Fond memories of the 1950s

West Pier, Brighton, 2002
Photo by Cliff Groves

As a Brightonian whose first memories were of Clarence Square, my playground became the seafront by the West Pier and I have very fond memories of that time in the early 1950s.

Happy days fishing
There was a car track on the landward end and an amusement arcade under a part of it – I think that I can still hear the rumble of the wheels above my head. There were lots of happy days fishing from the landing stages.

The future of the pier?
What to do with the pier? I am biased by memories but whatever is to be done – then do it now! – one way or the other – don’t leave it like this.

I took this photograph earlier this year (2002) and the view matched my thoughts of the West Pier at the time – retrospective, brooding and a little melancholy.

Comments about this page

  • In my childhood in the 40s and 50s, the West Pier was the place where we would go with my Mum and Dad on a Sunday in the summer. We would get a bus from where we lived in Bennett Road to Western Road and then walk down Preston Street to the beach. The first beach west of the pier was the one for us. We kids would dive off the groyne at high tide, and play in the sand at low tide. We had loads of sandwiches and homemade cakes with us and my Dad had a Meths stove where we brewed tea. We often went onto the pier and spent hours looking around. The theatre was a good place to hang about. Watching the anglers was hours of fun, especially when the mackerel were in. Nearby there was the little paddling pool where we also played, it was always packed. In the late afternoon we would collect deckchairs and take them back to the deckchair man who was usually getting on a bit and didn’t fancy hiking all over the beach looking for them after a day’s work. I can’t remember how much we got for each chair, but it was enough or we wouldn’t have done it. Another of our money making ways was to collect empty lemonade bottles from the beach and the litter bins. We would get threepence for every bottle we took back to the kiosk above the beach. I know people say that their days were the best, but I think that we had loads of free fun in our young times. How sad to see the pier the way it is, how did it ever come to this state?

    By Mick Peirson (13/11/2006)
  • Hello there, what a great site! I used to live in 22 Harbour Way in Shoreham when I was adopted around the age of 4. I was born in 1953 in Brighton and went to an orphanage either near Brighton or in Brighton from when I was 18 months old. Does anyone have any information about the home? I know it probably doesn’t exist anymore but I am a little confused because I am wondering if Warren Farm was the orphanage (boys and girls) but it was changed to a hospital in the 30s? I remember a huge wooden staircase in the orphanage, and there was a huge playroom with mauve cupboards around the sides. The ladies wore blue uniforms. My brother says we were lined up every Sunday, boys on one side and girls on the other for couples to come and ‘shop’ for children to be adopted to them. Has anyone been in this place or remembers someone who has as I would love some photos. Thanks everyone.

    By Jeanette King (17/01/2008)
  • This is a message for Cliff Groves. If you are, I was at St Margarets School with you in the 50s. I think you has a sister by the name of Ann. If you feel like getting in touch with me my e mail address is   I live in the Midlands these days but still get into Brighton when I can. All the very best

    By JOHN WIGNALL (13/09/2008)
  • I use to go fishing on the West Pier in the 1950s; all weathers, all seasons. My mates and I belonged to the Everymans Angling Club which was based on the pier. We had the occasional good catch but more often went home empty handed. I was reminded recently, after watching the TV programme about The Great Omani, seeing him quite a few times jumping from the pier into a flaming sea. He was all chained up, but he popped back up after a minute or two, free of the chains.

    By Dan O'Shaughnessy (21/07/2009)
  • My feelings are the same as most other people I think – those of us who grew up in the Brighton and Hove region. I also have many happy memories of going on the West pier, as my dad and I lived in Brunswick St East, off Waterloo Street, and he ran Deacon’s garage. So I often went on the pier. I joined that army in Brighton in about 1971 and it seems to me that when I eventually did get back to visiting the area – my dad having died in the meantime – the old pier had gone – not even a shadow of its former self. Now it looks like the wreck of a liner that ran aground or something – and it looks horrible. A real eyesore and spoils the whole look of the area – its not a nice memory to take away with you as a visitor, these skeletal remains. I can’t see anyone ever having the money to rebuild it, especially in these recessional times. It should be removed (safely) I think and made safe for people to bathe in that region, if that is even possible.. P Edwards

    By Paul Edwards (22/10/2009)
  • i lived in Regency Square with my parents. My father was Peter Barnes who, along with some old names, Alex Doughty, Jock, old Arthur, used to climb under the pier and retrieve our lost fishing tackle. I spent many happy years fishing on the pier. Right up to the end. my father and his fishing buddies were night watchman on the pier. Curry, Scotch and fishing – i knew what they did.

    By Paul Barnes (08/05/2011)
  • Wow, thank you all for bringing back great memories. I used to visit my Grandmother who, with her sister, lived on Middle St. My Grandmother used to work at the little boat pool, by the paddling pool. Turns out I lived in Russell Square & my friend Helga & I would dress up in our cowgirl outfits. Oh, the good old days. Thanks

    By Susan Jones(Rickard) (10/08/2011)
  • I remember the West Pier for the escapologist. He scared me to death, trussed up in chains and I think put in a sack and tossed off the one of the sides of the pier into a ring of fire. Must have been the early sixties. Post above mentions him as The Great Omani; never did know his name but remember the act vividly.

    By Barry (11/08/2011)
  • Does anyone remember a fire on the West Pier during the 1950s? I am sure Mr Whitchurch, a fireman neighbour, said he had put a fire out on there.

    By Frances Cooper (23/08/2013)
  • I am amazed to read that Paul Barnes is the son of my old fishing mate from 1965 -1968 Peter Barnes. He was a fine fellow. Could Paul Barnes contact me.

    Michael Neal

    cayeux-sur-Mer, France

    By Michael Neal (30/11/2015)
  • I was born in 1968, and have fond memories of my mother taking me on the pier in the early 1970s. I remember on one occasion when we were on the pier, due to an upset tummy, I had an ‘accident’, and mother had to clean me up. One of the chaps who was running the amusements came up to mother and gave her some tissues to help clean me. Afterwards, the gentleman asked me my name, and when I told him it was ‘Joe’ he said “From now on, I’m going to call you Joe Stains!”

    From that day onwards, true to his word, whenever we were on the pier and this chap saw myself and mother, he would always shout “Look out, here comes Joe Stains!” It’s truly heartbreaking to see the West Pier as it is now; so many happy memories…

    By Joe Ellenger (02/12/2015)

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