Walking into the past

Hannington's department store

It had been going through my mind recently that I should drop a note to you all about the closure of Hanningtons. It is one of the last “old” haunts in the Brighton of my memories. I always made a trip to Hanningtons as part of each of my return visits to Brighton to take my mother for tea in the tea rooms and use the Ladies Powder Room – the only one I knew left that still had an attendant. It was like walking back into the past. Another part of its quaintness was the old open cage lift and I loved the way all the little departments blended into each other.

I was able to say goodbye to it all last month when I once again made a quick trip to Brighton, unfortunately for the funeral of my dear Mum.

I will be anxiously waiting to see the results of changes to the property and do hope they will be able to retain some part of its history and help to keep our memories alive.

And also the Astoria…
Coincidentally, my mother also worked for several years at the Astoria, in the concession counter, when it was a Bingo Hall. I believe that was in the 70’s. It would be nice to see that property in use again and hopefully give the area a cleaner, brighter look than it has had in recent years. My mother, myself and my daughter have happy memories of time spent on the first floor of that same building at the Court School of Dancing as well and both my Mum and my daughter gained many awards for the ballroom dancing they learnt there.

Comments about this page

  • I miss Hanningtons – there are no high quality department stores in Brighton and Hove and I need to go to London to find a similar shopping experience. Hanningtons was sometimes lacking in ‘service ethic’ and was old-fashioned – reminded me of the comedy sitcom ‘Are You Being Served?’ – but it was a great place to potter. Perhaps consumer habits and expectations have changed with time – but I think it’s a real shame the building has been chopped into smaller units – and none of the retailer occupants so far seem to sell anything vaguely useful or interesting.

    By Lois Ellett (12/09/2003)
  • I think it’s a shame that Brighton has lost that sort of classy edge when it comes to shopping. However, being quite young I don’t personally remember ever shopping there and think that redeveloping it in the long term is a good idea.

    By Joxena Romain (05/01/2004)
  • I was so sorry to hear that Hanningtons had finally closed. My father, Wilfred ‘Bill’ Booker, was a floor manager there during the 60s until his retirement. We lived in Saltdean and one night he didn’t come home on his usual bus. When he did arrive home he was on crutches. He had chased someone who had taken the till takings for that day. He caught him and had hurt his ankle. Not bad for a man in his late 60s. When he passed away I often went to the store which seemed to change little over the years, just to remember him being there. I loved the old lift. Also every year I took my children to see Santa there, it was always magical. I now live in Australia, but always visited Hanningtons when I visited Brighton.

    By Debra Booker (06/06/2004)
  • My first job at 15 was in the clothes dept in 1950. I was frendly with a chap there called Peter Goding who worked there from then to when it closed last year. My wife, Anna, worked there and gave me the above info – she was sorry that the store closed.

    By Ray Barontini (16/08/2004)
  • I remember shopping in Hanningtons and I had a Christmas job working in the gift department – I think it would have been perhaps the late 70s. I also took part in an Oral History project run by Brighton Museum in 1984 – they should still have an archive of tapes and transcripts made by people who worked in Hanningtons in the 1930s. The small top windows in the shop used to be where the staff lived – being an assistant was a live-in post at the time. They also had those vacuum tubes which took money from the counters to a central point, from which receipts etc were sent back. If anyone is interested in the oral history project, it was run as part of a Government sponsored work for the unemployed scheme, and was used to create workpacks for schools.

    By Jo (21/08/2004)
  • Brighton is just not the same without Hanningtons. It is dreadful that the town has no good department stores left in it. Hanningtons was really special, a beautiful place to visit. It was to Brighton’s shopping what the Royal Pavilion is to the town’s tourism. I remember going there with my mum and grandmother to buy all sorts of things.. spending a whole afternoon in the store and having tea in the cafe. The wonderful Edwardian staircase in the East Street building and the stained glass ceiling on part of the first floor and all the little staircases linking the different levels are what i remember fondly. There are now so few stores like Hanningtons left anywhere in the country and I can’t understand why they are being allowed to be closed and torn apart when preservation is so in vogue.

    By Andrew Jones (21/08/2005)
  • Does anyone remember Father Christmas’ grotto in Hanningtons? I used to take my children there in the 70s and 80s. It was great fun. There was usually something that was supposed to be a lift. You got in and it moved about a bit but didn’t actually go anywhere. You were escorted by an elf, who for many years was a friend of mine called Sue (can’t remember her surname – but it was long and sort of Polish!). We then got out on the other side of the lift – in Father Christmas’ grotto. We then walked through all the pretty displays and at the end met Santa and got a present. We then came out just round the corner from the entrance. My children never seemed to work out that having gone up or down 3 floors on the magic lift or rocket or whatever, we were back in the same place. Children will believe anything if they want to!

    By Marilyn Coates (15/12/2005)
  • I used to look in the windows at Hannington’s in 1950s and admire the quality clothing. I would save my money for the January sales and queue up very early in the bitter cold, to buy material to have a suit or frock made for me by a clever great aunt. They were known as a very up market store and I remember the lift and the lovely wooden counters and it had quite an air of elegance about it.

    By Jennifer Goddard (nee Norrell) (04/02/2007)
  • I worked in Hanningtons china and glass department from 1966 – 1967. It is a great pity that it has now closed.

    By Valerie Rudwick (04/06/2007)
  • I used to work in Hanningtons in the early seventies on the hosiery dept for Pretty Polly. I have wonderful memories of being there. I met several famous people – the actress who played Minnie Caldwell, Leo Sayer, Adam Faith, and I have the autograph of Charlie Watts on a Hanningtons docket. Its very sad it has closed, but your memories will stay.

    By Maureen Scott (20/11/2007)
  • I worked at Hanningtons back in 2000. I was the third generation of my family to get employment there, after my mum and grandfather. It was a pleasure to be part of such a historic business. I worked in the stockroom and delivered material to the perfumery and Carvela shoes department up the front. I loved the underground stockrooms and secret passageways, even such a short while ago they were not blocked off and you could walk into them for quite a long way. One lead to the Druid’s head and another to the Pavilion. Rumours persisted that they were haunted too. Anyway, just wanted to share my story of an interesting building which was part of Brighton’s landscape, sadly no more. We will not see it’s kind again.

    By Paul (25/01/2008)
  • No Hanningtons – very sad to hear that. I worked in the Linen dept, around 1973-5, with a Mr Fish and Mrs Kieko. Very fond memories. Sign of the times I suppose.

    By Trish Dutt (29/01/2008)
  • I recall Hanningtons, l worked there for many years on the jewellery and handbags department for Mrs Steer and Gloria; l also remember a German lady in that department but cannot recall her name. I floated as well, we worked on commission as well as a wage then; it was £20-00 per week. I was then in my 20s, many years ago now. Mrs Beard was the personnel officer then, a very well dressed lady. A few years later l worked on the switchboard for Mr Wadey, he was a kind and gentle man. l loved it, l enjoyed working the switchboard so much that it helped get me a job for BT as a operator. My mum also worked for Vokins up the road, also sadly no longer there.

    By Chris withers (nee Phillips) (28/09/2008)
  • I have very fond memories of Hanningtons. Apart from stocking up with their Royal Doulton china, they had a wonderful make up and perfume department. My husband, not a well man at the time, made the journey into Brighton to purchase for me some of my favourite Joy perfume, now sadly discontinued, for my birthday. It was the only store apart from Harrods that stocked this perfume. He made the purchase and the sales lady realised he was not too well and booked him a taxi and escorted him to the taxi to make sure he got home safely. I will always remember that act of kindness together with the excitement of opening up the gift wrapped present and finding a bottle of Joy! A store greatly missed.

    By Jillian (30/12/2008)
  • I had a grandmother who was brought up in Brighton – Kitty Mitten. She was one of nine children I think. Are we related, Doreen?

    By Sara Sheridan (06/01/2009)
  • Is the clock at the old Hanningtons still working as I had to wind it up once a week?  I worked there in 1966 for seven years in the Dispatch dept. The last time I was in Brighton I went in and saw that Mrs Jones was still there.  I also remember Peter Goding from the Gents dept and Mr Fish from the Linen dept. Had lots of good memories and good times there.

    By Arthur Westgate (15/01/2009)
  • So sad to hear that another part of the Brighton I knew has gone, and I’m curious as to who or what is occupying the old building now. I recall going there with my Mom in the 1940s to buy my Brighton and Hove High School uniform.

    By Patricia Overs (09/06/2009)
  • I remember the store so well. I never bought a thing there but used to go in and marvel at its old world charm. To step through its door was to step into the past, which for me seemed fixed in perhaps the 30s. To someone like me that was too young to remember. It truly was the world of ‘Are you being served Sir?’ In fact I do not think that I was ever asked this-I just should have been in a place like this.

    By Edward Castle (13/08/2009)
  • I worked as a junior window dresser from 1999-2001 and learnt so much from some great people. As a window dresser I really did get to see all parts of this fantastic building from spooky attics to creepy basements full of mannequins old and new. I will never forget the first time I was asked to get something from the basement alone. All the lights failed and I could not see a thing. I just wanted to get out of there but had to get past a maze of plastic limbs and christmas decorations. I kept thinking about this creepy door down there which led out to the sewers. Definitely a job I will never forget.

    By Louise Poland (Ruston) (19/09/2009)
  • Does anyone remember a Miss Bashford who worked their in the early sixties, possibly in ladies hats?

    By Den King (01/04/2010)
  • I am currently living in the old Hannington’s building which was converted into flats. I live on the very top floor overlooking North St. My flat has a slanted roof where the chimneys are. I am fascinated to know which department in the store my flat originally was. The building still has the old staircase which I love. I used to live on the first floor- which dept was this? I’d love to find out. Thanks.

    By Katherine (21/04/2010)
  • To Katherine who lives in the flats in Hannningtons. I would like to tell you where you are, but first I would have to see where you are if possible. I worked in the despatch department for 16 years until the day it closed and for a month after.

    By Trevor Edwards (02/05/2010)
  • I worked in the furniture department for nearly 8 years and left in 1997, It was a very sad day when the store closed. I also worked at the Vokins department store further up North Street. Brighton is not the same without these two stores.

    By Roger Robinson (19/05/2010)
  • One of my most vivid memories of Haningtons was going to see Santa there each Christmas, either with my mum or at school. The Santas at Hanningtons were like the “real” bloke himself. When Hanningtons closed a part of Brighton closed with it.

    By Glenn Cooney (14/08/2010)
  • I worked at Hanningtons for 13 years, when I left school – my first full time job – and was there till it closed in 2001. Still miss the place – very sad . My boss of the despatch dep’t Peter Prince who died, will miss him a lot. Hi to any who worked there

    By phillip burlo (05/09/2010)
  • I looked up this page because my grandfather’s aunt worked for Hanningtons as an upholstress for many years. She died in the 1930s. I was sorry I will not be able to go and see the building. Are there any staff records still around?

    [I don’t know about staff records Pauline, but the Hanningtons buildings stiil exist. Comments Ed]

    By Pauline Barnes (17/11/2010)
  • For info of Katherine date 20/4/2010, as mentioned elsewhere the top floor was where the live-in staff lived. I believe they had a seperate entrance from North Street designated no 32-34 North Street. I was recently researching my family tree and came across a grand aunt who I believe worked there as an apprentice in the drapery department. On findmypast.co.uk I found an entry in the 1911 census under National Archive ref RG14PN5150 RD79 SD2 ED30 SN175 which lists 21 members of staff who were living on the premises on the night of the census Sunday 2nd April and Monday 3rd April 1911. There were 20 single women and one single man present. I hope that helps someone, isn’t the internet wonderful?

    By Alan M (21/01/2011)
  • Further to my previous comment Hannington’s began in premises in North Street in 1808 selling textiles and hosiery. In 1814 came the first of a series of enlargements, which have continued into this century. Hannington’s Corner was acquired in 1924. Purchases in 1960 and 1974 gave the store continuous frontage in North Street and East Street. Plans by the architect Henry Jarvis are held in the Borough’s Plans Registry Office and are dated January 1866. This info comes from http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk Hope that helps

    By Alan M (21/1/11) (21/01/2011)
  • Does anyone remember my “aunt” Audrey Galloway? I believe she worked in the china department, at least around 1970 when Peter Rabbit was about!

    By Elaine Thompson (10/03/2011)
  • I have very happy memories of working at Hanningtons when I was 14. Working with Miss Bashford, Miss Hunt from Henfield, and my friend Christine Gowan (also from Henfield), I often wonder where she is?. Does anyone remember Peter and Guy in the furniture department? I worked in the hats department and met many of the stars of the day; they used to walk through to go to the tea room upstairs. I am now in my 60s but still reminisce the whole time.

    By Susan Ellis (27/03/2011)
  • I had the great pleasure 10 years ago of working at Hannington’s during its last 6 months in the post room with ‘Lobert’. It was a brilliant atmosphere in a building steeped in history and one of the cushiest numbers known to man. How I wish I were still there! I remember Alan, Phillip, Trevor and the late Peter Prince and I don’t think any of us could say that anything we’ve done since could hold a candle to Hannington’s.

    By Steve Andrews (03/04/2011)
  • I worked at Hanningtons from 1965 till 1977 in the Dispatch – it was my first job. I remember when the Hunnisetts took over the shop. Old Mr Hunnisett always had time for all the staff and spent time with you. I was sad to hear that it has closed.

    By Arthur Westgate (04/04/2011)
  • In ref to Chris Withers (nee Phillips) (29/09/2008) comment, the lady Gloria you mentioned is my mum, and I told her about your comment on here, and she remembers you. She is curious to how you are keeping, and asked me to pass on her regards to you through this page. Christine 🙂

    By Christine Woodhouse (22/05/2011)
  • I was brought up in Brighton from the age of two years and Hanningtons was always a destination for my mother and I on a Saturday. I know there has to be change, but I think it such a pity that a great shop like that without an equal in this town had to go, when it closed it took with it many happy Xmas shopping memories I had. It was a ‘must look in’ shop.

    By Iris Taylor (Panther) (22/05/2011)
  • At the end of 1992 I was fortunate to be given (along with my late husband) by my mum winning it at bingo, a trip on a cruise liner to the Caribbean. One day in Miami we ventured out on to a jetty where people were waiting to go shark fishing. As we sat drinking a cold drink we spoke to a couple of men also sitting there. It turned out one of the men had been a window dresser at Hanningtons. Small world eh?

    By Jennifer Tonks (22/05/2011)
  • I worked in the coffee shop as supervisor from 1988 till the end. No visit to Hannningtons store would be complete without a visit to the coffee shop to sample the famous cream teas or salmon and cream open sandwich. Sadly, now no one will be captivated by the service which you once had with waitresses serving your delights.

    By Ann Weatherill (Billinghurst) (17/09/2011)
  • I remember how the floors and stairs seemed to creak. Always a great place to go and just browse. A feeling you were stepping back in time into a world that has long gone. Still have a copy of the last Hannington’s Christmas brochure…happy days.

    By John Brannen (29/10/2011)
  • I worked in Hanningtons from 1987-1993 when I left to have my daughter. I worked for Elizabeth Arden in the perfumery with Bev, Mrs Batten, Judy Bloom and some lovely ladies, one of my friends was Annalisa, a window dresser, who moved to Dubai with her husband, who we then visited and now live here! Also Sheela (Christian Dior) who is my daughter’s Godmother, Daphne Price, Anna Hayes, Jane, Jayne and the lovely Jenny (YSL) who died recently. It was a lovely time. The worst request was to go and get some more bags from the storeroom, which was the old morgue when the funeral home was there -spooky! Old musty tunnels, creaking stairs, dodery lifts, it was just like living in a Charles Dickens novel sometimes! The manager Mr Rubython – fond memories!

    By Claire Townsend (30/01/2012)
  • Does anyone have any details of the jeweller’s shop that was on the Hanningtons site directly before it? It was my great grandparents’ and I have no information.

    By Jennifer Martin (01/06/2012)
  • Hi Jennifer. It would be helpful if you were to provide the location of the shop you are referring to and your grandparent’s name, as Haningtons had many premises in Brighton and none immediately come to mind.

    By Andy Grant (03/06/2012)
  • I worked at Hanningtons in the 60’s in the Mens department. It’s a real shame that the store had to close. I enjoyed my days there. Mr Rumings was the store buyer for the downstairs Mens shop which was in East Street while Peter Goding was the buyer for upstairs which sold suits and knitwear. It was just like the BBC programme ‘Are you being served’. I remember the beautiful staircase at the rear or the shop which lead to the upstairs. I remember serving Dora Bryan, and Lawrence Olivier who was appearing at the old Theatre Royal. It would be good to hear from anyone who was working there during the 60s.

    By Christopher Cole (27/06/2012)
  • Oh my goodness, memories are flooding back! I worked as a window dresser from around 1987-1990. I remember Gerald Rubython! My team was wonderful, we had the privilege of seeing Hanningtons ‘behind the scenes’. It really was like going back in time. I miss those days. Hello anyone reading this who remembers me.

    By Rachel Ratcliffe (nee Coupe) (26/07/2012)
  • I’m an author who grew up in Brighton with fond memories of visiting Hanningtons as a child. I’m writing a series of books set in a department store (based on Hanningtons), the first will be published in January and I’d love to chat to someone who worked there. I can be contacted via my website http://www.alexandrabrown.co.uk Thank you.

    By Alexandra Brown (02/08/2012)
  • I am tracing my family history and found out recently that possibly my great grandmother Elizabeth Sharp worked at Hanningtons and is likely to be prior to the 1882. My great grandfather what also connected to Hannington’s as a commercial traveller and that is how they met. I’m not coming up with much but would love to know more. Does anyone have any advice and or links to help me?

    By Tanya Davies (24/10/2012)
  • I worked in the counting house when I left school in 1966 until 1973. I loved working at Hanningtons. I worked with Ann Wilson, Mary Bradford and Alison Bell. Does anyone remember Miss Hillman, she was a lovely lady who used to check the invoices before they were given to us to input on the accounting machines before computers took their place in the early 70s? I was so sad when it closed.

    By Jenny Caig (27/12/2012)
  • I worked in the Menswear Department in mid 60s to 70s straight from school. Peter Godding was the manager and buyer. I also worked with and remember Jack Groom, Syd Rumings and Michael Reid to name but a few. Jack Steer was M.D. Miss Hannington was still alive then. South Banks Developments (Hunnisets) bought the store. I remember the basements and in East Street the time when we had problems with rats and they had to seal the area by building a wall. My time working there gave me a good grounding to life. Started as a junior and when I left was Asst Manager / Buyer. Thank you Peter Godding.

    By Alan Wall (28/01/2013)
  • I worked in the display department in the 80s. Jacqui Benfield was my manager. It was the best job ever. Having access to all those creepy basements and attic rooms still gives me nightmares!

    By Debra Gold (nee Glassar) (28/02/2013)
  • I worked at Hanningtons in the mid to late 80s. First in accounts on work experience in my last year at school, then in menswear then I ended up in the electrical dept with Mr Perfect and Adrian. I have excellent memories helping Adrian with the tv deliveries but it got hard when we added fridge freezers to our stock. It was not only free delivery but we went out on numerous occasions just to help the elderly customers understand how to work their tv or videos! I’ll never forget Adrian dropping a TV right outside a customer’s front door as he fumbled to ring the bell, or the time when one fell out of the back of the Rascal delivery van and bounced down the road on its screen (the old cathode tvs). Excellent memories. Adrian give me a call if you see this, it’d be good to catch up (01273 716212 work).

    By James Willis (08/03/2013)
  • I have also been doing my family history. My three times Grandfather was a night watchman at Hanningtons in the 1851 census whilst my two times Great Uncle was Smith Hannington’s footman in the same year. If anyone knows more I would love to hear from you.

    By Elizabeth Henty (09/06/2013)
  • My dad Edward Roy Hannington, now departed, worked in the menswear section at Hanningtons, he was known as Mr Edwards as he could not use the Hannington name when he worked there in the 60/70s. I am a descendant of the Hannington family that originally owned the store, but unfortunately for us was sold off!

    By Carol Waters (maiden name Hannington) (27/04/2015)
  • I worked in the hairdressing department in the 70s to 80s. My name was Teresa Bohee and later Riley. Do you know me? I now live in Somerset . 

    By Teresa Riley (31/07/2015)
  • I came across this page by accident and I am so glad I did!  I grew up in Brighton and my Mum and I went to Hanningtons every Saturday for years to mooch, use the hairdresser, enjoy the fantastic cafe (and yes, the lovely Powder Room!,the staircases, the nooks and crannies!  I can remember all of it.  However, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to all the staff over those decades.  Always knowledgeable, helpful, friendly.  The whole store was somewhere we just loved to be and it’s so sad that “progress” meant that Brighton had to lose such an institution!!   

    By Tricia Searl (14/01/2017)
  • I cannot wait to share with you my Auntie’s tales of working here in the 1930’s.  I just came across this site after reading her autobiography and learning that she worked here.  I just need some time to re-type the relevant pages in digital so that I can share them here.

    By Barbara Ellen Liska (nee Brenan ) (20/03/2017)
  • My mother worked there in the late 60s, in the china and glass dept, before that she worked at Hills of Hove doing the same thing. very nice store.

    By John Legg (31/12/2017)
  • I worked there for 28 years, started in early ‘70s and stayed until the end of business! My start was hosiery, which by the end was all the accessories! We moaned at the time, but by today’s standards we had it good. We got to seeing famous people, and many odd characters! 

    By Sue Mottram (23/07/2018)
  • When I left school in 1959 I went to work in Hanningtons – in the carpet department for a short time. I remember selling a carpet to the Mayor – intended for the Mayor’s parlour I think. My father, John Topping worked there for many years with Mr Mial (?spelling) in the Counting House.  There were a number of well-off customers who bought things from Hanningtons but paid ‘on account’.  My father’s job was to visit these folk in their homes and get their payments!  My lasting memory of Hanningtons was the old-fashioned method of payment with the money going in the tubes and then in the vacuum tube up to the counting house.  Happy days brought alive again by Are You Being Served ?

    By Graham Topping (09/10/2018)
  • Sue Ellis, now Page

    I left school at 14 years old, worked in the millinery department.the happiest times of my life. I am now 73years old. Many stars would come in. You would sit at dressing tables and try hats on using mirrors so you could see the back of your hat. Manageress Miss Bradford, Miss Piles, and Miss Hunt. Christine Gowin .from Henfild. Happy days.

    By Sue Page (18/04/2020)
  • I have been collecting vintage silk scarves for the past 20 years, on EBay or little shops here and there. Selling off half now, I have discovered a BEAUTIFUL JACQMAR silk scarf I had forgotten about, and looking closely, see a hand written linen label with Hannington’s of Brighton stamp, stitched to one corner. This contains all the info on the scarf written in fountain pen! Extraordinary. What a piece of social history. Now what do I do with it….?

    By Kristina Perkins (10/10/2020)
  • Brighton Museum has a famous fashion collection, your scarf may be of value to them for their displays.

    By Dr Geoffrey Mead (11/10/2020)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.