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Photos: then and now

South Street

Sea House
Image reproduced with permission from Brighton History Centre
Sea House
Photo by Mike Snewin

Comments about this page

  • Goodness me! I forgot about the Sea House pub. Used to go in there in the 70s. What is this building now?

    By Sue (07/04/2005)
  • This used to be a very good pub, me and my mates used to hang out here a lot. What a shame!

    By Alan (21/06/2005)
  • The building has now been demolished. It was a real shame as I’m sure it could’ve been restored.

    By Aaron (16/09/2005)
  • The Sea House was always the last stop on the way to Sherrys night club in the 1970s. You needed a tie to enter Sherrys and, if you had forgotten it, the barman in the Sea House always had a supply of hideous ones that he would sell you, but they did the trick.

    By Alan Purton (16/05/2006)
  • I’ve lived in West Street/South Street for over 5 years and could see this pub from my window. It is a pity that it was demolished rather than restored. It was already in this state when I arrived in 2000 so it must have deteriorated quite quickly since 1987 when the other photo was taken. There was a tree growing out of the roof and when I asked one of the men who were demolishing it he said it came all the way from the ground! Also there were a couple more trees growing inside. It must have been built more than a hundred years ago and had lasted well all that time, but it only took a few years of neglect for it to get in this state. It’s a shame.

    By Amanda (07/08/2006)
  • As a pupil at Middle Street Primary in the 1960s I had a friend who lived at the Sea House – landlord’s son perhaps? There was an enclosed yard at the back , which might explain the trees, and it was a warren of a place with many dusty unused rooms upstairs full old trunks, old furniture and who knows what.
    I was told that there was a tunnel from the extensive cellars leading to one of the seafront arches under Kings Road and that these tunnels had been used by “smugglers” !

    By Adrian Baron (05/02/2007)
  • I spent three weeks in Brighton in the summer of 1987, and The Sea House was by far my favourite pub. Its friendly atmosphere made it kind of a home away from home. It’s really sad to see what has happened to it. I was kind of hoping it would still be there if I ever came back, but I guess nothing’s forever.

    By Svein-Inge (04/05/2008)
  • The Seahouse is now reborn under the name of Entourage within ‘The Seahouse’ as the building is still named. Entourage is a luxury bar and is proud of the history that the site it sits on has.

    By Jeremy Nargi (26/06/2008)
  • My grandad was the landlord of the pub from the late 50’s to the early 80’s and was that man who sold the hideous ties to the guy above called Alan. I agree they were hideous and I think my Nan used to go to the charity shops to get them, but after a few pints you’d be suprised what some men would wear to get into Sherry’s. I used to stay with my grandparents most weekends and enjoy having free Pepsi and chocolate bars on Saturday nights and staying up until last orders, watching Hammer House of Horror films and scaring myself to death. Then I would creep to my bedroom on the top floor of the place which was falling apart even back then. Adrian above describes it perfectly, (you must have been friends with one of the lodgers my grandparents had as my grandparents only had my Mum & no sons). The place was like something from the Adams family and Watneys seemed very reluctant to put any re-fit money into the place and my grandparents were no spring chickens. They were in their 70’s when they eventually retired, so it just rotted away, which was a such a great shame. The place was steeped in history and had several names in its lifetime and was once called the Ship In Distress and was apparently visited by Napoleon. I was also told that it was the place that Charles II was hiding just before he made his ‘great escape’ to France, taking one of the several tunnels in the cellar of the pub that lead straight down to the beach. In fact if you read the history of the celebrated Brighton boat race, named The Royal Escape, it says :- ‘Prince Charles, Lord Wilmot and a Colonel Gounter, hid themselves in the fishing village of Brighthelmstone (now Brighton). The party took rooms at an Inn in West Street where Colonel Gounter started looking for a way out.’ All I remember about the tunnels was that they had to be bricked up in the 60’s and 70’s because of the amount of ‘Beatniks’ that used to find there way into the cellar from the beach tunnels to help themselves to all the drinks stored down there. They would then pass out in a drunken coma, until they were discovered by one of the staff bottling up in the morning! I could go on and on about my memories of my stays/adventures at the Pub, watching the people fall out of Sherrys and fight in the street, which was dead exciting when you were a kid!  As was getting an autograph from Tommy Cooper, who popped in one night just a year or two before he died (he was appearing at the Brighton Centre or the Hipperdrome, Dome or somewhere like that. Those were such great days and I had such a great time staying with my grandparents, I can still picture the wall mounted juke boxes and billiards table and putting the huge glass Watneys ash trays on the tables every morning. Seems like only yesterday, when it was infact 36 years of yesterdays ago! Saturday morning pictures at the Odean, pop into West Street Wimpey afterwards and back to the pub, which would closed in the afternoon back then, to play on the juke box and pretend I was Sandy Shaw singing puppet on string!… terrific!

    By Jelli (19/06/2009)
  • Re the Sea House – I’ve only just joined the site, but I’m intrigued by the entry above. My grandfather, Jack Williams was also the landlord of this pub. He went on to be the owner of the Chain Pier pub which was in the arches by the aquarium. I think I’ve got that right!

    By Derek Lennard (26/11/2010)
  • More info about the Sea House. My Uncle recalls that his father owned the pub from the late 1920s to the mid 1950s. There was a gymnasium there and some famous boxers trained there. My Uncle was actually born in the pub! The pub was used by Canadian soldiers in World War Two. Of course the tunnels were blocked off then! I can get more info from my Uncle if anyone wants it.

    By Derek Lennard (26/11/2010)
  • I remember the pub very well, as we used to live in the Harrington hotel just opposite- my grandparents owned it. In fact I think the landlord at the time was Ron, and I used to be quite friendly with his granddaughter or possibly niece. Could this be the previous poster Jelli? We also used to sell hideous ties to people trying to get into Sherrys. Great memories!

    By Tim (05/03/2013)
  • Omg Tim, that’s me! I was Ron and Edith Willmot’s granddaughter, Teresa. I remember you now. Didn’t you also come to Saturday morning pictures with me and the Wimpy in West Street a couple of times when I was staying there? And Derek, I think my grandparents must have taken the pub over from your uncle’s father as I was born in 62 and I think my grandparents had it for a year or two before I was born, it was a Watney’s pub then. They had the Albion in Albion Hill before the Sea House.

    By Jelli (18/05/2013)
  • Just for info really, but the address of this pub was always no 1 Middle Street, in my Grandparents time there anyway – that was the address as officially used by the post office and the Brewery too (Watneys) The pub was once called the Sea House Hotel and the official Hotel and Saloon Bar entrance was always in Middle street, there was once a side door leading to the more supposedly ‘refined’ public Bar (when there were two sides of the bar, a Saloon Bar and Public Bar, but that was blocked up from as long as I can remember and was never used as the main front door to the building). Here’s a photo of the plaque, which states it was known as being situated at 1 Middle Street too

    By Jelli (25/08/2013)
  • I used to go to the Sea House aged 16/17 pretty much every Saturday with a large group of equally under-age drinkers to play pool upstairs. From there it was on to the Fortunes Of War for a few pints of rocket-fuel bitter, then Fagans (downstairs).

    By Paul (19/11/2013)
  • Many years ago I did research for the University of Sussex when they were trying to have the old pub licence transferred to the hostel adjacent. Great collection of memories here but I should clarify (for factual sake!) some of the points above. The pub was a small part of the whole building, the major part having been separated as the celebrated clothing store Barrance & Ford. The old ‘Ship in Distress’ (described at the time as ‘a wretched miserable old building’) was demolished in the 1820s as it was on the clifftop almost hanging over the beach, as the new Kings Road was being constructed through the site. The rebuilt tavern lost its old maritime name when rebuilt and took on the more sedate title ‘Sea House Hotel’. This changed to Royal Sea House when King William IV visited Lord Nelson’s widow who was staying there in 1830; they were old friends prior to Nelson’s death. By the 1870s the money in the town had moved west to Hove and the hotel was sold and became a toy warehouse, subsequently Barrance & Ford and then Court’s Furnishings. Only the bar survived as a separate pub. The story about Charles II relates to the former George Inn at the bottom of West St on the west side, which was renamed ‘The King’s Head’ afterwards. The tunnels come much later as the roadworks created open areas below the road.

    By Geoffrey Mead (22/11/2013)
  • I remember playing the piano at this pub around 1981/82 and I think it was the landlord who used to like to sing. I somehow thought this was Ronnie Hilton (famous 50’s singer) but I think I may be wrong in case anyone knows ? Real shame they demolish these character buildings…..gone forever.

    By John Beever (02/11/2020)
  • Wow, so much history, so sad that Watneys did not try to keep this building.
    My mum and dad were Landlords from 1976 to 1979. They were called Peggy and Derek, the place was refurbished a bit when they moved in. It was a very successful pub, so much so that my brother and dad used to have to bounce the door on Friday nights. There was also a Theatre on the first floor, called Brighton Actors workshop. We had quite a few celebrities visit. I was just twelve, but I remember Lionel Blair, he would be a regular.

    By Estelle Cook (03/08/2021)

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