|Portsmouth Harbour: HMS Warriors, with Gosport's 1960s flats beyond|
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There are undoubtedly commercial and practical reasons why it's this way; particularly, piecemeal rebuilding in gaps created by World War 2 bombing damage. But I feel it could be redeveloped now in a way that melds upmarket and traditional - as has been done at the Gunwharf Quays - without killing the Hard's use as a working harbour and transport interchange. Portsmouth does have plans, but nothing very rapid seems to be happening.
I did spot one evocative and fairly new feature: Michael Peacock's bronze sculpture commemorating the Portsmouth Mudlarks, children and adults who traditionally foraged for coins thrown from the pier. I just about remember seeing the Portsmouth Mudlarks in the very early 1960s, when I used to go to Portsmouth with my grandmother (the same trips we went to Verrecchia's - see Lime milkshake and Kunzle cake). From the descriptive sign:
The nearby statue commemorates the generations of Portsea children who enjoyed mudlarking here - entertaining travellers by retrieving coins they threw into the mud below the bridge to the harbour station and Gosport Ferry. Boys and girls would scramble to find the money tossed down, sometimes diving into the mud, performing handstands or dipping their heads in it. Many Portsea families lived in poverty, so the small change was welcomed. Usually, what the children did not spend on sweets or pie and chips was given to mum to help out the family finances.Michael Peacock's website has more pictures, and background on the commissioning and construction of the sculpture: Portsmouth Mudlarks.
Most parents disapproved of their children's activities, while the police regarded mudlarking as begging and tried to stop it. Mudlarking supplemented other ways of earning a few shillings, such as carrying passengers' bags or finding drivers parking spaces. The building of the new bus terminus in 1976-7 put an end to mudlarking.
|Mudlarks, depicted less glamorously, from The Headington Magazine, 1871|
A factory, the newspapers say, has been started for the extraction of grease out of Thames mud — grease to be exported to Holland, and thence brought back as Dutch butter. Whether any poor Londoners do really get their butter from the river's slimy bed I cannot state, but there is a little army of poor Londoners who pick their bread out of those steaming mudbanks.There have also been a number of fictional accounts, such as Captain Marryat's 1840 Poor Jack (which goes into the illegal aspects of mudlarking, where mudlarks actively connived in fencing goods and materials thrown off ships by sailors).
- Episodes in an Obscure Life
|State-of-the-art ships in Portsmouth Harbour:|
left, a Type 45 destroyer; right, HMS Warrior