Happy 1950s Summers on the beach

The West Pier boating lake in 1967: click on the image to open a large version in a new window
Photo by Peter Allison

A fun place

We lived in Bennett Road in Whitehawk, and in the summers of the 1950s, on Sundays my Mum would lay the tea table with all sorts of goodies, ready for when we would come home starving from a hot day on the beach that was immediately west of The West Pier. My Mum and Dad, sister and brother, would get on a number four bus from Arundel Road to Preston Street off Western Road, and walk to the beach.

Making some pocket money

On the way we kids would cajole my Dad into getting some sweets at a little shop halfway down Preston Street. My Dad always took a methylated stove for having a brew on the beach with our sandwiches. We loved this beach and the surrounding area. We would sit and watch the boats on the boating lake for hours, not being able to afford a ride in them.  But here was plenty to do. For instance at the end of a hot day I would collect deckchairs that were left on the beach and get back money for them. Collecting empty lemonade bottles was another way to earn some pocket money.

Everlasting happy memories

When the tide was in, diving off of the groyne was good fun, and when the tide was out you could walk almost to the end of the pier. There were toilets right near the pier, an ice-cream and sweet shop, and a cafe. There was also a little paddling pool in the area and the water was always warm on a hot day and the pool was crowded. I am disgusted and very sad at the way the poor old West Pier met its end over the years. But the memories will remain in my mind forever.

Comments about this page

  • I grew up in Brighton in the 50s and the paddling pool east of the West Pier was a favourite spot with Mum sitting on the wall keeping an eye out for me even though the pool was inches deep! In 1996 I started as a tour guide on the West Pier after the walkway was put in through the centre of the pier. I had five very happy years doing the tours, weekends for the public and during the week for private groups. My best ever weekend was a perfect Brighton day, when I was left in charge for the Sunday. It was glorious sunshine and I had a deckchair out on the deck in front of the ticket booth. Steady bookings all morning for the first and second tours, but I forgot to count the punters …. we had an insurance limit of 16 plus the guide and by early afternoon I had totally overbooked the tours! I juggled the numbers and people changed their booked times, but I still had more than 48 for the three planned tours; what to do? I did not want to refund money and/or lose the goodwill, so I arranged a fourth tour against all the usual rules. As I was on my own I had to do four x hour and a half tours back to back. That involved all the safety talks, the fitting of life-jackets, the tours and the most difficult part…getting them off the pier afterwards! I do sympathise with those who remember the pier in its heyday, but those of us who knew the pier in its rundown state and worked for the West Pier Trust really believed the restoration would take place and we are still disappointed that nature and malicious activity destroyed our dream.

    By Geoffrey Mead (18/06/2013)

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