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Like walking back in time

Looking up Church Street; the entrance to Gardner Street on the right

The Cork Shop

When I left school in 1961 I worked in Gardner Street. I was at the Cork Shop for a year. It was also an iron-mongers come general store. We sold mops, brooms and all kinds of cleaning goods plus wine making equipment. The manager was a Mr Watkins, I guess he would have been in his fifties then and had been there since leaving school at fourteen. He was a really nice guy and a pleasure to work for, full of wisdom and knowledge about old Brighton. They were good days, but the wages I seem to remember were only £2.7s.6d.

An old man like Fagin

To the right of the shop was a fishmonger; he was a big man with a red face, he used to arrive each morning with a handcart loaded with fish from the market. To the left was a second-hand shop which I think was called Housegoes. This shop was run by an old man who always reminded me of Fagin, from Oliver Twist. It always seemed to me that by walking into the street you were stepping back a century.

Do you remember?

Do you remember the Gardner Street of pre-decimal days? What shops do you remember? Can you remember the prices of the things you bought? If you can share your memories with us, please leave a comment below.

Looking up Church Street; the entrance to Gardner Street

Comments about this page

  • Hi Barry. I have mostly clear memories of Gardner Street mid to late 50s. I used to work at Number 11 for several years at a company called Lanes Radio Ltd.  I well remember the cork shop, I once bought some cork disks for my motorcycle clutch in there, always fascinated by the window displays. Dockerills on the corner – they had several shops and seemed to sell everything in the way of ironmongery, tools etc. In those days Airds Tools were in Gardner Street nearly opposite Lanes Radio, Kirks on the corner, who I seem to remember sold vacuum cleaners and the like. Almost opposite Lanes Radio was one of the first “supermarkets” – I can’t remember if it was then, or it became Tescos? They sold just about everything at great prices. I would often visit Bond Street on the other side of Church Street, another very interesting street in those days. I remember Ransomes, they also sold radio and electrical parts. Also the Stage Door for the theatre was near the North Street end of Bond Street and I have often seen celebrities coming and going. Good old days, but the wages were very small indeed by today’s standards. Those streets certainly had a ‘flavour’ all their own.  The Saturday markets in Upper Gardner Street did as well! I remember most Saturdays, Gardner Street was absolutely packed with people.

    By Alan Drake (21/04/2014)
  • My main memory of Gardner Street is the launderette that used to be along there in the late 1960s where Purple Heart is today. Probably one of my earliest memories is being parked outside in my pram whilst my Mum went in to chat to her friend that worked there. To this day I still recognise the grate outside the shop that I must have spent a lot of time staring at from my pram. During the 70s it was the smell of the freshly ground coffee beans from the coffee shop that used to lure us to Gardner Street.

    By Carol Homewood (22/04/2014)
  • I lived in Gardner Street, with my parents and my brother and sister, from late 1964 until I left home to get married in September 1965. We lived in the top two floors of No. 9 which, on the ground floor, was a branch of a local television sales and rental company called Family Television which also had a storeroom/workshop on the first floor. The building was very distinctive because it was the only one on that side of the road that had four stories and a flat roof. I seem to remember that next door, No 8, was a greengrocers run by two brothers who lived above the shop. I don’t remember the cork shop although I have since found the frontage is on display in Brighton Museum and there was a Tescos almost opposite to where we lived.

    By Derek Lake (22/04/2014)
  • I think the white shop on the corner was Terrys the jewellers (it may have been next door), the only place that did ear piercing so everyone went there in the 60s and early 70s. The man who did the piercing had slightly crossed eyes which was rather worrying. There was also an egg shop on the opposite side to the first supermarket in Brighton, Tesco, and a few doors along a lovely shop selling seconds china.

    By Heather Fox (30/04/2014)
  • Whilst I was working in the Cork shop just a little further along the road, my father Ronald Plank was the warehouse manager at Tescos store. I believe it was one of the first supermarkets, but also think that Bellman’s or Fine Fare in London Road may well have pre-dated it? Gardner Street in those days was a very vibrant place and full of colourful characters.

    By Barry Leslie William Plank (19/05/2014)
  • I don’t know if it was Gardner Street or Sydney Street as I am looking back some 55 years but I do recall Bolton’s egg shop where you could buy cracked eggs, a cake shop where “stale cakes” could be bought (they were a day old and seemed very fresh to me), and the Biscuit shop where you could buy broken biscuits and where the various types of biscuits were in large tins. I remember Terry’s the jewellers where we bought my wife’s engagement ring and she had her ears pierced. I think Dockerels the ironmongers had a shop opposite and are now in Church Street the last time I was in Brighton. We celebrate our golden wedding anniversary on 11 September.

    By Dennis Parrett (10/08/2015)
  • Bolton’s egg shop was in Gardner Street, I recall there being a great many eggs in ‘Keyes’ trays in the window, plus a rather scruffy looking stuffed chicken! A short distance along was the Coffee Mill which had  whirring, red, bean roasters in the window; the smell (when few people I knew used ‘real’ coffee) was wonderful, wafting down the street. A equally exotic smell emanated from Debs Deli (just visible in the newer image above) which had a window full of salamis and continental meats and a shop crammed with every conceivable Continental food stuff. Deb’s father had run a little ‘normal’ grocers until the big Barnards supermarket opened across the road (now the Komedia), he decided to change into a more select kosher deli which as ‘Hells Kitchen’ is still there and I think run by Deb’s nephew. As one of the original contributors to the 1994 ‘My Brighton’ I featured Debs Deli on my personal tour, which I am sure (…hope!) is still on the site!

    By Geoffrey Mead (12/08/2015)
  • Oh boy, has this article woken up some old memories! Born in Brighton in 1944 with my earliest recall of living in North Place, just down North Road from Gardner St. where Mum did a lot of her shopping. Coming into Gardner St from North Rd I recall ‘Ross the Chemist’ on the corner [with the Channel Laundry drop-off/pick-up outlet just prior to that]. On the same side of Gardner St was Silverthorne the Fish Shop & also an open front greengrocer’s – I worked there over pre-Christmas week-ends as a kid earning pocket money; cooking & peeling beetroot particularly sticks in my mind [my hands became the same colour!], moving crates, sweeping etc. I also recall the biscuit Shop, selections often wrapped in paper cones [no paper bags]; the Egg Shop with the crook chook – well past display age, the Cork Shop, various clothing outlets, a radio come electrical outlet shop [bought my 1st reel to reel tape recorder there] & Dockerills at the far end. I recall hearing that Gardner St in past years had held Saturday night gas–light markets; just what era I don’t know. The Dorset Arms on the corner of North Rd & Gardener was yet another of the many premises that Fred Pigott was the licensee [he of Pigott’s Hotel, Sussex Cricket Ground Hotel, Devil’s Dyke Hotel etc]. Going back down North Rd, pass the laundry – I do recall there was a nice Fish & Chip shop, run by the Williams family I believe; further down a pet shop on a corner & before you reached North Place you came to Sayers Electrical shop & also ‘The Black Bowl’ café [Steerman family, if my memory is correct]. Early life in North Place cul de sac: we lived in a bed-sit with Mum cooking over an open fire. Eventually somehow or other she bought the house & became a seaside land lady, operating a B+B along with several other in that street; always a bit of competition! Wow; where DID all that come from?? I’ve lived here in Western Australia since 1969 so why that should flood back in I don’t know. Anyone from those days wanting contact can get me on
    Hope this is of interest!

    By Nigel Buxton (29/08/2019)

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