Recollections of John Pounds: Continuing my Tour of Portsmouth by Reverend Henry Hawkes
It was no easy thing to get away from the old cobbler. For though we had repeatedly bid him Good Morning, he had always something else to tell us, or show us; his heart was so thoroughly in all he was doing. At last – we were determined! But as we went away from his door, I could not help feeling sorry for him; he seemed so desiring to tell us something else about his doings.
“We won’t go back the same way that we came,” Mr.——said; “we’ll move onward; and you shall see a little more of the old man’s district, as we may fairly call the little compact sphere of his never-tiring usefulness.
“This sally-port leads through the walls to Portsea. But before we enter it, look into these narrow openings to the right and left, between the walls and the houses. These narrow lines of road are called lanes. They lead to other sad disreputable haunts of vice and infamy. This lane on our right passes by the ends of Warblington Street, St. Thomas’s Street, and High Street.
This to our left, leads to a place called Prospect Row; notoriously bad; one of the most wretched and abandoned of all the disreputable places in this densely crowded neighbourhood. And from these vile sinks of wretchedness the good old cobbler seeks up his poor little lost ones, “that nobody cares for;” as he so touchingly expresses it. You would observe when we where at his shop, that some of his scholars he had from more respectable homes; but he diligently seeks up the most neglected and forlorn.
“We’ll now go through the sally-port. Have you been this way before?” “No; and I am very desirous to know all you can tell me about the neighbourhood, for the old man’s sake. What a good kind creature he is! – notwithstanding all his roughness. But I wish he were cleaner.” “We all wish that. But it has always been so with him. But on Sundays you’ll see it different. Then, everything is clean and proper about him: both as to his person and dress.”
Passing through the sally-port, we came out upon the moat; which we crossed over by a foot-bridge. “Those are the Portsea walls before us, with those fine timber trees growing upon them. This broad sheet of water spreading immediately to our right, is the mill-dam; fed by the tide. It works the garrison mill; that brick building bordering it on our left. The gate just beyond the mill is called Mill Gate. It opens through the walls into Portsea. Our purpose does not require us to go into Portsea. We will take the opposite direction, and turn round this corner of the Portsmouth moat, and go along the straight carriage road, bordered by the moat on our left, and this high brick wall on our right.
“That dirty, ruinous row of upper windows just within the Portsmouth walls is Prospect Row; the wretchedly degraded place I mentioned to you at the sally-port. It extends, parallel to the wall, and almost close up to it, to the lower end of Crown Street, and nearly to Quay Gate.”
“What is this high brick wall close to us on our right?” “The boundary of the Gun Wharf. These are artillery barracks, enclosed within the same line of wall. And this building next to the barracks is the Custom House.
“Here the Portsmouth moat terminates, in this direction. Its waters pass through that iron grating into the Camber; as that bason just beyond it, so crowded with trading vessels, is called. That is part of the Town Quay, close beside the Camber, bordering it on the left; and there is Quay Gate, opening out upon it through the Portsmouth walls. Just within Quay Gate, – Prospect Row, Crown Street, and King Street, meet us at a centre. All this neighbourhood is continually frequented by the good old cobbler, in his searching rounds of benevolence.
“We will not go into Portsmouth through Quay Gate; I wish to take you over this swing-bridge, crossing the mouth of the Camber, into that little ill- looking street beyond.
“But stop for a moment. As we stand here on the centre of this bridge, with the Camber on the one side of it, so full of trading vessels, and this narrow approach to it on the other, also crowded with trading vessels; you see the whole extent of accommodation provided at Portsmouth, with its fine Harbour, for any thing like merchant shipping. Government have always set themselves against encouraging merchant shipping at Portsmouth. They have always seemed desirous to preserve our port altogether, or as exclusively as possible, for the Royal Navy. The Harbour, one of the finest in the world, opens just beyond this narrow entrance. But you will have a better view of the harbour from another point.
“We will now go along East Street. You see, it is crowded with poor small houses on both sides; – poor dirty children scattered about everywhere. Observe these narrow alleys on our right, as we pass along. They lead through this dense mass of houses to another part of the Town Quay. This is also part of the good old cobbler’s district; into which he comes untiringly, to pick up scholars.
“East Street, you see, is but a short one. This larger street, crossing the end of it at right angles, into which we now enter, is ‘Broad Street; commonly called ‘Broad Street, Point;’ Point being the general name for all the part we are now on; jutting into the Harbour. During the war-time, Point was constantly thronged with sailors and persons connected with the shipping. It is still the principle part of Portsmouth for sailors and watermen.
“We will turn to the right. A few steps, you see, and we are at the end of the street. And there – the Harbour opens full before you; with the ships.”
“A fine view indeed! – It seems to go up as far as that range of hill.”
“The Port does; – about four miles. It is only this lower part of the Port, where the ships are, that is properly called the Harbour. That line of hill is Portsdown; a long chalk range. This is the Gun Wharf, bordering the Harbour immediately on our right; the ground so dark covered over with guns spread out upon it. Those heaps are stacks of shot. Next to the Gun Wharf beyond, bordering the Harbour, is the Dockyard. On this opposite side is, first, the town of Gosport; coming down to the waters edge. And that extensive mass of brick-building next beyond Gosport, also close to the Harbour, is the Royal Clarence Yard; the new offices for victualling the navy.”
“What is the breadth of the Port?”
“Just beyond that further comer of the Dockyard, the Port suddenly widens to great extent, east and west; but very irregularly; several miles across in some parts, at high water. The mouth of the Harbour, as you have no doubt observed, is comparatively narrow.” “Yes.” “A great advantage for our ships; for so vast a body of water flowing out with every tide is continually ploughing so narrow a channel deep.
“That ship near the Dockyard is the Victory. She was Lord Nelson’s flagship at the battle of Trafalgar; on board of which he was shot, and died. She is now used as the flag-ship for the Port Admiral.”
Just then, the flag-ship began firing a salute. Mr.——, inquiring what it was for, was told, it was in reply to a foreign ship, just come up to Spithead.
“Come,” he said, “we will now return.” Leaving the Harbour, and going along Broad Street in the opposite direction: – “That gate at the end of the street,” he said, “is King James’s Gate. It opens through the walls into High Street; and you will find you have come round to the point from which we started. And I shall have shown you pretty nearly the whole circuit within which the poor old cobbler has lived all his life; or thereabouts; seldom going beyond, but for an occasional ramble into the fields, or over the Hill.”