A GLIMPSE AT THE CITY’S HERITAGE BEFORE THE BLITZ
It is often very difficult to try and imagine the city of Portsmouth before World War II, before the Blitz, before the subsequent deep damage to the city’s architectural heritage. In recent years the discovery of colour film from during WWII and even before allows us to better imagine and understand the place, the people and maybe even the time, so much more than just words in books, old photos and even black & white film.
The Wessex Film and Sound Archive, based in Winchester, is home to a huge collection of film and sound recordings throughout the last 100+ years and in recent years the collection that is open to the public has been better shared online via YouTube and the BFI (British Film Institute) website. This very early colour film produced by Pimco Publicity Department of Portsea Island Mutual Co-operative Society looks to have been possibly filmed as a library of b-roll or cutaway shots for use in other films, or maybe the film is even the raw, unedited rolls of footage shot to produce a promotional film for Portsmouth, using the then cutting edge film technology.
…the discovery of colour film from during WWII and even before allows us to better imagine and understand the place, the people and maybe even the time…
Pimco Publicity Department, Portsea Island Mutual Cooperative Society
Portsmouth Guildhall, 1937
Fishing boats at an industrial Camber in Old Portsmouth, 1937
The boat houses at Milton were a popular place to visit, 1937
The film is almost 24 minutes long and captures a city at work and play, just two years before the city turns to war. On what looks to have been a sunny, mid to late summer’s day or two, the camera operator has travelled around Portsmouth recording the historic landmarks such as The George Hotel, Garrison Church with a roof, The Original Portsmouth Museum & Portsmouth Cathedral, the busy working parts of the city such as Guildhall Square and The Camber plus the Pompey residents having fun at The Rock Gardens, Canoes on Canoe Lake, sunbathing on Southsea Beach and exploring the sheds and houseboats where Milton meets Langstone Harbour. Plus so many more insightful and fascinating places and sights. This is well worth a watch, capturing a time in this city’s history where the place and it’s people were on the cusp of dramatic, and terrible change.
Locations in the film include: Portsmouth Racecourse, Southsea Rock Gardens, Canoe Lake, Portsmouth Guildhall, Guildhall Square, War Memorial, Southsea Gardens, Trolley Buses, Milton Boat Sheds, Milton Lock, Langstone Harbour, The Original Portsmouth Museum, Garrison Church, Portsmouth Cathedral, Portsmouth’s Original Gates, The Camber, Fishing Boats, Dickens’ Birthplace, The George Hotel, HMS Victory, Portsmouth Dockyard, The Square Tower, Sally Port, The Hotwalls & Portchester Castle.
Portsmouth Dockyard from the mast of HMS Victory, 1937
Canoe Lake, Southsea, 1937