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Bus Garage Fire in the 1970s

The West part of the Conway Street Garage of (then) Southdown company was the site of a major fire in the early 1970’s. The inferno seems to have begun in one vehicle and destroyed  or partly destroyed a number of buses, including some which had originated with the Brighton Hhove and District Omnibus Company. This view was taken a few days later, and shows the remains of (predominantly) Leyland PD3 double-deckers.

The damaged buses after the fire
From the private collection of Martin Nimmo

Comments about this page

  • How sad to see the destruction in the bus garage in Conway Street. In the 60s I worked there for about a year cleaning chassis’s on Bristol Lodekkas when they came in for their 5 year overhaul. I learn’t a lot about the workings of transport which gave me an insight into all things mechanical. The blokes were great and were always ready to answer my eager questions on the workings of gearboxes and all the rest of it. I have been a mechanic all my life as a result of Conway Street. A very enjoyable time.

    Mick Peirson

    By Mick Peirson (18/05/2007)
  • Does anyone remember the open top white or cream bus that used to run along the seafront to Rottingdean when I was small 1948-1955? Was it a Brighton and Hove bus or a Southdown?

    By Sandie Waller (23/05/2007)
  • This was a Brighton Hove and District bus. Route 17 ran from Portslade Station to Rottingdean (White Horse). To begin with the company used to convert older buses to open top, then it began rebuilding them with removable roofs. With the introduction of the Bristol Lodekka in 1959, convertible open-toppers were delivered from new.

    By Martin Nimmo (25/05/2007)
  • The actual date of the Conway Street fire was 14th April 1978, when the West Garage of Southdown’s premises was found to be ablaze in the early hours. The “Brighton Hove & District” vehicles damaged or destroyed were Daimler Fleetlines – although they had actually been purchased new by Southdown and painted in BH&D fleet colours (Southdown took over BH&D on 1st January 1969 and the Daimlers were delivered after that date). The fire actually led to four Bristol Lodekkas which had been purchased by BH&D in 1960 remaining with Southdown to provide cover for destroyed vehicles, rather than being sold as was intended. The “seat” of the fire was a brand new Bristol VRT which had only 100 miles on the clock, according to a report in the Evening Argus at the time. It was completely destroyed.

    By John Wilkin (01/06/2007)
  • In the 1950s the number 17 open top service used to run during the summer months only, and ran to Rottingdean from the bottom of Boundary Road, not from Portslade Station. The starting point was outside of what was then Spragens the newsagents. Until the re-organisation of this site, there used to be a photograph of a visiting Australian cyclist with a number 17 in the background, before the start of its journey. Behind the bus in the photo was Luff’s the bakers, on the cerner of Seaford road and Boundary Road. I seem to recall that sometime later the number 17 service also ran up to the Devil’s Dyke for a while.

    By Alan Phillips (07/06/2007)
  • So pleased on comments about No. 17 to Rottingdean. We used to get it at Adelaide Crescent. I have been trying to find a model of it but no luck. Does anyone know where I can get one? Please email me at

    By Sandie Waller (11/06/2007)
  • My email address has changed as we are now living in France, but I am still enjoying looking on My Brighton and Hove. I would appreciate it if anyone knows where I can get model of the no.17 open top bus.

    By Sandie Waller (18/08/2007)
  • Those ladder things seen in the middle of the picture are still there in the garage today.

    By Alex (05/09/2007)
  • Sandie, try either of these suppliers: or  Good luck.

    By John Wilkin (11/09/2007)
  • Thank you very much John for the information. I will try thse addresses and let you know on here if I am lucky. A bit busy just now as we are decorating our French home.

    By Sandie Waller (04/10/2007)
  • Trust Alex to spot the ladders, nice observation. I am a Brighton bus driver and anyone can view my antics at I look forward to any comments.

    By Leebus (05/12/2007)
  • Interested to read about the Conway St bus garage fire. The School I attended was in Ellen St, next street down from Conway St. I was evacuated to my Grandparents in Wales in 1941. Please can anyone tell me what happened to Ellen St school?

    By Sidney Griffiths (23/01/2008)
  • Sidney, The school in Ellen Street I think you are referring to, is Goldstone Primary School. You can find several references on Google. I was there 1966-69.

    By Jerry White (02/06/2008)
  • My first job in 1967 was next door to the bus garage at George Freemans which is now a build centre. In those days everything was handled by hand, we had no fork lifts or tractors. One of my regular duties was to take a large enamel jug next door to the bus canteen for tea for the staff except the manager Mr Voller who had a cup of coffee and woe betide you if you spilt any.

    By John Hewitt (23/10/2008)
  • I was the early turn booking clerk at Hove railway station near to Conway Street bus garage on the morning after the fire – of course I hadn’t brought my camera to work that day as I was expecting the usual uneventful day of selling railway day return tickets to London together with the sale of the odd season ticket as well. I well remember walking along the front of the bus garage later that morning viewing the sad sight before me of the many burnt out buses in the bus garage – and this is something which no doubt I shall remember for the rest of my days. Nowadays (if I remember!) I take my camera with me everywhere – which with the advent of digital photography isn’t too difficult, as I can just slip my camera into my inside pocket! Never ever again though do I wish to cast my eyes on something so horrific as the Conway Street bus garage fire!

    By Roger Bryen (12/02/2009)
  • Sidney, I think you will find that the school in Ellen Street was called East Hove Junior Mixed and it was demolished some time ago to make way for an industrial estate. The firm that used the spot where the school was situated was called, I think, EBS an electrical motor firm that moved there again, I think, from a street off St James St, and was called Gills.

    By John Davis (11/03/2009)
  • This comment is for Martin Nimmo. Hi Martin, my name is John Stenhouse. I was born in Brighton in 1934. I have lived in the U.S.A.(California) since 1962. I have a poster of an artists drawing of an old Tillings bus. I photographed it and sent an E mail to with photo (attn Mike Cheesman). No reply from him. I was wondering if you would like me to E mail the photo to you. My address is

    By Henry (John) Stenhouse (14/03/2009)
  • I believe that Ellen Street school was demolished to make way for blocks of council flats-the industrial estate being
    north of the old school site.

    By Ray Stanford (15/04/2009)
  • I’ve done some more research and found a book of old Hove photos which includes Ellen Street school. Under the photo is the following comment: “The Ellen Street Schools were built to accommodate 800 children and were opened in 1879. In 1909 about 30 of the children were found to be suffering from malnutrition. In 1958 it was renamed Goldstone School and, after a long campaign for new premises, the building was closed in 1974 and demolished.” The reference above to “Schools” is because there were separate entrances for boys (west end) and girls (east end) and separate playgrounds so perhaps there were single sex classes at one time but not when I attended from 1949-1952. The headmaster at that time was Sidney(Smutsy) Smith.

    By Ray Stanford (25/04/2009)
  • I was at Ellen Street School from 1949 to 1953 and remember that it was mixed sex classes, although it had separate playgrounds and entrances. Also remember getting the cane from the head Smithy. Ouch.

    By Gordon Coleman (19/08/2009)
  • Ellen Street School was demolished to make way for the blocks of flats that became known as ‘Conway Street Flats. The industrial estate was built on the railway marshalling yard known locally as ‘The Goods Yard’ where Fyffes bananas were unloaded. I used to work in Coleridge Street and drank in the Eclipse on the corner of Wordsworth Street (I think!). One day one of the regulars, who worked for Fyffes had a box on the bar and wouldn’t tell us what was in it. He knew that being a young, inquisitive apprentice, I’d eventually have to have a look anyway. I did. Inside was the biggest spider I’ve ever seen! Imagine doing that nowadays! I think the flats were built at the end of the 60s. The industrial estate came a bit later.

    By Jester (30/10/2009)
  • I to went to Ellen Street school. I remember Mr Smith giving boys the cane and girls the slipper. Miss Abbot was a tough old bird, she was only little but boy could she shout. A Mr Cole was in the next class to her and when exam time was on they had to pull the shutters up between classes. Mr Gale was the caretaker and he lived next to the school, he was a lovely man, also had a daughter called Rosemary who was a friend of mine back in the late 40s early 50s.

    By Julie Rider (24/05/2010)
  • We lived in Conway Street in the 40’s and 50’s. Does anyone remember the Connollys?

    By Kath (02/11/2010)
  • We lived in Conway Street for the past 20 years, how things have changed.

    By chris coleman (27/02/2011)
  • I attended Ellen Street school 1956-58. Was the headmaster Mr Muggeridge? Anyone remember the fearful Mr Spain? He had a collection of canes in his classroom cupboard which he regularly took out and caned the air with. And not only boys got the cane, girls got lines after school. Old Spainy had a cricket ball in his pocket which he would hurl at misbehaving boys. He knew who they were, even when writing on the board! More benevolent teachers were Mr Adams and Mr Mitchell.

    By shelagh ferreira (25/02/2012)
  • I attended Ellen Street School from 1951 to 1956 I remember some of the teachers, Miss Dunn, Mrs Wilson PE teacher Mrs Green and Mrs ballbeck . I wasn’t too bright in those days and ended up in class upper X. Instead of going to art classes I would go and do needlework with the girls, great fun. Some girls names spring to mind after 56 years like Rita Herd, Shirley Prince, Jillian Bristo, Gloria Wilson and there was a girl amazing ginger hair saw her in the 1990s in George Street but didn’t speak. I got the slipper from Mrs Wilson for firing metel clips out of a matchstick gun that I had made out of a matchbox clothes peg and rubber bands. Dennis Brand.

    By Dennis Brand (04/03/2012)
  • Hi l was born on Conway Street in 1938, l remember the Connollys, and many more. At this moment in time l am in touch with Jimmy Avis, does any one remember him? He now lives in New Zealand, he would be thrilled to hear from anyone who remembers him and his family. 

    By Sylvia Jones (nee) Holden (18/04/2014)
  • Hello Nicki, I am sorry that we cannot publish your posting but for data protection reasons we can know longer post queries about the whereabouts of someone. I do hope that you manage to discover your Grampa’s old friend from the ’50s. Best wishes, Editing Team

    By Nicki Kemp (27/08/2014)
  • Yes I remember the 17 white open decker bus, my Nanna used to take me on it to Rottingdean on a Sunday morning in the 1950s. We would walk upto St Margaret’s Church, go into the church and then cross over & sit by the pond. They were happy days for me as a child; a lovely bus with such wonderful memories.

    By Nola Wilson (13/07/2017)

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