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Happy childhood memories

Rifle Butt Road in 1968: click on image to open a large view in a new window

Just as I remember it

The aerial photograph below of the area surrounding Rifle Butt Road, looks almost as I knew it as a kid. My father told me that he remembers the cliff top houses in his childhood, and how they went over the top due to erosion of the cliff. I remember playing in the rock pools on the undercliff beaches in the 1950s and seeing the bricks and other bits of building material, and that is when my dad told me the story of the houses.

We played in ‘the dungeon’

I used to knock around with a lad who lived by the bakery in Rifle Butt Road almost opposite Marine Gate flats, his name was Ray McCarthy (hope the spelling is right). I am sure that he lived with his nan. At the very bottom of the road was some sort of half built concrete building that we played in. We called it the dungeon, it was dark and we took candles with us to see where we were going. Sometimes there were some odd looking characters sleeping there, and we would flee for our lives if we came across one of them.

The pumping station

There was a builder’s yard, and a little cemetery behind a high wall next to the houses. Near the top of the road near to the East Brighton Park, was a pumping station in a big building to the left. There was an overgrown yard next to the pumping station that looked as though it was used as a smithy at some time, owing to the little piles of coal or coke dust. We played in this yard for hours and got filthy.

My paper round

There was also a garage to the right, next to where the fire station is now. Opposite the garage were allotments, above the John Howard Convalescence Home in Roedean Road. There were loads of blackberry bushes growing on this site. This area was my paper round area, Roedean Road, The Cliffe, Rifle Butt Road and ending up at Marine Gate flats. Happy Days!

Click on the image below to open a large version in a new page.

This photograph must have been taken soon after the construction of Marine Drive. The particular interest is that it affords a glimpse of Black Rock Cottages, just behind the Abergavenny Arms and facing the houses of Riflebutt Road. The road running to the left of the gasometres is Boundary Road, until 1928 the eastern boundary of Brighton Borough. The gas works were established here in 1823 just outside the Brighton boundary so as to avoid the duty which was then levied on all coal entering the town. Below the cliff can be seen the works of the contractors engaged on the construction of the Undercliff Walk. Many of the massive blocks of the sea wall were made here

Comments about this page

  • I remember the concrete structure at the bottom of Rifle Butt Road, it was a spooky place when you went down the concrete steps into the darkness. I lived in Rugby Place in the 60s so I often played around this area. By that time they were building De Courcelles flats and there was a Regent petrol station facing the coast road. I went to school at St Mark’s, we used to call Boundary Road the rough road because it never had tarmac, still to this day it’s never been finished.

    By Michael Brittain (14/02/2012)
  • Am I correct in thinking that there used to be a cycle shop in Rifle Butt Road?

    By Martin White (14/02/2012)
  • What we called the dungeon as kids and as Michael Brittain has said De Courcelles flats were built on the site. When I was working nights I also had a part time job during the daytime as a driver at Unwins wine merchants in Chesham Road. Every morning that I worked at the wine merchants I delivered a bottle of Johnny Walker whiskey to the resident at the very top of these flats called Wilfred Pickles who was a radio star. I found him very grumpy and snappy although his wife Mabel was kindly.

    By Mick Peirson (19/02/2012)
  • I worked at the the Brighton General Hospital several years ago and a chap called Rolly Stevens was working there. I believe he lived in the bakery shown in one of the photos. Back in the early 70s, me and my mates sat on the cemetery wall in Rifle Butt Road and watched some guys exhuming the bodies for re-burial.

    By Andy Mountford (22/02/2012)
  • I also remember that uncompleted concrete structure. I heard somewhere that it was started in 1939, and was going to be a block of flats like Marine Gate, but the war stopped the building and it never resumed. Certainly there was what looked like a lift shaft in it.

    By Mark Thompson (24/02/2012)
  • Take a look at the photos on this website about East Brighton. I have used the link for Rifle Butt Road, you may have to cut and paste if the link is not active.

    By Michael Brittain (26/02/2012)
  • The structure was a regular haunt for us urchins in Kemp Town. In fact we knew it as “the haunted castle”! Marine Gate flats opposite was kind of derelict (just after the war) and some really ‘bad’ boys (from Whitehawk!) once arrived at school displaying a magnet wrenched from a smashed electricity meter. Hope to post a photo I took in 1960s looking west showing construction of the motor showroom, later to be demolished for the Marina.

    By Brian Hatley (21/01/2013)
  • I was born in the flats behind the fire station, Roedean. I remember the old lady who had the shop in rifle butt road; Mrs Stevens also Andrews removal firm. What I can remember, good times.


    By Steve Croucher (25/11/2013)
  • My nan lived here I think it was no 3.  Mick Pierson Ray is my brother. I have happy memories of visiting because I loved the smell of the bakery that was almost next door. Ray lives in Peacehaven now, he has five daughters. Sadly don’t get to see him these days as I live in Kent.

    By Lettie Austen (13/07/2017)

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