Somerstown Stories project has been signed off by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This marks the end of the grant funding from HLF…but not the end of the project. On-going interest from the local community has sparked three follow-on workshops at Priory School, Portsmouth Foyer and Somerstown Adventure Playground.

Each event has been tailored to meet the needs of the individual venue and are noticeably different in feel and approach. For the Adventure Playground, for example, we’re considering how a derelict piece of nearby land could possibly be transformed into a wildlife garden, and to help the children and their families understand what this could look like we’re borrowing from Helen Oxenbury’s ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ story, whilst we explore the nature reserve at Admiral Lord Nelson School in the north of the city.

At Priory School, students will be exploring archive maps and photos and then going on a walk round the area, applying their newly acquired knowledge to real locations around the school. This will then be linked to literacy based work, using Somerstown Stories as inspiration.

This work has been funded by the Community Development Foundation’s Community First funding stream, and we’re delighted to have the opportunity to continue to share the stories of Somerstown!


Listen out for Sharon’s interview with Terry Powell on Express FM which is being recorded on April 24th and should be aired shortly afterwards, for more info on these new projects!

The photo above shows the Somerstown Stories scrapbook - a visual record of the lifespan of the project to date. There is also a copy of the 'Somerstown Stories' book, which is now available to buy through the website, and a booklet about a creatve design workshop run in partnership with the University of Portsmouth's School of Architecture

The photo above shows the Somerstown Stories scrapbook – a visual record of the lifespan of the project to date. There is also a copy of the ‘Somerstown Stories’ book, which is now available to buy through the website, and a booklet about a creatve design workshop run in partnership with the University of Portsmouth’s School of Architecture

They say that as one door closes, another opens, and that certainly seems to be true for Somerstown Stories. Today the evaluation materials are being sent off to the Heritage Lottery Fund, and that phase of this 2 1/2 year project comes to an end.

It has been a fantastic project, and I’m delighted with how local residents have engaged with it and been willing to share their stories and photos of the area! Somerstown Stories could never have been the success it has been without their involvement.

Interest continues to build around the project, and this is by no means the end – the project website and Facebook page will continue to be updated and local people of all ages can continue to share their stories.

All the historic materials are being catalogued by local volunteers and will soon be delivered to the Local History Centre to become the Somerstown Archive. All that has been learnt and shared will belong to the city, and people can continue to access those materials and add to them.

It’s been a priviledge to be involved in this work, and I’d like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to the people of Somerstown who have helped to make this such an outstanding project!

Sharon Court, project leader

You can still get involved: look us up on Facebook ‘Somerstown Stories’ or follow us on Twitter: @SomerstownStory

February saw some great events taking place in the area, in partnership with the University of Portsmouth.

The first took place in half-term at Somerstown Adventure Playground, where we hosted a ‘Somerstown Stories Family Fun Day’! Activities included dressing-up (which the children thoroughly enjoyed!), wartime cooking, exploring maps & photographs and watching old film footage of Portsmouth in the past. We all had a great time, and I’m almost certain there weren’t any cakes or scones left at the end of the day!

This photo shows the tour group inside what will become the gallery and atrium area.

This photo shows the tour group inside what will become the gallery and atrium area.

The second event was aimed more at adults, a special Community Tour of the Eldon Building, which was a tour of two halves! The first part took us round the new Eldon Building extension, which should be ready for students in September this year, and then a visit round the existing building, to explore the wealth of course options and facilities there.

Barry Jones grew up in the area, and remembered when the building was first constructed around 1958. He remembered playing cricket on Bedford Road, which now lies beneath the carpark at the back of the building.  His boyhood feelings about the arrival of ‘these arty types’ can be found in the ‘Somerstown Stories’ book, which is now available to buy!

Pam Fontana, another long-standing resident emailed to say: “Thank you so much for making this tour available on 28th February. I found it fascinating from my own point of view….I have been passing the building  several times a week for over 50 years, but have never thought to go in. Perhaps when the new art gallery is open, one will feel less inhibited.”

The University’s Creative and Cultural Industries faculty is located at the Eldon Building, and the building work was seen as an ideal opportunity for the University to strengthen relationships with its neighbours. If you have any memories of Eldon Building or the surrounding area, why not let us know?

If you’d like to buy a copy of the book, you can click here to find out more:


The book is being sold at cost price, so no profit is being made from the sale of the books. If you buy one, you get the option to get another at half price, making them both just £16 each. There is also a FREE PDF version which you can download and there will be copies available in the library shortly.

There’s some great stuff coming up this month, linked to the Somerstown Stories project!

The first is a special event hosted at the Somerstown Adventure Playground on Mon 18th Feb. Aimed at children and families, this one-day funday will give local families their chance to explore the history of the area through archive maps, photos and film footage. There will also be the chance to do some wartime cooking, try on some old-style clothes and play old-fashioned street games. The playground opens at 10am with a break for lunch between 1-2pm.

Also coming up on Feb 28th is the Community Tour of the Eldon Building. Situated on the edge of Somerstown, the Eldon Building is home to the Creative & Cultural Industries faculty.  This free tour offers the chance for local residents to find out more about what happens in this creative space, and how the University plans to use the new spaces currently under construction. The new space will be fully fitted out and ready for use later this year. There’s also the chance to chat afterwards over tea and cake 🙂

To book your free tickets, please use the form below:



We’ve already had some great feedback about the book from people who have just picked up their limited edition copy!

Barry said: “I collected my copy today feeling very excited. What a great read and I can now fully appreciate the work and effort by numerous people to produce such a brilliant book.
Thank you Sharon you are a true hero and if ever our paths crossed I would get you to sign my book after such a wonderful achievement.”

And Lisa commented:  “Thank you for saving me a copy of the book, so many memories I love it x”

For those of you who didn’t get manage to get a limited edition copy, there are still two opportunities for you to read the book yourself. Firstly there is a free PDF version which you can download via Dropbox. The file is (understandably!) quite large, and would be too big to send by email. However, if you email Sharon (sharon.court@gmail.com) she will happily send you a link to the PDF which you’ll be able to access from your computer.

If you’d rather have something solid in your hand, a paperback version will be available to buy in a few days time. The link will be posted on this website. Due to the terms of the HLF grant, we are prohibited from making any profit from HLFs investment, so the book will be sold at cost price, in the least expensive format available.

We have been asked if there would be any interest in having a audiobook version? If you or someone you know, would be interested in an audiobook, please email Sharon, or send a comment using the feature on the right of this page.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed! If you have any feedback, do let us know!

Somerstown Stories has a will of its own.

The Heritage Lottery Fund grant has been completed, and so technically the project should be finished…except it isn’t.

I was delighted to be invited to speak about Somerstown Stories at the U3A (University of the 3rd Age) Local History group this afternoon. Around 40 were packed in to the Albert Stanley room in Southsea Community Centre, and I was pleased to learn that this was the largest turnout they’d had for a while!

I spoke for about an 45 minutes on the history of the area, and people spoke to me afterwards saying how much they’d enjoyed it. I also met Sonja, who started her teaching career at Stamshaw Infants – this will be very useful, as I’m hoping to run a similar but scaled down version of the  project at Stamshaw Infants as part of their 115th birthday celebrations!

If you have requested a copy, you can collect your book from Somers Park School any time in the next two weeks (up to Feb 15th) between 9:30am and 3pm. They have a list of who have requested books and you’ll need to sign for your copy. If for whatever reason you are unable to collect it from the school, please contact Sharon: sharon.court@gmail.com who can help.


Fresh out of the box! 30 limited edition hardback copies, ready for collection!

Fresh out of the box! 30 limited edition hardback copies, ready for collection!

Copies of the ‘Somerstown Stories’ book are now available to collect from Somers Park School, Somers Road!
You can go along anytime in the next two weeks, between 9:30am and 3pm.
There is a list of people who have reserved a copy, and you’ll need to sign for it when you collect it. If you will have any difficulties collecting your copy, or you’re not sure if you reserved one, please contact Sharon: sharon.court@gmail.com who can help you.

An artist's impression of the new extension to the Eldon Building, which will become the home of all the Creative & Cultural Industries faculties. The University very much hopes to build stronger relationships with the local community and is keen to find ways that Somerstown people could use the space in ways that interest them.

An artist’s impression of the new extension to the Eldon Building, which will become the home of all the Creative & Cultural Industries faculties. The University very much hopes to build stronger relationships with the local community and is keen to find ways that Somerstown people could use the space in ways that interest them.

Somerstown Stories has partnered up with the University of Portsmouth to be able to offer local residents a chance to have a special tour of the new wing of the Eldon Building.

Adrian Brice, is the project manager  from Morgan Sindall, who will be leading the tour, which will take place on February 28th from 10am. Morgan Sindall are the company responsible for the construction of the new extension to the Eldon Building.

The new west wing will create a new, enlarged space to house all the different creative disciplines together, including Architecture, Art and Design,  Fashion and Textiles, Photography, Creative Technologies, Illustration, Film Making and more.

This tour has been arranged specially for local residents and community organisations, to get a preview of the space and facilites on offer! It includes the opportunity to see the existing facilities that are currently within the Eldon Building as well as the chance to see new space before it’s completed. The final fitting out of the new space won’t happen until the early summer, so this tour offers an advanced sneak preview.

Tickets are free and numbers will be limited to 20 people per group for safety reasons. Further group times will be released if there us sufficient demand. We estimate the tour will take between 60-90 minutes.

You can book tickets using the box below, or email sharon.court@gmail.com if you have any special requirements.




The power of Design!

The students had an idea for a community event named SomersFest, which would take place on a closed-off section of Winston Churchill Avenue. Curiously enough, this echoes an idea made by Rev Mark Rodel when he first took up post at St Luke’s five years earlier…

I am delighted to be able to share the latest publication from the University of Portsmouth’s Project Office – a booklet detailing the fabulous Design Charette that took place with students from the School of Architecture and from Charter Academy, at St Peter’s Church in July.

We had an excellent day together and the students from Charter again showed that young people are not as disconnected and uninterested in their neighbours as the press would have us believe.

The booklet contains photos and Tweets (short instant messages, broadcast over the internet) that document the day and the thoughts and conversations that took place between the older and young students. I am especially grateful to the Project Office team and the students from the Post-Grad Diploma course, Sophie, Andy and Philip, who made such great contributions on the day.

Have a look for yourself, and maybe you’ll be inspired to see Somerstown differently!



Somerstown as an area is made up of the most varied people and places in Portsmouth! As the Evening News put it in 1964:

“There is a village like intermingling of the classes. In Somers Town men with university degrees may be seen engrossed in conversation with labourers.”

I met with someone from the University today, Sue Noble, who lectures in Fashion and Textiles. She told me about some work she’s been doing about regaining lost skills with the older members of the local community. Sue invited women from the area to come to the university to teach her students some of their skills around knitting, needlecraft and patchwork. Nowadays there are advanced machines for much of this work, but Sue and her students recognised the value of also knowing how to do the same work yourself, by hand.

Having old and new work side-by-side has enabled her students to draw out the value of what they’re doing in their studies, whilst also finding ways to connect old and young people together, and enable  the older women to feel that their skills and expertise are valued once more. Some of these ladies can’t knit or sew now in the way that they used to, because of health issues such as failing eyesight or arthritis. Just one more reason why finding ways to share skills and learning from the past and present, is so important.

Sue showed me a dress and jacket that had been made specifically designed to demonstrate all the new techniques and machinery that they have available now at the University:

– The circle motif was digitally scanned and added to the jacket as an embroidery. It took just six minutes to complete each circle.

– The circles within the neckline at the front of the dress were cut with a laser cutter, and the pieces re-used as ‘buttons’ elsewhere.

– The silk scarf (centre of the picture) was printed using the digital circle image. Any design could be used to print on silk or cotton.

Sue and I wondered what kind of design could be draw from Somerstown? The tiling on the old Brickwoods pubs? The geometric shapes of the windows on the tower blocks? Leaf patterns from the variety of trees around the area, or something inspired by some of the old churches? Historically, Somerstown was the home of highly skilled people: seamstresses for Vollers the corset makers, people who worked at the printers, the bakers, the bootmakers and clockmakers, not to mention the breweries, mineral waters and ice-cream factory! I wonder how many people there are living in Somerstown now who still have these skills…and how we could go about sharing those skills with other generations?

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