Childhood memories of the 1940s/50s

Roy (complete with knock knees!)with his mother and sister in 1947
From the private collection of Roy Davis

I have always considered myself doubly fortunate in the circumstances of my early life. Firstly,  I had an extremely happy childhood, and secondly, I was born and raised in Brighton in the county of Sussex.  The second event may never have occurred as it did, were it not for what I believe to be my incredibly good fortune.

My mother was bombed out
My mother, having been bombed out of her house in Caterham, Surrey, was evacuated in 1944, with my brother and elder sister to the coastal resort of Paignton in Devon.  My father was serving with the army in Italy and mother would not let her children be parted from her, and spent by all accounts a rather unpleasant time in an equally unpleasant hostel on the ‘English Riviera’.

Making haste for Brighton
My maternal grandparents had at this stage of the war, having also been bombed out of their home, re-located themselves to Brighton. On discovering that a house had become available for a reasonable rent and which was just two doors away from them, my grandfather (bless him) contacted my mother and told her to “make haste” for Brighton. Mother did make haste and the family took up residence at 69 Newmarket Road, a former dairy, in the autumn of 1944.

Having my photograph taken
My very first conscious thought was of having my photograph taken, sitting on a table in my grandparents front sitting room. Living only two doors away, I would make use of every opportunity to visit them.  I was told later that this usually entailed sliding down the hill on my bottom, then stretching my arms up to my dear grandmother who would  pick me up and carry me indoors.  I might add that later, when I could walk, I used more conventional means of locomotion! Life, for me anyway, was idyllic and growing up in the 1940’s and 1950’s in a place I loved, with the South Downs and strangely enough, Brighton Extra-Mural cemetery on my doorstep.  I could not have wished for a more perfect playground.

Nostalgic for those halcyon days
Nostalgia for those days has recently begun to surface and I am sometimes transported back to a time when the weather was always sublime; bobbies wore white helmets during the summer months; the winkle man parked his barrow at the bottom of the road; my little sister and I made lemonade out of sherbet and water; blackberrying in the cemetery; ration books and Palm toffees; being fascinated when the trolleybus driver had to hook the pick-up arms back onto the overhead wires with a long bamboo pole! I remember the wonderful smell of crepe on my new summer sandals; running my four-wheeler down Newmarket Road; the smell of Ronuk floor polish and listening to my mother play the piano after the polishing was done.

In those halcyon days I enjoyed having real peace and quiet, time to think and a feeling of always being safe.  But most of all, I remember experiencing a sense of ‘belonging’ which I have never been able to repeat anywhere else.

Comments about this page

  • I lived in 43 Newmarket Road from 1954 to 1960. I remember that the road had it’s own policeman, Sgt Kennedy? I think? I used to play outside and he would push his bike up the road and tell me to go and see my mum as she had some sweets for me. I fell for it every time! It is a wonder that I still trust policemen!

    By Martin Hedgecock (23/03/2007)
  • My great grandmother Winifred May Croft lived at no 46 Newmarket Rd in 1922 when she got married. Are the houses that are in Newmarket Rd now the same ones that were there in 1922? [Yes, Paula, exactly the same. Editing team]

    By Paula (17/05/2007)
  • Henry Humphrey Dennis and Mary Ann Dennis nee Payne, his wife were living at 70 Newmarket Road in 1893. They were my ggg grandparents. Are the houses the same as then?

    By Adam Dennis (26/09/2007)
  • My maternal great grandparents, the Nightingales, lived in 49, Newmarket Road my mother was born there, and so were my sister and myself. My maternal Grandmother, Catherine Towner (nee Nightingale), was taken to the hospital in Brighton from there where she died aged 39 yrs. And my parents lived there when they were first married in 1944. My great grandparents were Albert and Alice Nightingale. My Grandfather Edward Towner lived there for many years after my gran died, he used to play dominoes in the pub every Saturday morning with his mates at the bottom of Bear Road.

    By Carol (31/10/2008)
  • A colleague’s Mum spent the war years in Bear Road and remembers the dairy which was owned by someone called Fellows. The churns were kept in the yard and customers called at the front door for the milk with their own jugs, as they didn’t have bottles in those days. Beside the diary on the corner of Newmarket Tce and Bear Road, was a greengrocers owned by Bert and Winifred Gardner and they had Pekenese called ‘Wu Wu’!. The butcher’s opposite was owned by Harry White and facing him on the other side of Ewhurst Road was Hill’s the Grocers. The Landlord of the Newmarket Arms at the time was a Mr Cantrell

    By Helen (18/11/2009)
  • My family lived at 59 Newmarket Road from 1941 when my mum, Betty Walker (nee Cliff) moved there with her mum Ellen (Nelly) Cliff. My mum died there in 2003 – 62 years in the same house. When my mum and dad (John Walker) married in 1954, 59 Newmarket Rd stayed as the family home even when myself and my two brothers came along (Pat first, then me, then Johnnie). From Johnnie being born in 1966 until my nan dying in 1983, six of us lived there. It was crowded and chaotic at times, but it was a house full of love. Now it’s student accommodation, I think.

    By Andy Walker (08/03/2010)
  • My great grandfather was the landlord of the Newmarket Arms, Mr Cantrell, that Helen remembers. I wonder if anyone has any stories from his time there? He died in 1938 but if anybody has any information of him I would be extremely grateful.

    By Julie Nicholson (20/03/2010)
  • My nan and grandad, Sue and Bert Bryant, and my mum Rene lived at 54 Newmarket Road from 1929 to 1981. Mum married in 1947 and I was born in 1952 and we all lived there until Mum and Dad bought a house in 1961. It was good to read Andy Walker’s comments above as my nan especially was great friends with Nelly Cliff and Betty and John Walker, I remember them as well and the good times that were had. I have old photos of my Nan, Mrs Cliff, Lou Harman and Sybie Goddard sitting on the steps of No 59. The only good thing about moving in 1961 was that we finally had an inside toilet and a proper bathroom instead of a tin tub in front of the fire. Sadly they have all passed away now.

    By Steve Barker (12/11/2012)
  • Steve, I remember Maureen Cliff who lived at No. 59 and old Mr Wills who would go for his daily walk, dressed very smartly in black 3-piece suit. With his 2 walking sticks, he would take most of the day to go from one end of Newmarket Road to the other, then back again! I used to help clean his invalid carriage for him and then have tea and cake with him and Mrs Wills. Lovely days! Miss them terribly.

    By Roy Davis (14/03/2013)
  • Roy: My aunt, Maureen Cliff Probert, is still alive and well, living in Grosse Ile, Michigan, U.S.A. She’s just celebrated her eightieth birthday, I believe.

    By Andy Walker (30/01/2014)
  • Andy, Thank you so much for the information about your aunt Maureen. Childhood days in Brighton then, were such great fun!

    By Roy Davis (13/01/2015)
  • I spent some special times with Granny and Grandad from 69 Newmarket Road. Watching Grandad walk Nicky the dog to the lamppost and back! 1977 Silver Jubilee street party! Great times.

    By Samantha Slater (11/09/2016)

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