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The place to be in the 1950s

West Street in 1954
Image reproduced with kind permission of The Regency Society and The James Gray Collection

Jellied eels and fish and chips

I know there are a lot of derogatory comments about West Street here, but does anyone remember how great West Street was in the 1950s? My dad bought Seafare around 1950 which was opposite the old Odeon cinema and the ice rink. It was originally a seafood shop/café that sold jellied eels, prawns, cockles & mussels, tea, coffee and minerals, he had fryers installed for the famous English fish & chips. There was an outside counter on the pavement where people could stand and eat and there was an inside area with stools and tables. I remember my dad standing at the open shop window by the counter shouting “cockles & mussels, jellied eels they’re fresh and they’re lovely”.

Helping out the barrow boys

I lived in the double storey flat above the shop with my brother until I went to boarding school, then worked in the shop weekends and some holidays for extra pocket money. My dad was one of the old original fishermen of Brighton, as was his dad, and he would come straight from the family fish stall at the early morning market with the fresh fish of the day to clean & cut it ready for the fryer. I remember the ‘barrow boys’ who would come in just before closing, and my mum would give them any left-over fish & chips for a quarter of the price. If they had had a really bad day she wouldn’t charge at all. A couple of them would wait while she cashed up and see her safely upstairs to the flat.

Meeting Hippodrome celebrities

They were good days and people may have been a bit rough but they were the ‘salt of the earth’ and had a lot more time for each other. I remember the Mods & Rockers but we never really had any trouble with them, and they were on the whole polite just wanting ‘sixpenneth’ of chips and a coke to take out. It was great because one got to see and meet all sorts, we even had a few celebrities who would order from the shop while performing at the Hippodrome; Max Bygraves, Frankie Vaughn and Eve Boswell are a few I remember.

Sad changes to the area

My brother played ice hockey and I used to figure-skate at the ice rink opposite next to the cinema long before the new Top Rank was built. Summer weekends were full of the local families and out-of-towners strolling up and down to the seafront and back with kids and grandparents in tow and stopping for something to eat on the way. The Skylark would take people out to sea on pleasure trips and the Palace and West Piers did a buzzing trade. There was the occasional bit of trouble with drunks shouting their mouths off, but I was never afraid of being harmed – there is good and bad in every place. I have been overseas for many years and from the comments on this page it now sounds as if West Street has become the place not to be which to me is very sad.

Comments about this page

  • That photo really emphasises how much better West Street looked before the Top Rank was built!

    By John Wilkin (24/01/2013)
  • Not a seagull in site!!

    By Jozef Kis (11/08/2016)
  • I’m intrigued by the “Ice Circus” signs on the S S Brighton. Did they train the animals to skate? What sort of show was this?

    By Alan Hobden (11/08/2016)

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