The very heart of Brighton was torn out

The sunny days were endless, or so it seemed to us then. The boys of course had their four-wheelers, made from soap boxes and old wheels off of a pram; some were very well made and could reach quite a speed. My two brothers were ten and eleven years older than me so they had different pursuits while I was still very young.

My eldest brother played football for the Preston Rovers and often I would take my dolls in their pram, and sit on the grass in Preston Park and watch him play. My other brother used to always be off somewhere on his bike. He and his friends used to go mushrooming; they would set off in the dark and come home in the mornings. Their bicycle lamps were carbide in those days. I remember he used to open the front of the lamp and have to light it, not without difficulty at times, and the smell was dreadful.

There are so many memories of my childhood days in Wood Street I will carry them with me with deep fondness forever. I shall always remember the people that lived there, little neat and tidy houses. I am afraid when, after the war and in the name of progress, demolition took place, not only in Wood Street, but other such streets as well, the community spirit, the very heart of Brighton was torn out. It never recovered.

Comments about this page

  • My Mum, Dad & brother Ken moved to No 11 Wood St. in 1936 when I was 6 Months old. Next door at No 12 lived Mr & Mrs Budd with their sons Ken & Brian. When they moved during the war, we moved into their house, as it was in better condition than No 11.
    I have many vivid memories of the war days in Wood St. what with the sirens always going off, the guns firing on top of Hudsons warehouse during the night, climbing into the Morrison shelter, being shot at in Pelham St school play ground, collecting the shrapnel laying in the road in the mornings. It seemed all very exciting for us boys.
    I remember all the things the other people said about the street, like the seasons for playing marbles, the 4 wheeelers, the conkers, the skipping for the girls, hopscotch in the road. We too had a kitchen range, the oven didn’t work but the fire made great toast.
    So I grew up there, married there and finally left there in 1959 when the council started pulling all the houses down, which was a great shame. I too have many happy memories of Wood St.

    P.S There were also 2 pubs, ‘The Cross Keys’ and ‘The Cabinet Makers Arms’.

    By Leslie Burtenshaw (27/11/2007)
  • How nice to read the previous comments. My nan and grandad were Dolly and George Budd (now both sadly gone). My dad was Ken. The Budds moved to Hollingbury Road (not sure when).  My mum and dad lived there with them for a few years from 1955. My dad died in 1999 but his brother Brian is still going strong.
    I remember when they pulled Wood Street down, my mum wanted to get the street sign for my dad, but it disappeared too quickly.

    By Irene Dobson (25/02/2008)
  • I lived in Wood Street (no 2) with Queenie (my mum), fond memories include playing “bad eggs”. I remember “the boys” (Norman in particular) making a bike for me as my mum didn’t have much money.

    By Phyllis Henderson (13/09/2009)
  • My mum grew up in Wood Street (not sure what number). Her name was Maureen Ives. Think she left there in 1959 when the houses were due to be demolished. Her family were relocated to Whitehawk.

    By Helen Rolf (15/10/2010)
  • I looked up Wood Street because my great grandmother Amelia, her parents, and siblings lived in 8 Wood Street in 1861. Her father was a tailor, the surname was Pannett. I was sorry to hear that the street had gone. I still had family in Brighton until 1971 when my grandfather (William Phillips) died. Does anyone know of any photos of the street before it was bombed?

    By Pauline Barnes (08/11/2010)
  • Hi Pauline, I lived in Wood Street all through the war and I have to tell you it was never bombed. We lived at No 12.

    By Leslie John Burtenshaw (03/02/2011)
  • Hi Helen, I knew your Mum and Dad, they lived at No 6, you were a toddler then. You also had a brother who they called Zonka I think. We also left there in 1959 and went to Bristol Gate. Regards Les B

    By Leslie Burtenshaw (22/02/2011)
  • I have been researching my family history and found that my relative, William Gray and his family lived at no. 9 Wood Street in 1871. Bet no one remembers him!

    By Paul Gray (02/10/2012)
  • Does anyone remember Bert and Kate Swinard with their son Dennis and daughter Phyllis? They lived at 9 Wood Street until it was demolished. Nan’s sister Flo, her husband Claude (Strong) and their three boys Reg, David and Norman lived across the road. I saw the reference to Norman, thinking he could be the same one! We lived with them until 1959 then moved to Hollingdean.

    By Jill Aberdeen (17/06/2013)
  • I have just found an old mounted photograph (circa 1900) of a bakery on the corner of Wood Street. The name of the shop is T.S. Stenning: could this be Brighton? The name of the photographer is J Neves, New York Street Brighton.  Where in Brighton was Wood Street?

    By Peter McLaren (30/10/2013)
  • Hi Peter. Thomas Stenning had a bakery at 80 Trafalgar Street, on the corner with Wood Street, in the 1890s. Wood Street ran northwards to Cheapside.

    By Andy Grant (31/10/2013)
  • That’s interesting. Do you know anything more about Thomas Stenning and his bakery shop?

    By Peter McLaren (05/11/2013)
  • Hi Peter, there had been a bakery at this site since around the 1850’s, which was taken over by Thomas Stenning around 1883, with his son George initially running it on his behalf. A year later, Thomas moved his bakery in Cuckfield to these premises, assisted by his sons. Around 1895 the Trafalgar Street premises were taken over by William Durrant and Stenning moved to premises being run by his son, Robert, at 35, King Street. Stenning was born in Twineham around 1832 and many of his sons continued to operate bakeries after he retired at the beginning of the 20th century. Regards, Andy.

    By Andy Grant (06/11/2013)
  • I have just been given a photograph of T Stenning’s bakery at 80 Trafalgar street as a gift because my great-great-grandfather, a master baker owned the bakery at 80 Trafalgar St from at least 1867 until 1882, when it was presumably taken over by Thomas Stenning.

    Editor’s note: Hello Mike – if you can scan a high res copy and send it to me -together with your ancestor’s details – I would be very happy to publish it on the site. Contact me at:

    By Mike Cowdrey (12/05/2015)

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