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Drinking in the 1950s/60s

Drinking in the front room?

When I lived in Brighton in the 1950s through the 1960s, I think I must have been in most of the pubs in Brighton at some time or other, even the ones with bad or dubious reputations then, like the Basketmakers, Eagle, Half Brick, the Great Eastern and a few others in Kemp Town. Saying this though, in those days the pubs then seemed like the front rooms of the local residents who made them their own.

Local pub traditions?

I once lived in Islingwood Street. There were six pubs in the short length of this road, one on every corner, and two in the middle. Our house was in the middle of the two in the middle of the street. One evening I went in to one of them for a couple of quart bottles of Brown Ale; do you remember them? I was asked which number my house was, and then told I was in the wrong pub. Apparently the three or four houses the other side, including mine, only went into the ‘other’ pub. Friendly or what? Or was this the pub tradition then?

No ladies in certain bars

There was also another pub in North Road, opposite the Heart and Hand, with beautiful cut-glass windows dividing the different bars. The ladies weren’t allowed in two of the bars at all, and on a Sunday morning they had a blind Rock and Roll pianist playing Jerry Lee Lewis songs. Does anybody remember the Running Horse in Black Lion Street, the Eagle in Gloucester Road, or any of the cider bars? One of these had wooden floors with fresh sawdust spread over it every day.

A flying drummer

What about Doctor Brighton which also had a blind pianist playing for years, or the Fortune of War, and the Belvedere? There was also one pub whose name I have forgotten which was between Pool Valley and The Ship. It had a bay window sticking out over the pavement with a resident drum kit in it for whoever played there. I remember walking past one night to go in there and the drum kit, complete with drummer, came flying out onto the street. We decided to go somewhere else that night. Happy days!

What were your favourite pubs in the 1950s and 1960s? Did you frequent some of those mentioned above? Please share your memories with us by posting a comment below.

The Basketmaker’s Arms: photograped in 2013

Comments about this page

  • The pub you cannot name was Harrisons Bar, underneath was Bill’s Dive.

    By Joan Cumbers (17/06/2013)
  • My favorite pub was the Star Of Brunswick in Brunswick St West. It’s still there but private accommodation now.

    By Dennis Fielder (17/06/2013)
  • I can’t go back as far as the 60’s as I was too young (I wasn’t 18 until 1973) but I had a few faves in the 70’s. When I was 16 and just about to leave school a friend and I used to frequent the Elephant & Castle in London Road. You could be sure of being served in there even if you were under age. I then progressed to Sherry’s and The Revolution as I was at that age where girls and music were more important. After marriage though we used to have our ‘locals’ that we visited on a Friday with my parents. As we lived in Queens Road (1976/77) we started with The Brighton Tavern in Gloucester Road moving on to The Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Street. Then we moved to Ladysmith Road (1978/80) and went to The Martha Gunn and The Bugle. They were all great pubs in those days. In recent years we have tended to use The George Beard in Gloucester Road before its revamp but our favourite has to be The Greys in Southover Street. We used that pub from 1997 up until 2012 when it changed hands. The music they put on there was fabulous, not to mention the food and the best pint of Harveys in Sussex! Sad day when Chris & Gill gave up the pub last year. Not many decent pubs left, The Basketmakers, The Park Crescent, The Evening Star and The Colonnade Bar are, in our opinion, the best to visit in Brighton.

    By Paul Clarkson (18/06/2013)
  • Re pubs: if you go on Topics, and click on 1950s, then on Pubs and Cider bars, I have written a few lines about the pubs in Brighton.

    By Harry Atkins (19/06/2013)
  • Bit of a stab in the dark but here goes. Back in the very early sixties I lived at Lennox Street, I’m sure there was a pub opposite our house but for the life of me I cannot remember what it was called. Any info on this would be greatly appreciated.

    By Tina (14/10/2013)
  • Could it have been The Devonshire – that was on the corner of Marine View? 

    By Jax Atkins (04/01/2015)
  • The pub called the Devonshire and was  at the top of Carlton Hill. My husband’s dad used this pub in the 1940s  Also there is a pub called the Mitre in baker street which has been there since the 1940s or before – it is a nice and friendly pub.      

    By Kathleen Catt nee Cornford (05/01/2015)
  • The Heart and Hand: I understand that the landlord allowed gay people to use the back room as it was still illegal. Does anyone know if this was so during the 1960s? (Margaret, apologies but due to data protection we cannot publish requests for information about someone. I hope you can trace your family member)

    By Margaret Forward (29/03/2017)
  • I believe my auntie and her husband ran the Basketmakers in the 50s. I worked opposite at the wholesale newsagents Surridge Dawson.

    By Jennifer Capper (03/07/2017)
  • My husband frequented a lot of these pubs in 1962 onwards, inc appletree merrydown cider in New road. Admiral Napier, the Racehill. The George at the bottom of west street in the 50 s. Apparently there was a woman who would take you to an upturned boat on the beach and if you gave her 5 Bob she would pleasure you! There were lots of fights in Harrison’s ( Bills dive) where the Jury’s Inn  is now. They had a brilliant drummer called Ray Duvell and a singer called Suzie Cope. My Husbands parents ran the Devonshire pub in Carlton Hill from 1960 for approx 10 years. He remembers the Basketmakers, Eagle and King and Queen amongst others.

    By Maz Hopwood (03/06/2018)
  • My great grandfather, Charles Knight, had the Basketmakers Arms and other pubs in Brighton, with the Basketmakers being taken over by my grandfather Albert William Harriott until about 1956. I have made the trip from Australia to the UK on four occasions and each time have had some tasty ales at the Basketmakers. I was pleased to see that some family photos are still on the walls. I have seven sisters and three brothers, all are older than I. My sisters Gwen and Grace were born in the room above the bar in 1930/31. My family moved to Mount Gambier, South Australia in Oct 1954 when I was only 3 years and 10 months. On my next visit I will have some ales at the Basketmakers again. 

    By Michael Harriott (28/07/2018)
  • Like you Michael, my family moved to South Australia, but in 1958, when I was nearly 12. We lived in Whitehawk before we left. I too have made the trip back to Brighton on several occasions, five times now in fact. A friend told me about The Basketmakers Arms on my third visit, it’s a great spot and does great meals and ales. Now I like to go there whenever I’m in Brighton, which hopefully will be again soon. 

    By Eric Cook (30/07/2018)
  • There have been at least 3 pubs in Brighton named the Heart and Hand. The first I know of was in Ship Street, about halfway down on the left hand side if heading towards the beach. It was there in the 70’s I know, a very small place, outrageously camp, a visit there was like being in an episode of ‘Round the Horne’. It was owned by Ray Bishop who also owned the Curtain Club. Later the same people moved to a larger place at the sea end of Ship Street, still on the left. This was a pub that went round the corner, one side was on Ship St while the ‘front’ faced Kings Road. They had 3 bars; the public bar, the saloon bar, and the gay bar. I don’t know when it closed down. There is now (2019) a pub in North Road called the Heart and Hand but it has no connection with the original and is a very different place.

    By Peter Ward (26/07/2019)
  • The ‘original’ Heart and Hand was as you said in Ship Street, on the southern corner of Black Lion Lane. It was still there in the early 70s. I don’t think that the ‘new’ pub was at the end of Ship Street but you may be thinking of the ‘New Heart and Hand’ which was at the end of East Street running around the corner into Grand Junction Road. I seem to recall that it had a large basement bar although I could be confusing this with some other establishment. I have sent a picture to Jennifer of the New Heart and Hand which I took in early 1974 (I think). I hope that she can add it here.

    By David Packham (28/07/2019)

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