FUNERAL DIRECTORS FROM THE PAST

     Did you know that back in 1920 there were almost a hundred funeral directors in business in Portsmouth. Most of the stores such as Knight & Lee, Parkers Removals, Debenhams, Wendovers, John Dyers and many others ran them. However, one that was not so prominent by name was Dowdells, and their firm started like this:

 

     Back in the late 1800s, a Jonathan Dowdell founded a small business of Masons which was quite successful and his son, Jonathan William who worked with his father, opened up a branch of the firm in Northgate Avenue, Fratton. He was successful here too and in the mid-nineties at 255 New Road, his son Arthur William opened another branch.

 

     As he preferred the stonemason side of the business to the funeral side, his brother, Earl Sidney Dowdell who took over the funeral part of the business with his wife in 1930 and changed the name of the firm to Buckingham Brothers. They had two branches of the business, the main one was at 259, Fratton Road with the branch at 199, Milton Road. Arthur moved his stonemason business to Alver Road, and renamed it AlverStones.

 

     The funeral business flourished and became the prestige firm in Portsmouth and other members of the family joined and in the 1900s, when the business was run by Graham Earl Dowdell and his son Robert, they considered selling up and retiring. They carried on with the Buckingham Brothers name until 1926 when they did sell up and Barrells was born and carried on the prestige position that Buckinghams had created and still does to this day where it is a privately run, family business.

 

     Very sadly there are no records left of the Dowdell reign as they were ditched when Barrells took over. Records after that date until 2000 have been transcribed and are with us.

 

     The picture shows one of the Rolls Royce Phantom III limousines that created the status symbol and pride of Buckinghams.

 

 

PORTSMOUTH RACECOURSE

 

     Portsmouth Racecourse was built at Wymering between the sea and the cliff at the chalk pit at Portsdown Hill. It was second in the UK only to Northolt Park as a pony racing centre. Opened in 1929, it had regular pony races as well as motor cycle races which were run on a track running parallel to the pony course. Racing continued up to the outbreak of the Second World War after which, in an echo of the fate of Northolt Park, the site was used to build the Portsmouth Housing estate.

 

     Portsmouth originally had a fine racecourse at Farlington before the First World War, but it was taken over by the War Office and became one of the UK's largest ammunition dumps, and was generally wrecked.before being finally sold to the Portsmouth Council in 1929. A local businessman, Mr George Cooper built the Wymering course in the late twenties. Known variously as Portsmouth Racecourse, Portsmouth Park and Wymering Park, it was located at the Portchester end of the Western Road, not far from Paulsgrove House which was demolished to make way for the M27 motorway to cut the Paulsgrove estate in half.

 

     The course itself was an oval of just seven and a half furlongs and was re-turved using over 40,000 square yards of turves cut from as area below the chalk pit. A few weeks of torrential rain before the opening race helped to establish it and to make the course second to none in the country. This new course opened on Friday, 10th August 1928. The charges in 1929 were 5/9d for the club enclosure, 2/4d for the reserved enclosure and 1/3d for the public enclosure, with club badges costing £1 for gentlemen and 12/6d for ladies.

 

     The facilities were good though not as elegant as those at Northolt. There was grandstand accommodation for 8,000 racegoers, bars, restaurants, modern toilets and a Tote. Members were pampered in the luxurious Members' Clubhouse which had a restaurant, bar, lounge and unusually, a verandah from which to view the races. There were also 10 saddling boxes and 52 stables.

 

     The course was well-served by public transport and the growing number of private motorists could park in one of the more than 2,000 places in the large car park which adjoined the course. A railway ran along the rear of the stands and Paulsgrove Halt was built from which people could walk straight on to the course. There were also cheap tickets from Southern Railway stations to Cosham. Special buses ran from the Theatre Royal at frequent intervals and Portsmouth to Fareham buses passed the course every 10 minutes.

 

     Racing ended at the outbreak of war after which the course area became the St John's College playing fields for a few years until factories were built on the site to employ people from the Paulsgrove Estate which was being built. C & A  and Johnson and Jounson were two of the companies who had factories there, neither of which sadly remain.

Portsmouth Racecourse was built at Wymering between the sea and the cliff at the chalk pit at Portsdown Hill. It was second in the UK only to Northolt Park as a pony racing centre. Opened in 1929, it had regular pony races as well as motor cycle races which were run on a track running parallel to the pony course. Racing continued up to the outbreak of the Second World War after which, in an echo of the fate of Northolt Park, the site was used to build the Portsmouth Housing estate.

 

Portsmouth originally had a fine racecourse at Farlington before the First World War, but it was taken over by the War Office and became one of the UK's largest ammunition dumps, and was generally wrecked.before being finally sold to the Portsmouth Council in 1929. A local businessman, Mr George Cooper built the Wymering course in the late twenties. Known variously as Portsmouth Racecourse, Portsmouth Park and Wymering Park, it was located at the Portchester end of the Western Road, not far from Paulsgrove House which was demolished to make way for the M27 motorway to cut the Paulsgrove estate in half.

 

The course itself was an oval of just seven and a half furlongs and was re-turved using over 40,000 square yards of turves cut from as area below the chalk pit. A few weeks of torrential rain before the opening race helped to establish it and to make the course second to none in the country. This new course opened on Friday, 10th August 1928. The charges in 1929 were 5/9d for the club enclosure, 2/4d for the reserved enclosure and 1/3d for the public enclosure, with club badges costing £1 for gentlemen and 12/6d for ladies.

 

The facilities were good though not as elegant as those at Northolt. There was grandstand accommodation for 8,000 racegoers, bars, restaurants, modern toilets and a Tote. Members were pampered in the luxurious Members' Clubhouse which had a restaurant, bar, lounge and unusually, a verandah from which to view the races. There were also 10 saddling boxes and 52 stables.

 

The course was well-served by public transport and the growing number of private motorists could park in one of the more than 2,000 places in the large car park which adjoined the course. A railway ran along the rear of the stands and Paulsgrove Halt was built from which people could walk straight on to the course. There were also cheap tickets from Southern Railway stations to Cosham. Special buses ran from the Theatre Royal at frequent intervals and Portsmouth to Fareham buses passed the course every 10 minutes.

 

Racing ended at the outbreak of war after which the course area became the St John's College playing fields for a few years until factories were built on the site to employ people from the Paulsgrove Estate which was being built. C & A  and Johnson and Jounson were two of the companies who had factories there, neither of which sadly remain.

 

 

                       LE COURT HOME, GREATHAM

 

     One of the social outcomes of the Second World War was a feeling by many people not to want a repeat of its suffering. Often this led to a rise in philanthropy and an urge to help others. Group Captain Leonard Cheshire was one such person and his wife, Sue Ryder, was another.

 

     Group Captain Cheshire, who was one of Britain’s most decorated wartime pilots, being awarded the Victoria Cross as the culmination of his gallantry in fling 102 sorties, bought Le Court at Greatham from his aunt in 1947. There he started a community called VIP (Vade in Pacem - Go in Peace) for war widows and veterans. It was not a success but in early 1948 he heard that a former member of the group, Arthur Dykes, was in need of help. He took in Arthur, who was suffering from cancer, and soon other needy people arrived at Le Court.

 

     In 1948, Cheshire founded the charity now named Leonard Cheshire Disability, which provides support to disabled people throughout the world. At the beginning of 1949, eight patients were staying at Le Court. Six months later, there were twenty-eight. Cheshire dedicated the rest of his life to supporting disabled people, combining this with lecturing on conflict resolution.

 

     Sue Ryder, whom he married in 1959, had also come to be involved in charitable projects because of the war. After the war she volunteered for relief work in Poland, often going alone to prisons and camps to help displaced people, particularly young men. She founded care homes in Germany, Poland and Yugoslavia, extending her work to include people suffering from illness and disability, before returning to the UK in the mid-1950s.

 

     Today, under the name Sue Ryder, the charity operates more than 80 homes across the world. Meanwhile Bordean House at Langrish was leased by the Sue Ryder Foundation, as the chaity was then named, in 1975 and used as a care home and hospice until 1997. Both Bordean House and Le Court have been developed for private housing, although Le Court retains a memorial garden to former residents.

 

     Group Captain Cheshire died in 1992 and his wife in 2000 and they were both honoured for their work.

 

 

 

EPITAPH

 

Here lie I,

and no wonder I'm dead,

For the wheel of a wagon

went over my head.

The Staunton Park Genealogy Centre

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Portsmouth,

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