Nos. 112 - 114 High Street

Nos. 112-114 High Street
Nos. 112 - 114 High Street (Charpentier)

The block of buildings between the Governor's House and Highbury (St.Mary's) Street are in many ways the quintessential example of Victorian shopping. The first group, from No. 112 to No. 114 can be seen in the Charpentier panorama (see right) and also in a drawing, probably dated around 1860, below left.
The drawing was commissioned by Comerford's, the booksellers whose shop can be seen on the right, and is frequently used to illustrate a typical Victorian High Street (it is used on the cover of Portsmouth Paper No. 26 - "An Early Victorian Street"). We know that the drawing must be dated later than 1849 as the full image shows a horse-drawn bus further down the road and they were not introduced until that date, at the latest. There is also a similarity in presentation with a drawing of Cambridge Barracks which is actually dated - June 1861.

Nos. 112-114 High Street
Nos. 112-114 High Street

As there was less than two decades betwen the publication of the two drawings it is not unduly surprising that all three structures they depict have not been materially altered during the intervening period. This is further emphasised in the appearance of No. 112 at the edge of a photograph used in the modelling of the Governor's House next door (see below right). The date of this photograph is taken to be no later than 1875. There is one more image of these buildings which occurs as a background detail in a drawing of the Governor's House which can be seen below left.
Using the 1861 OS Map the widths of the buildings can be determined. They are 19'0", 17'6" and 17'9" for Nos. 112 to 114 respectively. The heights of the buildings would normally be estimated with some accuracy using a comparison to the Governor's house, however there is a discrepancy between the relative height of No. 112 as suggested by the Charpentier drawing and that derived from the Comerford sketch. In the latter the top of No. 112 appears to be at about the same level of the topmost cornice on the Governor's house, whereas the former has it about 1'6" higher. As the 1875 photograph does not show the top of No. 112 there is no independent check and we are left to make a judgement about which of the drawings is more likely to be accurate. In practice we have nothing on which to base that decision upon and so the height of No. 112 will be set between the two at 36'0", with No. 113 at 32'6" and No. 114 at 44'9" to the top of the parapet (48'0 to the top of the pediment).

Nos. 112-114 High Street
No. 112 High Street

Documentary Evidence
Hunt's Directory (1852) - James Hatch, Ironmongers, 112 High Street; Henry Lewis, Bookseller, Stationer, Printer and Life Insurance Agent (for Britannia and for West of England), and, Rev. Thomas Knight (Incumbent at St. Mary's Church) 114 High Street;
Post Office Directory (1859) - James Hatch, Ironmongers, 112 High Street; William Saunders, Chemist and Druggist, 113 High Street; Henry Lewis, Bookseller, Stationer, Printer, 114 High Street;
Kelly's Directory (1859) - James Hatch, Ironmongers, 112 High Street; William Saunders, Chemist and Druggist, 113 High Street; Henry Lewis, Bookseller, Stationer, Printer, 114 High Street;
Simpson's Directory (1863) - James Hatch, Ironmongers, 112 High Street; William Saunders, Chemist and Druggist, 113 High Street; Henry Lewis, Bookseller, Stationer, Printer, 114 High Street;
Harrod's (1865) Directory - James Hatch, Ironmongers, 112 High Street; William Saunders, Chemist and Druggist, 113 High Street; Henry Lewis, Bookseller, Stationer, Printer, 114 High Street;
The 1861 Census records:-
Schedule 103 - James Hatch (60, Ironmonger), his wife Amelia (55), his father-in-law James Morley (78, retired shipwright) and his mother-in-law Mary Morley (72);
Schedule 104 - William Saunders (69, Out of Business), his wife Lucy (65), his son William (28, Chemist and Druggist) with Frances Hayward (17, servant);
Schedule 105 - Henry Lewis (41, Bookseller, Stationer) and Agnes Joyce (52, Housekeeper).
Although not very far from the centre of High Street this area seems more stable than some others further south with no changes in personnel over the 13 years covered by the directories. The presence of an ironmonger, James Hatch, in such a prestigious location is perhaps surprising, though it's immediate proximity to the Governor's House and it's stable may have something to do with it.
At No. 113 the chemist William Saunders Senior has lately retired and handed the business over to his son also named William, but it is not as a chemist that the younger William is best remembered. He had a passion for history and in 1880 published his Annals of Portsmouth (printed by his neighbour Henry Lewis) and in later years went on to become curator of the Portsmouth Museum which was established at the Guildhall on High Street once the Council had moved to their new building in Guildhall Square.
At first sight it might seem odd that Henry Lewis should be living alone with his housekeeper in the vast expanse of 114 High Street but this is misleading. We've already heard of Comerfords, the booksellers, and we know that although the family didn't live on the premises (they were at No. 1 Green Row, the former home of George and Vicat Cole) the company certainly maintained a shop there. It is entirely possible that by the 1860s Henry Lewis had taken over the entire business as we know that the senior member of the Comerford family died in November 1854. Around 1880 the printing business was taken over by William Henry Barrell with Henry Lewis as manager, possibly by marriage since a son Henry Lewis Barrell was born in 1891.

Nos. 112-114 High Street
No. 112-114 High Street c1865

A closer examination of the three drawings on this page reveal a contradiction relating to the cornice to No. 112 and the consequent effect on the apparent height of No. 113. The Charpentier sketch shows the cornice at a level with the top of the parapet to No. 113 but both of the other drawings show it somewhat higher as indeed it would have to be in order to accommodate the cornice returning along both flanks for a distance of perhaps three feet. There seems little doubt that it is the Charpentier drawing that is incorrect. The issue that this inconsistency raises is whether the cornice should be shown at a higher level or the height of No. 113 reduced. There is no clear cut answer to this but the proportions allocated to the heights of the features on No. 112 seem in accord with the partial evidence from the photograph and therefore the height of No. 113 will be reduced to 30'6".
All three buildings are elegantly designed but No. 112 displays the greatest amount of decoration, from the deep dentilled cornice and the balustraded parapet to the four columns of rendered stonework and the robust bay window. In comparison the shopfront to No.112 is rather plain, but then it was added at a time when cleaner, more functional lines were commonly introduced.
Comerford also shows the front wall to No. 113 as set back from No. 112 by around a foot whereas the other evidence does not. The OS map shows a continuous line across all three properties but this is only applicable to the footprint of the shop fronts. The model will therefore show the set back. There is a further difference between the Comerford drawing and the one shown on the left. In the former there is a railed balcony at first floor level to both Nos. 113 and 114 but the latter does not include either. Charpentier differs from both in depicting a balcony to No. 114 but not to No. 113. In this instaance it is proposed to assume that Charpentier is correct on the grounds that the first floor bay window to No. 113 must project at least 18" from the front wall which would have taken up virtually the whole of the top of the shop fascia. If there were a railing there it would have run within an inch or two of the window.
There are further discrepancies between Charpentier and Comerford. In the former the shop has doors either side of the shop window but the latter shows neither ie no door at all; the former shows the fascia to No. 113 extending some two feet beyond it's right hand wall whilst the latter along the more sensible boundary line between the buildings; and Charpentier shows No. 115 immediately adjacent to No. 114 but Comerford shows the side of the latter which is plainly impossible. The model will take the logical depiction as correct.
There is no clear evidence regarding the roofs of any of the buildings.

Snapshots from the Model (Nos. 112 - 114 High Street)

All images are copyright © Tim Backhouse. Click on the thumbnails for full size versions.

Old Portsmouth Model Images