The Old Match Lady

As a small child during and after the war when my Nanna took me shopping along London Road there was an old lady (at least in my eyes she was) who sold matches from a small box hanging from her neck across her chest.

She always had good quality coats and shoes on but they had safety pins and string to make her look poor. If you put the pennies in the box and had the cheek to take the matches she would mutter under her breath. She used to say “Matches – Matches” She was out there in all weathers.

Does anyone remember her? Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of her. Perhaps someone has?

Comments about this page

  • I remember the Old Match Lady in London Road – she used to stand on the corner of Ann Street opposite Oxford Street. I think there was a greengrocer stall on the same corner, and a pedestrian crossing over to Oxford Street controlled each day by a policeman standing in the middle of London Road.

    By Maurice Wyatt (29/01/2007)
  • I remember the Match Lady. She always used to be along London Road and in the market. She’d ask for the pennies and then moan at you if you took matches. I loved that part of Brighton – it was so lively and the shops were great.

    By John Teague (30/01/2007)
  • Does anyone remember the Blind man’s stall in the Open Market ? It was a one time the only place to buy penny bangers all year round .

    By Tony Belcher (25/07/2007)
  • Does anyone remember ‘Sunshine Joe’ who used to draw pictures on the foot path just to the side of Palace Pier. He would also talk to the waves, and people on the Palace Pier would throw over coins and ‘Sunshine Joe’ would run into the water before the waves could wash it out to sea.

    By Mary Ingham-Law (24/10/2007)
  • Hi Mary,
    So glad somebody remembered Sunshine Joe. l was beginning to think l lived in another world, no one remembered him. He always had a crowd round him.
    Here is another event from my memory bank.
    I remember my parents taking me into Hove, (I think it was Hove Lawns). When a Big Whale was washed up in Local Waters, it was on large trailers on show to the Public. I was only little but it has stuck in my mind, l know l did not dream it. Does any one else remember this?

    By Sheila Jones (25/10/2007)
  • Yes I remember the ‘Blind Man’s Stall’ in the market, I think it was on the corner. He used to sit there with a pretend knife (I think) stuck in his hat. I used to love looking for things to buy for my sixpence!

    By Irene Dobson (14/03/2008)
  • In the 60s I was a beach photographer, a deckchair seller and I looked after the paddling pool for one season. The 60s seafront was a mecca for characters. Poor old Sunshine Joe was once arrested for obscene exposure, due a pair of pants torn in the wrong place. He was also a fairly awful pavement artist. Another couple of characters were the Laird and his Lady who strolled the front from time to time he in full Scottish regalia and his Lady in a crinoline dress. Around the streets you would also see Gentleman Jim the totter in tails, waistcoat, striped pants, shiny black shoes and spats, pushing his barrow. There was seldom a dull day on the seafront.

    By Roger Johnson (14/06/2008)
  • I remember the match lady. In my memory she stood outside Rosalinds the store or Bellmans another store, both of them in London Road.

    By Joan Oram (07/07/2008)
  • Yes I remember ” Sunshine Joe ” and when he wanted too he could draw a rather swell chalk picture on the pavement at the Old Steine, many thought he was a strange old fool but if you took the time to talk to him you would find he was dumb like a fox. Any one remember O’ Hagens hot dogs on the front? and my second home The Tudor Bar, the 1960s were good times.

    By Peter Miller (25/02/2009)
  • I used to see Sunshine Joe every Sunday in the summer; Mum and Dad would dress up, I would be shoved into a dress, and we would promenade, starting from the Palace Pier, taking in the Guiness clock, and I would give Joe a halfpenny, and he would give me a halfpenny Cadbury’s chocolate bar. I thought he was lovely, but then I was only 6 or 7 at the time!

    By Penny Hajduk (28/02/2009)
  • I remember the old match lady in London Rd. How many remember Ma Kelly the winkle woman and her son? They used to push a little handcart selling winkles.

    By Pat Tullett (03/04/2009)
  • I remember Ma Kelly coming around the streets on a Sunday morning and her son Trevor who went to Australia. where he made a fortune. He used to walk around with his mum and his guitar singing “winkle rock, winkle roll” to get people to come out and buy the winkles. Old mum Kelly got attacked one time by seagulls and was bad from it. It was not long after that she stopped selling winkles, and not long after that she caught fire from her oilstove and died.

    By john eaton (30/01/2010)
  • For my memories of Sunshine Joe, please visit

    By Vic (09/06/2010)
  • Hi Sheila, I also remember holding my dad’s hand as we walked round the whale on display. Love to get a date to go with this experience. I’m sure someone out there will provide the details.

    By Steve Robinson (01/06/2011)
  • I’m so glad someone else remembers the whale on display. I was beginning to think I had imagined it! I am sure it was in a marquee on Hove Lawns west of the King Alfred. My mum and auntie took me to see it. I was very young at the time. I was born in 1947, so I think it must have been before 1952.

    By Julie Bradley (02/03/2013)
  • Sunshine Joe is my granddad and I was just wondering if anyone took any pictures of him or have any other information as I never got to meet him? I would love to see what he looked like etc, as he sounds such a lovely man. I would be very grateful for any help. Many thanks.

    By Kerry (14/05/2013)
  • The ‘blind’ match lady lived in London Street; she lodged in a house there. We didn’t believe she was blind.

    By Chris cozens (30/05/2013)
  • As a young lad no more than 10 I spent a delightful afternoon sitting with Joe in the grounds of the Royal Pavilion under the trees when Joe drew me a postcard picture in colourful crayons (I hope I still have it). I think his style could be described as naïve but no less good for that. He had a lot of finished postcard pictures for sale. The kindest thing which I have told many people was, even though he preferred to sleep under the stars, I think on leaving to go home he gave me about 2 shillings in old money to buy a hot drink as it was late autumn / winter time. He certainly was not dumb as one contributor said.

    By Brian (29/01/2017)
  • My Mum used to take me to see Sunshine Joe when I was 9 or 10. She sometimes took cakes for him and he would give me a picture he had drawn (sadly I no longer have them). I remember thinking he was a well educated man who chose a simpler life but he hid his education well. I had and still have good memories of him. A gentleman.

    By Jennie (10/04/2018)

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