Living below stairs

32 Montpelier Crescent
Photo by Tony Mould
The basement flat at 32 Montpelier Crescent
Photo by Tony Mould

A basement flat

I was born in Kilmarnock, Scotland on 1st July 1944; apparently we didn’t remain in Kilmarnock too long. By the time my sister Ann was born in August 1947, we were living in a flat at 32 Montpelier Crescent, in Brighton. Our flat was in the basement of a two-storey house in what used to be the servants’ quarters.

A great place to play

Montpelier Crescent is shaped like a half-moon or capital “D”, with magnificent multi-storey Edwardian/Victorian era houses on the exterior perimeter of the street. All the houses look out onto the park which occupied the central area. When I lived there, the park was a great place for games and for scuffing through piles of deciduous leaves in autumn and winter.

A tin bathtub by the fire

Our flat was actually below garden level, and although it had windows there wasn’t much of a view. There was a long staircase leading up from our basement level up to the ground and first floors where a well-to-do family would have lived, when servants were employed in more grandiose times.  Mum used the staircase as a storage area when she preserved and bottled fruit and vegetables. Our flat didn’t have a bathroom. We had a regular weekly bath-night, when Ann and I were bathed in a big tin bathtub that was placed in front of the fireplace.

Playing truant

I initially attended a school that was situated down towards the seafront; unfortunately I can’t remember its name.  I’m not sure why I did it, but I played truant there, and can recall wandering along the beach on a bleak, cloudy day. Later on, Ann and I attended Stanford Road Public School, which was across the nearby major crossroads at Seven Dials.

Latchkey kids

Ann and I were latchkey children by now (perhaps even before the term was invented) as both Mum and Dad both worked.  I don’t think it did us any harm. After school from about the age of about eight years, one of my tasks was to wash and peel the vegetables for dinner.  Even with chores to do there was still time for mischief. I remember getting into trouble because I’d connected the vacuum cleaner hose to the cold water tap in the kitchen. Mum was furious and threw whatever came to hand at me as I hid, petrified with fright, behind the settee.

Comments about this page

  • I attended Montpeiler College from 1941-1947 that was at 25 Montpelier Crescent; the school closed when the old Headmaster Dr. Mason retired and the new head took the school to Danny House in Hurstpierpoint. I can remember an underground air raid shelter was constructed in the garden of the crescent and we managed to get into it and played various game there; I am not sure what happened to the shelter but the garden was not dug up at the end of the war so it is probably still in existance under the grass. Perhaps those people who research the war in and around Brighton should have a look into this. A small building was construced at the back end of the playgound at the back of the school and this was used for the first year students, it was a boys only school.

    By Ken Ross (07/02/2011)
  • The school that you are refering to could well be St Margarets which was situated in Queensbury Mews. This has long since gone along with St Margarets Curch.

    By John Wignall (10/02/2011)
  • What an intimate account. I used to attend Stanford Rd school as well. I am leading some guided walks for Montpelier & Clifton Hill Society in this years Festival Fringe and will certainly use some of this info if you do not mind John.

    By Geoffrey Mead (15/02/2011)
  • For Geoffrey Mead: I have no objections to your using some of the information I’ve provided regarding my early years in Brighton for your guided walks, Geoffrey. Regards

    By John Maddock (17/02/2011)
  • Hi my Great, Great Grandmother lived at 32 Montpellier Terrace in 1851.

    By Cal Mortimer (14/06/2011)

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