top of page
Archived Investigations
Historians and Contributors Words

This city wide public arts project was open to the public, groups, heritage sites and museums.

At each sampling session the investigation began assisted by an historian, artist assistant and photographer

Extracts from historians and contributors

'These garments were very fashionable at the time and probably quite expensive.'

'Worn on formal occasions at tea parties, waiting in public rather than waiting in the kitchen. She may have embroidered it herself or another family member may have made it. Worn with a black dress or skirt with a blouse, typical Edwardian dress.'

'The museum has a photograph of Beverley House with the mid-wives and babies. 1930s institution. All babies born called the 'Beverley Babes'.'

ʻMade possible by developments in colour printing that made them relatively cheap to make. Made a lovely keepsake for somebody.ʼ

ʻUsed by petty officer T.S Williamson who was on the expedition with Captain Scott. He was one of the first people to find Captain Scottʼs body in the tent.ʼ

ʻHe was in ʻMarlag 0ʼ prison camp in East Germany where he made the original model to help Lieutenant William Mewes to escape from the camp.ʼ

ʻIt was on HMS Invincible. Originally this ship was captured from the French on the 3 May 1747.ʼ

ʻItʼs quite rare for an item like this to survive.ʼ

ʻPortsmouth was very involved in the battle of Jutland - there was lots of solidarity between the naval wives.ʼ

ʻThe sail itself was discovered in the 1990s in the naval base. It was rolled up and had been there for a long time before people realised it was actually the sail from HMS Victory!ʼ

ʻEmbroidered and made by Emma Hamilton. Text reads ʻNelson, Bronte, Nelsonʼ.ʼ ʻWorn by Emma (Lady Hamilton) in honour of Admiral Lord in 1803.ʼ

ʻCrabb was very famous for going missing while on a spying mission in the 1950's in Portsmouth Harbour during the Cold War...ʼ

ʻHe booked into the Sally Port Hotel in Old Portsmouth and this was the last time he was seen alive. People suspect that he went diving off Portsmouth Harbour..ʼ

ʻThis is the first Victoria Cross ever awarded. It was presented by Queen Victoria on Southsea common.ʼ 

ʻPeaked cap worn by Captain Arthur Cochrane. He was the captain of HMS Warrior in the 1860ʼs.ʼ

ʻUsed by Queen Victoria at the Divine Service on board the Victoria and Albert (Royal Yacht). Presented to St Thomasʼs church on 8th November 1904.ʼ

'Ladies of the time used them to keep the sun of their faces. It could have been purple, brown or green originally.'

'The dress is Victorian. She is in her formal visiting costume. It became very popular to have photographs taken like this at this time. '

'The Buzz bombs (WWII) were fired across the Channel and they landed in random places. The worst bombing took place in 1941.ʼ

ʻHouses on Eastney Road had three or four bedrooms with three rooms downstairs and a scullery at the back.ʼ

ʻThe home-guard was established by Churchill as a morale boosting initiative. They were trained to put out fires along the railways in the event of any bombing.ʼ

ʻProduced as a commemorative handkerchief for the ʻFestival of Britainʼ in 1951 and held in Battersea Park, London.ʼ

ʻThe diary was started in 1940. His father's adventures in Egypt are listed. The diary is very worn as if it had been carried around with him.ʼ

ʻIt was taken by fans to the 1939 FA cup final – they won against Wolves (4-1 at Wembley). Pompey held the cup for the longest time – until 1946 because WWII prevented the cup being played for six years. The cat was tied to the front radiator grill on the supporter's motor coach – which set forth from Portsmouth to Wembley.ʼ

ʻOn 12 Jan 1941 the cup obtained at this final had to be dug out from rubble at Commercial Rd...ʼ

ʻThe player was to receive a salary of £7 a week between Feb – May 1939. He would get an extra £1 a week for a win! £7 was a good salary for 1939, the average wage was £4 a week.ʼ

ʻKnown as the ʻplayerʼs contractʼ this contract is between Portsmouth Football Club (John W. Tinn – PFC Manager at the time) and Bert Barlow. Signed on the 24th February 1939.ʼ

ʻThe players in the photograph are: Norman Uprichard; Peter Harris; Phil Gunter; Jimmy Dickinson; Jack Henderson; Reg Pickett; Douggi Reid; Jack Mansell; Gordon Dale; Tommy McGhee ; Guy Rees.ʼ

ʻOf course today we are used to very bright whites. Victorian whites were much more cream. It may not be British, it's the sort of thing that a soldier or sailor may bring home.ʼ

ʻPinafores were worn by children until they left school. It was a rite of passage to stop wearing the pinafore. Girls used to wear their hair down. When children were becoming young adults they would start to wear ankle-length dresses and their hair would be pinned up.ʼ

ʻThe dockyard caulkers would get paid one shilling per hundred foot of caulking!ʼ

ʻSix thousand trees were used to make HMS Victory. The oak post was fitted into the ship in 1759 – the tree would have already been a hundred years old so it would have been from 1840 (at the latest)!ʼ

ʻIt is ironic that Nelson got shot because he was the smallest target!ʼ

ʻThe Victory sailed from Portsmouth with his chairs and personal belongings on it.ʼ

ʻThe seats are plain and glossy because the servants who may have used them could have had fleas!ʼ

ʻHe was killed exactly were Nelson would later fall when his (Scottʼs) body was severed in two by a single round shot. His remains were immediately thrown over-board without a ceremony. Nelson remarked ʻOh dear is that poor Scott?ʼ

ʻI suppose no one would want to see oneʼs own personal secretary cut into two halves! They tried to get him overboard quickly because they felt it would have shocked Nelson too much.ʼ

ʻWe were amazed to find a Backgammon set! It was an amazing and unexpected find.ʼ

ʻOnly someone who was quite wealthy would have an object of this kind. It was the Rolex of its day!ʼ

ʻThere were no women on board the Mary Rose. There were several youths found on board – the youngest was eleven.ʼ

ʻWhen you see the shoes lined up in the store it conveys the depth of the tragedy and the loss of almost six hundred men. There were between twelve and thirty survivors.ʼ

ʻItʼs incredible to find peppercorns from the wreck – they would have been very expensive at the time and you wouldnʼt think they would survive this long!ʼ

ʻThere are reports of the crew on the Mary Rose being drunk and disorderly.ʼ

ʻThe whole dog is in the collection! It was found trapped in the sliding door of the carpenterʼs cabin. It was the only dog found.ʼ

ʻThe Kente garment dates back four hundred years. Originating in Ghana, kings and queens would wear them in ceremony. The colours represent various things – the green represents plant forms, the gold represents wealth and royalty and the maroon represents the earth.ʼ

ʻIn the early hours of D-Day parachutists were being dropped by the allies on either side of the beach-lands in Normandy. These dummies were dropped in other areas and got scattered all over the place because of high winds. The idea was that the Germans, from a distance and at night, would see these objects as real parachutists.ʼ

ʻThese would have been carried by RAF personnel on a mission in case their aircraft got shot down or crashed in enemy territory. It contains basic food rations to keep them alive and matches to light a fire to keep warm.ʼ

ʻAreas would have been marked with these signs to prevent German soldiers or French civilians entering the area. According to a pencil note on the back of the sign, the hole (two - thirds of the way down) was caused by a bullet from a Bren Gun (a British light machine gun).ʼ

ʻIt was a risky object to carry around in case it was detected by the enemy. They could have been parachuted in or arrived on a small aircraft that would have landed in the night. This example was purchased from a collector.ʼ

ʻThe fragment came from a lock of Nelsonʼs hair. It was given to Emma Hamilton by Lord Nelson.ʼ

ʻThe water was pumped around the piping system. The idea of changing the water every eight hours was a part of the health ethos to embrace cold water ʻlovely!ʼ. The Lido was a huge innovation of the time and cleanliness was considered to be very important. You were provided with good clean water to swim in.ʼ

ʻIn the 1960s there were hairdressing courses, woodwork, music, snooker, darts and a coffee bar. This photograph belongs to the Community Centre.ʼ

ʻTreasure Islandʼ Personal Memories:

ʻShe remembered that they were on display and contained photographs in her grandparentʼs house.ʼ 'My parents then moved back to India for six years as a part of the immigration schemes.'

ʻThe photograph was acquired when her aunt died (pictured right in the photo). It reminds her of Wallace Road in North End.ʼ

ʻ remind him of being aged two and three and being with his mother.ʼ ʻReminds him of watching the Coronation on TV in black and white.ʼ

ʻShe came to Portsmouth in 1977 but her mother had the ring before this date. ʻIt was found when mum was not well. I had to sort all her things out.ʼ

ʻShe enjoyed colouring in the illustrations with pencil crayons when she was seven years old. She used her favourite colours - pink, purple and a bit of yellow. She came to Portsmouth with her husband whom she met when his navy ship docked in Trinidad in 1968.ʼ

ʻI lived in Copnor which was a big cultural shock for me. First of all it was cold and the food was very different but I made lots of new friends which helped and they gave me new English recipes.ʼ

ʻThe carols have special meaning as they enable him to re-live the good memories he has of being a six year old choir boy.ʼ

ʻReminds her of visiting her grandma and looking at all the old things she had collected. 'I was always fascinated by these collections.ʼ

ʻReminds her of her fantastic family holiday.... hunting for shells and pebbles with her daughter...ʼ

ʻIt was the most special day of my life. I hide the confetti in my purse, so I can come across it and find it by surprise.ʼ

ʻShe remembers the coat in the photograph which had Tartan red lining. It reminds her of her pushchair walk with her granddad. ʻI felt comforted when I wore my coat, I have many sad memories as a child, this photo reminds me of the good times.ʼ

ʻIt is the oldest park in Portsmouth and he has enjoyed planting and improving the park from its run down condition in the 1980s.ʼ

ʻIt makes me feel special when I use it as it reminds me of my grandma. It brings back memories of her.ʼ

ʻIt reminds me of grandmaʼs house and searching through wardrobes when I was a little girl. There were lots of shoes, hats, jewellery and special treasures that I used to find.ʼ

ʻI was particularly excited to find this book in the basement of the Civic Building in 2001 as itʼs the same edition that Oscar Wilde was, allegedly, holding when he was arrested!ʼ

ʻIt was a previous landmark in Portsmouth. It was an infamous building and was one of the first buildings visitors to the city would see.ʼ

ʻVery common for children to own these. Designed to encourage children to save money. Money was supposed to be kept, not spent!ʼ

ʻIt came from a family friend, educated in France, her mother was a very strong woman who would host dinner parties and entertain people. All her possessions were dwindling away when she was housed in a nursing home. This is precious because it links me to these people and allows me to re-create the period of Art Deco in my mind.ʼ

ʻPicked up at a jumble sale about 30 years ago. He needed a home! He was given to me for free from the jumble sale stall so I named him Mr. Freeman.ʼ

ʻHe was always given a silk shirt, half a pound of wine gums and two hundred cigarettes.ʼ

ʻFather died when I was quite young and it reminds me of how he always wore a silk shirt (even when gardening). The feel of the thread from the shirt reminds me of him.ʼ

ʻMy brother was bankrupt when he bought it and borrowed the money from our mother. It was bought from Nesbittʼs auctioneers in Southsea.ʼ

ʻMarried in 1882 at the runaway church St Jamesʼs at Milton. Her husband was a printer and paper-bag maker in Portsmouth.ʼ

ʻThis is the only physical record of my great grandmother. I never knew her and this object marks a part of my life and history that is interesting to me.ʼ

ʻBecause of the bombing, my mum had to leave Portsmouth to give birth to me in Beverley House in Wickham.ʼ ʻIt reminds me of my father surviving a very bad experience.ʼ

ʻMen of the family were carpenters and they built the house they lived in. It reminds me of how strong-minded the family were to build their own house and raise their family.ʼ

ʻI have a mental image of him wearing a red hat and a scruffy grey shirt held up by this belt and with bushy sideburns.ʼ

ʻIt represents peace, protection, happiness and good health. She wears it next to her heart.ʼ

ʻIt belonged to her father. He gave it to her and said ʻdonʼt lose it!ʼ

ʻItʼs still being used a hundred years on!ʼ

ʻHe was playing Majong with this artist 42 years ago – the artist gave Mr Choi the painting as a present.ʼ


ʻThe angels have been stored in the boiler-house since 1980s.ʼ

ʻI kept them because they were a memento of the time. They were expensive at the time - £15.ʼ

ʻIt provokes imagery of playing as a child and I felt like a lady. Feels like magic and very special... Aunt Sylv owned and used it as a teenager. She gave it to me and it has been kept in a drawer ever since.ʼ

ʻIt makes me think about who I can give my precious artefacts to - my family have no room for them.ʼ


ʻBought for £20 in 1968 from a junk shop in Southampton. Just the right height for nursing my children.ʼ


ʻMy late husband, Eric, bought it for me because he really liked it.ʼ

ʻI have been living in my house since I was nine years old!ʼ

ʻIt reminds me of raising my children, watching them grow up. I have seven great-grandchildren and six grandchildren.ʼ

ʻLooking at this night-dress it reminds me of all that happened in 1944. One night we had to go to the air-raid shelter in Stamshaw (Stanley Road). In the June of 1944 the house was bombed and there was a picture of our bedroom in the Evening News showing the bomb damage. This was the last Buzz bomb to hit Portsmouth.ʼ

ʻHer father was injured in the First World War. He made this tapestry while at Queen Alexandra hospital (it was originally a military hospital) in 1916. He was in the trenches and very badly injured (a shell went right through his intestines and his back) in 1914.ʼ

ʻMemories of how the city has developed - Bransbury Park used to be Bransbury Farm and Goldsmiths Avenue used to Goldsmithʼs Farm. Iʼve hardly moved from the area.ʼ

ʻI realise from looking in here that people didnʼt live very long. Today people seem to live forever! I wouldnʼt want to part with this book.ʼ

ʻHer husband, George Drain, took the photograph from the top of the cinema. He used to work at the Classic cinema (Commercial Road) for thirty-four years as the Chief Projectionist.ʼ

ʻIt makes me think of how Charlotte Street should be. I feel that having the market was really good. It also reminds me of my husband and good memories.ʼ

ʻWhen I am sad I cuddle it. I also smell it to remind me of him. He was about 5”4. He took great care of these...ʼ

ʻI inherited the house that she was born in. Three generations have lived there. I found the certificate in a biscuit tin!ʼ

ʻOne day I went in and he had kept a crocodileʼs tooth for me! I was seven (1973). My mum labelled the tooth which is typical of her character. It was given to me again recently by my mum and seeing it triggered the old memories.ʼ

ʻHe would come in after a railway shift and then do his home-guard duty. It reminds me of how proud he was. The only time he ever kissed me was when my mother died.ʼ

ʻIt was a message to her first and only love. They were together for fifty-two years. This object shows that deep down he was a sentimental man. It showed how much he cared and loved inside. He would talk about my mother everyday after she died, even on the day he died.ʼ

ʻMy mother (Grace Seed) was a wonderful lady. She was so good, I would never have wished for another mother. She never lost patience. Iʼm one of sixteen, I'm the youngest, I was born when she was fifty-six.ʼ

ʻPeople would keep bits as souvenirs and turn them into different objects. All of the rivets taken off the Victory were thrown into a big bin – some of my friends (dockies) kept hold of bits. The man who made it (Tom Slight) lives on Powerscourt Road. It reminds me of my husband bringing it home.ʼ

ʻWe used to knit socks years ago. I was in the Womenʼs Land Army. We are only recently being recognised for our contributions. We worked from 6am – 11pm.ʼ

ʻI remember going into the theatre with paper glasses provided to make things look more three dimensional. It all seemed amazing – particularly all the colours – theyʼve really stayed with me – yellows and reds.ʼ

ʻI lived in Portsmouth and my father got a free railway pass to get us up to London for the day.ʼ ʻIt reminds me of one of the nicest days of my childhood. It was one of the first days we had as a family after the war.ʼ

ʻXmas day, the less said the better! On guard, no beer. Worst Xmas as yet.ʼ

ʻPortsmouth are one of the few clubs that follow this tradition – ʻwe fill it with champagne after the game and it is taken to the Board.ʼ

ʻThey were found in a Tesco Value egg box! Quite ironic really.ʼ

ʻMy dad was a Portsmouth man. He worked in the chemical works in Stamshaw.ʼ

ʻI bought this on a trip back to Nigeria having lived in England for thirty years. I had taken my children back to see where I came from. I moved to Portsmouth in the June of 1969.ʼ

ʻI moved to Portsmouth in 1988, I have lived in Britain twenty-two years. When I wear this I feel unique in Portsmouth. I feel proud to represent my country and culture.ʼ

ʻI wear it and it reminds me of my identity. I would wear it as a shawl to parties and gatherings and it immediately informs people of my identity.ʼ

ʻDaddy was coming home from sea – my husband was in the merchant navy for years. We had had our children by this point and this visit home meant that we were going to be together as a family. My children named the carvings ʻmummy and daddyʼ My children used to play with them – my son used to make them kiss!ʼ

ʻI have no personal association with any of the photos. I know that my grandmother loved them so I treasure them.ʼ

ʻAt the age of seven, I was desperate to look into this box at my grandmotherʼs house. This was my first ever trip to England from Iran and my first stay at her house in Chichester (Fordwater Road). After asking my grandmother to let me see what was in it, she opened it and presented this wallet as her most treasured possession. She loved her father dearly.ʼ

ʻI remember the masses of primroses that were brought inside the church – they would bring a lot of earth and soil in to build the display. This image has remained with me.ʼ

ʻI think it was my husbandʼs originally. I was thirteen and I fancied a boy who was sixteen at the time, I met him in a pub and went round to his house to listen to this album. He was my husband to be! The album remind s me of some of those times in Salisbury. ʻOld Manʼ is my favourite track. Itʼs our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary coming up soon.ʼ

ʻIt was found in February 2008 underneath the floorboards in the bathroom. It would have belonged to the builder who built the house in approximately 1900.ʼ

ʻShe used to belong to my auntie, my dad used to kick her around when he was a little boy. Iʼve had the bear since I two.

ʻThe scarf belonged to my best friendʼs grandmother ʻOonieʼ who died about six or seven years ago aged 97.ʼ


ʻThe blue paint on the floor of the pool makes the water appear lovely and blue, inviting and quite tropical.ʼ

ʻI remember coming to the Lido in the 1950s in its heyday when it was considered a wonderful amenity. I came from London to visit my grandparents in Kipling Road, Hilsea.ʼ

ʻI met my wife in 1941 and we were married on 3rd April in 1943. I called her Eve. We were together for fifty-six years. I was stationed on Foulness Island, Essex, by the Thames. We met this side of Ports Bridge at the Ports Bridge Arms. I took her home and looked after her. It was pitch-black and she was scared of all the shrapnel falling. She always dressed well with matching shoes and handbags – she would even buy paint to change the colour of her shoes if they didn't match!ʼ

ʻI bought it in an antique fair in Chichester. It attracted me and I am interested in the history behind it. I like weird stuff! It cost about £3.50. I keep it in my bedroom and I believe it works.ʼ

ʻI had an elderly friend, Mr.Penney, he lived on the corner of my road – I used to watch out for him. When he died, in the early 1980s, he left me all of these bits and pieces. I looked after him when he was old. His family circumstances were not very good – so I took care of him. He would put an ornament in the window if he was ill so that I would know.ʼ

ʻIt was worn on my wedding day on March 29th 1952. It was bought in a shop called ʻMardersʼ, next door to Newport Guildhall, in Newport on the Isle of Wight. Nylon was introduced just before the war.ʼ

ʻWhen the taxi driver arrived to pick them up there wasnʼt a train because of the heavy snow!ʼ My father said - ʻYouʼll never get married today – you are going to be snowed in!ʼ

ʻYou still hear people talk about the youth club in a nostalgic way and they were happy times. The staff felt as if they were providing a good social life for the kids and giving them skills. It was a close community then.ʼ 

bottom of page