A child's eye view from the 1930s
Elm Grove was one of the main routes to the Race Course and on race days was thronged with race goers. As I remember it the locals were not interested in attending, although there were probably a few shilling bets put on a horse each way. This expression always puzzled me and I thought it meant that the poor horse had to run the course both ways. However these regular events always caused a stir. School closed a quarter of an hour early so that the children avoided the homeward bound crowds and traffic that streamed down Elm Grove after the last race. A regular attendee at the races was Prince Monolulu in his feather head dress proclaiming “I Gotta Horse”.
When the parish was raising funds to build the new church of St. Wilfrid, the then vicar, who I believe was Father Westall, set up a collection outside the old tin church at the top of Whippingham Road, appealing to home-going race goers. The inmates at the Workhouse (the Brighton General) also took advantage of this opportunity and hung their caps over the perimeter wall hoping that lucky punters would slip them a few coppers.
Children hurry home
The big attraction for locals was the fair that coincided with the summer meeting and was held on open ground near the top of Bear Road. At these times mothers gave regular warnings to their children to hurry home for fear of being stolen by the gypsies. Brighton Races and accompanying attractions were being held since the 1780s. I suspect that this warning was a long standing memory of bygone events. Much later in life we heard about the race gangs.