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Jack Ball's secondhand shop

Edward Street in the 1940s
Image reproduced with kind permission of The Regency Society and The James Gray Collection

An Aladdin’s cave

When I was a kid in the late 1940s and the 1950s, Edward Street featured in my life quite a lot. The street was part of my route when I would visit the museum and library in Church Street from my house in Bennett Road, either on my skates or walking, later on by bike. The most enjoyable shop I remember was Jack Ball’s second-hand shop on the south side of Edward Street near to the bottom. To me this shop was an Aladdin’s cave.

Junk, dust and treasures

There was junk and dust everywhere. Firstly the shop window took quite a while to peruse every little nook and cranny looking for treasure of some sort. If you spotted anything that you thought you would get cheaply then forget it. Jack drove a hard bargain to get your hard earned pocket money from you. But maybe you could swap something or other for an item that had caught your eye, but you always had to give over some money, even a small amount with the thing you were hoping to swap.

A homemade desk

Inside the shop was an even better experience altogether. There were bits and pieces of treasure crammed into every corner. I vividly remember one day I took a pair of ice skates into the shop and did a deal with a bit of money and came away with an old brass microscope. This old microscope had bits and pieces with it and different lenses as well as a myriad of slides that somebody had made years earlier. I went to the local greengrocer and got a couple of orange boxes and found a piece of flat wood and made myself a desk in my bedroom in one of the alcoves that were either side of the chimney breast. I got so much enjoyment from this lovely piece of equipment.

Fostering a life long interest

Of course now I wish that I had kept it. It would have looked just nice in my home as a thing of real beauty, for me anyway, but I did another deal after two years or so. Ever since the microscope I have always had an interest in optical lenses, in my photography and also my hobby later on in life of repairing binoculars that were out of kilter. I am still fascinated by optics, thanks to that old Victorian microscope. The story goes that Jack Balls, if that was his name, was at one time a Brighton policeman, I wonder if that story was authentic.

Comments about this page

  • I along with many other people remember with delight going to this shop, I think it must have drawn boys like a magnet !! such was its tasty display of bits and pieces. I went in there a lot in the mid fifty’s to buy and sell various bits of fishing tackle. Old jack was a crafty one and I always felt he got the best of the bargain every time.

    By Dennis Fielder (25/12/2012)
  • Good old Jack. My father was a good friend of Jack’s and would take me down to his shop from our home in Blaker Street on a Saturday morning. Later, in the 60’s, Jack’s was where I would by my parkas that every scooter boy had to have. He had badges of all sorts to adorn the parka with.

    By Michael Small (25/12/2012)
  • In my early years I’d go scrumping from apple trees in Jack’s garden in Forence Road (my mate’s house adjoined from Springfield Rd). Happy days!

    By Martin Scrace (25/12/2012)
  • My late father was a watchmaker. He was also a keen angler. Jack Ball was a distant cousin of my mother. My father used to mend watches etc. that Jack Ball had purchased. Jack Ball’s brother sadly died when H.M.S. Hood was sunk in 1941.

    By Richard J. Szypulski (28/07/2013)
  • My dad, Peter Atkins (whose family lived variously at Tidy St, Egremont Place, Springfield Rd in the 1930s and 40s), bought me my first sea fishing rod from Jack Ball’s in the early 70s. I seem to remember there being Jack and someone else – another brother? – who ran the shop then, but could be wrong. I was told that Jack had been a goalie with the Albion many years before.

    As kids we used to fish off the Palace Pier for dabs and whiting in the winter, and pollack and mackerel in the summer; the old boys used centre-pin reels (very old-fashioned, we thought) to fish between the piles at the end of the pier for big pollack. 

    By Pat Atkins (05/01/2018)
  • Pat. You were right about Jack Ball being a goalkeeper for Brighton And Hove Albion. He played between 1940 and 1953 during which time he made 113 appearances in the football league and 5 appearances in the FA Cup.

    By Thomas Paul (06/01/2018)
  • Martin Scrase, was it our garden that adjoined Jacks? Debbie Francis and Paul in Springfield Road?

    By Debbie Jarvis (nee Francis) (05/01/2020)

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