It's just so pleasant

Mad Hatter Cafe, Brighton
Photographed by Bill Maskell 24-03-03

One of my favourite places in Brighton would probably be the Mad Hatter café on Western Road, just opposite Waitrose, on the corner of Montpelier Rd. For several reasons: the food’s nice, the coffee’s good and it has these marvellous open plan windows so everyone can see in and you can see out. It’s perfect to just sit there and people watch, chain smoke, wile away the day, read the papers, etc.. Plus you get a marvellous array of colourful characters walking down Western Road to sit and observe. It’s just pleasant, awfully pleasant.

Comments about this page

  • Here is Chilean fan of the Mad Hatter Cafe. I lived in Brighton last year while I was a v/e student at University of Sussex. Me and my friends used to go once a week there and enjoy the most wonderful coffee, company and food, we really loved that place. And the nicest things were the big windows – they make you feel that you are in the street, sitting in this big sofa charing with all the people from outside. It was just amazing, and now that I’m back in my country I really miss that place.

    By Magdalena (21/06/2004)
  • I used to live in Norfolk Road up until 1966 and the Mad Hatter Cafe used to be the hardware store Timothy Whites. I am sure the large windows are a legacy from that store.

    By Maggie Williams (nee Doogan) (25/11/2004)
  • It’s my little piece of Melbourne that reminds me of my former home! Plus I am in love with all the staff … brilliant place!

    By Cal (04/08/2005)
  • In 1960 this cafe used to be called Mence Smith, a shop that sold household and hardware goods and some groceries. I worked there from August 1960 to August 1961. It was my first job after I had left school at the age of 15. Mence Smith was then taken over by Timothy Whites. Later they were taken over by Boots the Chemists.

    By John Leach (11/10/2006)
  • Interested to read the comment by John Leach about Mence Smith (George Mence Smith). We had branches in North London when I was growing up – a great shop that sold the famous Muswell Hill ‘granny baskets’. They were on wheels and were made from wicker and wood. A great shop. We also had Timothy White’s, Northern House and Needwell’s.

    By Penelope (16/11/2007)
  • I have just found this site and was reading John Leach’s message. I used to work for Mence Smith in Boundary Road, Hove. Then at thier store along Church Road, Hove. I worked for them for six years from the time I left school at 15 until I got married. First thing we had to put all the items outside the shop then sweep the shop floor. I remember we used to sell poultry food and heating fuel. I enjoyed my time working for the company.

    By Pat Finneran nee Morley (08/01/2009)
  • George Mence Smith, who has been mentioned on this site, was my 3rd great Uncle by marriage. He was born in 1822 and lived until 1895. He was generous to a fault and in his will he left substantial amounts of cash to all of his shop managers of which there were over 20 mentioned, although in total there were over 70 shops scattered in the South East of England.

    By Rona Benson (02/08/2009)
  • My grandfather was manager of Mence Smith at Anerley Rd, Upper Norwood from 1898-1940. I have a photo of the shop dated 1900 showing all the goods for sale.

    By John Cobb (23/01/2011)
  • My father was manager of the Deal branch of Mence Smiths from about 1953 until the Timothy Whites takeover. He then worked for Timothy Whites. We lived in a flat over the shop for some years and I recall an open iron stair case we had to ascend to our front door. The shop sold everything from nails, candles, paraffin, dog biscuits through to fireworks. I still have a couple of drawers here in Australia from the shop when it closed. The prices were never displayed and were encoded using the word cumberland – c being 1. Although I was only around 10, I could read them all. Mr Higgs was the area manager. I recall his frequent visits and he was always friendly to me. Norman Wisdom started his working life as an errand boy over the road. Last time I visited the UK it had become a Radio Rentals outlet.

    By Rod P (01/05/2011)
  • I was just remembering Mence Smiths in Boundary Road, Hove. Loved that shop.
    My mum bought several kettles – from forgetting they were on the gas stove, heating water and they boiled dry because she forgot to put the whistle on. Quite a few teapot lids as well. Frugal days.

    By Helen Shipley (25/06/2022)

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