Photos with a Black Cat camera

Photograph of Brighton Zoo at Withdean
Photo by Kathleen Wilson

“After the Second World War was over, I found that films were easy to come by. I used my fathers ‘Black Cat’ camera and went along to Withdean Stadium, which at that time was a zoo.

It was good to be able to get around after all the restrictions we had to contend with during the war years.

I wonder how many Brighton and Hove Albion football fans realise what the stadium was used for. It’s fascinating how things change. I have lived in Brighton since 1939.”

Comments about this page

  • Hi. Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is John and I edit the Brighton and Hove Albion Collectors & Historians Newsletter. Ever since the club’s move to Withdean I have been finding out more about the complex, the former tennis centre, and the Zoo. My desire is to actually find pictures, ideally postcards, of the structure, buildings etc, to compare how it looks now. The old entrance is still there (at least I am told it was the old entrance) now doubling as the match day ticket office. The Argus ran a feature on it a few years back and did picture this, with Brighton ZOO painted on the roof. Does anyone have some old pictures, ideally viewing the length etc, either as the Zoo or the Tennis Courts or in the early 60s, that I could copy, or do any postcards exist of the buildings, layout etc? The report says ‘behind the Withdean Grange’, so was the Grange the pub? Any help gratefully appreciated.

    By Trish Cotton (23/01/2004)
  • Withdean Grange was situated between the London Road and the railway embankment. It was appropriated by the GPO and an ultra-modern exchange was built in the late 50’s. It is still a BT complex and I believe it is still referred to as ‘Withdean Grange’. In the early 60’s I and many other GPO trainees learnt overhead cabling skills there – at the rear of the exchange building were rows of miniature telegraph poles and even a mock house that we used to run cables to and from.

    By Vic (01/03/2004)
  • I recently attended my first B&H Albion match at Withdean. I took along my son and two grandsons aged 10 and 15 years. It reminded me of the time when I was ten years old and helped my Mother at the Tea Kiosk. My job was to sell crisps and sweets to the people that came to visit the zoo . I seem to remember that it was always busy and I really enjoyed my work with my Mother. My Son and Grandsons were amazed to know that there had been a zoo at Withdean, I guess lots of other people would be too! It was nice to look at the website; I shall show it to my Grandsons.

    By Terry Bayford (18/04/2004)
  • Why no pictures of the staduium today so as to to look at now and then ?

    By Michael (25/10/2004)
  • I work as security at a BT telephone exchange and can confirm that the site is known as Withdean Grange TE (trunk exchange). There is a memorial plate at the entrance to the main building, in the name of Cyril Smith. Can this be of any help to your enquiries?

    By Desmond Brew (18/11/2004)
  • I remember visiting Brighton Zoo (Withdean Stadium) just after the War, probably about 1948ish. I didn’t live here then but quite often came down with my Mum for the day from Beckenham. Around to the left of the main entrance there was a small round area which had been made into an ice-rink for an Ice Show. I can remember one of the female star skaters was called Dinkie Stapleton. She was very tiny too so hence, probably, her name. I don’t know if she was a local girl or not? There were animals in cages but I cannot remember much about the Zoo, but the Ice-Show stands out in my mind’s eye vividly.

    By Mrs Hazel Vane (20/12/2004)
  • I used to live in Patcham and went to the Zoo quite often. As you went in on the left hand side there used to be iron bars set in archways which was a lion’s cage which you could see from the road. I seem to remember a story about a bear escaping into the woods but I was very young at the time. Perhaps someone could jog my memory? (This would be about 1950s)

    By Ron Booty (01/02/2008)
  • I was so thrilled to see the picture of Withdean Zoo as I remember visiting it as a child. I loved visiting George the llama, could that be him in the photo I wonder. I grew up living in Valley Drive and lived there from the late 40s to the late 60s. Does anyone remember the cafe at the bottom of Tongdean Lane in the 60s before the flats were built? I would love to see a photo if anyone has one.

    By Pat Smith Nee Questier (29/05/2008)
  • Could you tell me what make of camera a ‘Black Cat’ is? I can’t find it anywhere. Thanks!

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (28/11/2008)
  • Leica made a Black Cat camera, Stefan. Alan.

    By Alan Hobden (20/10/2009)
  • A belated thanks for that, Alan. Never had a Leica myself, but I still live in hope.

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (22/11/2009)
  • I am sure I can remember going there as a child with my mother and strangely we ended up living near there in later life. I also ran there for my school and visited the place many times after that and can remember seeing a cage front at the south end and of course it’s now the home of my home town team BAHA.

    By glasfryn (03/02/2011)
  • I have just noticed two names I know – hiya Pat, hiya Ron, Roger Davis here now living in Wales.

    By glasfryn (03/02/2011)
  • Is this photo the far side of the now pitch? Facing the Sportsman? I’m a member at the gym at Withdean and have been surprising people with my tale that it was once a zoo! Will have to see if I can do a rekke and take a now photo.

    By Sarah Carter (05/01/2013)
  • Yes it is the far side of the pitch, looking towards the Brighton – London railway line; you can see the concrete stand that was by the entrance!

    By Peter Groves (05/01/2013)

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