Portrait of Victor

Victor Trigwell takes a trip down memory lane and tells us what Portsmouth was like in the 1960s

4 min read

Before we were a University or Polytechnic, we were the College of Technology. Victor (Vic) Trigwell cast his mind back to when he first moved to Portsmouth and what the city was like 60 years ago.

Education for all

Our studies were at the early beginnings of the University of Portsmouth. When I started in 1965, it was the College of Technology and when we left in 1969, it became the Portsmouth Polytechnic.

I was drawn to Portsmouth when I saw an advert at my sixth form school. The local authorities were offering a 6 month sandwich course to study Civil Engineering as a college diploma. What this meant was 6 months working, 6 months studying with a paid salary. We were not hard-done-by students! My parents had indicated that they couldn’t afford to support me as a student, so it really was a gift.

Within the first year, we were very lucky when our college diploma programme turned into a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Civil Engineering. Back in those days, to work in a lot of professions you had to qualify. We were very lucky. 

My first boss was quite bitter about it as his father had to pay for him to be articled to an engineer. This really indicates the balance shifting from people being privileged enough to pay for training whereas I was given one, one with a magnificent salary!

Memories of Portsmouth

Pompey was sold to me as a mecca of all the action as a child. It was one of the main holiday destinations from Surrey and we’d visit as a family regularly. We spent our days at the seafront, Fratton Park and took trips to Hayling Island. 

Despite visiting a few times and knowing the city well, I’d never seen the College of Technology until my first day of attendance. I was quite excited, but nervous meeting new people. I soon made friends to go out for coffee breaks with.

At the time, our lectures were mostly based in Mercantile House. During our studies, it was rumoured that this was due to be pulled down as it was tilting so much. They obviously found some way of jacking it up. Not sure what they did, but it is still there.

The University today seems like a very smart and up-together place, but it wasn’t that way when we were there. It was a really seedy place at the time, with some of the campus on the edges of a big dock with lots of naval people around. The only thing that looks the same to me is the seafront.

Looking back, it was a really happy time. I was a quiet lad and Portsmouth helped me to come out of my shell.

Vic Trigwell, BSc (Hons) Civil Engineering

Friends for life

We had a good group of friends and have kept in touch since. Unfortunately, you don’t all survive 50 years but we did keep in touch and have met up regularly since leaving. 

My memories include visiting the Bowling Alley, which had opened during our studies on Arundel Street. We met there a few times for social events and there was always a drink afterwards in a local pub.

I was always a big fan of football and remember visiting Langstone to watch a match. Our college team had won awards and beat other institutions so they challenged Portsmouth Football Club to a match. I remember being very disappointed that Pompey FC didn’t put out their star players, it was just reserves but they still managed to beat the college team 10–0. I’d always stay in Portsmouth on the weekends to watch the matches from the terraces at Fratton Park. It was such a friendly place at the time.

Looking back, it was a really happy time. I was a quiet lad and Portsmouth helped me to come out of my shell. 

Key moments of Portsmouth history

During my studies, there were no main motorways or A roads like today. When I got my car, I remember it taking me an hour to get to Portsdown Hill. 

The M27 was being built during our studies and I remember a field trip to see it. The solid foundation was built from chalk cut through from Butser Hill. It did get everywhere. Of course, because we were civil engineers, we found it really interesting. 

The Students’ Union was built halfway through our final year too. Portsmouth was on the route to a university. 

A good life

After graduating, I moved home to Farnborough in Hampshire and continued working in local government. One year later, I met my wife, Jenny and 6 months later we were married. Four days after our wedding, we were moving to Northampton – then it was a new town and I began extending it. We moved to Staffordshire in 1986, where I became Chief Technical Officer of the local authority.

I was lucky enough to get early retirement in my mid-50s, so I have been retired for 20 years. Despite finishing work and no longer being paid, I was still a civil engineer at heart and built a lot within our lovely village, including a hall and children's play area. I like wandering around and seeing what I’ve built. 

Portsmouth and the local government gave me the opportunity to get my degree and it has been the foundation of everything I have achieved since.