Portsmouth The Postcard Collection by Alan Spree
Having produced two previous Postcard Collection books, ‘John Henry Spree’s Nottinghamshire’ and ‘Hastings and St Leonards’ I thought I would try again and decided to choose Portsmouth which was another location that was associated with the Spree family.
In 1959 my Grandmother and Grandfather Spree together with my Mother and Father decided to move from Nottingham to Portsmouth and buy a Fish and Chip shop on the corner of Prince Albert Street and Landguard Road in Eastney. My sister and I were apprehensive at the prospect of starting new schools and making new friends but at the same time excited at the thought of living in a seaside town.
We arrived late on a Friday evening towards the end of August and being unable to pick up the keys to the property the family booked into the Gravediggers Public House on Highland Road opposite the cemetery. The next morning my father picked up the keys and we had our first look at our new home and business.
It was not long before Mum and Dad had learnt the tricks of the trade in the Fish and Chip shop and my sister and I were ensconced in our new schools. I went to Eastney Modern and my sister to Southern Grammar School for girls.
Over the following years I made quite a few friends and also started work in Portsmouth Dockyard as an apprentice bricklayer. Work went well and I was persuaded to study at Highbury Technical College where I passed several examinations and was advised to take a Civil Engineering degree course at Portsmouth Polytechnic as it was known before becoming a University.
It was a wonderful place to grow up as a teenager especially in the so called ‘swinging Sixties’. Many days were spent on the beach in a group with what must have been to others our annoying transistor radio playing the latest pop music. We mainly gathered around South Parade Pier but sometimes at the Eastney End near to the Canoe Lake. Generally on a Saturday a few of us would walk down to the shops in Commercial Road or Palmerston Road to have a browse round and maybe purchase the latest 45rpm record. Wednesday evening was Youth Club night and before going we always tried to get an ‘underage’ drink in one of the local pubs, sometimes we succeeded but not that often.
Mum and Dad sold the Fish and Chip shop after a few years and Dad began work at the Officers Mess in Whale Island. After leaving that job he became the assistant manager at the Bowling Alley in Landport. Whist helping out on the shoe counter in the Bowling Alley I met a Portsea girl who I am pleased to say became my girlfriend.
My Grandma died in 1965 and about a year later my Grandfather married again. In 1967 I married the Portsea girl that I had met in the bowling alley and a few months later started my degree course having obtained sponsorship from the Department of Environment. My sister also married in the same year as I did.
My wife and our new son rented a house in St Mary’s Road Kingston and later we moved into a Council house in Leigh Park. I successfully completed my degree course and after being promoted to a Civil Engineering assistant was transferred to the office in Reading where we moved to and bought our first house.
My grandfather died in Portsmouth in 1982 and his second wife in 1989 leaving no more of the Spree family in the city.
Portsmouth and Southsea are places rich in history which had in a way been partly documented through the publication of postcards. I decided to concentrate on the period from the earliest published postcards up until the end of the Second World War.
The main attractions in the city during that period were HMS Victory, The Hard, HMS Sultan, The Point at Old Portsmouth, The Old Sally Point and South Parade Pier. Other places of particular interest are Clarence Pier, The Roman Catholic Cathedral, Town Hall, Victoria Park, St Mary`s Church, The Dockyard, St Jude’s Church, Victory Anchor, Southsea Castle, The Common, Eastney Barracks, Charles Dickens Birthplace and the Railway Station to name but a few of those that are featured in the book.
Putting the collection together was a joy and many of the postcards reminded me of my teenage days and early married life in the city. It also made me realise how little I really knew about the history of the area. The research to put captions to the postcards was mainly carried out by using the internet. The National Library of Scotland have a series of side by side, old and new geo-referenced maps that cover the whole of the UK and it was these that I found to be an invaluable tool to help with the location of some of the roads which had either disappeared or had changed name over time.
Alan Spree's book Portsmouth The Postcard Collection is available for purchase now.