Memories from the 1950s

Bute Street
Photo by Tony Mould

‘Baker’s Bottom’

I lived at 44 Bute Street from 1947 to 1953 when we moved around the corner to Evelyn Terrace, right over the top of the Kemp Town railway tunnel. I remember lots of the families that lived in the three streets, Hendon Street, Bute Street and Rochester Street, the area was commonly known as ‘Baker’s Bottom’, taken I believe from the location at the top of Sutherland Road/Rochester Street of the old Grooms Bakery. Grooms was a large working bakery and still did bread rounds with horse drawn vans. When I was a kid, I used to get sent out with a shovel to collect the horse-poo for the allotment. What were the allotments is now Craven Vale.

Local families

Some of the family names I remember from Hendon Street were the Wells family where I spent most of my childhood being looked after by Joyce Wells, Mum to my mate Brian, Terry, Jean, Lynn and little Malcolm. She had her hands full with us lot but never complained and shared whatever she had. Others in this street were the Pontings, the Taylors, the Pithers and Townsends. From Bute Street were the Marshalls, the Kenwoods, the Townsends and the Bolches. From Rochester Street were the Ruckmans and more Townsends. Most of us kids went to St.Lukes School and I passed the 11 plus and went to Varndean Grammar School in 1952 to ’56. I was in the church choir at the old St Mathews and the Vicar was the Revd. Taylor.

Hot water from the copper

When I was a kid I remember that our hot water was boiled up in the copper. The copper was used for the weekly boil wash, as well as providing hot water for the old tin bath. Most of us kids were sent to Queen’s Park Baths on a Friday after school. It was 4d including soap and towel, whether we needed a bath or not. I remember Chapman’s greengrocers and Capper’s sweets and grocery shop in Bute Street. Chapman’s was the old Bute Arms Public House which was open before my time.

Nobody locked their doors

Other shops were ‘Jelly’ Williams scruffy old shop in Rochester Street, ‘Whacker’ Dorrington’s fish and chip shop at the corner of Cuthbert Road/Sutherland Road opposite the Post Office. There was also a butchers and a bakers at the Sutherland Road end of Rochester Street on each corner. Great days never forgotten and nobody had to lock their front doors either! Now living in Shoreham-by-Sea and love it, but my heart remains in Brighton.

Comments about this page

  • Thanks Dave, three generations of our family lived in Sutherland Road. It was a lovely community- I look back in fondness and don t live far from it now. 

    By Anne Tomsett nee Bowden (17/03/2012)
  • Did anyone know a chap called Dennis (can’t remember his surname), he lived in Bute Street. He was carpenter, did his national service in the navy. His amazing achievement being that he built his own motor car from scratch.

    By Barrie Searle (19/03/2012)
  • These Townsends get everywhere! My father-in-law’s family are the ones you mentioned, I believe. He still owns a house in Rochester St. My father-in-law is Reg Townsend, almost 81 and still living in Brighton. He is the only one of Henry & Caroline’s children still alive as Henry, Gladys & Bertie have all died. But most of my husband’s cousins are still in the Brighton area – although we live in Dubai!

    By Claire Townsend (19/03/2012)
  • Thanks Claire. Good to hear that Reg is still with us, I remember him although he was 10 years my senior. So sad that others have passed on, their generation is irreplaceable due to the era they represented and the experiences and changes that they lived through together!

    By Dave Hamblin (23/03/2012)
  • I will tell him – you probably knew his nieces and nephews then, as Reg was the baby of the family and his two older brothers had children and were in the area. He always talks fondly of growing up in that area!

    By Claire Townsend (25/03/2012)
  • Hi Dave, generations of my family lived in Rochester Street. I lived there from 1953 until my marriage in 1970. My dad was born in Rochester Street (and died there). My maiden name was Levett. Thanks for the memories.

    By Maureen Howell (30/03/2012)
  • I am descended from the great Townsend clan who seem to have been in and around Bute, Hendon, Rochester Streets for a long time. My grandfather was Bert Townsend, number 11 of 12 surviving children of Thomas and Rosanna Townsend who were the first, I believe, to settle in the area in the 1870s. I am interested in a number of aspects:
    1) Thomas (b.1848) had the greengrocers on the corner of Bute Street, No. 11 opposite the old Bute Arms in the 1890s, and I think this transferred over to his son George Thomas, one of my great uncles, when Thomas and Rosanna moved to Newhaven in 1906. Does anyone know how long this greengrocers was there and who continued to run it? It was a private house again when we visited last December.
    2) I think Bert must have been estranged from his parents and siblings at some point and he went off to London from 1913 onwards. Which of Bert’s many brothers and sisters stayed in and around these streets from 1906 onwards?
    3) I understand that Thomas and Rosanna kept at least one horse. Any ideas if that might have been on the hillside above Bute Street and what the status of the land around there was 100 years ago?
    Thanks for any information you can share.

    By Mike Townsend (07/04/2012)
  • Hi Mike.  1) George certainly eventually took over from Thomas, but around 1905 a Mrs Harriett Holman seems to have taken over and was listed as the shopkeeper at that address (might she be a relative?). George was listed thereafter and the shop reverted to a private house around 1916-7, being occupied by a Mrs, Chapman. After a brief revival as a shop dealing in rags, it once again became a private house. 2) I regret that directories are rather limited in respect of family members other than of principal occupant, even more so for hundreds of people who were workers rather than tradesmen. It would be better if you consulted the 1911 census in order to establish an answer to your question. 3) I regret it is not possible to know where a horse might have been kept at that time, suffice to say that it may have been put out to pasture during the summer months, but during the winter would have needed stabling and to be fed with hay. Whether he would have had his own stable or entrusted the horse to a commercial establishment is open to debate, but I would envisage that the former was more likely, with the horse probably being utilised for daily deliveries. I hope you have by now re-acclimatised to the British weather!

    By Andy Grant (08/04/2012)
  • I think Chapmans greengrocers moved across the road. Tom and his daughter Violet ran the shop for many years. They did in fact get my wedding cake from the wholesalers. After they left I worked there on Sats for Chris and his wife but I can’t remember her name. She was Irish and her hubby had been a squaddie. They were ok. I used to live in Rochester Street. Please get in touch if this jogs your memory.

    By Maureen Howell (11/04/2012)
  • The shops I remember in Sutherland road were Cappers the post office, Maudies opposite, the hardware shop where the takeaway is now. I remember having to get a gallon of paraffin for our upright heater in our kitchen, no central heating then. Also the butchers shop which is now a private home again at the corner of Herndon street. Then there was Emersons the newsagent where I used to have a paper round. Chapmans the green grocers at the bottom of Evelyn Terrace. They also had a shop down in I think Hendon street run by Vi Chapman, a formidable woman I recall. I used to live up in Queensway and had a girlfriend called Maureen Jones from 31 Sutherland Road. Happy Days. No money but happy days still.

    By David Deacon (20/07/2012)
  • Forgot to say all the preceding was around 1960-1968ish.

    By David Deacon (20/07/2012)
  • My father, Robert Powell, lived at number 38, Bute Street with his 7 brothers and sisters (Ronald, Lena, Hilda, Marjorie, John, George and Mabel). He has always referred to the area as Bakers Bottom and fondly talks about the Pither family, and also the Kirbys. I believe that at the time he lived there (early 20th century) the area was a very poor part of Brighton. Please get in touch if you remember his family as he is now 91 and it would be great for him to ‘mull over old times’. Dad now lives in Poynings with his wife Betty, originally from Pyecombe, whom he met whilst working in the Brighton Co-op. They have been married for 65 years.

    By Linda Williams (06/09/2012)
  • I too remember the Chapmans – they turned the corner shop into a greengrocers. Hi Anne Bowden, it’s Jennifer Holmes from Henon Street. I too loved living in Kemp Town and although I’ve traveled and have lived in Australia since 1982, I have such wounderful memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I remember you and your dad really well.

    By Jennifer Holmes (21/07/2013)
  • Does anybody remember the Easons?

    By Roy Eason (20/08/2016)
  • A Mrs Eason lived next door to us in Rochester Street. We lived at 21 and we were there 1986-1993

    By Stella Hughes (15/10/2017)
  • Dennis Dunn made the car.

    By roy eason (30/10/2017)
  • Does anyone remember Flo Beard , she lived at
    4 Bute street, she had a son Ray, Flo worked at the
    Regent Cinema for many years.

    By Joe Mann (10/08/2019)

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