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Remnants of Edwardian poverty

Islingword Road Mission
Photo by Paul Gillett:Wikimedia Commons

Desperate pockets of poverty

Islingword Road Mission was where I spent so much of my childhood and youth. Someone once asked me if I knew what the area was like in the Victorian and Edwardian era. The presence of the ‘Mission’ is certainly indicative of how it was seen by the Victorians who founded it. Even in the late 1960s and early 1970s, despite the youthful gentrifying effects of Brighton’s higher education boom, the area had desperate pockets of poverty.

Survivors of Edwardian population

I recall that every year at Christmas the young men of the Mission used to prepare bags of firewood for distribution to the elderly. Many of the recipients were widowed and were the remnants of Hanover’s Edwardian population. I recall as a teenager entering the home of one desperately poor bed-ridden old woman, who lived in a single room of a house just downhill from the junction with Southampton Street, whose situation was far from unique.

Does poverty have a smell?

Besides the obvious visual and material effects, poverty has a particular smell that I can recall now, and that sad woman’s living conditions matched anything found in more obviously notorious areas such as London’s East End. I seem to remember there was a family greengrocery business, with links across Brighton and a base in the wholesale market a the bottom of Southover Street? We used to go to the School Medical Service in a building adjacent to this.

Comments about this page

  • I lived in Southampton Street. we spent most of our Sunday here. We were baptised here. We went on picknics with everyone. My Sunday school teacher was one of the twin sisters Miss Rosa who was lovely, and Mr Store  was a lovely man. I went to Girls’ Brigade here as well so have some fab memories and met some really lovely people.

    By Susan Cattermole (30/01/2017)
  • I was married at the Islingword  Mission in 1972; the whole area was very different socially to the Hanover of 2017; my first wife’s family basically all lived in Whichelo Place, my in-laws, two grandmas and various uncles and aunts; those not in Whichelo were in nearby streets. It felt like the old ‘native’ quarter of Brighton and I always thought that was how life in the Old Town or Lanes would have been before the 19th century. An estate agent friend described Hanover as ‘scrubbed pine and green plant country’ –  which is a polite way of saying ‘gentrification’!

    By Geoffrey Mead (01/02/2017)
  • My grandparents, Chris and Florence Eason, lived over the newsagents in the ‘60s until around 1973 when my grandfather passed away. The newsagent was owned by the Vidlers, who I believe lived on the other side of the mission. The flat entrance was down the alleyway which was a coal yard I believe – Corrals? My whole family lived in that area (Hanover) from the early ‘40s until the mid/late sixties. Some also were in other not so well-to-do areas for the time as I recall, Whippingham Road and Mary Magdelene street. Went around the area a while ago, my old house in Hanover Terrace had a car parked outside, that would have bought half the street out in those days. 

    By Barry (11/09/2018)
  • In the late ’70s I lived at no 82, second down from the top on the right, opposite the shops and pub, and always wondered why that row of houses had front gardens. Does anyone know?

    By Allan Clarkson (12/09/2018)
  • I lived in Scotland Street 1980 – 1986, I was once doing some wiring improvements and lifted a few floorboards under which I found a letter from the ‘Guardians of the poor law’. I think that says enough of the area.

    By Peter Groves (12/09/2018)
  • I was brought up 91 Islingword road,I went to the mission all the time,we are the Colwell family my nan lived in Finsbury road,we grow up there late 50s and 60s I went to St Luke’s school then to Queen’s Park,then early 70s we moved to Worthing,we lived next to Mr Vidlers sweet shop.

    By Lesley green (02/06/2020)
  • Hi Lesley Green,
    I have just found your note about growing up at 91 Islingword Rd, my wife and I lived there in the early seventies. I forget who we bought it from except that they had a sheep dog, when we were there I remember the little cellar. A very nice house, next door a news agent and a great pub five or six doors down the hill.

    By David Ward (03/09/2020)

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