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Life in a caravan after the war

This photographic print shows the Recreation Hall of the Municipal Camping and Caravan Ground in Sheepcote Valley, Brighton. A number of caravans can be seen surrounding the hall. This photograph was produced by the Borough Surveyor's department. It was presumably taken as a record of the camp site's facilities. The site had opened on 14 May 1938, just one year before this photograph was taken. It was the first local authority owned camp site in Britain. It used a number of buildings that had previously been part of Newhouse Farm. The Recreation Hall was developed from an original flint barn.
Royal Pavilion and Museums Brighton and Hove

Parade of dump trucks

After WWII my family lived in a caravan at Sheepcote Valley, the road through the camp site led to the local dump, so there was a constant parade of dump trucks to entertain us. The property was an old farm so the Warden, Bill Grosvenor and his wife Aileen; I called them Auntie Aileen and Uncle Bill, lived in the house onsite. After a few years the stable/sheds were converted into shower and toilet facilities, with one building for ladies and the other for men. In the ladies there were three shower stalls, along one wall a row of wash basins, and on the opposite wall the toilet cubicles. The big barn was open in the summer and had a stage at one end and, luxury of luxuries, a small ‘cafe’ where we could buy Wall’s ice cream.

Best blackberry patch

The local paper shop would send a van and park it on the gravel apron outside the barn, it would sell newspapers and comics to the campers. Also in the summer the dairy would send the milk truck laden with dairy produce, and the baker with bread, so the barn was quite the centre of activity. On the east side of the camp were the corn fields rising to meet the East Brighton Golf course. In the war a bomb was dropped on the course, creating a big crater which provided the after-war golfers with quite a challenge if they were unfortunate enough to land ‘in the rough’. At the top of the hill where the golf course met the end of the race track, was the best blackberry patch in the world. 

Do you remember the camping site? Please share your memories with a comment below

Exciting tannoy system

Uncle Bill would wear his smart uniform and operate out of a small building, known as the office, situated at the entrance to the site, where he would check in new arrivals and wave goodbye to the departing. There was a tall pole next to the office supporting a loud speaker where all messages were relayed across the camp. Most excitingly, it also made announcements of mail delivery. To hear one’s name called over the tannoy was quite thrilling.

Campers disappeared before winter

Tents were pitched nearest to the barn and outhouses, the caravans on the higher ground toward the dump. Each plot marked by a small square white peg at each corner The walk to the shops, buses or Black Rock beach was down the road which was flanked on one side by the playing fields of Brighton College and on the other by allotments, and then through the East Brighton Park. Then summer would end, campers disappear and us hardy few would settle down to welcome winter.


Comments about this page

  • I submitted the information about Sheepcote Valley Camp site in 2016 but did not include any photographs. The recreation hall shown in the photo did not exist when I lived on the site from 1945 to 1955, but the flint barn was fully intact at that time with no conversions.

    By M J Lowry (03/09/2018)
  • I am 63 and from South Wales. I used to go on holiday to Sheepcote valley on holiday with my family when I was very young. I remember the tannoy pole at the bottom of the hill and the announcements being made and I also remember climbing up a hill with my older brother to the left of the valley where golf was being played. Great memories which I will never forget.


    By Karen Basham (19/02/2021)

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