Nos. 78 - 81 High Street

Nos.78-81 High Street
Nos. 78-81 High Street (Charpentier)

As with the previous two buildings, these three properties face onto Grand Parade. The image of them (see right) from the Strangers Guide by Charpentier (1842) show them to be typical structures for the period and their location. This drawing omits any mention of No. 78 which may simply be a mistake as by, at the latest, 1859, it was appearing in the directories in it's own right. A later photograph, shown below, from 1880 shows Nos. 78 and 79 operating as a single business, which they may well have been throughout the period in question.
There are two further photographs dating from the 1860s and 1870s which offer good evidence for their appearance in 1860. In both cases, comparing them to the 1842 drawing we can see that there have no changes to the essential structure of any of these buildings. In all three cases however the ground floors have been modified. Both Nos. 78-79 and No. 80 have retained their roles as shops but have begun using larger plate glass windows. In contrast, No.81 has lost it's shop-like appearance with the ground floor adopting a facade more appropriate to an office.

Nos. 81 High Street
No. 78-81 High Street (1880)

The 1880 photograph shows some interesting variants on the Victorian shop front not previously encountered on High Street. Both Nos, 78-79 and No.80 have very high multiple doorsteps totalling over one foot in height compared to a norm of between four and six inches. Nos. 78-79 have decorative grills let into their stall risers and what appear to be elongated elliptical mullions to the windows. No. 80 is the only shop front so far encountered with circular bays which overlap their support walls. Inside the windows it is possible to discern three circular shelves displaying silverware, as befitted the trade of it's occupier.
Documentary Evidence
The 1861 Census, Schedule 68 names Frederick Fraser (49, Widower, Outfitter) as head of household, though FindMyPast spells the name Frases. Living with him were his daughter Sophia (19), son Roderick (15) and a servant Ellen Bury (17).
Schedule 69 lists Joseph Dudley (75, from Bicester) as head of household, his wife Ann (76), unmarried daughters Eliza Jane (40) and Georgina (31), married daughter Laura Hughen with her daughter Constance (6) and son Dudley (4), and a servant Eliza Fayrer (26).
Schedule 70 records the household as Alicia Harrison (64, Unmarried, Newspaper Proprietor), her niece Hannah (37, unmarried), nephew Henry (32, unmarried) and servants Jemima Ernest (32) and Eliza Billey (22).
Kelly's (1859) Directory does not mention No.79 but records that Fraser and Davis, Tailors, were in occupation of No. 78. It also reports that Joseph Dudley, Cutler is resident at No. 80, as indeed he was when the Charpentier Guide was published in 1842. No. 81 was occupied by the publishers Harrison & Co. and was the home of the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle. This property is listed again in the directory as a printers under the name of Alicia Harrison. Simpson's (1863) Directory places Robert Tuffs, "dealer in fancy goods", at No. 78 and confirms the presence of Harrison & Co. at No. 81. Harrod's (1865) Directory extends Joseph Dudley's range of occupations to include goldsmith and silversmith as well as sword cutler and also lists Harrison's at No. 81. We have evidence therefore that Fraser and Davis occupied No. 78 in both 1859 and, from the photograph, in 1880. It seems highly likely that they would have retained their shop throughout this period and so the entry for Tuffs "Fancy Goods" indicates, perhaps, a sub-tenancy, or is simply an error.
The 1861 Rent Roll contains two entries pertaining to these properties. In the first, the lessee is Joseph Dudley, but the entry seems to apply to an encroachment to a house on Grand Parade; the second is for an "Encroachment to front of house north side of street" in favour of Alicia Harrison. The latter may simply be for a coal vault or similar access to the basement from the pavement as is described in some subsequent entries.

Nos. 78-81 High Street
Nos. 78 - 81 High Street c1870

The photograph from 1870 is particularly useful in that it allows us to calculate an accurate height of the buildings. The photograph was taken from the top of the ramparts at the far end of Grand Parade, a distance of some 200 yards. The camera would have been sited at 20-25 feet above ground level which meant that it was in a position perpendicular to the second floor of Nos. 78/79. From such a location the resultant image is almost totally free of the distortion caused by the foreshortening effect of perspective. This in turn means that the horizontal and vertical dimensions of the buildings are in a proportion that accords closely to reality. From the 1861 OS map we can obtain a width of 66 feet (plus or minus 6 inches) for the three buildings considered here and from this can be deduced a height of 42 feet for Nos. 78/79.
Whilst this is excellent news it has the effect of showing that all previous models of buildings on the west side of High Street have been lacking in height by about 10%. This is not unexpected as there has been no means of detecting the heights accurately until this point. The heights of Nos. 65-77 will now all have to be adjusted.
From the description of the occupants of these properties it is plain that we are in the heart of the fashionable shopping area in Portsmouth. No. 81 particularly would have been a major focus for the community given that on Saturdays the most important local newspaper was published from this address, as it had been since the late 18C.
The 1870 photograph reveals that alterations to all the shops has taken place by this date if not by 1860. We can therefore model these buildings according to their late style with some confidence.

Nos. 81 High Street
No. 81 High Street (Gates)

A couple of decades after our target date of 1860 the editorship of the Hampshire Telegraph passed to William Gates (1856-1946) who was responsible for collating and publishing much of the history of Portsmouth that has informed the research for this project. Curiously though, he seems to have slipped up when it comes to his own business premises at No. 81 High Street. In "The Portsmouth That Has Passed" (pub. 1946), compiled by Gates there is, for the year of 1799, an image (see left) which purports to be that of No. 81 but which bears no resemblance to the building in any other depiction. It is far too wide to ever have occupied that plot and it's style is more that of a warehouse than a modern office. It is possible that the image he shows is of the rear of the building which opened out onto White Hart Road.

Snapshots from the Model (Nos. 78 - 81 High Street)

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

Old Portsmouth Model Images