Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Living in Purbrook

We lived in Purbrook, near Portsmouth in Hampshire, for several years in the eighties and early nineties.

I had been working at Rugby in Warwickshire, managing an organisation known as Rugby Enterprise Trust, but I missed the entertainment business. In 1984, after I had contacted the Thorn-EMI company, who ran ABC Cinemas, they invited me to join them and run the Empire Cinema at Havant. The cinema had been losing money, and they felt I could probably reverse the trend.

This I was delighted to do, but it meant leaving Anne and the children (Neil and Gillian) at home at Brownsover for a time, while I lived in digs in Havant.

But after a few months we found a place to live at Purbrook. This is a few miles to the North of Portsmouth, on the mainland. Not many people realise that Portsmouth is actually built on an island. Purbrook is not far inland from the ancient chalk sea cliffs known as Portsdown Hill.

We lived in Delius Walk, which was rather nice because it was, as the name implies, a footpath. Although it was only a minute’s walk from the road, we didn’t have traffic going past the door.

One amusing thing about the address was that some people heard it as “Devious Walk”. When I said “no, Delius Walk – as in the composer”, they tended to reply “what composer?”

The estate was one of those where the street names had themes. Ours were English composers. So there were streets named after Elgar, Holst, Sullivan, Ireland etc.

While we were living there, our two youngest sons were born. Kevin was born in 1987, and Robin in 1990, both at St. Mary’s Hospital at Milton in Portsmouth.

Our nearest shopping centre was Waterlooville, to which we used to walk most of the time, but we could also do shopping at Havant, Portsmouth or Fareham.

Coming originally from by the sea, at Southend, it was refreshing for me to be so near the coast. Southsea, Hayling Island and Bognor Regis were all within easy reach.

But there were plenty of other interesting and historic places that we could, and did, visit. These included Chichester, Arundel, Brighton, Southampton and the Isle of Wight.

Unfortunately, in 1986 ABC Cinemas were taken over by Cannon, formerly known as Classic. This created an enormous chain, and there was naturally some rationalisation needed. I had been off sick, and a lot of the work that I had done in transforming the Empire from a loss-maker into a vibrant local asset had fallen by the wayside. The cinema was closed in 1987, and I was made redundant.

I didn’t just dangle about, though. I stood for council, in the Waterloo ward of Havant Borough Council, as a Ratepayers Association candidate. I didn’t win, but I came a good second. The sitting Conservative councillor beat me, but I beat everybody else out of sight.

I set up and chaired Havant All Year Events; was Vice-Chairman of Waterlooville Residents Association; was Chairman of the Waterlooville branch of the Bosmere Hundred Society; was Vice-Chairman of Hayling Island Railway; and organised the Leigh Park Carnival to coincide with International Year of Youth and British Film Year.

I wrote a monthly column for the “Hayling Islander” newspaper; compered the annual Hayling Island Carnival Queen Contest; was Public Relations Officer for Hayling Island Carnival; represented the British film industry at the Southsea Show; and acted as charity auctioneer on three consecutive days of the Southsea Show another year.

I was also Parent Governor at a local school, and accompanied a group on an educational residential trip to the Ironbridge area, where we stayed at the Youth Hostel at Coalbrookdale.

And I contributed a regular weekly programme (“Colin Crosby’s Cornucopia”) to Portsmouth Hospital Radio.

So I did get involved in local matters.

In 1991, I obtained a marketing appointment with Leicester City Council, and after another spell living in digs moved to Leicester, where I have been living ever since.

I’ve managed to use my knowledge of Portsmouth in my work as a Blue Badge Guide. I have twice run Coach Trips from Leicester to Portsmouth, including my own Guided Walk.

If anybody reading this has any connections with Purbrook, or the Portsmouth area in general (Born? Lived? Worked? Ancestors? Relatives?) I would be very pleased to hear from them.