Memories of the 1950s

Image shows a 'Garden of Greeting'.
From the original My Brighton exhibit

“When I was a child in the 1950’s, Preston Park was surrounded by huge trees, most of which were blown down in the October 1987 storm. Sometimes we went out for a walk from school – walking in pairs in a crocodile – up Harrington Road, along Harrington Villas, round beside the cycle track and into the Park near the churchyard.

Seas of fallen leaves
We might return along the road at the top of the Park.  It was well-rutted and, in autumn, covered in “seas” of fallen leaves which we would kick along (and be told off for it). On summer afternoons, we would go to the Park with mum and meet friends (with their mums) by the Chalet to play.

Fizzy drinks at The Chalet
The Chalet would sell fizzy drinks (7-Up was my favourite) and the more daring among us would ask for an ice-cream soda. You could watch the red and green buses processing slowly along the London Road past the “Gardens of Greeting” competition flowerbeds.There wasn’t very much other traffic on the main road in those days!”

Comments about this page

  • I was very upset once when someone described Preston Park to me as a bit of green land. In fact it is a beautiful park full of history and wildlife. My favorite trees are the twin elms which have withstood major storms and Dutch elm disease. They are magnificent veteran trees with massive trunks which have hollowed out over the centuries. I never get bored of looking at them.

    By Roni (24/02/2003)
  • Preston Park is where I remember that many tanks were parked in readiness for D-Day and where I first learned to ride a bike, as at that time I was a boarder at Preston College right opposite.

    By Terence Mills (22/06/2003)
  • I used to go to the Park with my grandmother who lived in Florence Road. One sunny afternoon when I was 4 or 5 years old or so, I was happily playing by the Clocktower when some black children appeared, I found them fascinating and my granny quickly took me away for fear that I would catch some illness! I was born in Preston Park Avenue, although I was too young to remember living there. My parents had a dog called Paddy, a sheep dog I believe.When my parents went to work the dog used to walk along to my grand parents’ house in Florence Road where he spent the day, returning home in the evening!Imagine doing that with today’s traffic.

    By Bernardo (10/02/2005)
  • In the 1960s my mother and father would take me on sunny days, to a park with a small boating lake to play with my model boat. In later life she told me it was Preston Park, but I have never found it since.

    By Steve Potts (22/09/2006)
  • I lived in Brighton in 1965 to 1966 and have fantastic childhood memories.  I too remember a boating lake and a fountain decorated with dolphins or some kind of fish. Happy days!

    By Kim (01/10/2006)
  • I grew up in Springfield Road (1958 -1968) and Preston Park was “my garden.” From dawn to dusk we played in the park. l learnt to ride a bike leaning on the green painted railings on the bottom road. l did not realise at that time how lucky l was to have such a playground.

    By Chris Cook (16/10/2006)
  • Oddly enough, I lived in Springfield Road too – at number 50. We would all turn up there to play football on a Saturday morning near the tennis courts. My parents have some old 8mm film of the park and my sister, brother and I playing – very nostalgic!

    By Martin Scrace (23/10/2006)
  • Well I’m going to make it three in a row because I lived in Springfield Road too for the first ten years of my life (1956-1966). Happy memories of Preston Park, where apparently I learned to walk. Many local children would fall in to the pond at the end of the Rose Garden, as far as I’m aware with little lasting damage done. The two cafes were the Rotunda (which had a unique but not unpleasant smell) and the Chalet. I understand cycle racing on the oval track at the top of the park was popular at one point.

    By Bish Bosh (13/08/2007)
  • I was born in Brighton in 1942 and lived there until 1956, then came the sudden move to London.  Preston Park was my play area from a very young age being an old Fawcett Boy.  It also holds happy memories of weekly football matches and other organised games.

    By John Wignall (22/03/2008)
  • I now live in Scotland but Preston Park holds a very dear place in my memories. From about 1950 to 1956 I lived in Rugby Road, then Ditchling Rise and my mother often took me to the park. Even now, when I come across a piece of curved stone anywhere that reminds me of the stepping stones on the pond, I am filled with nostalgia. And, yes, I fell in, too. I visited the park on a trip south a couple of years ago and was puzzled by how the streets and traffic surrounding the park seemed so much more visible than I remembered – of course, it must be because of the trees blown down in the hurricane – I hadn’t thought of that. As for a pond where model boats were sailed – my memories of this were from The Lagoon, by the seafront in Hove, towards the Portslade end. (The Lagoon was very pleasant then, not seedy as it was last time I saw it.) Another possibility is Queen’s Park, although I never went there much. I don’t think there is a boating pond in Preston Park, is there?

    By Honor Wimlett (23/10/2008)
  • I remember water in Peston Park. I believe it was close to the rose garden with little stepping stones to walk over in four directions. It was just in front of the cafe and I’m sure there were water lilies there.
    Maybe the other park refered to with the boating lake was the one on ‘The Level’ opposite the open market. In this park there were swings and a roundabout, plus a pond with some kind of water fountain. We lived close by to the market till I was three. The Level was a regular treat after shopping. Bruce, our dog, same age as me, loved the place too. He would take great delight in climbing the steps to the great shute with all the kids and sliding down on his belly. After a couple of rounds he would then head for the pond and dive in to cool off. We were often going home with a wet dog. In those days, 1940s, we could open the door and let the dog out by itself. Neighbours would often comment they had seen our Bruce in the park on the slide with the kids. Wish I had a photo or two to look back on. But then, memories are our photo albums.

    By Sandra (08/12/2008)
  • Is the “bear pit” still there ?

    By G.White (14/06/2009)
  • Steve Potts – you are talking about The Level by St Peter’s Church – not Preston Park! Want to reminisce some more?

    By Maurice Brice (13/09/2010)
  • Yes, Preston Park hold very good memories for myself as well. 1940-60. My father used to play cricket for” Findlaters” and my cousins and I used to go and play around the clocktower, ball games amd games like Hide and Seek in the bushes, (not a good idea today). Once, we disturbed a wasps’ nest and got stung by all the angry wasps. The rose garden with the stepping stones, Rotunda cafe, bowling greens, where my Grandad could be found many afternoons watching the bowls in the Summer, the Preston Manor garden, with all the little animal graves in, over the road- the Rockery and the first Sunday each November, standing at the bottom of the park watching all the old crocks arriving from London- Brighton. The Wednesday evening cycle race meetings in the cricket ground, watching my cousin Roy Martin from Tunbridge Wells taking part racing with his team.These are just a few of the many memorable times spent there.

    By Pam Barnes (26/04/2011)
  • My grandparents lived at 24 Bates Road.- Agnes & George Simmons – We used to spend every school holiday with them. Preston Park and the Rockery opposite became very familliar places. Sitting in the little summerhouse at the top of the Rockery, with Grandad, drying my socks & shoes off when I had ‘slipped’ on the stepping stones. I too used to watch the cars go past in the ‘Old Crock’s Race’ at the bottom of the park. If it was raining, people would sit in their cars and toot their horns when a car came past.

    By Angela Simmons (16/09/2011)
  • Sitting here in Australia and reading these comments makes me feel quite homesick. I lived in Beaconsfield Villas – No16, it had a monkey puzzle tree in the front garden. We spent hours in Preston park never came to any harm and yes, the canadians tested tanks etc in a large water filled facility. We walked from Ditchling road school for football. Oh what happy days they were – thanks for the memories.

    By Garry Lockwood (30/10/2011)
  • I lived in Campbell Road parallel to London Rd so spent a lot of time in Preston Park. There was always something to do there, play football, conkering, looking at all the roses & flower beds. We even went there with school to play rounders & hockey as at St.Barts & Margaret Hardy there wasn’t any grass. Loved The Rotunda for ice lollys & the stepping stones. I remember the pet cemetry & a running track there too or was it for bikes,  also the garden for the blind with all the sweet smelling flowers. I lived there from 1953-1965. I remember the man next door got done for pinching some of the plants from there! The nearest park for me now is Nottm University, I still do plenty of walking.

    By Anne Newman (02/11/2011)
  • Is Steve Potts aware of Queens Park near Kemp Town, a small hilly park that has a very distinctive pond and would probably have been my choice for sailing a toy boat in the 60’s?

    By John Nihill (10/01/2012)
  • I lived also in Springfield Road, from 1944 to 1953. I also learnt to ride by bike in Preston Park and pushed my doll’s pram. We often had picnics there and played as it was our ‘garden’. The rose gardens by the tennis courts and bowling greens were always kept beautiful and smelt even better. I remember walking through there on sunny days, with the bees buzzing and have an ice cream at the Rotunda with my parents or grandmother.

    By Pat Salmon (was Fox) (11/04/2013)
  • I began my working life in Preston Park in 1965 as an apprentice gardener and I’d be happy to share stories – see my comments about the park attached to the fountain image page.

    By John Ridgewell (11/11/2014)

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