1960s

Mods and Rockers

Reproduced with permission from the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder, 1990

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

Two rival youth cultures that clashed several times at Brighton in the 1960s, the most infamous occasion being the so-called 'Battle of Brighton' at the Whitsun holiday, 17-18 May 1964. The Brighton police were prepared for trouble as there had been clashes at Clacton and Hastings at Easter, but the town was invaded by up to 3,000 youths. The leather-jacketed 'Rockers' arrived on their motor-bikes on the Sunday morning, but were challenged in the afternoon by a much larger number of the neatly-dressed 'Mods' on their motor-scooters.
Several small scuffles broke out, but the most serious trouble was around the Palace Pier where hundreds of deckchairs were broken, pebbles were used as missiles, and the Savoy (now Cannon ) Cinema windows were smashed. Eventually 150 police and a police horse quelled the disturbance, but the violence was repeated the following morning with several thousand spectators watching the confrontations from the Aquarium Sun Terrace and Marine Parade ; the sea-front traders, however, rapidly boarded up their properties. Twenty-six youths appeared in the juvenile court the following week and were handed stiff sentences, but fortunately no-one was seriously injured.
The events of the Whitsun holiday of 1964 were never repeated again in such magnitude, but trouble amongst youths has flared on several Bank Holiday weekends since, notably in 1969, 1970, 1974, 1977, 1980 and 1981. However, the worst violence seen in the town in recent years occurred after the English football team's World Cup semi-final defeat on 4 July 1990 when mobs of youths ran through the town centre smashing windows and looting shops.

Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder

Photo:Mods and Rockers at Palace Pier, c. 1964: Crowds of Mods, Rockers and other pedestrians on the pavement outside the entrance to Palace Pier. Four people are attempting to cross the road.

Mods and Rockers at Palace Pier, c. 1964: Crowds of Mods, Rockers and other pedestrians on the pavement outside the entrance to Palace Pier. Four people are attempting to cross the road.

Image reproduced with kind permission from Newsquest Ltd

This page was added on 02/07/2007.
Comments about this page

Oh my goodness me does this bring back memories? I was there in the crowd of spectators a young 12 y/old lad watching this. I remember how the police grays formed up behind us then on signal slowly walked through the lines with those big batons raised and then upon command proceeded to do battle. Anybody else remember this event?
When I emigrated to Australia in June that year, they wouldn't believe me when I told them about this.

By James A Roncoli (27/04/2009)

I also remember being stuck on the beach near the Palace Pier when all this happened. I was with a couple of friends (John Green and Alan Bowyer, as I recall). We were 15 at the time and it was pretty terrifying. Brighton streets became deserted canyons while Mods and Rockers prowled around on and off their bikes and scooters. We were about 50 yards away from the Police horses when they moved in to clear the rioters. It wasn't pleasant being stuck in a sea of kids, some of whom were really looking for trouble, others like us just hanging around - how dumb can crowds be! On the way home walking along a deserted London Road, just opposite the Co-op, a scrawny rocker with a big transistor radio on his shoulder (a precursor to the Ghetto Blasters of the 1980s) yelled at John Green and I "who are you ****** screwing at?" We stupidly taunted him about his star tattoos on his ears (we could see them from across the street) and then had to run for what we though were our lives. His hefty Ghetto blaster was fortunately for us a serious impediment to his being able to catch us. Thankfully he was alone but had a large chain in his hands - as did many of his rocker buddies that day. Most people in the US also don't believe the violence that came to Brighton for a few years running around Whitsun. Going back to school (Varndean) after the "holiday" was a bit surreal. Phil Allsopp, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA

By Phil Allsopp (24/05/2009)

I was a Rocker in Brighton. Had a great time sleeping under pier and in Volks Railway and being chased around by the police. Used to meet in a cafe by the station and get the Mods coming down to Brighton from Crawley.

By Louis Simkiss (13/01/2011)

The Whitsun Bank Holiday of May 1964 is etched in my memory. We always went to Brighton for bank hols and stayed at the St Martin's hotel off the seafront (anyone remember it?). I so vividly recall mum holding my hand and tippy toe-ing along the pebbles in front of the aquarium terrace. I asked mum what they were doing as deck chairs were crashed over heads. Those were the days!

By Michael Griffin (10/06/2011)

I loved being a rocker - the bikers' cafes, daygo, littlechief. Fab days. Lucky to be part of that time.

By Shirley Grace Jennings (06/07/2011)

I was never a Rocker as such, used to ride my 650 Thunderbird wearing a USAF parka sometimes but usually a waxed Belstaff Trialsmaster jacket to keep the rain out, I just like motorcycles more than scooters. My mate Bob Howell lived next door to the Daygo in Patcham and we were the first customers when Bob's Mum treated us to sausage egg and chips on the first night. Also there was the Hi lo at Fiveways near the current HSBC bank. Another place was in Waterloo Street called something like The White Pigeons and yet another was in Lewes. Happy days of chips, coffee and Coke, the occasional half of light ale in the Wilmington at Patcham. Bob's father George had a workshop near the Daygo where he repaired many of the local lads' bikes, my Thunderbird Combo came from him via its owner Rob Kenley. It had a Stieb sidecar and was bright red, I think I paid about £75 for it. I rode to the Carden youth club on the back of Jim Parkes' Vespa sometimes (never confused) - bikes were best.

By Alan Spicer (10/07/2011)

Bet you wish you still had the Steib sidecar, Alan? Worth a king's ransom these days.

By Len Liechti (10/07/2011)

Yes Len, I wish I had most of the bikes now as I could retire in comfort. The Stieb was a 501, I think, with a cast alloy handgrip on the mudguard which housed the light, also a handy boot to carry the wet weather gear. My Father had several bikes including a couple of Norton Internationals and an early Manx. There is a Vincent Rapide on line for £33,000 if you fancy one - and they are still bidding !!

By Alan Spicer (14/07/2011)

I becam a Mod in an "instant" after watching Quadrophenia. Next day , brought a parka , Fred Perry, Levis 501s and pork pie hat. They were great days, looking the bees knees, watching out for Skins and Punks circa 1979 and 1980. Still a Mod at heart at 52 - check out modclthin.com for some super gear.

By Tony Hayes (27/07/2011)

Hi Tony Hayes, I've been a Modette since 1977 loved every minute of it gettng chased by rockers along the sea front, wish I could go back to those days again. I'm still a Modette today and I'm 44. Once a Mod always a Mod. If you'd like to, join my Paul Mod Weller page on Facebook. Tony plz do. K.T.F.

By Bridget Dawkins (04/08/2011)

Hi Alan, I remember the Daygo coffee bar very well. I married Bob Howell in 1971. Sorry to say Bob passed away Dec 2004.

By Maureen Howell (06/08/2011)

I'm new to this site but what memories it brings back. Bob Howell's family lived next door to the site of the old Daygo till 2004. What a great family - they were my in laws. Who remembers Paul Amery and Jenny?

By Maureen Howell (06/08/2011)

Hi Alan. My fingers are so stiff I hit the wrong keys. Bob and I married in 1970; did you marry Liz Durant? Do you remember Bob Filby, Keith Rummary, Bruce Cousins, Pat Sheppard and all the crew from the public bar at the Wilmington pub? Am I right in saying your dad also had a bike? Do you remember Eileen, the lovely barmaid - think her surname was Wyndam

By Maureen Howell (08/08/2011)

I was a rocker, still have my leather jacket that I would never part with. I left school in the summer that year so couldn't afford one at that time, but I definitely would have been there. I'm still a biker as we call ourselves now at the grand age of 62. We tour Europe and have all our holidays on the bike - weather permitting. Used to be in The Whiskey A Go-Go most nights, near the Clock Tower. I remember some names Fred Hall, Des & Ken Johnston, Phill ?, & my step sister of course Eileen Needham. I moved to Nottingham in 1965, but even came back down 3 weeks later for Easter. I stayed with a friend called Kip & his mum, also in a caravan somewhere that belonged to Phill's dad. My mum saw me on the news, as I was on a bike & side car with a friend, we had a load of empty bottles in it but never used them for anything. A few of us were put in a police van & let out again, I think it was just to frighten us, but we hadn't done anything anyway. I still love Brighton & go back now & then; the memories come flooding back!

By Anne Newman (09/08/2011)

Does anyone remember a mod called King Jerry? He seemed to have a big following.

By David Hunt (05/02/2012)

I remember King Jerry from the late 60's and 70's. He's still around. The last I heard King Jerry was DJ at a monthly soul/Motown review at the Corals Stadium Hove.

By Michael Brittain (07/02/2012)

I think he used to DJ at the Florida Club before it was the Aquarium.

By David Hunt (08/02/2012)

The memories! I would love to catch up with the old gang and see who is still biking? How are you Alan, Tony, Len?

By Keith Morgon (18/05/2012)

Re 'Anyone remember Paul and Jen Amey?': I met Paul and Jen after me and my mate Rick Walton had ridden down from Leeds on an old BSA A7. We stopped at the Dago and Paul and Jen looked after us northerners and we became good friends with Paul visiting us up here in Leeds. Still have a Daygo motorcycle club patch.

By Dave (29/06/2012)

I remember Paul Amey very well, he was my boyfriend in about 1963. We used to go to a cafe on The Fiveways most nights. We were about 14 at the time, he was mad on The Rolling Stones so I had to learn all about them. Used to go to his house to listen to his records. He was very tall with brown curly hair. Can't remember the name of the cafe. I live in Nottingham now so not that far from Dave!

By Anne Newman (01/10/2012)

Maureen, sorry to hear about Bob we were good friends in the 60s. The last time we met was at Varndean whilst checking out 6th Form Colleges for our respective offspring. Also I seem to remember you had a sister Barbara who went out with another friend, Adrian Hearne ? I remember all the names you mention. Bruce as you probably know died some years back . Regards

By Alan Spicer (15/01/2013)

I remember those mods and rockers weekends so well it was so exciting seeing the huge groups baiting each other. I was only eight at the time so missed out on the action but in 1975 I got my 1st scooter, a Lambretta which was my only form of transport. It only lasted two weeks as it died on me so I got another one, a blue and white beauty from Jerry Ingrams in Hollingdean Taerace and I rode it for four years until I got my first car, a Mini. The love of two wheels never left me and at 57 years old I am cruising around on a 1600cc Harley Street bob , fantastic! A strange twist of fate just before I sold her- my blue and white Lambretta appeared in the movie Quadraphenia as I lent it to a mate who was an extra in the movie- it is in the scene when the mods arrive in Brighton and it is parked up in a group by the arches at the Aquarium. I remember a rough rocker cafe at the bottom of North Road back in the 60s, I think someone was murdered there, by some rival Hells Angels.

By Peter Paolella (18/01/2013)

Peter, the rough Rocker cafe was The Little Chef. Glad you came to your senses and got a bike (Harley ), only joking as I love all two wheel motorized transport especially early British bikes having had several Triumphs, Nortons, BSA, Ariel,Triton and yes a Lambretta LD. You don't by any chance work in Eastergate Rd as I often see a nice Harley ridden by an older gent ?

By Alan Spicer (19/01/2013)

Let me know if anyone would like a reunion. We could meet at the car park by the cricket ground where we were forced to park!

By Keith Morgon (01/02/2013)

Sorry Alan, it must be some other old git as I live in Sicily and Malta. Sicily is fantastic for biking all year round with great weather, scenery and places to visit and eat and cheap too. It has very large biker groups of new and old bikes - they love any thing with two wheels and an engine.

By Peter Paolella (10/03/2013)

I remember Paul Amey, he used to go out with my schoolfriend Jenny Spence who lived on Loder Road when we were at Dorothy Stringers. We lost touch after school. Does anyone know if she's the Jenny that he married, mentioned above? 
Does anyone remember the name of the coffee bar near Fiveways opposite St Matthias Church? I have The Three Monkeys in my mind but that may have been the one in Burgess Hill.
Chris

By Moxette (26/11/2013)

The coffee bar up at Fiveways I think was the Hi Lo, the Three Monkeys was in Burgess Hill, I think. When the Little Chef had to shut we went up to the Hi Lo up at Fiveways. Then you had the others down at the Daygo. Does anyone remember Dave, nickname Maggot? John Mc?, married a girl called Christine, this was back about 65/66? Or Bob Davies and Rose? Would be great if there was a big reunion.

By Fran Roberts (nee Taylor) (05/12/2013)

I was a bit of a hanger on at the Day Go and Little Chef. Sadly Paul and Jen both passed away a few years ago.

By Roger (05/02/2014)

Hi does anyone remember the Five ways café called Maxines,used it all the times in the sixties.

By Jan (06/02/2014)

I have loved reading all these comments of you all reminiscing about what sounds like amazing times! I'm currently trying to make a documentary about mods and rockers as this May it will be 50 years since the big clash on Brighton Beach. If any of you that are around the Brighton or London area would be interested in taking part and being interviewed I would love to hear some of your stories. Please email me on: gs185@uni.brighton.ac.uk I look forward to hearing from you.

By Georgia Salmon (26/02/2014)

Roger - thanks. I'm very sad to hear that. Do you know if they ever married? I went to a school reunion a few years ago and someone suggested Jenny might have passed away but didn't know any more. If you have any info I'd be interested to hear please. I'm chris.moxey@gmail.com

Jan, I'm pretty sure Maxines is the one I was asking about up above - that was opposite St Matthias, or thereabouts. If so, I used to go there with Jenny Spence and a couple of other school friends.

By Chris Moxey (17/03/2014)

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