Gosport’s Historic Thorngate Halls – An Amazing Legacy
by Mrs J Russell June 2010
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Click the photo below or see the full text below the 1905 Thorngate Hall photograph
How Gosport’s Post-War Community Association got its own Centre
In 1947, two years after the end of World War 2, a small, hopeful band of Gosport citizens met at the former Privett School. They wanted to form a club or association to help revive the cultural and social life of their badly bombed town, which Dr White, soon to become their Chairman, described thus:
“Gosport’s town centre remained a decaying rubbish heap, with a burnt-out shell of jagged, broken masonry – all that was left of their fine 1885 Thorngate Memorial Hall. Gosport people had fought out their civic quarrels there and enjoyed their local reveries.”
But in 1941, enemy fire bombs had left it a gaunt shell and thus it remained, like Gosport’s battered waterfront area, down on Portsmouth Harbour.
So the new Gosport Community Association made an enthusiastic start in cold classrooms – “poor tea-making facilities” – was their main grumble. However, their activities and membership grew. Eventually a need for their own Centre inspired them to set up a building fund and five years of hard fund-raising enable them to buy Bury House!
History tells us that Bury House was formerly the tranquil ‘Georgian Gentleman’s Residence’ as shown in this old print. Nevertheless, it had a couple of dramatic episodes in its past. During its 200 years of changing ownership, it was at one time used as a ‘lunatic asylum’ situated next to the hospital – as the caption to the illustration testifies. The in the 1880s a Victorian owner, Thomas South, invited students to join him and his daughter Mary to explore how the “Mystical Powers of the Human Mind” could turn base metals into gold…..
When Mary published a study claiming that she had actually seen this done, her wealthy father brought up every single copy. He then had a spectacular bonfire in the Bury House Rose Garden (just a glimpse of it in the illustration) to avoid her being ridiculed by orthodox Victorian Society. But Mary fled to Scotland and never returned. So the pleasant Georgian residence housed other gentry until World War 2 when it was requisitioned for war use.
Finally, after years of damage from careless wartime occupiers, Bury House was sold to the War Memorial Hospital next Door. But NHS concern over strict new planning laws for Listed Period Buildings (as this was) led to discussing a sale with Dr White. He submitted a proposed offer to the GCA Committee, explaining the law of planning permits, supervised restoration, penalties etc. It was then put to an open Community Association meeting where members voted to buy the old property – and the first eager band of volunteers enrolled.