Estate in the book "Highbury Memories" published by the WEA Local History Group.

Their address is 6 Derby Road, Portsmouth - an address which interested me as it was the address where my Great Grandparents lived in 1891 and 1901!

Unfortunately the current building there looks much newer than that - we checked it out last time we were in the area.

Mike T.
John O
At 07:57 on 20th September 2008, John O commented:
Peter - whilst accepting there was no pub on the estate there was the "Portsbridge" at the beginning of Highbury Grove and an off-licence at the junction of Chatsworth Avenue/Dovercourt Road.
The school that Mike T. refers to was, in fact, originally built as a community centre for the estate but taken over as the social club for Southern Electricity. It was used in the late 40's as a satellite for Court lane Infants - as was the hall at St Philips Church and the Tudor Drill Hall.

With regard to your comment that this was a badly designed estate does not take into account that it was complete in itself with shops at the junction of Vhjatsworth Avenue and both Pitrieve Road & Dovercourt Road providing most of the needs for the locals.
You also mention the swimming adjacent to the railway bridge but not the steps provided at the top of Chatsworth Avenue which - I understand - was sanded/gravelled by the builders to provide a small beach.

JohnO
Derek M
At 14:35 on 16th October 2009, Derek M commented:
Peter,
Would you have any knowledge of occupants of 238 Highbury Grove in the 1930/40's. I am doing family history research and have discovered that my great grandfather Harry Dawkins lived there until his death in 1940.The house was, sometime after that date bequeathed to Beatrice Rose Lucas who also had another address 26 Windsor Road Cosham at which she lived with her husband John. She died in 1969. One very helpful Zinger,Richard has suggested that Rose had a son by the name of Geoffrey who is probably still alive.
I would like to contact Goeffrey if he is still alive. Any information would be gratefully received.
My e-mail address is dgm5745@btinternet.com
Regards,
Derek
Peter K
At 22:27 on 16th October 2009, Peter K commented:
Hi Derek

I'm afraid I cannot help but I will most certainly keep it in mind as I trawl through my memories

Peter
Peter K
At 22:28 on 16th October 2009, Peter K commented:
John O

Thanks for the bit about the steps I had not heard about them

Peter
twosheds
At 22:38 on 23rd December 2009, twosheds commented:
Hello Peter
I was interested in your Highbury estate article because when I moved into my current house in 1981 I needed to repair my double bay windows at the front of the house. The bay consists of 6 windows. Most bays are 5 windows.
Discussing this with my neighbour (now 97) she told me to go to the Highbury area to see lots of upgraded bay windows and keyhole front doorways like mine. I did go there and the architecture is the same.
She told me that the builder of houses at Highbury built and lived in mine. I live on the Southampton Road overlooking Paulsgrove Lake.

Eddie Cappleman
Kevin
At 08:49 on 15th May 2010, Kevin commented:
Good stuff! My father John Turner was a cabinet maker and worked for Whites over by the Airport estate. He later worked for Vospers, was foreman of the Joinery shop and worked on the fit out of the QEII on a trip out to New York. His main claim to fame though was the KeyHole porches on the Highbury Estate. Ours was the first (264 Highbury) Many years ago and from that point on he spent many years making them up for people. I vividly remember the spare bedroom at 25 (our later house) having a set of formers screwed to the floorboards to allow the long curved slot cut wood strips to be bent around glued and fixed. He was always out and about working on houses of those we knew and those who asked if he could make a porch for them.

Kevin
Derek M
At 14:27 on 15th May 2010, Derek M commented:
Hello Kevin,
Your article concerning keyhole porches is very interesting. I wonder if you might have come across any information about the occupants of number 238 Highbury Grove in the 1930/40's era. I would love to know when my great grandparents Harry and Ellen Dawkins bought the property and how much they might have paid for it. They were probably the first owners and would have lived there until Ellen's death in 1945. The house then passed to Beatrice Rose Dawkins who married John Lucas. They both then lived at 26 Windsor Road. Any info regarding this would be gratefully received I know it is a long shot but you never know what might surface.

Richard Tovery another Zinger has helped with some very interesting info but it would be nice to know even more.
MalcolmSmith
At 18:33 on 16th March 2011, MalcolmSmith commented:
Hi - just discovered this site, and am newbie on here. Wonder if anyone is still reading this threa?. My grandparents, Ted and Selina Noake (or Noke, depending on how they felt), lived in 4 Railway Cottages for many, many years and I spent a lot of time there. I remember the Lees lived in No 1, the Eatons in No2, the Scutts in 3, the Noakes in 4, can't remember 5, and the Greens in No 6. This was in the days when they all worked for the railway. There was a wonderful field at the front of the cottages (which I know is now built over) with ponies, ponds, rabbits (and my grandad's bloody dangerous geese!)..... and then there was a way over the electric line onto Farlington marshes, but I can't remember how
MalcolmSmith
At 18:45 on 16th March 2011, MalcolmSmith commented:
PS.. there were still prefabs up as far as St Philip's (my very first schoolhouse) from Portcreek. There were still a few fish in Portcreek - dab mostly, guess not now?
stephen. gover
At 11:28 on 3rd May 2012, stephen. gover commented:
Hi: Peter
I have a Film of the building of the estate that was filmed by the the contractor Mr Mitchell ,it`s in black &white with no talking Regards; Steve Gover. e-mail address:stephen.gover@ntlworld.com
Tessa
At 09:22 on 15th July 2012, Tessa commented:
Hi Peter, reading your interesting article, have brought back memories. I lived for a while at no. 27 highbury grove before moving round the corner to pitreavie rd. I went to school at highbury infant, then junior school. The school I believe was quite new and modern in it's thinking and architecture. Swimming or rather splashing around in the mud just in front of the 'drill hall' by the old bridge, going over to perone rd, and the 'moat' I have enjoyed meandering through archives Of my memory
Tessa
At 09:22 on 15th July 2012, Tessa commented:
Hi Peter, reading your interesting article, have brought back memories. I lived for a while at no. 27 highbury grove before moving round the corner to pitreavie rd. I went to school at highbury infant, then junior school. The school I believe was quite new and modern in it's thinking and architecture. Swimming or rather splashing around in the mud just in front of the 'drill hall' by the old bridge, going over to perone rd, and the 'moat' I have enjoyed meandering through archives Of my memory
Melvyn Griffiths
At 11:26 on 25th April 2015, Melvyn Griffiths commented:
I lived in one of the prefabs from 1946 to 1950. Too young to remember anything about them.......lol
I think the number was 236 not sure but I do have a photo of myself and my Dad outside.
My family were bombed-out during WW2 in a Portsmouth air raid which is how they came to be living in a prefab.... just like hundred's of other families who suffered total loss of their houses.
Melvyn Griffiths
At 11:26 on 25th April 2015, Melvyn Griffiths commented:
I lived in one of the prefabs from 1946 to 1950. Too young to remember anything about them.......lol
I think the number was 236 not sure but I do have a photo of myself and my Dad outside.
My family were bombed-out during WW2 in a Portsmouth air raid which is how they came to be living in a prefab.... just like hundred's of other families who suffered total loss of their houses.
Melvyn Griffiths
At 11:27 on 25th April 2015, Melvyn Griffiths commented:
I lived in one of the prefabs from 1946 to 1950. Too young to remember anything about them.......lol
I think the number was 236 not sure but I do have a photo of myself and my Dad outside.
My family were bombed-out during WW2 in a Portsmouth air raid which is how they came to be living in a prefab.... just like hundred's of other families who suffered total loss of their houses.
dave h
At 18:27 on 10th January 2016, dave h commented:
names remembered from my patch of chatsworth -brian small,ann howard ,harry bligh, trevor munden,linda parsons,dave washington,laurie duffin,jack linnet,harry slidal.alan cox, anyone care too add?
Melvyn Griffiths
At 07:26 on 11th January 2016, Melvyn Griffiths commented:
Dave......Alan Cox is still around and lives in the West Country. I use to be friends with him when I was at school at School ( Manor Court, Drayton )
Can I recommend you view Peter Keat's "Memories of 1960's" web site? http://manorcourt2.blogspot.co.uk/
dave h
At 19:48 on 17th January 2016, dave h commented:
thanks melvyn ,alan was a tall lad! more friends remembered from manor court -colin blake,alan clarkson,john wilson ,malcom lockheed,phil chambers,by the way i am in the photo of manor court football team front row ,peter keats not able to remember my name!!
Melvyn Griffiths
At 08:53 on 18th January 2016, Melvyn Griffiths commented:
Hi Dave......All those names you mention I know or remember well. Alan Clarkson lives in Fareham. John Wilson is in Portsmouth South.
Colin Blake joined the Navy from School. If you were at Manor Court in 1962 then we should know you but I don't have your surname.
dave h
At 14:29 on 18th January 2016, dave h commented:
hi melvyn my surname is harding my close friends would be those mentioned above and just remembered my first girlfriend at school carol day! .I still have the coffee tabie made in mr wells metalwork class i did see a photo of the same one but cant remember which website can you help
Melvyn Griffiths
At 17:19 on 18th January 2016, Melvyn Griffiths commented:
Hi David. It was me who has the photo of the coffee table on the Manor Court website. I still have mine in pristine condition. I remember Carol Day by name. If you get it touch with Peter Keat we can converse through email rather than this web site.
dave h
At 19:02 on 18th January 2016, dave h commented:
manor court website thanks found it .my table also in good nick they must be worth a fortune!! came to these websites late a name that seems to be missed is the infamous johnnie roberts
Mr Mitchell
At 23:40 on 4th February 2018, Mr Mitchell commented:
My great grandad Walter Mitchell and his brother built the Highbury estate, my Nan has the original black and white tape. Danny Mitchell
Mr Mitchell
At 23:40 on 4th February 2018, Mr Mitchell commented:
My great grandad Walter Mitchell and his brother built the Highbury estate, my Nan has the original black and white tape. Danny Mitchell
Mr Mitchell
At 23:41 on 4th February 2018, Mr Mitchell commented:
My great grandad Walter Mitchell and his brother built the Highbury estate, my Nan has the original black and white tape. Danny Mitchell
Tony Edward
At 22:40 on 25th May 2018, Tony Edward commented:
I was born at 295 Highbury Grove mid 1959 and grew up there till the age of 10.
I remember walking to school in all weather.
Most of the teachers, Mr. Law the headmaster, Mrs. Stannard the infants school head. 4th form teacher Mr. Holyoke.
The pillbox emplacements across the port creek on the Portsmouth side. The vicarage if St. Philip’s where the ceiling fell to the floor one morning due to the incessant rattling from the railway.
Pascoes shop at the top end of the estate near the bottom tip or the rail triangle.
Ask me any questions and I will try to recall what I know
Tony Edward
Tony Edward
At 22:41 on 25th May 2018, Tony Edward commented:
I was born at 295 Highbury Grove mid 1959 and grew up there till the age of 10.
I remember walking to school in all weather.
Most of the teachers, Mr. Law the headmaster, Mrs. Stannard the infants school head. 4th form teacher Mr. Holyoke.
The pillbox emplacements across the port creek on the Portsmouth side. The vicarage if St. Philip’s where the ceiling fell to the floor one morning due to the incessant rattling from the railway.
Pascoes shop at the top end of the estate near the bottom tip or the rail triangle.
Ask me any questions and I will try to recall what I know
Tony Edward

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