Remembering the shops and the people

Just to the east of Montague Street was a small twitten called Essex Cottages, it had a garage on the corner and for a six year old in 1961 this was a very scarey place. It was composed of crumbling empty buildings, and what seemed like only one entrance in and out of the dark alley. We would dare each other to go down to the school buildings, which led to a small passage linking the back of houses on Warwick Street. The name we gave to that twitten was Witches Alley, named after the only resident that appeared to be still living in one of the crumbling cottages. She was an old lady who used jump out of a doorway to chase us off with a broom; we used to run for our lives. Looking back now, she was probably more frightened of us.

Remembering the shops
Some of the shops in the area were Bernadette’s Catholic Shop on Bristol Road, which was full of religious trinkets and books. If you followed Bristol Road eastwards and around the bend, you came to David Ki Ki, the bookmakers and Barclay’s Bank. Round the curve on the left was Maddocks sweet shop and George White the estate agent. On the right there was Randall’s and Brampton’s the butchers.  Home and Colonial grocers was next, and at the dog leg of St George’s Road was the wonderful Webb’s Stores where you could buy things like duck in orange sauce in a tin. Just past Webb’s was Barnard’s electrical shop which had a small Hornby train running in the window. Lots of the shops of the area hold memories for me.

Running errands
Being the youngest of the family I ran the errands for my mum, so they were places often visited. Another business we often used was Oakley’s hardware shop in Montague Place, where the seemingly stern Mr Oakley in his beret, boiler suit and leather belt would sell us gallons of Esso Blue paraffin for our heaters. I couldn’t hazard a guess how much paraffin we got through in that winter of 1962-63.

The old bus garage
Just down the road on the same side was a scrap yard, it had been an old bus garage I think. A small man in a black jacket and trilby would push his hand cart around the streets of Kemp Town collecting scrap items from the houses to take back to the yard. I can recall many memories from this much changed area, the pubs like the Star in the East, the Eastern Hotel and the Horse and Groom.

The church they couldn’t knock down
There was All Souls church on Eastern Road, which was such a solid building they couldn’t knock it down. The coal yards of Kemp Town Station and the industrial buildings just south were always an adventure. This was where Parsons the tarpaulin makers and Setyres had premises. There was also a business that threw out off cuts of wood, which I would then collect for kindling to start our coal fires in the guest house.

Moving to Hove
We only stayed in the ‘Carol Ann Guest House’ for about three years before we moved to a restaurant in Hove, which my mother ran. My father went to work for ITT Creed in Hollingbury.  Carol went to work at Harris’s drapers in St James’s Street, then later at the Elms Restaurant at the General Hospital.  Susan went to work at British Home Stores in Western Road, and then later she was a children’s nanny for a doctor and his family in New York, USA.

Moving back to Kemp Town
My parents eventually sold the Hove restaurant and brought a house back in Kemp Town. My mother, Marjory went on to work for the Brighton Home Help Department caring for some of the old people of Kemp Town, and after retiring, worked on the deli counter for Mr Webb at Webb stores. Myself, after having a tough education at Queens Park Secondary School,  served an apprenticeship at Kearney & Trecker in Hollingbury and have been employed in engineering ever since.

I now work in Medical Physics for the N.H.S. Looking back I don’t think I could have thanked my now deceased parents enough for making the decision to leave Birmingham and move to this wonderful south coast holiday town, which has given our family both employment and enjoyment for nearly all of our lives.

Comments about this page

  • Wow Michael, did this photo of the old St John the Baptist School bring back memories for me. I was here from the age of 5 till I went up to Woodingdean (now Fitzherbert). I was one of the convent girls from the other side of the church, I remember a sweet shop over the road from the School where we would spend our precious pennies, 4 blackjacks for a penny or those big chewy sweets for a halfpenny, can’t remember what they were called; Happy days.

    By Sandie Waller (nee Taylor) (25/11/2009)
  • Oh my word, this picture certainly brings back memories. I lived in Kemp Town from 1973 until 2007 and although this picture looks like any other house, it once used to be a shop run by Ted Oakley and his wife. It was a typical ‘Arkwright’s’ hardware shop with creaky wooden floorboards and all manner of things hanging from the ceiling. I’m sure if you looked hard enough you could have found ‘four candles’ and a drawer full of ‘Os’! I also recall going in there with my cans to buy paraffin from the glass paraffin dispenser that stood in the corner. I remember the smell too when I walked through the door and being greeted by Ted Oakley sporting his little black beret always happy to see me. Those were the days.

    By Jane Harrison (06/02/2011)
  • I’m trying to find out how long the Kemp Town Bookshop has been there (as a bookshop) and was wondering if anyone knew what used to be there previously?

    By Sue Harrison (18/04/2011)
  • I remember singing hymns on mayday or thereabouts as we walked around the block of St. John the Baptist School (1964-1971). If I’d known what a state this building would be in now I’d never have bothered tidying my desk. The first nun I ever saw was at this school, Sister Anthony, and did I scream? Oh yes I did.

    By Andre Kish (17/08/2011)
  • Sue – The premises on which Kemp Town Bookshop stands used to be Bullocks the Butchers run by a very debonaire butcher. He later moved to a shop at the very top of Duke Street, underneath the edge of Churchill Square. It was an excellent high-class butchers.

    By Jax Atkins (13/01/2012)
  • Mr. Oakley always wore a boiler suit with a belt round it as well as a trademark beret. A real character!

    By Lindy Smart (26/02/2012)
  • I appreciate your compliment of Webbs stores. I am Peter Webb’s son, David. I remember your mum well, working together in the shop she was a great character with a good sense of humour. Please contact me if you want to reminisce.

    By David Webb (06/06/2012)
  • I remember St John the Baptist well. When my family moved from Upminster in Essex to Woodingdean in 1969 my sister Angela and I both went to this school. It was a real culture shock because we had come from a light and spacious modern school (St Josephs) to this dark and rather decrepid and intimidating place. The cane was still in use and I remember recieving it for the first time in my life- from a nun! I also remember getting the number 2 bus from Woodingdean to Kemptown every school day.

    By Peter J Hill (04/07/2012)
  • I used to live in the white 3-storey building (118 St. Georges’ Road) in the middle of the picture from 1946 to 1949. At that time the ground floor shop was a laundry receiving business.

    By Julian Saul (30/08/2012)
  • I think there was a little Triang 060 tank engine running around the shop window of Barnard’s Electrical store.
    I remember visits to the Odeon, Kemp Town on a Saturday. I think it was 6d and 9d to get in. I also remember how we would wait outside if there was an “A” film on (children had to be accompanied) and asking an adult to take us in. We would then give them our ticket money and, once inside, find our own seats.

    By Jim Stapleton (07/03/2016)
  • I don’t think Barnards Electrical shop sold either Triang or Hornby train sets – although I might be wrong. He was agent for Trix Twin Railways (TTR) – I bought many parts for my TTR set there. I’m fairly certain that the one running in the window was one of these. The couplings were different and although they were all the same gauge neither would run properly on the other’s tracks for some reason. I really coveted the double ended railcar but at £4/19/6 it was beyond my meagre means.
    Saturday morning flicks at the Kemp Town Odeon was 6d if I remember correctly. The week that sweets came off ration we got an extra tanner to buy whatever we wanted. Wouldn’t get much for that today!

    By Tim Sargeant (07/03/2016)
  • In 1967 the garage was a depot of Worthing Fruit & Flower Co. and Dickie Attenborough used it as a film studio for the making of “Oh! What a Lovely War”.

    By Den Mackey (29/03/2016)
  • I’m fascinated by the description of Essex Cottages and the garage building on the corner of Upper Bedford Street. Was the garge on the North side? I’m trying to trace anyone who can remember what buildings stood on the site between Essex Cottages and Essex Street and wonder if this garage is what was there. Anyone who can remember, your help would be greatly appreciated.

    By P Taggart (15/04/2016)
  • I am sure there are some interwar images of the Essex Street area in Backyard Brighton, originally published by QueenSpark. A large scale OS map of the area for the period you are interested in, which can be seen at ‘The Keep’ at Falmer, will give more information.

    By Geoffrey Mead (16/04/2016)
  • P Taggart: The garage was located on the south corner of Essex Cottages, it was visible looking down Montague Street.  When I lived in the area in the early ’60s, I believe the garage was called Shaddicks Garage. Essex Cottages were in a delapidated condition with the cottages on the south side boarded up; the north side of the alley was the back entrances to back yards of the houses on Essex Street. At the end of the cottages was the back entrance to what was All Souls Primary School with the main entrance on Essex Street, the school buildings were being used as an annex for Queens Park Secondary School in the ’50s and ’60s.

    By Michael Brittain (19/04/2016)
  • I used to live above the bank in 1982-83 with a girlfriend who used to work for Barclays Bank in Hove. They have still got the same curtains up as they were made by her sister as you couldn’t buy them off the shelf. The rent was £50 per month!

    By Jozef Kis (09/08/2016)
  • I will always remember Bromptons the Butchers: Clean sawdust on the floor with butchers wearing straw hats and a red carnation.

    By Mark Praid (03/03/2017)
  • My late Father ran an industrial business located at 96-97 St George’s Road, Benrose Stapling opposite Webbs Stores, from the early 1960s to the late 70s. (It is now a branch of Ladbrokes.)  I was a  young child in the 60s, but often used to go into the “office” with my dad in the School hols or Saturday mornings. In those days he used to park his car in Bloomsbury Place which was around the corner and kind of at the back of Webbs. When he couldn’t find a parking space, he would park on a double yellow line and the local policeman  on the beat used to pop in (who was friendly with all the local traders) to tell his secretary, to tell him to move it, if the Inspector was on the prowl. I do recall Webbs stores very well and was often sent on an errand across the road to get milk/ chocolate digestives  etc. I do remember Webbs used to have a little model railway in its windows on College Place going up the hill. Seems an age away now.

    By Andrew Rose (22/07/2018)
  • Does anyone remember the little French resturant in the triangle of shops in St. George’s Road? We used go there in the eighties. I think the owner and chef was called Watson and their two sons sometimes worked there. It was quite unique at the time before Brighton had so many restaurants. I haven’t been in that area for 30 or more years and was just wondering.

    By Jan (21/06/2019)
  • So wonderful to connect and remember with you… I went to St Mary’s C of E primary in Lavender St I think it was?? School is no longer there – then on to Margaret Hardy Secondary. My parents had a hotel on the front corner of Marine square = The Kingsbrooke and I remember shopping at the butchers with my mum in George street and the Home & Colonial.
    Also had a Saturday job in Valentine’s ladies hairdressers with Brenda my boss – just opposite the road where the Post Office was? Lovely happy memories 1966!

    By Bev Walker nee Munton (06/10/2023)
  • Hello Bev – fab to see your comment. When did your parents have Kingsbrooke hotel? I remember it well. I was brought up in Portland Place & later lived in Marine Square.
    I remember Valentine’s Hairdressers very well.
    Also, who was the butcher in George Street your mother shopped with?
    Home & Colonial was great – Joyce was the lady who always worked there & when they shut down she went across the road to work in Webb’s Stores.

    By Jax Atkins (09/03/2024)

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