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Brighton fishermen

This photograph was found in my great aunt’s belongings after her death. It is known that some of her ancestors were Taylors who were cousins of the Thwaites family, all fishermen at Brighton. The ancestor I am aware of is a William F Taylor (occ shown as fisherman) born 1856. Census shows he lived in 1881 at Preece Buildings, and 1891 at Nelson Row. Although the photograph is quite old it is clear to see (I think) a lady seated in the foreground.

Has anyone seen this picture before or can give any more details

Brighton fishing
The photo shows photographer to be EDWR FOX of 44 Market Street Brighton

Comments about this page

  • Looking through an old book ‘Brighton in Retrospect’ one of the East Sussex County Library Local History Series, printed in 1974, I saw on page 10 the above picture titled ‘Rope-houses on the beach in 1880’.

    By Bob Fogden (30/01/2008)
  • I am supposed to be related to an old fishing family in Brighton.  I am related to the Gillams but don’t know how when your kids you don’t take much in.  When you are interested, everybody who knows has passed away.  I would be most grateful for any info.  My Nan’s maiden name was Martha Allen, her husband George White, both born 1890s.

    By K. White (24/02/2008)
  • I come from an old fishing family in Brighton and I would like any information about my father’s boat. Her name was Our Lassie and her number S M 564. I would like any news. Thank you.

    By peter humphrey (12/03/2008)
  • Likewise, my gran has passed away and I’m trying to track her relatives. She was Edith Mary Redman (1909-2003), one of 9 children, and she always said that her family was well respected fishermen in the Brighton area. She however chose to work at Lyon’s tea rooms. Any help would be greatly appreciated, and you can contact me at Thank you.

    By Matt Spaven (03/04/2008)
  • Regarding the Thwaites family – and connections:
    The Thwaites lived at Hereford Street, Kemp Town. Harry Thwaites was married to Kit from the Trott family and “Jumbo” George Isaac Trott, a very large figure of a man with an imposing manner and matching loud voice, lived with them for most of his life. Nearby in Hereford Street there also lived George Spicer with his family. Both plied their boats from the Brighton beach off Kemp Town although Harry Thwaites also became involved with a wholesale butchers – Thwaites Butchers. Harry’s wife, Kit, had a sister, Liz Spicer, at 34 Newick Road, North Moulsecoomb, where she lived with husband John, brother to George at Hereford Street. Her family suffered two child deaths as well as enduring quite poor circumstances during her lifetime, poor in relation to most of her neighbours who were also considered poor!  Another relative living in the Kemp Town area was Jack (either Thwaites, Trott or Spicer) who plied his boats from the beach, mixing his activities of either fishing or sea tripping from the beach in “all aboard the Skylark” fashion.  During WWII the Kemp Town area received its share of German bombing and the Thwaites, as well as another of the Trotts, Arthur Trott and his family were bombed out, the latter being taken in for some time by the Spicers at 34 Newick Road until suitable accommodation could be found. A photograph of the time showed Jumbo Trott in bed with the front of the house blown out, waiting for rescue.  The Thwaites were the most well-off family and Kit, a large imposing figure of a woman with a loud voice that equalled the presence of Jumbo, had a habit of keeping loose small silver change under an upturned cup for tipping purposes!  It must be possible for people to remember these individuals, making up as they did a quite characteristic flavour to the general area.

    By Ron Spicer (19/06/2008)
  • My Father’s family originated in Brighton and were fishermen. The name was PIERCE or PEARCE (there were an awful lot of George Pierces). I would be so very grateful to receive any information or memories.

    By Sue Goodwright (nee Pierce) (03/07/2008)
  • My family (Humphrey) were also fishermen in Brighton, but I haven’t found any information of any boats or locations, only home addresses. If Peter above would like to get in touch, perhaps we are related.

    By Pauline Best (10/07/2008)
  • In response to Sue Goodwright, please get in touch (, I have done a lot of research on the Pierces of Brighton, and may be able to help.

    By Tina Shepcott (nee Pierce) (07/09/2008)
  • As a young man I used to go to the beach by the Banjo groyne and meet with all sorts of characters, such as
    Buff Harris from the railway club. We used to hire a boat from him, and Jack Measer. I used to pull his boat for him in the herring season and lay nets. They were lovely, those silver darlings. Happy days.

    By Tony Freeman (16/05/2009)
  • Does anyone have information about a fisherman by the name of Jim Newington, from Carlton Hill area as he was my great grandfather and I would like to find out more of his side of my family. I think that his fishing boat was called ‘mary jane’ and it was kept on Brighton beach. We lived in William Street and our name was Newman.

    By Duffy (17/05/2009)
  • Don’t know anything about Jim Newington but my Great Grandparents were Newmans and lived in William Street. My Great Grandmother later married a John Newington after her first husband died. Are we related Duffy?

    By Claudette Newman (30/08/2009)
  • My grandmother was a Thwaites and Uncle Jack was a fisherman involved with the Skylark. If you would like further info email me and I can give you her address.
    [Editor: Please let us know if you wish your email address to appear on this page.]

    By Jo (18/09/2009)
  • My Grandad was John Humphrey. He was a fisherman. His family before him were also fishermen. My dad does have some infomation on the history of the Humphreys and am sure if you want to get in touch he will happily share it with you.

    By Kerry Hayes (08/12/2009)
  • I traced my family history back to the 1500’s and they were all water / fishermen until they moved from Hastings, I believe for the building of the London to Brighton railway line because thereafter they all worked on the railway, including my dad Phillip Plaine who is 83, still alive and, until it closed, used the Stanmer Park Scoial Club.

    By Jennifer Chapman (nee Plaine) (20/01/2010)
  • Hello Jo (20/09/2009). Reading with interest when you mentioned the Sky Lark. My Grandad Thomas Goble was a member of the Sky Lark crew. He died about 1951 when l was about seven.Hs nickname was Gossie. He must have been with them a long time because mum remembers it all and she was born in 1922.They lived at Carlton Court, Brighton. Any memories appreciated.Thank you.

    By Sheila Jones (21/04/2010)
  • To K. White, My honoury uncle was Ted Gilliam. I last met with him for a beer the day after my late Father’s funeral. He taught me a lot when I was a wee lad. I believed he has passed on now. I can imagine him and Dad (Sailor or Harry) having a chat over a few pints. Regards

    By Rick Smallman (15/06/2010)
  • Message for Kerry Hayes…..I would like to get in touch re the Humphrey family.

    By Pauline Best (06/08/2010)
  • Would Pauline Best please get in contact?

    By Peter Humphrey (03/02/2011)
  • Hello to all. Just wondering if anyone have a link to a free web-site for looking up family history? Need a free site as I am in Australia, but all my family come from between Kemptown & Brighton racecourse. My gran lived at the top of Freshfield Road, on the bend, just above the Freshfield Inn – sorry if the spelling is not correct, Thanks, Bob..

    By Bob Gillingham (10/05/2011)
  • John Martin Miles (a Fisherman) was my 3rd Great Grandfather, he was born in 1788 in Brighton. His parents were John Miles and Keziah Martin. In about 1817 he married Elizabeth? and had 8 children. In the 1841 census they lived in Chalk Pit Island, Brighton (can anyone help with the location of this place?) and on 51/61 census they lived at 6 Regent Court. I am trying to work out Elizabeth’s surname. It seems that St Nicholas parish registers of weddings around that time are missing. If anyone can help with my search or has any details of the Miles family, I would be thrilled. I believe John’s brother Henry was also a fisherman.

    By Jane Lacey (11/07/2011)
  • Hi Jane, John Martin Miles was married at St. Nicholas on 19th January 1817 to Elizabeth Howell. At first he was a Tailor, living in New Road, as evidenced by the birth of their first child, Elizabeth in 1818. By 1821 he was described as a Mariner living in Great Russell Street, moving to Regent Hill around 1830 and Regent Court in 1835. Chalk Pit Island derives its name from a large chalk pit, which was situated on the opposite side of Dyke Road to the church. When this was filled in, houses were erected at the southern end on an area roughly corresponding with Regent Court, so the addresses were probably used synonymously. Regards, Andy

    By Andy Grant (13/07/2011)
  • I really would like to thank Andy Grant for his help. I live in North Wales which makes searching difficult, so it is brilliant to find so many details about John Martin Miles and his wife.

    By Jane Lacey (14/07/2011)
  • I’m a Humphrey and I’m sure Peter’s my dad lol. Yeh where did Grandad’s boat go?

    By Victoria Humphrey (03/08/2011)
  • I am trying to find who were the parents of Richard Humprey, boatman, born 1852 in Brighton. Married Emma, lived in Preeces Buildings 1901. Would appreciate any info on rest of family

    Editor’s note: Hello Christopher – why don’t you put a message on our Message Board and one of our resident local historians will be sure to help. Find the Message Board via the left hand navigation bar on each page.

    By Chris (28/12/2011)
  • Hi Chris. The most likely ancestry of Richard was that in 1861 he was living at 2, Down’s Court with Henry HUMPHREY, a Waterman born Brighton around 1829 and his wife, Mary Ann, a Bathing Woman born Brighton between 1812 and 1817. However, it would seem Henry was not his father, as he had married Mary Ann DENYER at the end of 1860, so Richard was probably her son. Her previous marriage to James Denyer ended when he died in 1857, so Richard is probably his son. If you look at the 1861 census, you will note they still lived in the same house with her other relatives. I could not find a definitive birth entry for Richard DENYER, but it is possible he may have been the birth entry named Aaron Richard DOWNER in 1851 – I would advise you obtain a certificate to ascertain this. Regards, Andy

    By Andy Grant (29/12/2011)
  • Thanks Andy, this ties up with info I have so far.

    By Chris (30/12/2011)
  • Dick Taylor was a relation to my auntie Nell who married Harold Thomas Levett. I think he was her brother.

    By Maureen Howell (11/04/2012)
  • Dick Taylor was Aunt Nell’s brother. I am the grandson of their brother William Taylor and am the son of George Taylor.

    By Stuart Taylor (13/04/2012)
  • Dick Taylor used to visit us and very often gave us some fish for dinner. I am still in touch with auntie Nell’s daughter Pam and her family. My dad was Wally Levett.

    By Maureen Howell (15/04/2012)
  • My great great grand parents were Edward Harman and Jane Spicer who were two noted fishing families from Brighton. They at one time lived at number 5 Little Russell Street, Brighton. Any more information on this family connection would be gladly received.

    By Chris Humphrey - Smart (11/01/2013)
  • My Dad was Albert Edward Yates born 1919, the eldest of eight at No 2 Little Russell Street, to Albert (Bert) and Elizabeth (Lily) Yates. Grandad Bert Yates was a fisherman. My Mum was Florence Bates, born 1924 to Cecil and Winifred (May) Bates. Both families knew each other and used to drink at the Hole In The Wall pub. Any information about the families would be welcome.

    By Carol Yates (13/02/2013)
  • Hi Pauline, please email: Regards Peter Humphrey.

    By Peter Humphrey (16/03/2013)
  • For Chris Humphrey – Edward and Jane from 5 Little Russell Street would be my great great great grandparents too! Which line/child are you a descendant of after that? Drop me an email and I’ll share what I know that might help you.

    By Jenny Bridger (30/03/2013)
  • I am trying to find out about my great, great, great grandfather Richard Davey Allen born in 1817 and his four sons William Richard Allen born 1847, John Allen born 1850, George Allen born 1852 and Richard Allen born 1859. They were all fisherman born at Brighton. Any information or photographs would be great. Thank you.

    By Albert Buckley (25/05/2013)
  • I have a book called Catching Stories (voices from the Brighton Fishing Community). It names Johnny Humphrey, born 1915, and plenty of others. Lots of information to give.

    By Jane Cottingham (30/01/2014)
  • I not sure what to say here. But I grew up with this man. He was my neighbor and I am now 25 years old. Every day I would talk and sit and read and even play with Uncle Ted. It seems a lifetime ago but he was a lovely, kind and giving man and too add I was not the most pleasant child so I guess you could say tolerant too. I miss him dearly and he has shaped my life as a Brightonian and man. 

    By T. Byrne (03/02/2014)
  • When my grandfather, Henry Bolding left the Royal Navy in 1892 at 50 years old he became Beach inspector at Brighton. He didn’t ‘inspect’ the beaches but policed the shopkeepers and the fishermen’s arches and the fishing/pleasure boats; controlling when they could and couldn’t go out due to weather and also checking on the size of fish landed and the numbers of passengers on the boats. A common call for passengers really was “Any more for the Skylark?” and one of the boatmen used to shout out jokingly: ”Halfway to France for tuppence (or was it sixpence?), the other half tomorrow”. I don’t seem to remember any safety equipment on the boats though when I went out in the early to mid 50’s! My second name is Henry after my granddad and my d.o.b. is the same day and month (April 3rd) as my dad, but 45 years later (i.e. 1945). He was 45 and my mum, Florence, was 42. According to my sister, when my mum discovered she was pregnant (at 42) she said to my dad “Oh good gracious! What will the neighbours say? It wouldn’t be so bad if you had been away in the war”.

    When Henry Bolding’s wife, Eliza Bolding (nee Coppard) pushed my Dad (d.o.b 3/4/1900) along the fish market arches in his pram the shopkeepers used to load his pram with goodies – fruit, veg, fish, toys, sweets; no doubt it was in their best interests in order to keep the Beach Inspector sweet. 

    By Neville Bolding (24/12/2014)
  • Some of our family names include Bottin Andrew Carney. My mom said we were a fishing family. They called my great great grand dad ‘knuckles’. I would love to hear from anyone. Also we had a family bible that dates way back with family history. The Brighton museum asked my mom if she knew who had it and my mom said one of her aunts had it and would not let anyone see it.

    By Ava Medellin (17/04/2015)
  • Jane Cottingham, Pauline Best please email me regarding John Humphrey and the Humphreys. 


    By Kerry Hayes (23/07/2015)
  • My grandmother on my father’s side was Laura or Louisa Maud Taylor, her father was William Taylor known as Big Bill Taylor, a fisherman. I am tracing our family tree on both sides of the Taylor and Jarvis family. If anyone has any information on the Taylor /Jarvis side, could you please e-mail.

    Thank you.

    By Theresa Whittle (28/04/2017)
  • I’m from an old fishing family ALLEN.My father George Allen was a fisherman he was born 1913. His father was Ben Allen died 1955 a fisherman. His father John Allen and his father John Allen also. I remember the old Brighton fish market under the arches and Holgates cafe in one of the arches. I remember the fishing boats being winched up the beach and doing trips off the beach with my father George Allen. I used to collect the money from the passengers. No lifejackets or safety then in the 1960s. I’m related to the Leech’s and Gillams. My sister and I are similar in age. Jean Ann Allen and Jane Elizabeth Allen these names are traditional in the family and so are biblical names too. E.g. Benjamin, John, Peter, Frances, Mary. I was also married to George and Ivy Howell’s grandson for a while. Howell’s were another fishing family. My grandfather Ben Allen caught a basking shark off Brighton beach I have a photo somewhere and he sent 2 fishing vessels to Dunkirk evacuation.

    By Jean Ann Allen (10/10/2020)
  • I’m proudly descended from the Thwaites family, most of whom were fishermen, known as ‘Dapper’ Thwaites. Fascinating to read all these comments and recognise many names from stories my late father Tom Thwaites used to tell. The first person to see me after my birth was Dad’s Uncle Jack. I have a photo of the basking shark too, somewhere, with a couple of Thwaites on it. It may have been sent to me by the Brighton Fishing Museum.

    By Janey Haselden nee Thwaites (08/10/2021)
  • I seem to remember a comment on this page by Anne Gee formerly Leach. If she sees this I wonder if she could tell me if she had a brother Dennis. I served my National service with Dennis in 1954–1956 and I am sure his father was a fisherman and possibly former Mayor of Brighton.

    By Terry Fowler (31/01/2023)
  • Does anyone have information about Bernard Brandon who was a fisherman on Brighton beach after WW1 through to 1970. He died of a heart attack on the beach. I am told he also had an accident with his boat when beaching and a man was hurt underneath the boat. He used 140 Kings Road Arches in the 1950s. I would love to hear from anyone who knows about Bernard. Please feel free to contact me by email…

    By Amanda Robinson (01/02/2023)
  • To K. White.
    Two of the Gillams are still alive. They are my friends from way back when Dad took me down to the beach. Ted Gillam was known to me as Uncle Ted and remained as such for many years. Regards.

    By Rick Smallman (14/05/2023)

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