Shopping in Elm Grove in the 1930s

There was no need to go to the town for general shopping. There were shops on every street corner supplying everything one might need. There were at least four butchers close at hand and four greengrocers that I can remember and probably more in the areas off Elm Grove that were not so familiar to me.

Harry Barton’s greengrocers
My mother shopped regularly at Harry Barton’s greengrocers at the corner of Baxter Street. Harry Barton was a large jovial man with a limp. He always teased me and no doubt all the other children by asking ‘Who put the pepper in the cat’s milk’? At the age of 5 or 6 I was never sure what he was talking about. In those days apples came in round bushel baskets, cucumbers were carefully packed individually in blue tissue paper, cauliflowers and carrots had all their leaves and potatoes still had soil on them. This made the shop floor very dusty and every so often had to be sprayed with water from a watering can to lay the dust. Everything was seasonal. White Heart cherries and Victoria plums from Kent, Worthing tomatoes and a great deal of produce labelled ‘Local’. It was a tradition to make a wish when the family ate the first of the new season’s produce, whether it was fruit or vegetable. The aroma of oranges at Christmas time has gone for ever.

Several sweet shops
In ‘the Grove’ there were several sweet shops. Lotties at the top of Bonchurch Road was a favourite. It had been Lotties when my mother was a child, but although it had changed ownership was still fondly known by its old name. Lucas’s at the top of Brading Road had a ‘Black Cat’ machine. A halfpenny in the slot delivered a coloured disc. A blue disc was worth your halfpenny, but red, yellow or green entitled the shopper to a pennyworth, three halfpence or tuppence worth of sweets. Lucas’s sold unusual things – locust beans, liquorice wood and sweet and sour sticks. At the Misses Bisney’s sweet shop down the Grove, small toys, model soldiers and farm animals were on display in flat cases at the front of the counter and ‘Prince of Wales’ surprise packets were also on sale.

Many other types of shops
There were also fresh fish and fish & chip shops, hardware, drapery, ladies fashions, barbers and hairdressing salons. A cobbler who repaired shoes on his home premises and two shoe repairing shops. Mr McKeon ran a Christmas ‘diddler’ club. This was a savings club which presumably also brought customers to his shoe repairing business. There were three large public houses in the Grove. The Admiral Napier at the bottom was very modern, the Wellington Arms was further up, and at the Junction stood what was always known as The Red House, although more properly I think it was The Racehorse. There were also numerous small bars which gradually went out of use.

Four coal merchants
There were four coal merchants that I can recall, all within two or three streets of my home. Shelley’s was in Bentham Road, the proprietor also being the landlord of a number of the terraced houses in the area, including my grandmother’s. I frequently paid her rent for her, going through the coal store shed to a tiny window where orders were taken and rents received. Coal fires of course meant chimney sweeps. Mr Bonwick operated from his home in Lynton Street, but my mother always ordered Mr Wood from Cobden Road. On chimney sweeping days my sister and I went out into the tiny back garden to watch for the brush to come out of the chimney. This achieved two objects. It got us out of the way and made sure that the chimney was properly swept.

Comments about this page

  • I grew up on Bernard Road too. I lived right at the bottom – number 89. I was born in 1959 and left there in 1980. My Mum, Barbara Bushby nee Green, was born in 1933, in that house, and died in 2001, also in that house. I too remember the parrot in Harmans. Our local sweet shop was at the bottom of Brading Road. Harry Crane had it until the mid ’70’s when he died. I had a paper route morning and evenings delivering the Argus. On the opposite corner was a little grocers but I don’t remember who ran it. Bernard Road was the only one that was lined with trees as it was the road where hearses generally drove down to the cemetery. I remember once or twice the police chasing escapees from Brighton General down our street. I think there was a ward for the mentally unstable. “H” ward I seem to remember. I live in Arizona now and that all seems so long ago.

    By Kevin Bushby (09/10/2005)
  • I was born in the Brighton General and lived for the first five years of my life in 182 Elm Grove with my mother Elsie Munro and my grandparents Stanley and Fanny Foulkes. A happy time for me as even with rationing during the War, the local traders (particularly the fishmonger) helped the local people with hard-to-get items.

    By Bob Munro (07/08/2006)
  • I was born and raised in Brading Road. I can recall a bakers on the corner of Baxter St – Lawes was the name I think. Also Mr Capp and Mr Pentecost on the corner of Brading Road and what we called the Twitten. Then half way down Brading was the Homemade Bakery which to this day has an imprint of my shoe in the concrete at the front. That was about 60 years ago.

    By John Farrell (21/02/2007)
  • No one has mentioned the one shop in Elm Grove which has looked exactly the same since I moved to the area in 1970. I’m referring to the Palmistry Parlour which still has the same pictures in the shop window of happy customers of the palm reader. One of the pictures shows a smiling Jayne Mansfield – obviously not getting a very accurate prediction given her tragic death in a car crash!

    By Jan Hill (07/05/2007)
  • My late father was born and brought up in Sanddown road Elm Grove, when he married he moved north where I still live. I would be very pleased to hear from anyone who remembers the Tamlyn family.

    By Audrey Paul (08/06/2008)
  • My grandparents lived at 61 Brading Road, thier names were Percy and Cissie Golds. My father Richard was born and raised there, does anyone remember them? It would be lovely to hear from friends he grew up with.

    By Annette Golds (06/12/2008)
  • This is so interesting to read of how things were in days past, down this way. I live in Brading Road, but only for the last 15 years. I remember the rag ‘n’ bone man though, and the sweet shop just down from me in Hartington Road. What is very noticeable in this thread, is that everybody knew everybody else’s names. I know my immediate neighbours both sides, and two flats above me, and four other houses up the road, but that’s it. Great read, thank you to everyone for contributing and keeping history alive

    By Wendy Botteill (24/07/2009)
  • Does anyone remember the Mission Hall on the corner of Lynton Street and Elm Grove? If so please contact Dee on 01273 691862.

    By Dee (17/03/2010)
  • Talking of sweetie shops; they were so much more interesting then, weren’t they? Rows and rows of jars full of colour and expectancy. Glass jars of course. No plastic then. I know we need to progress to health and safety standards but I don’t remember getting sick from anything in those days other than the ‘usuals’. And those lovely square pieces of brown paper that were rolled into a cone into which your sweeties were tossed from the shining golden weighing scales. Life all seems so much more creative when you look back at how we did things. Everything now is ‘ready done.’ Don’t get the extras either, like the extra one thrown in for special measure that made you feel as is you were special even if you couldn’t read the scales yourself. At the greengrocer the odd apple would be tossed towards you just ‘cos you were there as a regular face before you enven bought anything. The sound of the slicer as it sliced off the rashers of bacon chosen just by you and the cheese wire that always looked as if it would keep stretching and not quite cut through that chunk of golden cheese. Oh, I am not saying nice things don’t happen any more but memory lane always dishes up something worth smiling about and even something to learn from maybe. Thanks Rita. Sandra.

    By Sandra (30/05/2010)
  • Just reading about Elm Grove, Bob Monro is my cousin. I would love to hear from him again. If you read this Bob, please send an email.

    By Stan Foulkes (05/01/2011)
  • Message to Stan Foulkes. Hi Stan, great to hear you are still about. I am on Bob.

    By Bob Munro (23/01/2011)
  • It was great to read about Elm Grove. My children’s great grandfather was the Mr Pentecost the greengrocer spoken about by John

    By Lyn (27/01/2011)
  • The statement that says ‘everyone knows where they where when they heard that president Kennedy was assassinated’. I clearly remember being in the Elm Grove fish & chip shop waiting to be served.

    By Barrie Searle (02/02/2011)
  • Hi Lyn. Can you tell me a little more about this “Mr Pentecost” as we may be related, you can contact me at Many thanks.

    By Eric Pentecost (04/08/2011)
  • I have just recently found out that in the early 1900s the Emerys used to live in Luther Street. Would anyone know anything of them  or remember any other Emerys around that area. I would be ever so grateful for any information.

    By Maria Seabourne (23/08/2011)
  • The reference to coal merchants doesn’t include Mr Stevens. They were next to the school and no mention has been made of trolley buses.

    By John Farrell (24/10/2011)
  • I think my great grandfather had a greengrocer’s shop half-way up Elm Grove in the teens, 20’s and 30’s. He was Alfred Attrell – certainly his son George and grandson Ron had a barrow in the market. Family rumour tells that they were arrested for trading on Christmas Day but have no date for that – they’d get a Queen’s Award for Business enterprise these days! My Nan Anne Attrell and my mother Bet lived in Brading Road pre-war. I don’t think Nan and Alfred got on together too well.

    By John Richardson (20/08/2012)
  • Hi John, I can confirm there was a Greengrocer’s shop run by Alfred Attrell at 135, Elm Grove during the 1920s and 1930s. Regards, Andy.

    By Andy Grant (21/08/2012)
  • I vaguely remember a penny library, or bookshop, which lent mainly paperbacks for a small fee. We used to go there when on holiday at my grandmother’s house in the 1960s. Does anyone else remember it, or was it just my imagination?

    By Gail (04/09/2012)
  • Re the penny library (Gail 04/09/2012). When my father, Norman Tobias, took over the sweet shop in Elm Grove on the corner of Brading Road, mentioned by Carol Homewood above (10/08/2005), that had a small library where we loaned out books (cannot remember how much, but more than a penny). I still have a few of them.

    By Sarah Tobias (07/03/2013)
  • Been reading all these comments on here and I’m quite intrigued. My granddad Jack lived at 131 Elm Grove, the coal merchants. I lived in Brighton for 21 years and I wanna find out a bit more about my family heritage and would love for people on here to help me.

    By Charlotte (02/02/2015)
  • Regarding Present Kennedy – we were in the Admiral Napier at the bottom of Elm Grove; everyone was so shocked it was unreal, so very sad. 


    By Mary T Smith (12/04/2015)
  • Can anyone tell me more about the Mr Pentecost that was at the free grocers?

    By Nicky (12/09/2015)
  • I lived at 1, Arnold Street with my nan and granddad, mum and brothers from 1959 to 1964, then moved to Bonchurch Road. I can remember Lotties sweet shop :). Was once pulled into Lotties in a thunderstorm – must have been about 6 at the time. Went to Elm Grove School with my Brother. 

    By Yvonne (27/10/2016)
  • Nice to see Harry Barton’s greengrocery shop mentioned. One of my very good customers (I have a construction company) is Harry’s wife Freda. 96 and still going strong.

    By Alan Purton (28/10/2016)
  • Pankhurst was the coal merchants at 131, Elm Grove and used to sell ice cream as well. 

    By Terry (29/10/2016)
  • I am researching a Brighton shopkeeper who died suddenly (probably) in 1919. He had a shop at 20 Elm Grove. Possibly the premises continued for a while to be used for the same type of business.

    Does anyone know what kind of business might have been at 20 Elm Grove around 1919?

    By Peter (28/10/2020)
  • 20 Elm Grove
    Kelly’s directory 1914 Chas. Lawrence tobacconist.
    Pikes directory 1925. JK Alderson, confectioner
    Kelly’s 1927 John Kemp Alderson tobacconist
    Pikes 1932 Doree, ladies hairdresser [GH Boswood]
    Pikes 1937 ” ”

    By Dr Geoffrey Mead (28/10/2020)

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