Portman Buildings Remembered

Portman Buildings, Lisson Grove.
Demolished and replaced by Portman Gate

Arthur Royall, the son of a policeman, lived in Portman Buildings as a child and remembers it well.

'A large L-shaped building, six storeys high, with a flat roof, Portman Buildings dominated the corner of Lisson Grove and Broadley Terrace. There were entrances from both roads, each with strong, iron double gates. These were locked at ten o'clock each night, leaving only a single wicket gate open. Inside the courtyard were two further blocks running parallel to Lisson Grove.

The Inside Courtyard of Portman Buildings

The buildings were divided into blocks of 24 flats, four to a landing, two each of 3 rooms and two of 2 rooms. Each pair of flats shared a lavatory. These were placed on either side of a communal Wash Room which had a large stone copper in which the water was heated. Flat owners agreed among themselves which day they would use the facilities and each user supplied her own fuel. There was also a large enamelled bath, but it was seldom used as most people preferred to use a tin bath inside the comfort of their own flat. Landings and flights of stairs were kept scrupulously clean, washed by each tenant in turn.

Tenants were chosen from those judged likely to pay the rent regularly, with high standards of personal cleanliness and unlikely to cause trouble. In one block, for example, were two policemen, two postmen, a porter from a neighbouring block of mansion flats, two railwaymen and a somewhat mysterious retired merchant seaman whose wife was rumoured to have money. It had always been an Artizan policy to welcome policemen as tenants since their continual passage, leaving and returning from shifts, encouraged good behaviour. One block, nick-named the Old Maids' block, consisting of small flats that today would be called bed-sits, was occupied by widows and spinsters.


Page 120
Page 122
Updated June 7, 2011