A tourist's view, 2001

The Open Market
Photo by Kathrin Hunger

Three weeks ago I moved here and before I could indulge in sight seeing, I had to answer a more pressing question? Where to get good produce from?

Brighton and Hove’s number one address when it comes to tasty fruit and fresh vegetables is the London Road Open Market. The friendly vendors on this small market offer extraordinarily cheap food.

On my weekly visit I never spend over ten pounds, but carry bags full of delicious apples, broccoli, grapes, tomatoes or mangoes back home. There is a good range of fish, meat or eggs on offer, but as a vegetarian, I am especially fond of the cheese stall inside the market building. Besides the English cheddar, there is French Brie, German cream cheese, Parmesan or blue cheese. All are sold incredibly cheap.

Last but not least, check out the stall with dried fruit! For me, there is no doubt: the raisins, dried apricots, dates or figs are the most delicious in Brighton and Hove. And the best – on the benches next to the stalls, I always sit and watch the people while I taste a bit of what I bought.

Comments about this page

  • As a child in the 1950s, my mother used the market as a short cut to London Road. I cannot remember her ever stopping to shop, but the smell of horses being shoed still remains with me.

    By Graham French (01/08/2004)
  • I was beginning to think I’d made up the blacksmith’s shop in the Open Market. I can remember going there with my mum and seeing horses. This didn’t happen very often. I am 52 and I think that many of the horses had disappeared from towns by then. I used to do all my fruit and veg shopping in the market as an adult. I also remember taking my children to see Steve Ovett’s olympic gold medal on his father’s stall in the market. It was displayed there with all the eggs and bacon.

    By Marilyn Coates (15/12/2005)
  • A 60s Saturday treat was a bag of broken biscuits from one of the stalls, then we were dragged round to a depatment store, I think called Bellmans. I still like London Road and the open market for a bit of banter. Sid the fish and Warren’s Cafe are my favourites although the egg man’s a card. I’ts a real time-warp almost down to the way people dress. We went in to the Co-op store on Saturday, wow it’s huge. How long before it becomes yuppy lofts for the New England Area?

    By SJS (17/01/2006)
  • Worked in the market part time before and after I left school in 1968. Worked on a fruit stall for Roy Yeates (I think that’s how you spell his name).

    By Russell Webb (25/02/2006)
  • I wonder whether there is anyone who knows anything regarding the Mitchell family who ran the fish stall in the Open Market? We are trying to trace my husband’s family and would love information on them.

    By Carol Homewood (08/07/2006)
  • I don’t remember the blacksmith’s but my Mum does. She used to go there to see the horses being shod when she was a child. On one occasion her grandmother, who had taken her, asked the blacksmith to mend her shoe which he did at no charge! My mother also remembers a lady who used to walk around draped in swathes of different fabric with prices dangling off.

    By Sharon Fuller (24/07/2006)
  • Ahhh, the open market. I miss it sooooo much. The sights, the smells, being able to get just about everything I needed. I used to go there as a girl when my Dad shopped there. And then when I grew up I shopped there as a Mum of two boys as shopping at the market fitted into my budget and met all our nutrition needs. All the other shops were great too as far as getting a card or wrapping paper… and also a great place to get sweets for the kids… OK, for me as well! I would find it most pleasent to shop out in the open as well and meet so many different characters. I loved the fish and meat market area. The butcher would always cut and trim the lamb and pork for me. I think it is wonderful that the Open Market is still running. When I come back to visit, as I did last February, I will visit and shop from the Open Market again. When I went through the Open Market last year I had not been home to Brighton in years but I felt like I had never left, that is what is so wonderful about Brighton. Oh gosh, I think I am getting homesick again!

    By Fiona Coleman (nee McKechnie) (25/03/2007)
  • I think every child in Brighton knew of the blacksmiths in the open market. If I meet anybody today, 60 years later, from Brighton they all remember the horse shoeing. I stood for hours with my granddad watching. Fond memories.

    By Alan Fry (01/05/2007)
  • My great grandfather was John Mitchell and he was related to the Mitchells who ran the fish stall in Brighton market.

    By Sheryl Mcnaught (29/10/2008)
  • The Mitchell’s who had fish stalls in the markets were my Mum’s cousins – her name is Marchant. There was Jack who had one stall, Bill had another and the brothers Jim, Dennis and one more whose name escapes me. I hope this helps Carol Homewood. The last I heard was that Bill’s son Barry had moved down the West Country somewhere, I do not know where.

    By John Eaton (31/03/2009)
  • How about the blind-man’s stall, lots of toys for 6d and Pip’s homemade ice-cream shop in a near-by street? Our Dad would fetch some ice-cream in a pudding bowl to bring home for a treat. On the Level playground we had toy yachts that were sailed on the pond, edging our way under the bridge to rescue the ones trapped underneath. I was sad to see it filled in. I often wonder what has happened to all the kids who grew up on Sylvan Hall estate during the 1950s. Have we spread our wings far?

    By Chel (13/02/2010)
  • I remember all the above; the farrier/blacksmith and the horses. The smell of the fire and then the distinctive smell as the hot shoe was put on the bottom of the hoof, before being beaten into shape to fit properly. Prior to the new stalls being built, I can remember the rain dripping down the back of my neck, from the canopy above, as I waited for my mum to finish her shopping. My sisters and I swam at North Road on Tuesday evenings, with the Post Office Social Club (my dad was a postman). We then stopped off at Pip’s for a drink of lemonade or an ice cream on the way home – their toffee apples were not to my taste though they were loved by many. Coincidently, my dental hygenist is Mr and Mrs Pip’s grandaughter. I just love this site where locals can bring their memories to the surface and share with like minded people.

    By Linda Keet-Harris (22/03/2010)
  • Oh yes, the toffee apples! I used to love this market at Christmas time, the smell of real trees, hot chestnuts. I used to go with my Mum and Nan, Tom Meadows the butcher was our first port of call, then the blind man for toys. I remember being fascinated in the summer when the fruit and veg man was boiling beetroot, and shovelling up strawberries into punnets with a toy spade. Does anyone remember the dolls hospital that was nearby?

    By Elaine Davies (14/10/2010)
  • Back in the early fifties I remember getting the bus with my mum from Barcombe Road to the open market. Before getting there mum used to take me for a short back and sides haircut. Then it was off to the open market to get some chidlings for my dad, does anybody remember buying chidlings? Then off to the fruit shop CH Mears for some veggies. Funny thing though turns out my dad is related to the Mears, his mother was a Mears of the same family! Small world.

    By John Johnson (12/06/2011)
  • Yes, I remember the Doll’s Hospital. It was on the corner of Oxford Street, top end, opposite the Level. Mum and I would always stop and look in the window at dolls house furniture which I am certain we will have bought when I finally got my dolls house made. Not quite the flashy type of dolls house you see now. It was made out of orange boxes, lovingly, by my mum, who somehow managed to find wallpaper with miniture red tiles on to cover the roof. I am pretty sure we will have been inside the shop also when my favourite doll lost the ability to close her eyes. The doll’s hospital probably did not have a remedy for this and in my frustration in wanting her to sleep again I pulled so hard on her eyelashes I pulled them out. Not such a beauty any longer but I still loved her.

    By Sandra Bohtlingk (12/06/2011)
  • Hi Sandra. It was the next corner down on Francis Street. Loved that shop. There is (or was) recently, a florists there. There was another doll’s shop (hospital) in Trafalgar Street. Left of Open Market gates in Ditchling road side was a shop selling dinky toys. I used to buy dinky cars for a relative. Also think there were train sets etc. Just inside the market, to the left, was the blind man’s stall. Round to the side, there was an opening in the wall that he sat at. Seem to recall being able to buy toys there.

    By Jennifer Tonks (13/06/2011)
  • Just noticed CHEL above mentioned the blind mans stall. Thanks for recalling the sixpenny toys, I had not remembered that bit! My aunt and uncle, Fred and Sis ran a veg and fruit store just inside to the left from London Road. At that same end , I remember watching the farrier while mum shopped. Love this site for the memories it brings.

    By Jennifer Tonks (13/06/2011)
  • Should have said Fred and Sis Kelly!

    By Jennifer Tonks (13/06/2011)
  • Many contributors have mentioned the ‘blind man’s stall’ – the name of the blind gentleman who ran that toy stall was Maurice Raff.

    By Brian Matthews (04/07/2011)
  • Hopefully Mr Raff was not offended to be thought of as such. I remember him with great fondness, and would hope being described as such never hurt his feelings. As an adult now, I would be interested to know his history as to how he became blind. As a child you just accept things as they are. It was a weekly Saturday ritual with Mum shopping. If we were lucky we had a small item from his stall. If not, just the whole atmosphere of the market was enough to enjoy.

    By Jennifer Tonks (04/07/2011)
  • I used to shop in this market with my mother, then as an adult. 22 years ago I bought some pyrex oval dinner plates and side plates from there, and I still have the set, they are used every day!. My ancestors all came from around the streets near the market, the place holds many memories for me. I was born in Brighton, but now live a few miles away but I’m always drawn to it, and visit when I can. I love the place.

    By Carrie (25/01/2012)
  • My memory of the market only goes back to the early seventies, but even then the Yeates and Marchants had stalls. And so too did the Ovett family. I believe that Steve Ovett’s father was on one stall, and his uncle on another, though my memory could be playing tricks.

    By Joe Reid (31/10/2012)
  • Joe, they kept the name up of George Yeates who taught my late husband all he ever knew about the fruit trade. He spoke with great fondness of him, but Roy moved to the hole in the wall from the open market.

    By Amanda Yeates (05/11/2013)
  • This comment is a bit late, but for Carol Homewood I remember all of the Mitchell Brothers. My dad had the stall next door to them in the fifties. Mike Peirson.

    By Mick Peirson (06/11/2013)
  • My nan, Betty Birchall worked in the Open Market on the egg stall for a man called Mr Ward. She worked there from 1955 until the early seventies when she went to work for Woolies. When visiting the market with my nan as a young child in the early eighties I remember that she knew everyone who worked there, but until recently I didn’t know how! I remember visiting a little cafe with her and I loved the haberdashery stall. I still go to the market occasionally but it has really changed since then!

    By Barbara Graysmark (06/09/2019)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.