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Gamley's in Church Road

Church Road with Gamley's on the right c1960s
Image reproduced with kind permission of The Regency Society and The James Gray Collection

Deputy manager for a year

The year I spent in 1970 at Gamley’s in Church Road I was a sort of deputy manager, running the lower floor shop which was mainly given over to plastic kits and models. This was a very popular venue for kits at the time, and on some Saturdays prior to Christmas, the trade was amazing. I recall ordering a lot of 200 Air-Fix Saturn Five Rocket kits; of course this was one year after the first Moon landing. I was hauled up before the directors – not so much for the size of the order, but for the fact that the storage of these large kit boxes presented a real problem. I had the last laugh however as all of my Saturn V’s were sold in six weeks and we ran out of stock before Christmas.

The mysterious passage

I got round the storage issue by using a tunnel or passage which ran from the back of a small tea room attached to the rear of the basement shop area. This passage had a rough hewn stone and brick lining. It meandered rather erratically around several bends and evidently well out under the Church Road itself. Off this passage were a number of recesses; we called them dungeons for that was what they felt like. I used my doubtlessly inept electrician’s skills to rig up lighting to the far end of the passage and thus increased the storage area for literally hundreds of Air-Fix and Revell kits. I often wondered what the original purpose of this passage was and would be interested if anyone has an answer.

Do you remember?

Did you shop at Gamley’s? What about those Air-Fix kits – do you remember them? If you can share your memories about this time with us, please leave a comment below.

Comments about this page

  • As I recall there was also a Gamleys in Regents Arcade at the Clock Tower. If you couldn’t get what you wanted there they would refer you to their Church Road branch which seemed like miles away. Always a great Christmas display at both branches. Other notable toy shops – Wicks on Ditchling Road at the back of the market and Ashplants on the London Road.

    By Martin Scrace (29/09/2013)
  • The name Gamleys was thought up by the original proprietor, Bill Lord who wanted to mix the names of the two most famous London Stores ( Gamages and Hamleys ). The head office was in Hove, Late in 2007 and through the first half of 2008 a number of Gamleys stores closed down[1] and in August 2008 rival chain The Entertainer, operator of thetoyshop.com website purchased the Maidstone and Brighton stores,[2] leaving only the Bromley store which was expected to close on 30 September 2008. After almost 90 years of trading, Gamleys went out of business in 2008.

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (29/09/2013)
  • The leader of our 39th scout troop (Si Rickard, or Tony Woods?) used to work at Gamleys I think – there was some lock up units in the alley behind, where our canoes were stored.

    By Paul Bennett (01/05/2017)
  • My cousin’s godparent was an proprietor of Gamleys in the sixties. My brother loved ashplants and bought many airfix kits there. I loved the dolls hospital, which was a lovely pink shop.

    By Jane (29/10/2018)
  • I used to live at 6 Tisbury Road, alongside the old Town Hall from 1948 to 1953. In the early 50s, when I had a few pennies, or even just two (saved from walking instead of taking the No 1 or No 6 bus along Church Road to St Christopher’s School, half-way along New Church Road), I would go to Gamleys, only about 50 yards away over on the opposite corner of Church Road. There I could buy Bayko bricks for my Bayko building set, my favourite toy. Bricks were one penny each with a farthing purchase tax added. Purchase tax seemed very unfair to a small boy at that time.
    After the coronation, I was given a proof set in a plastic folder of the new QEII coins. I wish I had kept it! Instead, it was over the road to Gamleys to buy some more Bayko. My parents were not impressed.

    By Christopher Pogson (05/04/2020)
  • I used to buy toy plastic soldiers from downstairs in Gamleys, probably in the late 60s or early 70s. Air fix kits too I think. A lovely store! I remember the Airfix Saturn 5 rocket, my good friend Jeremy Brown had one, it was fantastic!

    By Guy Dickins (29/09/2020)
  • I remember Gamleys well I used to buy subbuteo teams from there.

    By Andrew (09/05/2021)
  • Yes-I remember this part of Hove well as a young boy living in Albert Mansions.Gamleys was a regular haunt and many hours (or so it seemed) were spent in the basement.Along that stretch of Church Road if my memory serves me well was Lyon and Hall who sold pianos and other musical instruments,Mr Marsh had a small but delicious sweet shop.There was Cambridge’s book shop and Boots the chemist with a Boots lending library above it.Then there was Harrington’s car show room-a Rootes dealership.
    Opposite on the north side of Church Road to the west of the drive was Martin’s Bank,Langford’s Larder,Hilsons newsagents,Mence Smith hardware shop.I can’t remember what else but the Midland Bank was at the end of that stretch of Church Road.
    At the back was Lawsons-a Ford dealership.And furthur along was Applegates barbers who cut boys’ hair on Saturdays.And opposite Northampton Shoe repairers and Forfars bakery and coffee shop as well as a tobacconist.
    There was also a shoe shop along the south side of Church Road-Milwards? And at the end of George Street,Stuart Norris department store.And I must not miss out Paris & Greening the wonderful chemist where you could buy real liquorice. And Audreys chocolate shops-the smell was heavenly.And Holes and Davigdor.I am running out of memory but as a boy loved spending time in the reference section of Hove library and wandering around the Museum in New Church Road.

    By John Polsue (05/10/2021)

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