Nos. 120 - 125 High Street

Nos. 120-125 High Street
Nos. 120 - 125 High Street (Charpentier)

North of White Horse Street we find we are moving into an area of mixed business and residential premises, this block of 6 representing the first group. Unusually for the west side of High Street one of these buildings, No. 123, has survived, which is fortunate as there are no images of these buildings apart from the Charpentier drawing on the right.
Using the 1861 OS Map the widths of the six properties are calculated to be 20'3", 18'6", 13'6", 16'3", 25'6" and 19'6" for Nos. 120-125 respectively. By comparison to No. 119 in the Charpentier drawing, the heights of Nos. 120 and 121 are 28'3" to the top of the parapet; No. 122 is the same height to the top of the roof but only 22'9" to the top of the parapet; Nos. 123 and 124 are 28'0" to the parapet level and 30'0" to the roof ridge; No. 125 is 25'4" to the top of the parapet and 29'6" to the roof level.

Nos. 115-119 High Street
No. 123 High Street (2011)

In theory the continued existence of No. 123 should help confirm some of the dimensions of the original building but in practice it has been altered to such a degree as to render any conjecture problematical. The modern building stands 32'6" in height to the top of the parapet (as determined by using the brick courses on the adjacent building as a guide) compared to 28'0" derived from the earlier deductions. However, comparing the modern image to the Charpentier drawing we can see that the parapet has been raised by several feet, though the exact amount cannot be accurately estimated as a cornice has been added in the intervening years.
We cannot even use the width of the modern building as a guide since the original Nos. 123 and 124 were in effect one structure but the latest incarnation of No. 123 has plainly borrowed some of it's facade from No. 124. If this were not the case there would be insufficient room to install the two elliptical windows at the first and second floor levels. Information received from an inhabitant of No. 124 indicates that there are small box rooms behind the oval windows which are actually part of No. 124 rather than No. 123 which the rendering to the facade would suggest.

Nos. 115-119 High Street
No. 123 Basement (2011)

Of purely historical interest the modern building has a flight of steps leading down to a basement level set into the pavement. If there had been access in this way in 1860 presumably it would have been via a trapdoor. There is certainly no indication of the stairs on the OS map of the time. At the bottom of the stairs there is access to a well, directly beneath the pavement (see right).
There seems to be an error in the depiction of the railings in front of Nos. 123-124 in the Charpentier drawing in that it shows those in front of No. 124 partially overlapping the front of No. 123. Not only is this unlikely but the 1861 OS map (see below) shows that they terminate at the boundary between the two premises as would be expected.
Documentary Evidence
Hunt's Directory (1852) - George Willmer, Linen Draper, 120 High Street; Joseph Davis, Boot and Shoe Maker, 121 High Street; Moses Piercey, Surgeon, 124 High Street; Julian Slight, Surgeon, 125 High Street.
Post Office Directory (1859) - Joseph Davis, Boot and Shoe Maker, 122 High Street; George Edward Browne, Tobacconist, 122 High Street; Moses Piercey, Surgeon, 124 High Street; Julian Slight, Surgeon, 125 High Street.
Kelly's Directory (1859) - Joseph Davis, Boot and Shoe Maker, 122 High Street; Moses Piercey, Surgeon, 124 High Street; Julian Slight, Surgeon, 125 High Street.
Simpson's Directory (1863) - Mr. Greetham, Photographer, 120 High Street; George Edward Browne, Tobacconist, 122 High Street; Joseph Davis, Boot and Shoe Maker, 123 High Street;
Harrod's (1865) Directory - Edwin Greetham, Photographic Artist, 120 High Street; George Edward Browne, Tobacconist, 122 High Street; Joseph Davis, Boot and Shoe Maker, 123 High Street; William Hempson Denham, Esq., 124 High Street; Julian Slight, Surgeon, 125 High Street.
The 1861 Census records:-
Schedule 112 - George E Browne, (45, tobacconist), his wife Ann (46) and a housemaid Honor Saunders (13);
Schedule 113 - Joseph Davis, (59, bootmaker) and his wife Jane (54);
Schedule 114 - W. Hempson Denham, (45), his wife Harriett (45), his daughter Louisa (18), his sons Kemball (19), Arthur (16), Sidney (12), Percy (10), Algernon (7), his daughter Jessie (18 months) with servants Ruth Cutler (19) and Ann White (16);
Schedule 115 - Julian Slight (60, Surgeon), his wife Emma (40?), his daughters Marian (17), Emma (16), Fanny (13), Emily (3), with servant Esther Lockyer (30)
There doesn't appear to be a census record for No. 120 High Street so we can't tell if, in 1861, it was being used by George Willmer, Edwin Greetham or someone else. Joseph Davis has been ever present on this section of High Street, at least between 1842, when his name appeared on the Charpentier Guide, and 1865, but the evidence from the directories has him moving from 121 to 122 to 123 High Street. This is not impossible, but equally it is unlikely given that in the drawing both Nos. 121 and 123 seem to be private residences. If, however, he was at No. 122 throughout the period then he was sharing the premises with George Browne. As neither of them had any children the building, though small, would not be unduly crowded. If they were both living at No. 122 then we would be missing census records for Nos 120, 121 and 123. More research is required.
We know that Nos. 124 and 125 were occupied by Gentlemen and/or Professional Men of a somewhat idiosyncratic nature. William Hempson Denham was a homeopath with a penchant for letter-writing, and Julian Slight was a particularly well known member of the community, who, in partnership with his brother Henry, specialised in writing books on the history of Portsmouth and collecting related memorabilia. One of their history books, 'The Metrical History of Portsmouth', was actually written in rhyme and was soundly ridiculed by another local historian, Sir Frederick Madden, then Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Museum. The entries for Denham are reasonable accurate for a man who believed that the government had no right to be collecting personal information, at least in this case he only misquoted his and his wife's ages (which were 55 years not 45).

Nos. 115-119 High Street
Nos. 120 - 125 High Street (OS Map 1861)

There is in effect no evidence to determine how, if at all, these buildings had altered betwen their appearance in the Charpentier 'Strangers Guide' in 1842 and the early 1860s. The choice is therefore between using the drawing to define the appearance of the structures and drawing upon experience derived from other locations on High Street to inform possible development in the intervening years. It is certainly the case that the middle years of the 19C saw a period of modernisation, but this would have been almost exclusively to the design of the shop fronts. In this group of buildings the majority were of a residential nature and even those shops that did exist would not have had much cause to consider an upgrade to be a priority.
Nos. 120 and 121 will be modelled using the Charpentier drawing as a guide, No. 122 however presents more of a challenge since the drawing suggests that it was set back behind the line of the remaining buildings whereas the 1861 OS Map shows it to be similarly aligned. If it had been demolished and rebuilt then we would have no idea what it might have looked like but fortunately the shop was occupied by the same tradesman for the whole period 1842-1865, namely Joseph Davis, and as a boot and shoe maker he probably didn't own the building, but as a sitting tenant his presence would probably have ensured it wasn't demolished and therefore wasn't set back.
Nos. 123-125 will be modelled using Charpentier, though with the slight modification to the railings mentioned above.

Snapshots from the Model (Nos. 120 - 125 High Street)

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

Old Portsmouth Model Images