THE RESEARCH BEHIND THE 1860 PROJECT
It was determined at an early stage in the development of the project that if the outcome was to have any historical value then it had to be as accurate as possible. Inevitably, this ideal has been compromised by the scarcity of some relevant research materials, but even so, the progress to date has been satisfying. This page looks at some of the primary sources for the research used in the creation of the model.
"The Stranger's Guide"
Created in 1842 by the printer W.H. Charpentier, the Guide was a panoramic drawing of each side of High Street, Portsmouth, showing in some detail, every public building, hotel, tradesman's shop and private residence. It was made highly accessible by the simple expedient of portraying both sides of the street back to back on the same side of a six foot long drawing which was then folded into a booklet just 6¾ x 4 inches in size. Of interest is the fact that only certain buildings were labelled with the incumbents name or business; presumably this is because only those proprietors had subscribed to the publication, it being common at the time to secure this support before commencement of a printing project.
It is fair to say that the existence of this valuable slice of history made it a major inspiration in the decision to embark on the 1860 project, for without it, many architectural questions could not have been answered.
Although 1842 is nearly two decades before our target date, the Guide gives us a platform from which we can compare all subsequent evidence. In practice, over 95% of the buildings on High Street in 1860 proved to be essentially the same structures as depicted by Charpentier. This is not to say that the panorama was architecurally accurate as Charpentier was not above exaggerating the size of some buildings and diminishing the dimensions of others, often on the basis of whether the owner had subscribed to the Guide. What the drawing does offer is a surprising amount of detail, particularly in the configuration of the facades and the embellishments thereon.
The Guide then offers a sound base from which to develop the project, though of course it offers no assistance to any other aspect of the project apart from the facades along High Street and some buildings on side streets seen obliquely.
The Ordnance Survey Maps
Old Portsmouth was surveyed by the OS in 1861 and 1865 and it is these maps which form the basis of the ground plan for the model. Having said that, there are problems associated with them. In the first place we do not have a complete set of maps from either survey though we do have several versions which we may associate with one or the other.
The most important copies were kindly provided by Portsmouth University Library who obtained all of the Hampshire maps in 2009, when the OS disposed of their paper copies. The library then made high resolution digitised copies of each. There are six maps relevant to our project, printed at a scale of 1:500 or 10.56 feet to one statute mile, but surprisingly, given their provenance, they are not all from the same print run. Reproduced below are the Sheet Numbers (as printed in the top right hand corner of each) followed by the title legend(s) from the bottom left and centre.
LXXXIII.II.4 - Surveyed in 1865 by Lieut. Sanford R.E. Engraved in 1866 under the direction of Colonel Cameron R.E. and Published by Colonel Sir Henry James R.E. F.R.S. M.R.I.A. 31st May 1867 (Revised in 1874. Details of W.D. Property revised in 1879)
LXXXIII.II.5 - Surveyed in 1861 by Captain Scott R.E. Engraved in 1867 under the direction of Colonel Cameron R.E. and Published by Colonel Sir Henry James R.E. F.R.S. M.R.I.A. 31st May 1867 (Revised in 1874)
LXXXIII.II.9 - Surveyed in 1865 and printed from a transfer to zinc in 1894. Engraved and Published 1867 (Revised in 1874)
LXXXIII II 10 - Surveyed in 1861 and printed from a transfer to zinc in 1893. Engraved and Published at the Ordnance Survey Office, Southampton 1867
LXXXIII.II.14 - Surveyed in 1861 by Captain Scott R.E. Engraved in 1867 under the direction of Colonel Cameron R.E. and Published by Colonel Sir Henry James R.E. F.R.S. M.R.I.A. 31st May 1867 (Revised in 1874.)
LXXXIII.II.15 - Surveyed in 1861 by Captain Scott R.E. Engraved in 1867 under the direction of Colonel Cameron R.E. and Published by Colonel Sir Henry James R.E. F.R.S. M.R.I.A. Superintendent 29th June 1867
The areas covered by each section can be seen superimposed over an 1860 map used by B.H. Patterson for his publication entitled "A Military Heritage".
It is difficult to know what to make of this collection, partly because they are civilian maps in which most of the War Department works have been masked out. Interestingly, Map 4, which is the only one to mention W.D. Property, is also the only one to show any details of those works, in this case part of Colewort Barracks. In contrast, the adjacent Map 5 which covers the rest of the barracks displays white space where the barracks are known to have existed. Map 4 is one of only two to be based on a survey (by Lt. Sanford) from 1865 as opposed to 1861 for the others.
The absence of most of the military works, including all of the fortifications, even the town gates, would have posed an insurmountable obstacle for the project were it not for the fact that the military versions of these maps have also survived. Copies of these are held by both the Central Library and the Record Office, though the copies made generally available to the public are in poor condition. A further set were prepared and used by the Gas Company in 1871 and fortuitously rescued from a skip by the archaeologist Russell Fox. Unsuprisingly Patterson used the military maps for his research into the fortifications.
The existence of these several maps would not be a problem if one was a definitive copy of the full, military, version, accurately portraying the town as it was in 1860. The later revisions, notably in 1874, are known to have altered some features such as Golden Lion Lane which was widened in 1869. Another alteration was made to the Guard House inside King James Gate.
An extraordinary feature of these maps is the level of detail in areas that could not have been visible from any public vantage point, indeed the only way this could have been obtained would have been by physically entering every property in town in order to measure the length of buildings and record the dimensions of outbuildings and gardens. In contrast there are some buildings on the maps for which we have contemporary photographs and which are drawn inaccurately.
The national importance of the 1861 maps can be gauged by the fact that it was as late as 1858 that the OS Superintendent Colonel Henry James succeeded in persuading Parliament that all towns should be mapped at a scale of 1:500 whereas previously the approved scale had been 1:2500 for both town and countryside. Initially the towns in the southern counties were excluded on the grounds that they had been recently surveyed at 1 inch scale, but the onset of French invasion fears brought focus to all land along the south coast of England which were to be heavily fortified.
The earliest directories were published in the 1720s, quickly evolving in both style and target audience before settling down to a familiar format by the mid 19C. A University Of Leicester Project on historical directories offers further details on the types and formats. For our 1860 project we have used just five main directories as follows:-
1. Hunts Directory of 1852.
Although rather early for the model this directory could occasionally be useful when helping to determine the longevity of a tenancy. The section on Portsmouth Town was only 12 pages long, beginning, as was common at the time, with a list of the local gentry, though as there were less than 60 listed it seems probable that many would have opted out. The rest of the Directory consists of the traders grouped according to their business.
2. The Post Office Directory of 1859.
This directory and the one following mark the beginning of the period being examined and as such enable research to follow many traders who operate from the same premises over a period of time. As with Hunt's the PO Directory begins with a list of the gentry, but unlike Hunt's this is followed by an alphabetical list of all the traders, with their particular business being included in the entry.
3. Kelly's Directory of 1859.
By the early 1860's Kelly's directories had begun to set the standard for all future directories and would before long be amalgamated with the Post Office Directory. The 1859 Kelly's is far larger than the previous two directories, but then it had to be as it covered the whole of Portsmouth and Southsea. The traders were all grouped according to their businesses which were listed alphabetically.
4. Simpson's Directory of 1863.
The only copy of Simpson's available is in poor condition and not fully legible. It is probably the weakest of all the directories as it contains enough verifiable errors to throw the contents of the entire volume in doubt. It is only included here as it was published in a year of great relevance to the model.
5. Harrod's Directory of 1865.
Bringing up the rear is Harrod's Directory which seems to have been based on the Kelly's edition of the same year, except that it places all the traders in a single alphabetical list.
Each directory has it's strengths and weaknesses but together they generate a strong identity of the town in the early 1860s. They have proved extremely useful in showing, for instance, that buildings were still being used as shops and manufactories at this time, when later photographic evidence suggests that they had been converted to residential accommodation.
The 1861 Census
Of crucial value to our research, the 1861 Census fills in all the gaps left by the directories, enabling a complete picture of life in the town to emerge. The extraction of this information was not always as straightforward as may be imagined. The Census listed it's pages by Schedules rather than addresses, despite there being a space for the address against each entry, and the schedules referred to households rather than houses. This meant that tenants in self-contained accommodation would be allocated a separate schedule to that for the principle occupant which in some cases makes it very difficult to determine the true nature of the household.
To complicate the matter further, the schedules do not always follow a logical route. In several cases, individual properties are completely out of sync and often can only be identified by comparison with the directories. There is no obvious reason for this though it may be that the enumerator failed to gain access to some households on the scheduled round and had to return to them later.
The census is available online via subscriptions with www.ancestry.com and with www.findmypast.co.uk. These two sites have adopted rather different methods of presenting the infomation, the former relying primarily on the visual display of the census documents backed up by the relevant transcriptions, whereas the latter focusses on the transcriptions and gives you the option of viewing the documents. The transcriptions on both sites leaves a little to be desired; in general the Ancestry site is the more accurate but in all cases the original documents were examined rather than just accepting the transcribed versions.
Images of Portsmouth are of crucial value in the reconstruction of the old town, even though the majority were created decades after the 1860s. In fact only about 25 of the 1000 or so images so far tracked down can be attributed to the the 1860s and though this is disappointing to some extent it has not adversely affected the development of the model. It must be noted however that this refers principally to the High Street which dominates the majority of the images. The back streets will be far more difficult to model, simply because of the lack of photographic evidence.
The early photographs were taken with cameras that required quite lengthy exposure times and so we tend not to see any human acivity at all, though in some cases blurry wisps indicate someone has moved across the scene during exposure. In some instances the photographer has managed to persuade groups of people not to move but in general the pictures suggest Portsmouth was a ghost town. It was interesting to note the number of houses that had open windows, often when the snow on the ground indicated rather cold weather. Perhaps it was the only way to expel noxious household fumes.
Few of the photographs can be dated with much accuracy, especially the early ones, but there are some clues that help define their age. In this we are offered great assistance by the introduction of public transport and it's infrastructure. The first incarnation was the horse drawn bus which was introduced before 1849 in order to carry passengers between Victoria Pier and the town railway stations (see Hampshire Telegraph 11th August 1849). This was followwed by the horse drawn tram and the consequent appearance of tram tracks on the main thoroughfares. It is known that a provisional Order for a route along High Street to the Floating Bridge was sanctioned in 1874 and that the tracks were laid shortly afterwards. This meant that if any tracks appeared in a photograph then it dates from after 1874. The original tracks for horse drawn trams consisted of a single line down the middle of High Street with double tracking which allowed the trams to pass each other every few hundred yards. In 1901 the first electric trams ran in Portsmouth and for these twin sets of tracks were laid beneath overhead power lines. In 1936 the trams gave way to the trolley buses which used a more robust form of overhead power supply, identifiable by thicker support poles and single cantilevered arms to carry the lines. Thus we have a number of phases in the public transport systems that assist in the dating of photographs within fixed periods.
A second method of dating photographs uses trees. There was not much vegetation along High Street but in Grand Parade a line of trees were planted on the north side around 1870. They were initially identified by the protective baskets that were set around the saplings. These trees can be watched over a period of 70 years as they grew ever taller, enabling photographs that showed them to be accurately placed in chronological order and approximately by date.
Further dating evidence is available by examination of clothing and means of transport shown in the photographs, but as the author is an expert in neither, this was of limited value.
We are fortunate in that drawings and photographs of Portsmouth have been the subject of literally dozens of books, often published in a 'Past and Present' format with each photograph from the past accompanied by it's modern equivalent. Some of these books are mentioned on the Sources Page, but can in any case be easily located at the City Museum or via E-Bay or ABE Books.
The Style Guides
The complete absence of colour photographs of Portsmouth in 1860 encourages the impression that High Street was a very monochromatic thoroughfare. Plainly this would not have been the case, but assigning accurate colours to any of the buildings is impossible. That does not mean that the model cannot portray the prevailing trends in shop front colour so allowing a really good approximation to the overall appearance. In this we are assisted by the various Heritage foundations that today control, for instance, the paint colours permissable in some conservation areas and a number of style guides are available such as those published by the Little Greene company. In addition there are many resources on the internet which offer clear distinction between building styles of Georgian and Victorian England and this can help determine the dates that buildings were probably renovated or remodelled.