Lost Pubs – A

The Abercrombie Arms
Abercrombie Street, Landport

Located by HM Dockyard, close to Unicorn Gate, Abercrombie Street has been lost without trace since the end of the Second World War. The pub in the photograph replaced a beerhouse of the same name and was built in 1911 – as depicted on its tiled fascia. Part of the Long’s Brewery estate, the Abercrombie was the victim of a bombing raid in 1941. It was one of a number of pubs that could be found on this street, including the Lion and the Trafalgar.


The Admiral’s Head
90 Kingston Crescent, North End

Located a hundred yards or so from the White Hart (see elsewhere), the Admiral’s Head occupied a small corner plot at the junction of Kingston Crescent and Gamble Road. Dating from around the middle of the 19th century, the pub was once part of the Pike Brewery estate until ending up in the Brickwood’s portfolio. Whitbread’s takeover of Brickwood’s in 1971 led to the demise of dozens of pubs across town and the Admiral’s Head closed its doors in 1981 to become offices. As can be seen in the left-hand photograph, it has now found new use as a Pizza parlour.

Colour photograph 15th July 2007.


The Admiralty Tavern
39 Spring Street, Landport

One of many pubs that could once be found in and around the Charlotte Street market area of the city centre, the Admiralty Tavern started life as the Admiralty Arms, acquiring its latter name in the mid 19th century. The original pub survived until 1940, when it became a casualty of enemy bombing during World War II. A Brickwood’s pub from Victorian times until that company’s takeover by Whitbread in 1971, the Admiralty was rebuilt in 1962, to an austere design typical of that era. The death knell for the tavern came in 1987, when plans were confirmed for the redevelopment of the Charlotte Street area. The pub was demolished that year and its footprint now stands beneath the Cascades shopping centre.    

Colour image from cine footage taken in 1977.


The Air Balloon
Mile End Road (formerly 598 Commercial Road), Rudmore

The Air Balloon, situated on the corner of Flying Bull Lane, Mile End is one of Portsmouth’s architectural gems, designed by architect A H Bone. Similar in appearance to his White Swan on Guildhall Walk, it comprises a mixture of stone, flint and wood on its exterior and is built in half-timbered brewers tudor style, popular around the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. Of particular note are the ornately-carved caryatids that flank two of the entrances. Sadly, by the summer of 2005 this once-popular destination pub stood empty awaiting conversion to flats.

On 22nd May 2007 the pub was extensively damaged in an arson attack which resulted in the loss of its ground floor stained glass windows. News of the incident made front page headlines in the Portsmouth News the following day. Fortunately, the building was fully restored externally following the damage caused. The listed nature of the pub meant that faithful reproductions of the damaged doors and stained glass windows were installed to retain the building’s character.

The two Victorian photographs seen below show the original Brickwood’s-owned Air Balloon standing at the junction of Commercial Road and Garfield Road. This was the building that immediately pre-dated the 1888 structure that stands today. The bottom right-hand photo depicts a naval parade as it heads past the pub and along Commercial Road towards the city centre. The bottom left-hand photograph depicts the pub in the 1960s, clearly showing the adjacent housing that stood in this part of the city at the time.

Today, the area is a mix of ugly council flats and office blocks, which has done nothing to enhance the character of the neighbourhood, giving the centre of Portsmouth one of the worst main approaches of any British city.

Today, the Air Balloon is a mixture of office space and private accommodation, though to the unsuspecting passer-by, it could well still be a trading public house.

Colour photographs: (left to right): 14th August 1988; 6th August 2005; 6th August 2005; January 1998 (by Ray Scarfe); August 2003 (by Ray Scarfe); 22nd May 2007 (courtesy Hampshire Fire & Rescue).


The Albany (The Mighty Fine)
106 Commercial Road, Landport

Originally the Commercial Hotel and also once trading under the names of Smith’s Hotel and The Dive during the late 19th century, many will remember this pub during its time as the notorious Mighty Fine. Rechristened as such in 1976, the pub may have sported a new guise, but ‘mighty fine’ it certainly wasn’t! The pub soon became known as one of Portsmouth’s most infamous drinking establishments – note the lack of windows in the photograph to the right!

The Webmaster recalls a cavernous one-roomed pub, with a DJ’s booth in one corner. The pub also featured strippers and was thus popular with the Royal Navy. The Mighty Fine eventually became seriously rundown and a major refurbishment in 1991 saw it reopen once more as the Albany (reflecting the name shown on the attractive tiling by the entrance doors). The house enjoyed a resurgence in popularity again with the Royal Navy for whom the pub arranged ‘service personnel only’ nights. For reasons unknown, the pub closed its doors some time in 2006 and in May 2007 was the subject of a planning application to convert the premises to a branch of the Northern Rock bank, with flats above, though the company later backed out of plans to go ahead with the occupancy. There now remains just a single pub trading on Commercial Road – once a street containing numerous drinking establishments. These days, the buildings that once housed this pub are now occupied by an amusement arcade and retail premises.

Photographs, left to right: 19th September 2004; 9th July 2007; 18th February 1990.


The Alexandra
Wingfield Street, Buckland

Starting life as the Queen Alexandra, this pub was built in 1976 to service the inhabitants of the sprawling Buckland estate. Originally part of the Ind Coope estate, in the 1980s the house became one of only six pubs on Portsea Island owned by Bass Breweries. It served out the last years of its life under the ownership of national pubco Punch Taverns, until finally closing in mid 2012 following the resignation of the licensee.

By 2014 the pub was sold off and has become one of many converted to convenience stores.

Photographs, left to right: 13th July 2008; 30th September 2006; April 1998 (by Ray Scarfe); 30th February 1990.


The Alma Arms
193 Highland Road, Eastney

This small community local has stood on this site since at least the middle of the 19th century and retained the same name throughout its life. Owned by Hurst & Co toward the end of the 1800s, the Alma was among a large number of pubs that could once be found on Highland Road. Often looking rather neglected, the pub was once in the hands of the notoriously awful Watney’s brewery (thankfully the only house on Portsea Island that was). The pub later became the property of Enterprise Inns and had somewhat of a chequered existence in its later life. Enterprise Inns offloaded the pub, after a prolonged closure, in June 2015 for conversion to six flats. The top left-hand photograph shows the building being stripped out, with the ground floor rear wall completely removed.

Photographs (left to right): 9th November 2015; 31st May 2011; 19th September 2004; March 1999 (by Ray Scarfe); 4th February 2007; 13th July 2008; 11th May 1989.


The Alma Tavern
44 (110) Blackfriars Road, Southsea

Located on Blackfriars Road, at its junction with Upper East Street, the Alma Tavern was a Victorian Brickwood’s house that disappeared from the map almost one hundred years ago. The photograph below dates from the 1910s and depicts the pub’s final licensee, Albert Grace, who’s name appears above the door.


The Alver Arms
52 Guildford Road, Fratton

This long-closed street-corner tavern could be found at the junction of Alver Road and Guildford Road, in Fratton’s densely populated residential district. A Brickwood’s house, the pub served its last pints in around 1948.

Photograph 29th July 2007 (courtesy of Rob Hall).


The Argyle
63 Queen Street, Portsea

Dating back to the 18th century, this old pub previously traded under the names of the Golden Bell and Bell Tavern before adopting its latter name in 1875. A Pike Spicer pub, it was one of many that once lined the length of Queen Street. Last orders were served as long ago as 1888 and the building is now a private residence.

Photographed 29th November 2015.


The Ashburton Arms
52/54 Church Road, Fratton

Still to be found at the western end of Church Road, at its junction with Union Place, this old Jewell’s pub traded from the 19th century and retained the same name until its closure in 1982. Still instantly recognizable as a former pub, the house was part of the Brickwood’s estate when it served its last pints. It has long since been converted to housing. The right-hand photograph shows the pub on the left side of the image.

Colour photograph 15th July 2007. Right-hand photograph 3rd October 1946.


The Avenue Hotel
314 Twyford Avenue, Stamshaw

A late-Victorian hotel, designed by A E Cogswell for the Pike Spicer brewery, the Avenue offered bed and breakfast accommodation (albeit very basic and poorly-maintained) until its closure in early 2012. The pub featured a large, single bar room, with separate function room. The Avenue suffered from both a lack of investment and poor footfall – and some of the clientele that did use the pub were known to be a little shady!

Before the pub closed for good, it was offered on the freehold market for around £450,000 – a price that no individual or pub company would ever pay to keep the pub as a going concern. Conversion to alternative use was therefore inevitable and the building was divided into a number of apartments in 2013.

Photographs, left to right: 30th September 2oo6; June 1999 (by Ray Scarfe); 14th August 1988.


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