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From the old to the new

Churchill Square during it’s transformation from the shopping centre  built in the 1960s to it’s redevelopment during the 1990s.

Did the ‘Spirit of Brighton’ survive I wonder?

The Spirit of Brighton, Churchill Square
From the private collection of Carol Homewood
Demolishing the old Churchill Square, c.1996
From the private collection of Carol Homewood
Building of the new Churchill Square with remains of the old. 1997
From the private collection of Carol Homewood
Grand opening of the new Churchill Square
From the private collection of Carol Homewood

Comments about this page

  • I remember the old Churchill Sq and the monolith. I’m not sure that I didn’t prefer the old one more though.

    By Paul Edwards (05/03/2011)
  • I’ve never seen the new one (that shows how long ago I left town!) but I can remember the old one being built and what was there before that. I didn’t like the old one much.

    By Jester the Clown (05/03/2011)
  • I worked at J.Sainsburys from when it opened in the Square in 1968. On a wet and windy day the back of the BHS where the ‘Spirit’ was located was a depressing spot, I once took a photo there at midday with no-one in the picture! The Spirit originally had water trickling over it, supposed to generate a covering of moss and ferns (not a very Brighton eco-system…) but as it is Brighton, the base was soon full of cans and crisp packets. As it was Brighton it was rarely cleaned out and became increasingly squalid and almost universally unloved. How was it ever considered ‘art’? A similar state of play to the curious structures now by the bus stops in Western Road. On what is possibly the city’s noisiest street these were originally intended to send out some form of etherial sounds. I think I heard them once.

    By Geoffrey Mead (09/03/2011)
  • I worked as a builder’s labourer on Churchill Square as it was being built. I started work there after being employed at the meat market in Russell Street as a meat humper – very heavy work carrying sides of beef etc.

    By Duffy Watkins (12/03/2011)
  • I remember Churchill Square well. Downstairs was a ghost town from the end of the 80s. But it did have some great places to skate. Anyone remember the name of the dusty old computer game shop that was the last thing to survive downstairs?

    By Hector (13/03/2011)
  • To be honest, I much preferred the old Churchill Square; it was much more quirky and eccentric-looking and I think the new Centre looks very sterile and soulless. I remember as a kid skateboarding down the ramp (next to the escalators) that led down to toilets on the lower level!

    By William Adama (13/03/2011)
  • The old Churchill Square was a litter-strewn, soulless wind-tunnel, stuffed full of the same chain stores you found in any other town centre. The new Churchill Square still has the same chain stores, but at least it’s warm and dry! My only regret is the demise of Borders – they always had a great selection of books.

    By John Wilkin (14/03/2011)
  • In the first picture, the building at the top right with the orange signage is the Solarium cafe. My first Saturday job. I lasted about 6 weeks before I went to Slims, a coffee shop on the lower level of Churchill Square, just to the right of the stairs as you went down them. My patchy memory recalls Tesco and a Hall of Cards downstairs as well as a place selling leather jackets. I can’t remember if Bejam was upstairs or down- anyone care to jog my memory? I also vaguely recall a coffee shop which was near the old Mothercare and WH Smith Records (name of coffee shop anyone?). Also nearby was Savory and Moore chemist.

    By Tina Eames (18/07/2011)
  • As the previous folk have commented what a cold windy souless place Churchill Square used to be . There was a toy shop called Mr Porridge which had a closing down sale in the 70s and I bought several Corgi cars in boxes for 2s6d each , pretty boring models of Morris Marinas , Marcos Mantis, Marcos Gt, Toyota GT sports car Wild Honey (an Austin 7 drag car) Rover 2000 with wizzwheels and many more. The collection moved with me over the years until I put them on EBay, what a surprise , most made £30 to £45 each – so money well invested. My last visit to Churchill Square was some years ago and I was intrigued by the numerous black circles everywhere, most unsightly. And yes you are right. it was and probably still is. chewing gum. I wonder if the culprits drop it on the carpet at home?

    By Alan Spicer (19/07/2011)
  • The 3rd picture down shows a tree which seems to be behind a protective fence to keep it for the new developement, in the 4th picture it’s gone. What a shame it was a Sophora Japonica ‘Japanese Pagoda Tree’ not exactly a common tree in England. It was lifted as a mature tree from Stanmer Nursery and planted at Churchill square in the 1960s. It should have been saved as it obviously was not in the way of any building works, or was lifted and moved to another site does anybody know?

    By Dan O'Shaughnessy (22/07/2011)
  • I used to go to Slims cafe all the time and have a cup of tea with a big bowl of broken flapjacks for 50 pence – bargain! I actually have fond memories of old Churchill Square, I don’t know whether this is just nostalgia, because I also remember the urine-smelling stairwells leading up to the car park. The Tesco’s at the back of the square I remember was massive, food downstairs and home ware and clothes etc up there. Habitat stayed in the same position all my life until last year when they finally went bust. Just BHS left in the same place now I think.

    By James (25/07/2012)
  • My dad worked on the building of the old Churchill Square. My mum worked in Slims cafe. I think it was owned by a lovely Jewish man called Mr Joseph. I remember Adam Faith coming in with Leo Sayer! I do remember it being a wind tunnel too. Also big concrete monstrosoties everywhere.

    By Carol (25/07/2012)
  • I worked in Churchill Square the year it opened up at 18. It was crazy busy. Still seems new to me. I do remember being a kid and there were steps leading downstairs in the old Square. People were skateboarding and we used to gawk at the £59.99 asking price in WHSmith Video (which was behind the current Smiths) of Nintendo games. I think Habitat was the last surviving store at the second row of shops around the back? (Even though it closed in 2012!)

    By Toby (09/12/2012)
  • Gosh. This brought back memories! I worked in Miss Selfridges on Saturdays in 1985-1986 while I was still at school – sadly in the shoe department (not nearly as glam as the make-up counter where they still sold “Iron Lady”, a silver/coral in honour of Mrs. T). Memories of saving up to buy albums at HMV (?) at the back on the right of the Centre and nervously walking past the deeply cool types selling the Socialist Worker (I was a scholarship girl at Brighton College so felt deeply conflicted about class and everything in those days). Thank you for all the pictures and comments. That was a lovely trip into the memory bank.

    By Teamgloria (15/08/2013)
  • I remember the old square well, spent many days there as a kid (have only been into the new square 3 times since it opened!). As to the Spirit, myself and some friends got into trouble with a policeman for climbing to the top of it in about 1978!

    By Phil Drayton-Morris (16/08/2013)
  • I can answer the question as to what happened to the ‘Spirit of Brighton’: workmen broke it into rubble.  This saddened me although at the time probably most people were not sorry to see it go.  I spoke to the workman demolishing it and was able to drive to the spot and pick a few remnants up one evening.  They are still in my tiny garden nearby in Brighton and they will be all that survive.  Perhaps a few more people would appreciate having it around in a suitable location now.  Sorry to say I can’t see anything worth salvaging from the current Churchill Sq.

    By Bob O'Leary (01/05/2014)
  • I worked in Mothercare from 1990-2000 so I saw both sides of Churchill Square. When demolition started, it was dreadful there and we thought it would never end. I liked the new shopping mall but it took so long to get round in my lunch hour, I gave up in the end and decided I preferred the old one.

    By Jill Aberdeen (29/05/2014)
  • I worked at the old Churchill Square in 1974 at a very small shop called ‘Cox’s Hi-Fi’, they sold cameras and Hi-Fi equipment. I was there for a couple of months in the winter and I found it to be very cold and draughty. As a small boy I remember the row of shops that gave way to the new development and over the years I have seen pictures of the streets behind that also gave way. It would have been good to have saved that area in my opinion and re-developed the area between London Road and Brighton Station for a new shopping area. Having said that, the new Churchill Square is fabulous, light and modern and with the new frontage going up it will be an asset to Brighton. There’s a fab little clip of the old frontage of Churchill Square circa 1970-73 on pathe news, here’s the clip……

    If you look closely you can see the old Virgin record store at the clock tower [Thanks so much for suggesting this link Paul – great shots of Brighton! Comments Ed].

    By Paul Clarkson (02/06/2014)
  • I remember going to purchase Eight track cartridges of the (then!) popular music of 1973-1976 at the HMV store which was down the left side of the old square and there was a Model store nearby on the same side! I cannot remember the name of the place now?!

    I used to use Sainsburys to the rear of the square and ‘BHS’ on the front of the place for my lunch!

    The Crambourne pub was where I used to go with the rest of the staff from Burtons (Mr.Burt!) for our Christmas dinner and party on Christmas eve and the window dresser, John worked for the place serving drinks and food from the bar!

    By Mike Denley (20/08/2016)
  • Just thinking back to the eight track tape system, this was very bulky and the cartridges were fat and bulky with just one spool which turned for the tape as the other was static/fixed!

    This meant that when the tape would play it continued and soon would start to unravel as the heads inside the machine would dry!

    This meant a problem; the store manager would run up to the player and have to use cotton buds/swabs with clear ‘Surgical spirit’ to clean the heads and put the cartridge back to again play! This was an ongoing situation problem until we later received a decent cassette tape deck for the store! Hence; No more problems!

    By Mike Denley (20/08/2016)

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