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Penny machines and special ice creams

West Pier looking to Regency Square
Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The two-seater car track

For me, the most obvious attraction on the pier was on the right, just after having passed through the paybooth. This was the near oval shaped track on which petrol driven, two-seater cars were driven round and round. I liked to stand and watch these for ages. Many years passed before I was able to afford to drive one of them. I believe, also, that there was a minimum age and height restriction on drivers?  I felt that the best view of this track was from the pavement outside the pier. Perhaps this was to attract more paying visitors in.

Penny in the slot machines

Once through the paybooth, the only walkway, which was on the left hand side of this track, sloped downwards. Where the walkway levelled out, probably at the far end of the car track there was an amusement machine hall with its entrance on the right hand side. Here there was a wide range of ‘old’ penny in the slot machines. I think this hall must have been mostly underneath the car track as I vaguely remember the rumble from the ceiling as the cars were driven round above.

A special treat

Very close to this amusements hall entrance, also on the right hand side of the walkway, was a Walls ice cream stand. A special treat was to have a block of ice cream from there and to eat it straight from its wrapping paper or like a sandwich with a wafer biscuit on the top and underneath the block. When I eat Walls ice cream, even today, I can still recall the distinctive taste of those blocks – or is my memory playing tricks?

Which memories – which pier?

During those years I went on both the Palace and West piers many times. So now, I can’t be absolutely certain which of my other ‘pier’ memories apply to which pier. Did the makers of the film “Oh What a Lovely War” use the West Pier for quite a lot of its scenes?

What attractions do you remember? Please share your memories by posting a comment below.

Comments about this page

  • Apart from fishing off the metal landing stage at the end of the West Pier at the age of about 14 of 15, sorry but the next main attraction was the penny machine and “what the butler saw” (or didn’t see is more the point)!

    By Peter Groves (09/09/2017)
  • That is an incredible photo and must have taken ages to set up. It shows, clearly, the symmetry of the pier in relation to the buildings behind it. 

    It had a completely different atmosphere to the Palace Pier but I couldn’t easily describe it. It was probably a bit quieter and although it had the slot machines and rides it didn’t seem as busy as the other one it didn’t seem as noisy and commercialised – although this might just be me being snobby!

    ‘Oh What A Lovely War’ did use the West Pier a lot and I can remember the repainting of the front of the pier and, I think, some of the shooting. I have never seen the film though. 

    By Philip Burnard (11/09/2017)
  • Always my favourite pier it had kept a Victorian atmosphere - my Grandparents lived at Norfolk Square so we often were on the seafront and visiting there. I loved the old penny slot machines and remember ‘what the Butler saw’ and the ‘electric shock’ machine – I remember having to hold two metal handles and it was a fair size shock – can you imagine that now?
    We always went to the end to see what the fishermen had caught – I remember being scared of walking over the metal grate as you could look down to the sea below.

    By Belinda Lumsden (21/09/2017)

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