Father Christmas: early 1950s

One of the eagerly anticipated events in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s was the arrival of Father Christmas at Wade’s department store in Western Road. This normally happened some six weeks before Christmas. He arrived at Brighton railway station from some grown-up faraway land, journeyed down Queens Road in a horse-drawn carriage, vintage car, or latest American automobile, and then went on to the store in Western Road, where Primark is now established.

The outside of the store was brightly lit with coloured bulbs. These are commonplace now, but brightened those drab times, with the windows full of Christmas tableaux and toys. A visit to Father Christmas in his grotto invariably followed, which was magical to small children. (I later found out that it was a summer vacation job for students at the Art College in Grand Parade to make and paint the scenery and the resident elves and fairies).

From Wade’s a stop was then made at Gamley’s toyshop in the Arcade to see the latest Dinky Toys, Meccano sets, and Hornby trains. We hoped these would be duly delivered on Christmas Eve, as requested to that white bearded man in Wade’s, of whom in all truthfulness we were a little apprehensive.

Present day Christmas is so different and commercial. We only saw new toys on birthdays and at Christmas.

Comments about this page

  • WOW! I recall that very well. Before living in Brighton (from 1966) we lived in Burgess Hill so it was just a short journey to come down to town. I recall that grotto very well, it always seemed to be in the basement by the lift. The gift that one received was normally of a high standard. Yes I also recall that wonderland in the arcade as well. However I do have a faint recollection of a toy shop in East Street too.

    By Janet Marshall (31/12/2002)
  • This shop belonged to my Great-Grandad and it is lovely to hear such nice comments about it. I would love to hear other stories about the shop and any photos would be great.

    By Dianne Wade (20/12/2003)
  • Does anyone remember Pauline Christmas who worked at Wades in the late 50s/early 60s?

    By Tony Clevett (19/09/2004)
  • I too remember visiting Father Christmas. I seem to recall his grotto was, on one occasion, on the top floor underneath the wonderful glass ceiling. Wades was such a magical store at Christmas, but I also remember it as a lovely department store.

    By Maggie Williams (Nee Doogan) (23/11/2004)
  • I grew up in Brighton. My grandparents started Wades in the late 1890s. My father, Bruce Wade, was the manager of the Habadashery Department. W J Wade died in 1924 and his wife carried on running the store dying at the great age of 92. Familiar names were Miss Tipper, Mr Maynard and Mr Holman, who were loyal employees. I am a keen genealogist now living on a small island off the west coast of Canada. I would love to hear from anyone with connections.

    By Valerie A Clark nee (Wade) (24/11/2004)
  • My grandfather founded Wades and my father was a director until the store was sold. I should like to contact Dianne Wade who has made a previous comment. I now live in Somerset.

    By corinne wade (26/12/2004)
  • To Corinne Wade – I would like to hear from you – I gave up checking this page 6 months after my comments so missed yours. email me at dwade@eircom.net.

    By Dianne Wade (27/09/2005)
  • I am the granddaughter of Mona D. Wade. My father worked at the store for a period of time. I live in Canada and would love to hear from some of my relatives. Email:lindasc@magma.ca

    By Linda Smail-Crevier (21/10/2005)
  • I had a Saturday job at Wades in the 1960s. You used to have to put the till receipt in a brass tube and send it whizzing off and wait for the change to come back. I started in the glass and china department (I loved the coloured glass vases). If you broke something it was deducted from your wages, so I was very careful. I did break something once but no-one saw! I got put on to toys at Christmas which I hated. Customers were so rude and demanding. Well, I decided I couldn’t stand it one day, so wound up everything I could find that was clockwork (and there were loads of clockwork animated toys then) and set them all skidding across the floor and walked out. I can’t remember if I got paid – probably not!

    By Sharon Fuller (24/07/2006)
  • hi Sharon…are you by any chance related to an Eleanor/Henrietta Fuller who was married to William Hersee? They had four children, Ivy, Lillian, Winifred and Richard all born during the first two decades of the 1900’s. There was also a Dolly Fuller, their cousin, who married an Alfred Thorpe. Any information would be much appreciated…

    By rosalind hersee (21/03/2007)
  • I remember Wades very well. My grandmother used to take me there every Christmas. I lived in Brighton (Patcham actually) until Feb. 1967. I now reside in the US. If anyone should read this that would remember me, my address was 4 Sanyhils Ave. Patcham.

    By john hutchings (20/04/2007)
  • Does anyone know what happened to Wades Departmental Stores Ltd after Associated Dairies bought them out?

    By Frances (25/09/2007)
  • I am maybe wrong, but didn’t it become Johnson Bros? If I remember correctly there was a fire on bonfire night one year where a rocket found its way into some rubbish?

    By Jo (27/10/2007)
  • I too am Corinne Wade and I live in the most eastern province of Canada, Newfoundland! Your comments are interesting about Wade’s store. I have not extensively researched the Wade name but I do have some information. My sister was in Ireland and did some minimal research. Can anyone add anything to my interest in the Wade name? Any Norwegian blood?

    By Corinne Wade (05/12/2007)
  • I was born in Brighton and lived there till I was 28. I loved going to Wades Department Store at Christmas, and Santas Grotto was the highlight of the Festive Season for me. Incidentally, does anyone else from Brighton remember Vokins and Hanningtons Department Stores both in North Street?

    By Julia Fisher (15/01/2008)
  • Great to read history of 188 Western Road, where some distant parts of my family tree are found. This is the 1901 Census where I found them in what appears to be staff accommodation:
    Annie A Brinkworth b1880 Reading aged 21 yrs – Single – Boarder – Draper’s Asst.  In with 19 other girls/women, all draper’s assistants.
    One of them is her sister, Ellen M, aged 14, b1887 Reading.
    Address: *188 Western Rd. Civil parish/reg district: Brighton
    Do you think they worked for Wades?  Does any one have an old Kelly’s Directory? If so, could you please look for any clues as to whether it was Wade’s store in 1901 and anything about staff accommodation, perhaps over the store?
    I have enjoyed the old pictures of Western Road on this site.

    By Elizabeth Hart (23/02/2008)
  • I submitted a photograph taken in 1935. I hasten to add not by me.

    It shows WADES store in the distance on the left hand side, and you can see next to what is Woolworths (3d & 6d. store) and Johnson Bros. shop. which are now NEXT and C&H fabrics after the rebuild.

    By Stuart Keir (28/03/2008)
  • I have lived in Brighton since the beginning of the 1980s and remember that what used to be Wades Department Store was called Greens by the time I arrived.

    By Anthony Armstrong (27/05/2008)
  • I lived in Regent Hill (where the tax office now stands) at the end of the war and later years, and remember the Wades store at the bottom of the hill in Western Road. I’m fairly sure that the store had an ack-ack gun on the roof, but can’t remember if it actually fired.

    By Alan Possee (20/06/2008)
  • Diane Wade, I want to get in touch with you, but can’t find an address or E-mail address for you.

    Editor’s note: Due to the restrictions of the UK Data Protection Act e-mail addresses are hidden from public view – the exception is if an e-mail address appears within the body of the message, in which case it is seen as ‘permission to be made public’ and will be published.

    By Val Clark (30/12/2008)
  • I had many jobs when I left Nevill Secondary in 1969. One of which was in Wades. I remember that I was half an hour late on the second day. The manager, who was very tall, having to duck doorframes! (anyone remember him?) approached me and gave my my ‘cards’! In those days there was no problem with replacing careless youngsters as I was then!

    By Stuart Spagatner (29/03/2009)
  • I remember Wades. The memories are a bit sketchy but they are full of colour, lots of toys, a place stuffed full of furniture etc. My parents would go there and take me along. I don’t remember what I’m about to relay at all, but my parents told me that when I was very small (this must have been around 1953 0r 1954) I was whining about “bye byes” and somehow got away from them in Wades. A major search was undertaken with my distraught parents looking high and low for me. It turned out – according to my parents – that I had felt tired and wanted to climb into the bed Wades had on display in their front window facing Western Road. It was the growing crowd of passers by that were intrigued by seeing this kid (maybe 3 or 4 yrs old) under the covers that finally brought my rescue.

    By Phil Allsopp (24/05/2009)
  • I have found my grandmother (age18) in the 1911 census who lodged in 18 Norfolk Square with 19 other girls, all of whom seemed to work at a drapers, presumably Wades!

    By Alan Marks (11/01/2010)
  • I grew up in Brighton in the 50s and, although my school friends don’t seem to remember the shop, I’m sure my mother used to take me for lunch or morning coffee in Wades. I remember a large dining room on the top floor with mannequins (as they were then called) parading around the tables wearing clothes from the store and carrying the price tag. I found it quite embarrassing when they stopped at our table! I also remember a Clarks shoe shop in Western Road that had a model railway. It made being fitted for new shoes less boring.

    By Sally Parker (nee Davis) (27/02/2010)
  • I worked in Wades during the holidays in my latter Secondary School years, starting in 1962. My first job was as the lift boy taking people up and down all day. The following year I worked in despatch, and then out on the delivery lorries all over the Brighton area often carting wardrobes and the like up stairs. I remember that all the display cards were lettered by hand in a little studio in the side street to the left of the store. I also took a girl from Haberdashery out to the cinema to see The Music Man. She was called Marion (same as the librarian in the film) but sadly only lasted the one date. I would glimpse her longingly through the grill of the lift, I think she had a ‘thing’ for Billy Fury, and I was only fourteen.

    By Ian Beck (28/06/2010)
  • Wandering through the grotto was like wandering through a wonderland. It was probably about 20 ft, but 60 years ago it seemed like miles. Smiling at the memories.

    By Mike Small (14/12/2012)
  • I lived next door to Jack Wade in Modena Road, Hove in the 1950s when I was a child! They had two daughters and were lovely neighbours. I too remember Wades dept store which became Johnsons Bros, then I think C & H Fabrics. I lived at 24 and they lived at 26 Modena Road.

    By Anne Cullingford (12/10/2014)
  • Dear Anne, I am the daughter of Pat Wade, the elder of the two daughters of Jack and Lois Wade of 26 Modena Road. Pat had 4 children and Jill had none. They both are no longer with us. I remember Modena Road, spent a lot of time there as a child. Would love to hear from you.

    By Julia Ensley (04/06/2015)
  • Sally Parker remembers the models walking around in the restaurant but I think that may have been in Plummer Roddis which was somewhere opposite where Waitrose is now.  I remember that so clearly.  When you looked out of the restaurant window there seemed to be a castle turret outside.  They may also have had the models in Wades but I particularly remember them in Plummers.

    By Sue Baker (28/10/2015)
  • Drifting away from Wades, but the ‘castle turret’ Sue noticed at Plummer Roddis was part of the original building known as Gothik[sic] House, one of very few 19th century Gothic buildings in the area. There is a good view of the features of the building down the east side in Western Terrace.

    By Geoffrey Mead (29/10/2015)
  • I go into C & H Fabrics in Western Road often (I’m a keen, but not very accomplished, knitter!), and it is definitely the shop that used to be Wade’s when I was a child living in Hove (1960s and the 70s). My husband remembers the lift being decked out and used as Father Christmas’ rocket one year! I’m pretty sure that the building that now houses Primark used to be C & A? I used to take my daughter to Hannington’s in East Street to see FC in the late 1980s as they always had a magical display. There only seems to be the one in the atrium in Churchill Square now in Brighton, always a huge queue but not very inspiring, so my little grandchildren won’t have such a lovely experience of it as we did, which is a pity.

    By Gill Gordon (30/10/2015)
  • Hi Julia. Have just read your message! I am still living in Hove and remember both Pat and Jill Wade of 26 Modena Road Hove! I lived there from a baby until I was nearly fourteen. Your grandparents took our cat Tibby on as he was in their house as much as ours and we thought he wouldn’t like the move. Would love to get in touch, I am on Facebook under Annie Cullingford. Hope to hear from you soon.

    By Anne Cullingford (nee Kirby) (21/11/2015)

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