No. 126 High Street and the Unitarian Chapel

No. 126 High Street
Nos. 126 High Street with Unitarian Chapel (Charpentier)

This section of the High Street commentary will require a slightly different approach from those relating to other parts of High Street. At the centre of this part of High Street sits No. 126, in splendid isolation, at least as far as other houses are concerned. To the north lies the Unitarian Chapel whilst to the south Charpentier has declined to illustrate any structure at all, apart from a pair of gateposts and a short section of railing. It is not known for certain why the drawing should be thus but it seems likely that on the grounds of popularising his panorama Charpentier would not have wished to depict anything so vulgar as a factory - especially on the fashionable High Street of 1842.

OS Map
OS Map (1861)

It is just possible that the land to the south of No. 126 was indeed derelict in 1842, but what evidence we have, and it is not conclusive, is that a coach manufactory stood on this spot. The 1861 OS Map certainly confirms this and there is further supporting evidence from the directories, but neither relate to 1842 directly. We are left therefore with a sizable gap in our understanding of the High Street of 1860 as there are no photographs or drawings showing the manufactory, and only one drawing that shows part of No. 126. We are more fortunate though with the Unitarian Chapel which was photographed on a number of occasions both before and after it's destruction during World War 2.
Although we have no direct evidence for the appearance of the manufactory we may make a few intelligent guesses. The first can be deduced from the map which appears to show two large doors, probably on runners that allowed them to open along the pavement rather than across it. This makes sense as the finished coaches would have to be brought out of the building either at the front or possibly via the yard to the side of the building. We may estimate that the doors would have had to be over 10 feet high to allow passage to the largest coaches. On the road side of the building the map shows two structures which we may surmise were the manufactory and the associated offices, the latter occupying the same space as the railings in the Charpentier drawing.

The Unitarian Chapel
The Unitarian Chapel (20C)

The only information concerning the buildings in the manufactory yard is suggested in the photo of the Chapel (see bottom) in which a tall, thin building is shown on the left, but this may of course be of a much later date.
The drawing of No. 126 below corresponds largely with the Charpentier image though there is a difference at second floor level where the former shows a window in a gable end and the latter suggests a dormer window.
The dimensions of the buildings may be deduced from the 1861 OS Map. The Unitarian Church is shown to be 46'0" in width and 60'0" in depth. The height can only be approximately calculated from the photos taken from directly in front of the building. By proportion between width and apparent height the latter is 41'0" whereas by counting the brick courses, the height would have been 42'6". Both methods have their disadvantages, but by eye alone, 42'6" seems to be the closer fit.
Documentary Evidence
Hunt's Directory (1852) - Ann Allan, clothes dealer, 126 High Street; George Loe, coach builder & livery stable keeper, 126 High Street;
Post Office Directory (1859) - George Loe, coach builder & livery stable keeper, 126 High Street;
Kelly's Directory (1859) - George Loe, coach builder & livery stable keeper, 126 High Street;
Simpson's Directory (1863) - George Loe, coach builder, 126 High Street;
Harrod's (1865) Directory - George Loe, coach builder, 126 High Street and St. Thomas Street, and livery and commission stables, Pembroke Street and Penny Street
The 1861 Census records:-
Schedule 116 - Nicholas Edwin, (42, Smith & Farrier), his wife Harriett (42), daughter Harriett (17), Francis (16, Coach Painter), son Nicholas (14), daughter Caroline (9), daughter Alice (6) and son William (2).

No. 126 and Unitarian Chapel
No. 126 and Unitarian Chapel (1840)

No. 126 High Street and the neighbouring Coach Manufactory seem to be part of the same business. George Loe was the owner but did not live on the premises, but this is hardly surprising given that he runs at least three other businesses. The on-site manager would seem to be Nicholas Edwin as his trade, and that of his son Francis would be entirely appropriate for the business carried on at this place.
The census form mentions that No. 126 is next to the Unitarian Church but does not record anyone living there, which was certainly possible as there was living accommodation associated with the church. The minister at the time was Henry Hawkes and he was living in Southsea.
There is little evidence for the appearance of No. 126 and none at all, apart from the 1861 OS Map, for the Coach Manufactory. The model will therefore be largely imagined. On the other hand there is plenty of good evidence for the appearance of the front of the church which can be reproduced accurately. We even have a photo taken inside the church which shows many of the windows on the sides of the church as well as the balconies, pews and entrance from the street.

Snapshots from the Model (Nos. 126 High Street and the Unitarian Chapel)

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

Old Portsmouth Model Images