After writing about so many high and mighty subjects – aircraft carriers, politicians and the like – I thought I would write about something much more humble… where I live.
Paulsgrove is a large estate in the suburbs of Portsmouth, on the north west mainland part of the city, bordering Portchester and on the slopes of Portsdown Hill. Until 1945 the area was very quiet – apart from Paulsgrove House, a few roads and houses, and a racecourse, it was mainly made up of Pig Farms, owned by George Cooper.
Why is it called Paulsgrove? It has been suggested that it might be because St Paul preached there, although its probably an urban myth. Old maps of the area show the settlements as ‘Pals Grave’, so its probably more likely that an old english chief called Pal was buried in the area.
After Portsmouth was heavily bombed during the blitz, however, the City Council realised that it would have to plan to resettle many of the city’s residents off of Portsea Island, to provide better living conditions. To do this they purchased the land at Paulsgrove. At the same time, a very similar development was started at Leigh Park in Havant. Both sets of my Grandparents were among the first people to move to the new area after the end of the war. It must have made a big change from the crowded conditions in the inner city. That so many people moved in together, at the same kind of age and from the same kind of background, probably accounts for the strong community spirit felt in the area.
Most of the early houses were prefabricated, not meant to last longer than 5 years. Incredibly many of them remain today, albeit heavily modified. The early shops on Allaway Avenue were built out of Nissen huts, as was the Library.
Paulsgrove has had its problems over the years, although many of them have been blown out of all proportion by the press. In particular, the paedophile inspired riots in 2000 probably didnt show the neighbourhood at its best. You’re always going to have problems if you try and transplant thousands of people into a whole new settlement overnight. Usually towns grow organically, from a village, to a town, to a city. Not overnight. In the same way, putting people in high rise flats just doesnt work.
The areas changed quite a lot in the past few years. Out of the many pubs, only the Cross Keys is left now.
But all the same its a great place to live, near to the city, but far enough away to have plenty of space, green areas, nice views and even front gardens!