Hidden Places Around Portsmouth: Darkness at the Edge of Town

St Peter and St Paul, Wymering [Image © John Callaway 2020]

Local resident and photographer John Callaway gives us a glimpse into Portsmouth’s hidden places with his stunning photography. This week, John heads to Wymering, where he takes a series of truly haunting shots.

Despite appearances, all of these images were taken within the space of around half an hour. Photographing in the middle of the afternoon, underneath the harsh glare of the sun, allows you to concentrate on light and shade. At the moment we appear to be being driven towards ‘absolute truths’ in terms of how we engage with the world. Perhaps it’s worth reminding ourselves that it’s the grey areas in between that help to complete the picture and that seeking them out requires a bit of thought, effort and understanding.

Anyway, to Wymering.

St Peter and St Paul, Wymering [Image © John Callaway 2020]
A short walk from Cosham along Medina Road leads you to the church of St Peter and St Paul, dating back to the 12th Century. A 1908 History of the County of Hampshire describes the church as ‘…a small building with chancel, north vestry, nave and aisles, and south porch. At the west end of the nave is a wooden bell-turret replacing a small embattled west tower pulled down in 1860. Most of the modern work in this church dates from this time.

‘The north arcade of the nave belongs to the last quarter of the twelfth century, and is the earliest part of the church to which a date can be assigned…’

Wymering Manor [Image © John Callaway 2020]
Like many other small villages that have been swallowed up over time to form part of the conurbation of Portsmouth, Wymering appears in the Domesday Book,with a population of 24 households in 1086.

Wymering Manor is first recorded in 1042, when it was owned by King Edward the Confessor. The majority of the current building dates from the 16th century although there still exist parts that contain Roman and medieval materials. The cellars are reputedly Saxon in origin. The early origins of the site are supported by archaeology of the area that implies that the area has been inhabited since at least the Roman period.

From 1938 onwards the Manor slowly began to fall into disrepair. In 1938 it passed into the hands of the British army, with whom it remained until after WWII. By 1959, with most of the grounds consumed by housing and the structure of the building needing urgent repair, consent was given for the house to be demolished to be replaced by a housing scheme. Local outcry led to the purchase of the house by the local authority, who having carried out repairs, leased the house to the Youth Hostels Association. The YHA remained in occupation until 2006 when a structural failure in the north west corner of the building caused them to surrender their lease.

(Source: Wymering Manor Trust). 

The house lay empty from the time that it was vacated by the YHA until it was purchased by the Wymering Manor Trust in 2013.

Here’s a link to some photos I took of the Manor in 2014.

For good reason, (security, fear of vandalism, and now COVID), the site is securely fenced off when not open. Consequently the above photograph was an ‘over the fence’ shot but framed by the trees, the sense of history and mystery is still palpable…

This is the modern world… [Image © John Callaway 2020]
Directly opposite the church, on the corner of Cow Lane and Medina Road, is an additional graveyard, acquired as the graveyard area surrounding the church was no longer large enough. There are 15 war graves to be found in this part of the graveyard, which, despite its proximity to an electricity substation, remains a place of quiet reflection.

I’d like to think that the name Cow Lane is a reminder of the agricultural heritage of this part of the city…

In broad daylight… [Image © John Callaway 2020]

This article was originally published on John Callaway’s website, Ideas & images from Portsmouth and beyond. You can read more of John’s writing on his website and also see his live music photography.

Images by John Callaway.

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