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History of Southsea Self Help Housing Co-operative


The Office

The earliest base of operations of the housing co-op was members’ houses. People would be sent to an address; usually following word of mouth, and take it from there. The earliest formal mailing address was All Saints Church, Commercial Rd, which housed the early offices of Portsmouth Housing Association. It was convenient in one way, as one of the early secretaries was an employee of P.H.A. It was here that we held some of our early meetings.

Following early managerial problems, an ‘emergency’ meeting was held, in June ’82, between ourselves, P.H.A., and the Portsea Island Co-operative Society. There had been several ‘crisis’ type meetings, as the group were clearly failing to ‘manage’, at least not to the satisfaction of P.H.A. They issued an Ultimatum to the co-op: We should take up the offer of office space in the Crystal Rooms (on the corner of Garnier St, and Besant Rd.), and we should advertise for a part-time Book-keeper (to be paid about £15 a week). If we failed to take these measures, P.H.A would foreclose on its support of the co-op.

Crystal Rooms
Crystal Rooms
Crystal Rooms Crystal Rooms

There was indeed a fair amount of chaos amongst ourselves, and concern that: ‘Officers were being called upon at all hours, in their own homes, to sort peoples’ personal problems out’. One of the ‘crisis’ meetings (Dec ’82) was reported as being between ourselves, P.H.A, the Co-operative Bank Manager (our Bank), P.I.M.C.O, and a man from The Co-operative College (Coventry?) on placement with P.I.M.C.O, who they thought may be able to advise us. Not much (if anything) is recorded about his input, but was alleged to have thought that SSHH ‘was the best thing since sliced bread’!

The meeting was only attended by ourselves and P.H.A. It appeared to be primarily about establishing the precise role of P.H.A as our managing agent, including maintenance issues, and our longer term development. This also appears to be the first mention of our interest in acquiring the plot of land between 26 & 34 Garnier St. for a development (before we hardly had much experience in running the short-life programme.) Bob Paterson (P.H.A Director) had conveyed our interest in this to the Council. The meeting focused on our continued liaison with P.H.A., and agreed that they would have a representative to sit in on our Management meetings, and in turn, ourselves a rep. On the P.H.A Housing Management Sub-committee.

Location for Office Location for Office

We took up the offer of office space in the Crystal Rooms – which remained our registered address until sometime in 1987. We didn’t get a part time Bookkeeper. The issue of a paid worker for the co-op is covered later.

Some of the pressure was eased, as a bit later on, as one of our own members became a Receptionist at P.H.A, so some liaison could be done. The Crystal Rooms was also our meetings place (for a while at least), and venue for early fund raising activities, such as Jumble Sales and Gigs.

We next had an office in the front room of one of our houses (46 Garnrier St – June ‘83). This was far from perfect, being a residential house, and the dividing up of Electricity bills, etc. the whole office issue was very important, because if we really did employ a worker, we would need one.
Next, PIMCO offered us a large upstairs ‘flat’ on the corner of Besant Rd. and Somers Rd. North, which became the first ‘proper’ office, with office room, and large meetings room. Also a good place to hold our A.G.M & Christmas parties.

57 Lucknow Street 57 Lucknow Street

We stayed here for a number of years – still using The Crystal Rooms as our registered address. Inevitably, we had to vacate, as the demolition of Besant Rd. went ahead. We used 26  Garnier St. for a while – awaiting the re-development, and then had to vacate there too. There was a minor crisis soon after, when we had to cease using the Crystal Rooms as address, as the building too was being demolished. (See ‘Fratton Plan’ in this section)

Office Window
Office Window - click on image to enlarge

We changed registered address to 59 Lucknow St., where a few meetings were also held. At one point we were pursuing sharing an office space with Spithead, in St.Peters Church, Somers Town. The truth is that over the years we would meet wherever we could, as necessary, eg: Unity Hall Labour Club and Rivers Street Hall. The PIMCO Education Rooms, at Nancy Rd (off Fratton Rd) was a regular. We even held one A.G.M. at the Black Dog Pub, on the corner of Garnier St. & Fratton Rd.
We eventually landed at 57 Lucknow St. where we remain today.

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