Writing a history: can you help?

David Sewell, proprietor of the Pavilion Gardens Cafe
From the private collection of David Sewell
David Sewell outside the Pavilion Garden Cafe
Photo by John Desborough

The Pavilion Gardens Cafe is well known to locals and tourists alike.  But what very few people know is that this popular meeting place has been run by the same Brighton family for more than sixty years.  The present proprietor, David Sewell, is writing a history of the cafe and is looking for contributions.  You can read here about just what David is looking for and there are contact details for him at the bottom of this page.

Press Release

David Sewell is the third generation of a family that has operated the Pavilion Gardens Café in the heart of Brighton for more than sixty years. Opened in 1941, as a wooden hut on the lawns near the Royal Pavilion, it moved to its permanent site in 1950 and the Art Deco-style tea chalet, the result of a design competition among students in the1940s, is the centre of a community around the gardens popularly known as Brighton’s village green.

David, with the help of some of his customers, is writing a history of the café and the people who have worked and played there since the Second World War. The café has launched a website where the family’s extensive collection of photographs, documents and stories is growing. There are also plans for a book.

David says “We are asking our many friends and customers to contribute stories and reminiscences via the web site or by popping into the café. We are going to record interviews with some of our long-standing customers and we’re looking for stories, personal or otherwise, associated with the café, grounds and Royal Pavilion. We’re also putting out an appeal for anyone who can fill in some of the lost pieces of our history. If you have photographs that show the original wooden hut that stood on the lawn near the Royal Pavilion, know the name of the original designer of the current building or know any former customers who have moved on and are now living abroad, if you have stories, photographs, documents, recordings, home movies or videos – we’d be happy to hear about them.”

Perhaps you could also fill in some of the history of the café before the move to the Pavilion Gardens. The café was founded by Mr Herbert Tennent, affectionately known as Mr T, but this Brighton family business goes back much further. During the 1920s Mr T’s parents were seafront traders running a seafood stall underneath the arches. They also ran a pub near the Metropole which was frequented by the local fishermen. By the1930s Mr T had become something of a catering mogul, with two kiosks by the Palace Pier groyne, one near the lift by Peter Pan’s Playground and another by the paddling pool adjacent to the West Pier.

If you have any information or photographs, you can pop into the café, send an e-mail or write to the café at see below You can see the collection grow on the web site at www.paviliongardenscafe.co.uk, contact them at history@paviliongardenscafe.co.uk or drop in to the café.

Comments about this page

  • I have quite vivid memories of the little Art Deco cafe in the Pavilion Gardens in the fifties. My mother would take my sister and me to visit our grandmother who lived in Regency Square, and we would all walk down via The Lanes to the Pavilion Gardens which were then in their unrestored state. The grown-ups would sit in deckchairs and drink tea and we children would sit on the grass and have packets of crisps with the salt in a twist of blue paper – remember those? One flavour only – potato! The Pav Gardens green seemed enormous to us then but recent visits show how small the area actually was. I think I also remember a brass band playing on the green, but can’t be sure.

    By Len Liechti (23/02/2009)

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