Portland Street was an innovative property speculation by Richard Evamy, former saddler and now hop merchant, in the late 1820s and early 1830s. It was built on land occupied from the mid-eighteenth century by a large capital mansion house, with extensive gardens and outbuildings, the residence since c.1788, of Colonel James Morgan, originally of Purbrook Park near Waterlooville. Evamy purchased the estate in 1810 from his son. Following a succession of leases – including to the actress Sarah Siddons – the house was demolished in early 1826 (Southampton Herald, 27 February 1826, advertising the sale of 800,000 bricks, several thousand feet of excellent timber and 15 tons of lead for recycling). The same month 31 building lots were advertised on Evamy’s new development, which was planned as two terraces on either side of Portland Street with small lateral extensions taking in the eastern side of the proposed Portland Terrace. The lots typically had either 20-foot or 43-foot frontages. Lessees had three years from the date of the lease to build, at their own expense, a dwelling house – covering the whole street frontage - on each of the lots demised to them. Strict covenants, embracing the frontispiece, string course, plasters, pilasters, fillets, moulding, cornice, frontage and front walls, enforced a uniform appearance from street level.

A template for the two permitted elevations was provided by Thomas Benham, architect and surveyor for the development. The front walls were to be stuccoed “with the colour of Portland Stone”: in line with contemporary fashion but no doubt also hiding any inconsistencies in the brick work. The sense of symmetry was reinforced by the lessee’s obligation to pave the footpath in front of their house with Purbeck footed paving and kerb stones. Strictly timetabled regimes for cleaning, painting and recolouring the stucco were prescribed to preserve “the external uniformity, beauty and general convenience of all the houses”. Whatever individuality was permitted, as in the provision of bow windows and balconies and the creation of an additional storey, was strictly controlled. Additional storeys, for example, could not be less than 7 feet high (see Southampton City Archives D/MW 62/1/2 for covenants attached to an agreement for 6 Portland Street dated 10 April 1826).

A significant number of the first lessees were in the building or allied trades. These included Charles Pardey and his brother-in-law Richard Hopkins Perkins, respectively builder and upholsterer/auctioneer (lots 1 to 6 and 30 and 31, with Pardey also lessee of no.7); Robert Barker and John Harvey, stonemasons (lots 5 and 6); Henry and William Henry Roe, builders and carpenters (lots 7 and 8); James King, plumber and glazier (lots 10 and 11); Thomas Batt, builder (lot 20); John Gill, builder (lot 23); John Foot, carpenter (lot 24); Thomas Benham, architect (lot 25) and William Pardey, builder (lot 30). There was little restriction on the layout of the houses beyond the outward street appearance. The houses could be built to any ground plan and could have “as many or as few windows at the back part as the lessee may think proper”. No.22 Portland Street was built purposely for a school (Salisbury Journal, 29 December 1828: advertisement for the Southampton Classical and Commercial Building School run Nathaniel King). No.2 Portland Street, with 15 bedrooms of various sizes, was a bespoke “boarding house in good taste” (Hampshire Advertiser, 10 July 1830).

Development was necessarily piecemeal, with the majority of the houses probably dating between 1828 and 1832. The original intent was that the houses form residences for “small genteel families”. In the event, many of the houses became multiple tenancies. Richard Evamy by 1834 was a bankrupt.

The south side of the street was destroyed during the Blitz, but the north side survives. Nos 1-13 are Grade II listed.

For 63 years until 2002 Gilbert's Booksellers was at the Above Bar end of the street (number 2½).

Portland Street

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Photograph, 1941

Portland Street

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A modern view of part of the north side of the street.


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