The Castle Road Clocktower before Tony Wood

 The Castle Road Clocktower, under construction in 1902

The Castle Road Clocktower, under construction in 1902

Before Tony Wood Hair — before Tony Wood himself — there was the clocktower. Our home, sited where the street splits off into Castle Road and Great Southsea Street. It’s one of those buildings which makes you catch your breath as you turn the corner. You wonder, what are its origins?

We know that the clocktower was designed by Southsea-hailing architect J. W. Walmisley, and built by Southsea-based contractor J. Crockerell. It was completed in 1903 and, despite its appearance, it’s actually built on a steel frame.

Being mock-Tudor gives the clocktower an air of being much older than it is, but if you peer at the eastern side, above The Barbership (the barbershop which now occupies that part of the building) you will see the stone wall medallions showing the date of completion.

The stone also bears the building’s Latin motto:

In Latin:

“Ne cede malis sed contra”

In English:

“Yield not to misfortunes but on the contrary meet them with fortitude”

If you glance toward the wall just inside St. Edward’s Road, you’ll spot a piece of faded signwriting nodding to Mr. Ernest Smith. He was a cabinet maker and upholsterer, and was the first tenant of the clocktower. It’s something of a mystery, however, as to how he, as the building’s first tenant, managed to get his name around the clockface.

Castle Road Clocktower Ernest Smith

The clocktower was commissioned by Gales Brewery of Horndean, and the building features several traditional architectural pub hallmarks, both inside and out. The original large glass windows, unheard of in a public house at the time, are just one of the giveaways that the original use of the clocktower changed way back in its earliest years.

In the same year that the clocktower was completed, a certain Ford Motor Company was launched. In 1923, they removed the beautiful picturesque windows at the front of the building so that they could drive cars in, creating what must have been one of the first car showrooms on the south coast. They had a parts store in the basement, still evidenced to this very day.

In the Second World War, Ford moved out, and the first floor of the clocktower became occupied by a Royal Naval Club named The Three Arts. The name came from the singing, music, and poetry which thrived in the club. Local lore maintains that English playwright and composer Sir Noël Peirce paid a visit.

On January 10th 1941, Portsmouth was famously struck by one of the most destructive Blitz bombings of World War Two, destroying Portsmouth Guildhall at the centre of the city. The clocktower survived the attack, but the antiques shop opposite, run by the Fleming family, was hit. As Portsmouth recovered, Mr. Jack Fleming acquired the clocktower and moved the antiques business in.

In 1963, Jack’s nephew Alfred Fleming joined, and two years later, in 1965, his son-in-law John Maclean followed suit. They built up a major local and worldwide antiques business with a large restoration workshop sited at 85 – 87 Castle Road. The same spot is now home to Revive Interiors.

Jack Fleming and John Maclean retired in 1994, and Alfred continued with his wife Christel. They continued trading from the clocktower’s basement until December 1st 2015.

Tony took over the clocktower ten years earlier, in 2005. The story of Tony’s move into the building will be the focus of another Advent calendar entry. Subscribe below to be notified when each new door opens — some of them conceal prizes worth thousands!