The 2011 census showed there to be 122 people living in the street spread across 61 households.
The first building ever to stand on the exact site of present day  Ashburton Court was the 1868 Church Hall followed by the magnificent 650-seater Christ Church Congregational Church from 1871 to 1956. The church building was formally opened by Edward Miall, the Liberal [Whig] MP for Bradford, in July 1872 who been born in Portsmouth and had been a congregational minister
Severe bomb damage in March 1941, during WWII, rendered the fine building unfit for purpose although church services did continue in the adjoining church hall/school. ✎remarkOn 21st December 1954 the land was publicly offered by sale for £2,750 by Blake Lapthorn Roberts Rea on behalf of the Trustees for the Church❜ and by 16th September 1955 there was then a conveyance of the land between Hampshire Congregational Union [w.i.p. as charity number 24099 – removed on 18th March 2011 having been formed on 08/11/66] and a Mr A.T. Pitassi for the sum of £2,750 but when Mr Pitassi’s business ran into difficulties in December 1955 the land passed to C A Claxon Limited. Finally, in 1956, the church was demolished. In 1962 the building of the present day Ashburton Court was completed as a block of nine modest one and two bedroom apartments with its own management company. This remains Ashburton Court Management Company Limited, whose equity shares may only be transferred by/to the owners of the individual freehold flats and whose directors have to be shareholders. The shareholding structure and the old fashioned idea of individual “freehold” flats continues to this day in 2017 despite the difficulties that arise from that structure. The first Company Secretary was Sir Alfred Lapthorn Blake KCVO. The first flats were sold in 1962 for then prices of less than £3,000✎remark for each of the one bedroom flats.❜ Sir Alfred Lapthorn Blake KCVO was a notable Portsmouth figure having been Lord Mayor of Portsmouth in 1958/59 [at the time of the Ashburton site development] and,by 1985, Senior Partner of Blake Lapthorn, the family firm of Portsmouth solicitors founded by his grandfather in 1869. His knighthood✎source [a KCVO is a personal award direct from the Sovereign without political recommendation] arose from his fine work for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and his friendship with HRH The Duke of Edinburgh KG❜ through their joint interest, experiences and support for the Royal Marines.
The management company’s statuary annual return for 1995 shows that eight of the nine flats were then owned by retired folks with an overall average age of 71 years for all directors of the management company. From those who can remember those days it seems that they met in their own flats for cosy coffee & cakes to manage the block themselves. Twenty two years later in 2017 only one flat was occupied by its owners all the year round. The rest had tenants and, indeed, the majority of owners had never ever slept even a night in their properties. The management of the block had passed to outside “professionals” and “advisers” whose annual total costs for implementing all the new rules for blocks of flats had risen to 45% of the overall annual bill for managing the block. This was now the age of the “buy-to-let” landlords.
Indeed, compared with the original 1860’s covenants that the developments all be detached or semi-detached villas, the 2011 Census [thanks to..] shows that about 80% of the accommodation in the street that year consisted of “flats” [one third purpose built and the rest conversions] with about 70% of the residents claiming to have been born in England and a similar proportion claiming themselves to be in social categories AB or C1. Interestingly, ten per cent of residents evidently did not have a passport even though Southsea is closer to Le Havre, France than it is to Cambridge or Coventry.
The early Chapel/School Hall in Ashburton Road was completed by 1868 [the same year that “Moonstone” by Wilkie Collins was first published] and had been built on land purchased somewhere between 1865 and 1867 for £720 [Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle of 19th December 1868] about equal to £79,000 in 2016 according to the Bank of England FYI” link”>✎FYI Inflation adjuster❜. This highlights the disparity between standard inflation and the rise in property values over the last 150 years given that [according to XYZ, Auctioneers, Valuers and Estate Agents in Southsea] the same plot in 2017 would be valued closer to £ BIG,000, the main part of the inflation having been since 1954 when the land sold for £2,750.The 1865/67 purchase came after a two-year search for a suitable site with this empty land having been on the market for nine years since the failed auction attempt in 1858. [Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle 19th December 1868] Part of this delay may have been due to the wrangling over whether the “new roads” were to have direct access into Kent Road or via the earlier proposed “Fitzherbert Road” that was, finally, never built. We don’t [yet in 2018] have information on that puzzle. The land was not only the site for the Chapel/School Hall but was the whole corner of Ashburton Road/Kent Road on which was then also built Christ Church by 1871 and then Ashburton Court by 1962. The Chapel/School Hall was built at a cost of £625 [about £65,000 in 2016] and by December 1868 the total costs exceeded funds raised/promised by £220 [about £23,000 in 2016] but folks were confident of raising the balance which they duly did from private individual donors. It was subsequently used [following the completion in 1871 of the much larger and adjoining 650-seater Christ Church for worship] as the location for regular successful fund raising Bazaars.
Several were “Opened” ✎sourceby Mr T.H.E. Lapthorn [and some by Mrs T.H.E. Lapthorn]❜. Mr Lapthorn was a partner in Blake Lapthorn, solicitors, who continued to have close links to Ashburton Court. Sir Alfred Lapthorn Blake KCVO was later named after Mr T.H.E. Lapthorn. It was also the home to the Ashburton Society. Its Founder and First President was Manoah Jepps [1822-1895] and following his death a ✎sourcebrass plaque was placed in the main church in memory and thanks for his work❜. The Society hosted/arranged a wide range of secular activities which [according to press reports at the time] included a talk on “History of Magnetism” [December 1895], a lecture on “First Parliament in Russia”, a Gymnasium opened in 1892, a lecture on “The Japanese” [March 1904], a lecture on “The Huguenots ” [December 1904], 150 “Poor Children” entertained [March 1913] a performance of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s “Festival Oratorio -The Light of the World” in May 1927 and a talk about “The Beauty of Wessex” by Mr R. Took, Headmaster of St Jude’s School in November 1933. There was also a Christ Church Literary Society which may have only met during winter months as the Portsmouth Evening News reported on “The opening meeting of the new session” in Wednesday’s edition, 2nd October 1901.This was, of course, long before television, and the Southsea neighbourhood would have been mainly well educated people – as they continue to be, having voted in 2016 as to 57% in favour of remaining in the European Union according to local authority voting records.
The County Court for Portsmouth had been in St Thomas’s Street [Kelly’s 1939] until it was bombed in 1941 when it moved to Havant for greater protection against further risk of bombing. This was the same years that Christ Church [but not Ashburton Hall] was severely damaged by aerial bombing. A year after the end of WWII, a meeting of the Congregational Church deacons was held on 6th June 1946 at 25 Worthing Road, Southsea when it was agreed to lease Ashburton Hall and numbers 2 & 4 Ashburton Road to the Ministry of Works who intended to use the Hall as a County Court on weekdays and the adjoining houses as Court Offices. The Hall would continue to be used for prayer on Sundays which gave rise to the local quip that the Hall was “For the Rule of Law on weekdays and the Rule of the Lord on Sundays”.
However, by 27th January 1947 the matter was still under discussion with a church meeting finally agreeing to sign a lease with the Ministry of Works. Then, Portsmouth Council in their Report for 1948 [page 98] confirm that the County Court finally moved from Havant to Ashburton Hall in September 1948. It was then often referred to as Ashburton County Court. [The 1907 photo shows Ashburton Hall as the smaller building to the left of Christ Church in Ashburton Road.]
The Portsmouth History Centre have very helpfully discovered that Kelly’s Directory in 1953, p A16 states:
‘County Court, held at Ashburton Road, Southsea, on Thursdays at 10 a.m.
His Honour Judge Alfred Tylor Q.C. judge; E.F.G. Rhodes A.F.C. registrar
& high bailiff. Offices, Ashburton Road, Southsea.’
Similar entries continued up to 1960.The entry for Ashburton Road itself is as follows:
County Court (Erik F. G. Rhodes A.F.C. registrar and high bailiff)’
In January 1952 Mr HH Payne is recorded [in The Evening News] as retiring as Registrar and the press article photo may be showing Judge Tylor in the background of the accompanying photograph.
If there was, indeed, only one judge sitting once a week in the 1950’s then this is an interesting comparison with Portsmouth County Court in 2018 where several judges sit most weekdays. The difference may, of course, be that society has changed since the 1950’s. Greater population, yes, but also more protective legislation now [especially landlord & tenancy laws], many more people have bank accounts [that can & do go “wrong”] and, of course, credit cards and credit generally [especially mortgages] were scarcer in the 1950’s.
Mr David Nesbit FRICS of Nesbits & Company, Southsea can remember attending a Hearing in the Hall when his father, the late Douglas Nesbit FRICS, was sitting with the Judge as an Assessor in a Landlord & Tenant case. David recalls the surroundings as “very austere and Dickensian“.
The naming of Ashburton Road
Whoever developed these three streets had an eye for marketing the subsequent plots for “respectable villas”. The street names selected [referring, at least, to members of the peerage] would have been well known to the “upwardly mobile”, probably somewhat pretentious, Victorian middle class. But, in selecting the names as they did, were there double entendres associated with each name? Ashburton was the name of the peerage first granted [in 1835] to Alexander Baring [1774-1848], the grandson of Francis Baring [a son of German immigrants] who was said to have been one of the six✎remark richest bankers in England in 1800❜. Alexander then went on to marry the daughter of Mr William Bingham, an American senator from Philadelphia said to be the richest man in the USA. Alexander Baring then also greatly increased both the wealth and influence of the family bank, Baring Brothers & Co., before building his summer “house” at Gosport across from the nearby Isle of Wight where Queen Victoria had her modest retreat at Osborne. Gosport, of course, first had a railway connection to London a few years before Portsmouth.
The street was undoubtedly named after him or his son, Bingham Baring [2nd Lord Ashburton 1799 -1864] who had been Paymaster General in 1845/46 – probably making him popular amongst Naval/Military folks in Portsmouth. However, the double entendre may have been that the nephew to Alexander Baring [and first cousin to Bingham Baring] was Francis Thornhill Baring who sat as a Liberal [Whig] MP for Portsmouth for 38 years including a period as a successful Chancellor of the Exchequer when the “Penny Post” was introduced. He later inherited his baronetcy in 1848 and was then ennobled as Lord Northbrook in 1866 after Ashburton Road had been named . Although Sir Francis was given a glowing obituary in the press [and a new hospital wing named after him by a grateful Portsmouth Town Council (Note: *)] it was common knowledge that Mr Thomas E. Owen [the local builder developer], partly as a Conservative party supporter, thoroughly disliked Baring and, of course, Ashburton Road was developed just across from all the fine villas built by Mr Owen in Southsea. In Sue Pike’s ✎book indexexcellent book❜, Thomas Ellis Owen, Shaper of Portsmouth, ‘Father of Southsea’, Sir Francis T Baring is described first [on page 98] as “unpopular MP” and then [on page 148] as “deeply unpopular” and finally [on page 151] as “widely detested”. Maybe the street developer[s] had a rather political sense of humour.
In 1861 the then Lord Ashburton donated the “Ashburton Challenge Shield” for [mainly private then called “public”] schools competing in rifle shooting. It would have been extensively publicised amongst the Victorian military upper classes – just the folks that the developers were hoping to attract to their new villas.
The naming of Shaftesbury Road
At the time of the street’s development in the 1860’s , the name Shaftesbury would certainly have referred to Anthony Ashley-Cooper, Lord Ashley, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury[1801-1885] who had succeeded to the Earldom in 1851, known as the “reforming earl” in whose memory the Statue of Eros [whose correct name is “The Angel of Christian Charity”] stands in Piccadilly Circus, London. Maternal grandson of the 3rd Duke of Marlborough [and, later, informally related through his wife to both Prime Ministers, Lord Palmerston and Lord Melbourne], Lord Shaftesbury was well known. The successful suppression in 1848 by Lord Ashley [who did not succeed to the Earldom of Shaftesbury until 1851] of a threat of serious mob violence in London was generally seen as a result of his “high standing amongst low people”.
In Portsmouth and Southsea, Lord Shaftesbury will have been well respected for his support for the Ragged Schools for which The John Pounds School in Portsmouth was thought to have been the original model.
The double entendre was that the social campaigns supported by this most respectable peer allowed drawing-room discussion [in Victorian days] of otherwise rather “dodgy” subjects – abolition of slavery, highlighting that prostitutes had clients to be pursued, the tighter control of child labour and better conditions in orphanages, mines, lunatic asylums and prisons. Might the upwardly mobile Victorian middle classes [moving upwardly from “Portsmouth” to the more genteel “Southsea”] have had any knowledge of such matters – perish the thought – perhaps the developer[s] really did have a sense of humour.
By 26th January 1865 the Town Rate Book showed 6 properties owned by a Mr Morey [possibly Mr Mosey] but only three occupied but by January 1866 the Town Rate Book showed six properties at No.’s 4 to 9 Shaftesbury Road all occupied.
The naming of Elphinstone Road
Here the most obvious reference at the time the street was named, in the early 1860’s, would have been to the then local Conservative MP in Portsmouth, known as Sir James Elphinstone but whose full name was Sir James Dalrymple-Horn-Elphinstone, 2nd Baronet (20th November 1805 – 26th December 1886). He sat in the House of Commons in two periods between 1857 and 1880 where he was a Lord of the Treasury for a short period. He did make his mark early on in the House of Commons when Benjamin Disraeli [then Chancellor of the Exchequer] wrote to ✎sourceQueen Victoria one evening [as you do – or did in those days] on 13th April 1858 to report on the evening’s debate in the House about Singapore, “the speech of Sir J. Elphinstone, master of the subject, and full of striking details, produced a great effect”❜. Disraeli would have known of the Queen’s familiarity with the extensive Elphinstone family who came from Stirling but also had links with Aberdeenshire where Balmoral had been built. Indeed, despite Sir James’s modest and short term in office ✎sourcehe was, some years later on Thursday 13th October 1863, one of a very small select group [such as the Duke of Richmond & the Earl of Aberdeen] who greeted the then widowed [and still in heavy mourning] Queen at Aberdeen Railway Station when she arrived to unveil one of the first memorial statues to Prince Albert who had died on 14th December 1861. But then Sir James was a Deputy Lieutenant for Aberdeenshire. The “Scotsman” of 14th October 1863 reported that it had rained heavily❜. Sir James [the 4th of 15 children] was the eldest surviving son of Sir Robert Dalrymple-Horn-Elphinstone,1st Baronet and his wife Graeme Hepburn daughter of Colonel Hepburn, of Keith in Scotland about 50 miles from Balmoral.
But there was another Elphinstone with a Southsea connection who went on to be very well known. ✎sourceYoung Howard Crauford Elphinstone [1830 -1890] was 28 years old when on 2nd August 1858 he was parading on Southsea Common [which was “bathed in brilliant sunshine by 10am” with hundreds of troops and the crowds enormous – wearing, according to the The Time’s, all the eccentricities of English seaside costume] one of 12 men awaiting the arrival of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert for the award of the Victoria Cross❜. This was then England’s newish (since January 1856 ) and highest medal for gallantry. It had been awarded for valour on 18th June 1855 when, aged 25, Elphinstone had fought in the Siege of Sebastopol, during the Crimea War [1853-1856]. That was somewhat ironic given that earlier generations of Elphinstones had been Admirals in the Russian Czar’s navy fighting the then common enemy, Napoleon. Nobody has ever doubted Elphinstone’s valour, after-all he had been decorated by Emperor Napoleon III himself with the Légion d’Honneur [Chevalier 5th Class] in 1855 -746 British members of the armed forces were decorated by the French during the Crimea War. However, his delayed selection for the award of the VC until after his appointment [secretly in November1857 but to start officially in 1859] as a military “Governor” [a living- in permanent tutor] to the seven year old HRH Prince Arthur, [later the Duke of Connaught] Victoria and Albert’s third son, left “the manner of the grant controversial” according to Mr Martyn Downer whose really excellent biography of Howard Elphinstone, [later Major General Sir Howard Crauford Elphinstone VC.,KCB.,CMG described as “Queen Victoria’s most trusted confidant”] tells much of Court life in Victoria’s day. The read, The Queens Knight (London,2007) is all the stronger for Mr Downer being married to the great-great-granddaughter of Sir Howard Elphinstone.
Victoria and Albert’s choice of Howard C Elphinstone as a governor/tutor [and later as Comptroller to the Prince’s Household upon the prince being raised to HRH The Duke of Connaught] may have been influenced by Elphinstone’s excellent command of German as well as being a Royal Engineer – the thinking man’s army who also did much of England’s detailed mapping in the 1800’s. He had been born in what was then [largely German-speaking but Tsarist Russian controlled] Riga, Livonia [now Latvia] where his father Captain Alexander Francis Elphinstone, a former Royal Naval captain, had married a lady from Riga. It was probably also handy that his great-uncle had been Major-General Sir Howard Elphinstone Bart. [1773-1846] and Commanding Royal Engineer in the Peninsular War serving under the Duke of Wellington. The successful use of brains rather than just brawn was well understood by Wellington and so resulted in the award of a Baronetcy [where the “Sir” bit can be inherited] rather than just a Knighthood [where the “Sir” bit is not inherited] to the great-uncle. It was also how the younger Howard Crauford Elphinstone came to join the Royal Engineers in the first place. ✎sourceHoward Elphinstone was also rather short in height which may have helped Queen Victoria [also rather short in height] in her initial opinion that he was “quiet and pleasing…” and, later, “good looking but short”❜. Probably not then discussed but by chance both a young Elphinstone and the then infant Princess Victoria had each spent part of their early childhoods at different times in small houses in sunny Sidmouth, East Devon – each family also being “rather short” [of cash!] at that time. Later in 1862 ✎sourcewhen Elphinstone borrowed [as you do] one of the royal yachts to show Sidmouth to Prince Arthur❜, there was a royal exchange about their common link to Sidmouth – still a popular retirement place in the 20th & 21st centuries for the modest genteel. Sir Howard Elphinstone went on to serve the royal household until his death aged 60.
However, there were other well known “Elphinstones” at that time in 19th century England and, particularly, in Scotland where the main Elphinstone family had held various titles since the 1500’s. ✎sourceSome of the family even claimed descent from the 5th century Dukes of Helfenstein❜ which in common with the Baring family [and indeed most of the 19th century British Royal Family] would have made them immigrants from Germany, now part of the European Union.
George Elphinstone [5th son of the 10th Lord Elphinstone 1745 -1823] had made a considerable fortune with The East India Company [following a distinguished naval career – at one time commanding a “stroppy” young Nelson – and rising to Admiral] and then [as often happens with the very wealthy] became a close friend of royalty, particularly the Prince Regent [later King George IV] who ennobled George as Viscount Keith [after his maternal link to Keith] in1814 having previously granted him baronies in England and Ireland. The senior title did not continue as George had no sons. The gossiping public came to know George’s daughter, Margaret Elphinstone [1788-1867], rather more as the close confidant of Princess Charlotte [the only child of the Prince Regent] and of Charlotte’s early amorous escapades before the princess’s marriage to Prince Leopold and her tragic death in childbirth in 1817 aged 21. It was this shattering event for the royal family [and,indeed, the public at large] that brought [the then] Princess Victoria ultimately to the throne. ✎sourceEven the elderly Duke of Clarence, [later King William IV], evidently, proposed to Margaret Elphinstone in his pursuit of a marriage agreeable to Parliament so that his allowance would increase and he might have a go at producing an heir to the throne❜.
However, there was also another [distantly related] Major- General Elphinstone who also died aged 60 but probably not so well remembered. He was Major General William Keith Elphinstone [1782 -1842] ADC to King George IV, nephew of George Elphinstone,1st Viscount Keith who probably “fixed” the ADC bit] and first cousin to the father of John 13th Lord Elphinstone. This general was commanding 4,500 troops and over 11,000 supporting civilians in Afghanistan in 1842 when both the British Representative and the British Consul were killed by angry Afghans. They then went on to either kill or capture everyone under the general’s command [a total of about 16,000 folks] as he ran from Kabul [then sometimes spelled Cabul] when they also did for the general himself. He was rather old to have such a command and, it was reported, had not been well.
Then there was also Mountstuart Elphinstone [1779-1859], son of the 11th Lord Elphinstone and uncle to John,13th Lord Elphinstone. Mountstuart Ephinstone [very unusually for those days] refused “bangles & baubles” [i.e. medals and titles although in death others erected a fine statue to him in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, London] by becoming an eminent authority on India during his time as Lieutenant Governor of Bombay, now called Mumbai. Upon his return to England, having twice declined the appointment of Governor-General of India, he wrote his magnus opus, “The History of India 1841”. Even in the 21st century this book finds favour with those who agree that Elphinstone was correct to have proposed that an educational partnership between India & England was a far more effective and moral basis for development than commercial exploitation combined with military and political domination. The Elphinstone College in India is still held in high regard in 2017. He has a simple grave in a Surrey churchyard in England.
However, none of these Elphinstones held an Elphinstone peerage and if the three Southsea streets were each to be named after a peerage [for increased marketing effect] and if the double entendre theory holds, then the Scottish Elphinstones peerage at that time comes into full focus, around which there was [and still is in the 21st century] much scandalous speculation. In 1813 Lt. General the 12th Lord Elphinstones died leaving only one son, John, aged five years,10 months and 9 days old as his heir and the new 13th Lord Elphinstones [1807-1860]. As always, public sympathy had a good cry for the young boy with no brothers. This well known and ancient aristocratic family then close ranks as all such families would do to protect the young titleholder. Great Uncle George rides to the rescue with both his considerable wealth and some of the best royal connections in town as he would also have known the Duke of Clarence [later King William IV] as they were both Admirals, with William IV later known as the “sailor king” after his [very brief] time in the Royal Navy and also serving with Nelson. It was not therefore surprising that John, the young 13th Lord Elphinstones, is well cared for financially and socially but, unusually, sent away to Eton [across the Thames from Windsor Castle that he was to come to know well] for his education rather than have home tutors – more the norm for that level of society at that time. From then to the army and [under such strong family patronage] to Court where he was made welcome and soon became both a “Lord-in-Waiting” to King William IV and also made a Privy Counsellor at the relatively young age of 29. Then it’s all rumours that the young [by that time fatherless] Princess Victoria had a [very] strong teen’s crush on John Elphinstones whom she would surely have met at Court from time to time. Much has been written about this as set out below but the facts are that upon King William’s death, John Elphinstone finds himself despatched to India as Governor of Madras in the footsteps of his uncle, Mountstuart Elphinstone. The Royal Court gossips of the day [no doubt much followed by the ordinary folk for their otherwise limited entertainment] made much of this[there were-and still are- even extreme rumours that Victoria had borne Elphinstone a child] and the developer[s] of the three streets would have been very aware of the use of such a name. This was “Hello” magazine in spades. Just recently, in 2014, Professor Roland Perry’s book, The Queen, her Lover and the most notorious spy in History [published in Australia] makes a romping good and most enjoyable tale of it all but based on evidence we have not [yet in 2017] been able to review for ourselves.