Growing up in the 1930s

From left - Liz Thwaites and Minnie Barber at back, Beryl Dunk, Billy Thwaites and Phyllis Barber in front
From the private collection of Marion Selwood

Born in Eastern Road

My mum Phyllis Barber was born in Eastern Road, Kemptown and lived there until after the bomb damage inflicted in September 1940. She was born in rooms at 57 Eastern Road which belonged to the Thwaites family. Grandad Thwaites used to look after mum while her parents were working and it was some years before she realised that she was not really a member of their family. Grandad Thwaites wore a gold earring, as did many older fishermen, which was apparently to pay for their funeral if they should happen to die far from home.

Shellfish cooked in the scullery

One of the Thwaites sons, Tom, lived next door at 59 with his wife Liz (mum remembers that 59 had a pair of bay windows unlike most of the rest of the street which all had steps to go down to the basements). Aunt Liz had a son Billy who was nine months younger than Phyllis, so they grew up together while their mums went everywhere together. At some point mum and her parents Minnie and Bill moved across the street to no.60, which had “NOEL” over the front door. It was a tiny house with a scullery at the back with steps down to a cellar. Bill Barber was a fisherman and used to bring home shellfish which were cooked in the scullery. These were sold round the streets from a flat barrow and mum enjoyed going with him on these rounds.

Naughty to skip in the street

All Souls church played quite a large part in mum’s early life. She and her mother would attend twice on Sundays and then there was Sunday school as well. Father Stiff and his sister Mary were in charge at this time. Minnie suffered from poor health in those days and was actually baptised at home by the Bishop of Chichester who processed down the road to the house. Mum was reprimanded for being naughty enough to skip in the street on a Sunday. With the Bishop coming! Mum also attended All Souls Infants and Juniors schools (the local chant being ‘all soles and no heels’).

The local shops

Mum remembers some of the local shops – there was Mrs Stafford’s grocery, a fish shop, Mr and Mrs Robb owned another. Several local pubs did brisk business – the Star in the East and on the opposite corner the Eastern Star as well as the Hand in Hand in Bedford Street. Children would play in the street and mum recalls them setting up a cardboard box ‘shop’ and kind passers-by giving them coppers for their wares. On horse racing days the children would call out to passing race-goers “here we are sir, chuck it over sir” in the hope that lucky punters would be generous.

Comments about this page

  • That’s a photo of my Nana Thwaites, and Uncle Bill! My Grandad was Tom Thwaites at 59 Eastern Road.
    Grandad Thwaites at no 57 would presumably have been John Thwaites, and his wife Mary Ann.

    By Janey Haselden nee Thwaites (08/10/2021)
  • My family were moved into 59 Eastern Road in about 1954-5 as emergency accomodation. I don’t have particularly fond memories of the area, being very black and white images in my mind. I can only recall we had a small area out the back with a coal bunker and what I recall was a tall wall on the right. The house itself was probably OK but with our family break-up I did not have many happy memories. I recall that one of the Volk’s family lived up stairs where we never went, and that we had a ‘scullery’ with a boiler in. I remember having a bath in a tin tub in front of the boiler. I also remember my brother locking me in the loo at the back end of that room. From there we moved to Chelwood close in Hollingbury and then Fernhurst Crescent, a great house and area. So Eastern road has many blanks for me and I have been trying to fill them in ever since. The picture is of our home and I have an almost identical one with my mum and brothers standing in the same doorway !

    By Mike Winch (30/04/2023)
  • My name is Glynis and I have an older sister Barbara. We lived above you Michael at no 59A and as like you emergency accommodation. It was next door to a pub which was on the corner of Freshfield Road We were there 1956 to 1958 approx and I remember you and your 2 brothers John and Paul also your lovely mum. Another thing about the property was it had direct current electricity which meant our electrical equipment would not work.

    By Glynis Underhill nee Herring (01/05/2023)
  • I remember as a child (I’m 64 now and lived in Hereford St), The Evening Argus wrote about a Roman church that wouldn’t die?
    This was where Hereford Court is now, (or at least the car park for the flats) and there was a photo of a wrecking ball bouncing off of the Roman concrete walls.
    Still wondering if I imagined it.

    By Michael Anthony Miller (28/09/2023)
  • Michael, can you give any more detail? I know that area quite well, my mum was at school at Park Street and lived in 145 Edward St. and the only ‘Roman’ church is St John the Baptist further east. Around Hereford Street I cannot think of another.

    By Dr Geoffrey Mead (30/09/2023)
  • I remember the Argus story about the church that wouldn’t die, with the photo of the wrecking ball. The church was All Soul’s in Eastern Road. This was around 1968.
    All Souls was very close to the spot now occupied by Hereford Court. It was a C of E church. ‘Roman’ presumably referred to the near indestructible concrete, but I don’t know if it was the exact same recipe as used in ancient Rome.

    By Gill Wales (01/10/2023)

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