Saturday, March 3rd 2012
In my last post, I mentioned that we went to Liverpool Street station to buy train tickets. These were for our trip to Hampshire today and we bought them the day before so as to be able to get an early start this morning.
We reached Waterloo station just after 8 am and found it very quiet for a Saturday. Perhaps the cold and the early hour had something to do with it. We just had time to buy baguettes and coffee and get aboard our Southwest train. The weather was dull and, to make matters worse, we heard that it was raining in Fareham.
It wasn’t raining at Fareham, after all. It was cold but bright and clear. We had come to meet a friend, who was waiting for us when we arrived. From the station we walked into town, our intention being to visit the Westbury Manor Museum.
Fareham is small with the feel of a country market town and in fact still has markets on Mondays and Wednesdays. We walked along West Street, whose small shops contribute to the “country” impression and found Foresters’ Hall. Foresters, as you may know, is a insurance and investment company that enrolls customers as “members” and engages them in social activities and charity fund-raising. Foresters’ Halls, once centres of such activities, turn up all over the place but many, like this one, no longer serve their original purpose.
West Street is also where you find Holy Trinity, Fareham’s parish church, with the war memorial in its embrace.
The pub commemorates Arthur Hamilton Lee, 1st Viscount Lee of Fareham (though he was born in Bridport, Dorset), soldier, politician and patron of the arts, who is remembered for, among other things, donating Chequers to the nation as a country retreat for the Prime Minister.
As museums go, Westbury Manor Museum is fairly small but it is filled with very striking displays. Glass cases quite properly have their place but are supplemented with tableaux and models. There is also a small cafe where you can drink tea, eat cake and admire the 18th century fireplace.
We asked whether photography was allowed in the museum. They seemed uncertain but thought it was probably all right.
On the ground floor is a room for the display of art works, furniture, crockery, jewellery, etc. by local artists. It’s good to see art being used to produce articles that are both practical and beautiful to look at.
I thought about taking the lift to the upper floor but… after reading the notice, I decided against it! There were three of us and two of us are not light…
In any case, the staircase is a handsome piece of work and attracts the eye as well as the feet.
This scale model, showing Fareham Port as it would have appeared around 1910, is a beautiful piece of work with marvellous detail. The tiny tram has passengers on the upper deck, one reading a newspaper, and there is a tiny drinking fountain complete but miniature.
The human tableaux are very striking. The one above represents the strawberry growing industry that flourished during the first half of the 20th century and perhaps before, but gradually declined in later times because of various factors, including the sale of cultivable land to builders for a quick profit.
Also told is the dreadful story of two young boys, aged 4 and 5, who were sent to Fareham workhouse in the 1830s and, through anxiety or other emotional problems, regularly wet their beds. Instead of sympathy they received harsh treatment and were locked in a cold shed and left to dry out.
At the opposite end of the scale we have philanthropy, in this instance taking the form of a school set up in 1725 for 30 poor boys and girls under the terms of the will of local timber merchant William Price.
There were very many items of interest in this museum but I will show you just a couple more. My fascination with clocks drew my eye to this article on a wall.
It’s always interesting to find a clock made by a local maker, as this appears to be, though whether Vimpany actually built the clock or bought it in and put their name on it, I do not know. The Vimpany name still seems prominent in Fareham (and in Cornwall) and there are references online to a jeweller’s shop of that name once existing in West Street. Also , there is a record of the death in 1917 of a William Vimpany of Fareham, described as a watchmaker. More than that I do not know but I suspect the family still lives in or near Fareham, though the jeweller’s and watchmaker’s business no longer exists (or does it?).
The museum’s small cafe also contains some items of interest, though not all have identifying information attached to them, unfortunately. There is a rather splendid 18th century Adams-style fireplace, too obstructed by other objects to get a clear photo of it, but I have pictured the decorative panel belonging to it that is interesting in its own right and for the disarming text of the description which reads “The carvings at the sides show the four seasons, but [we] do not know the stories shown in the section above the mantelpiece.”
After the museum visit, we continued walking along West Street, part of which is designated a Pedestrian Zone, something I heartily approve of. Topmost in our minds by this time was… lunch! Along the way, we saw a few items of interest, such as this cannon gun (provenance not indicated, sad to say) and this pub:
which was once the Crown Brewery, thought to have been opened in 1841 and converted into a pub in 1905. Wetherspoons have refurbished it and I hope they have kept the period flavour as they usually manage to do.
Lunch finally appeared in the form of Cafe Tusk, which is an Indian restaurant offering a set-price eat-as-much-as-you-like buffet. The food was delicious, we had several helpings, and we ate too much. But that’s what buffets are for, isn’t it? 🙂
After lunch, we continued our stroll and had a look at the High Street which, unlike its namesake in other towns, is residential, rather than a shopping street. We noted a number of fine old buildings including this one. It is currently occupied by an Italian restaurant called “Villa Romana”. The building, of course, looks nothing like a Roman villa, nor is it such. It is in fact an 18th century stables, previously belonging to Kintyre House which is adjacent. English Heritage have given it a Grade II listing.
This picturesque graveyard belongs to the parish church of St Peter and St Paul. The church is also a Grade II listed building which was a surprise to me as at first sight it doesn’t seem to be anything special.
Despite the chirpy little clock tower, the building doesn’t particularly appeal to me. In fact, I think it’s a pretty pedestrian piece of work. The reason for the listing seems to be that, like many churches, this one was built, rebuilt, altered and added to in a number of phases and so contains some ancient bits going back to Anglo-Saxon times.
You may recall me saying that Tigger hails from Gosport and it therefore seemed only natural that we should catch a bus and go there, seeing as we were so close. In the photo above, we are in Gosport and looking across Portsmouth Harbour, one of the busiest harbours in the country. Nowadays, the eye is immediately caught by the Spinnaker Tower but there are other interesting things to see as well.
In the busy picture above, one of the Gosport ferries is turning to come alongside the landing stage, bringing passengers from the Portsmouth side. Behind it to the right, painted white, blue and red, is one of the Isle of Wight ferries setting out. To its left, in the distance, one of its companions in green and white livery, is about to dock at Portsmouth. Just a little to the left of that ferry, we see the three masts of HMS Warrior, Britain’s first iron-clad warship, permanently moored in Portsmouth Harbour as a maritime museum. (For Warrior’s history see here.)
Like any town, Gosport has streets, houses, shops, pubs, etc. but the presence of the sea and the ships that sail on it is everywhere obvious. Here are yacht clubs and marinas, berths and boatyards, and the sounds and smells of the sea and the boats.
The Victorian red-brick exterior of Holy Trinity, with its unusually tall tower, is seen standing upon a hill, with the contrasting form and colour of a modern apartment block behind it. (Update 17/10/16: Holy Trinity doesn’t actually stand on a hill. See Dave Rowland’s comment below.
In 1665, Charles II ordered defences to be built around Gosport and Portsmouth. Work on what came to be known as the “Gosport Lines” continued until the early 18th century, though later additions and modifications were made. This section is known as “Bastion No 1” and was constructed in 1802-3, using convict labour. By 1850, the “Lines” had been superseded by more modern defences and were neglected, some parts being levelled. Bastion No 1 remains as an historic reminder and is a scheduled ancient monument. Locals seem to regard it as a good place to walk their dogs.
When Portsmouth and Gosport were navy towns it used to be said that the better paid officers lived in Portsmouth and other ranks in Gosport. Be that as it may, both towns were well supplied with pubs, often side by side along the waterfront. Going to the pub for a quiet – or not so quiet – drink could, however, be a risky manoeuvre, as the press gangs would seek out drunken sailors as easy prey and more than one pub landlord would have taken bribes to betray his customers. Nelson’s Bar was previously known as The Star and was originally a 19th century coaching inn, reputed to be a haunt of press gangs and smugglers.
This unusual but handsome building was opened in 1901 as a grammar school and free library. In 1958, the school moved out, followed by the library in 1973. The building reopened as Gosport Museum in 1975.
Time was getting on and the light was beginning to fade, so we had to think about retracing our somewhat complicated route home. About my last photo was of a drinking fountain with a tall lamp upon it. The inscription reveals that it was erected by Rear Admiral R. F. Gambier and “E.M.S.” in September 1870. I assume that “erected” means the the two named people provided the funds for the fountain. The name Gambier is famous, but the better known holder of that name was James Gambier, father of Robert Fitzgerald, donor of the fountain. Both reached high rank in the Royal Navy and James was also active in diplomacy, although his tactics in the Battle of the Basque Roads caused controversy (see here and here). I have no idea who “E.M.S.” is. (Update 18/10/16: See Dave Rowland’s comment below.)