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Living on the station c1950s

Kemp Town Railway Station mid 1950s
Image reproduced with kind permission of The Regency Society and The James Gray Collection

Living on the station

The postal address of Kemp Town Station was Station House, Coalbrook Road, Brighton 7, Sussex. My family and I lived on the station in the 1950s. There was mum and Dad, my three brothers, William, Paddy and Michael together with my sister Teresa. We had moved from Eridge where Mum had been the gatekeeper at Forge Crossing, and Dad had been a signalman at Redgate Mill before getting a transfer to the signal box at Falmer.

The layout of our house

There were four bedrooms all connected by a corridor which ran the full length of the building; halfway along was a small toilet. Downstairs was a medium size kitchen which held a full size bath, a stone sink, a gas cooker and an AGA oven or similar. Hot water came from a gas operated  ‘Geyser’ appliance which had a swivel nozzle to serve the bath or the sink; there was also a larder. The living room had an open fire and a limited amount of natural light. One window looked on to the platforms and had a large canopy above and the other looked towards Coalbrook Road. There was a toilet between that and the road and both had frosted glass.

Do you remember Kemp Town Station? Share your memories by posting below

Other station buildings

Outside were three small square buildings. Two were used as a café and the one nearest the station was occupied by S.W.King who was a turf accountant. There was an east and a west entrance to the yards. The west side of the station was mainly for coal and the two I remember were Corrals and Peters. The east side held other waggons including Fyffes Bananas. Southdown used the east side to park a lot of their buses overnight mainly between the tracks. 

One other house

There was only one other house in Coalbrook Road, and that was at the Freshfield Road end. Opposite the station was a saw mill where off-cuts were brought over to the house for firewood. A lot of the shunting movements by the daily freight train meant going in to the tunnel and coming back out again. We children all went to the nearby St. John the Baptist School and my brother Paddy was first to leave. He went to work at the Brighton Locomotive sheds as a cleaner then fireman, and it wasn’t long before he was bringing the freight trains into Kemp Town station.

Comments about this page

  • Interesting piece and photo, Jim. What was the building on the extreme right of the photo, next to the station? Regards, Alan.

    By Alan Hobden (14/02/2015)
  • Well done Jim. I agree with Alan - an interesting piece and a thoughtful memoir, also a very valuable record. I too attended St John the Baptist School only that was in Woodingdean 1954 / 1958.    

    By Chris Wrapson (14/02/2015)
  • Alan, it looks like the side of Brighton College in Sutherland Road.

    By Janet Beal (14/02/2015)
  • It is Brighton College church. I also went to St John the Baptist school, Bedford St, and Woodingdean.

    By John Eaton (16/02/2015)
  • Thanks Janet. I thought it must have been an old church, since demolished. I hadn’t looked closely enough on streetview at the windows and features of the old red-brick College building. They do match, so thanks very much for posting your comment. Regards

    By Alan Hobden (16/02/2015)
  • Prego! And I agree with the comments here, this is a lovely account. Your childhood must have been fun, Jim.  

    By Janet Beal (17/02/2015)
  • The building could easily be the old maltings (beautiful aroma when roasting the malt) that were at the junction of Sutherland Rd and Eastern Rd. The church was further up Sutherland Rd.

    By David Gillam (18/02/2015)
  • I used to go to Kemp Town station as a child in the 1950s.  I also remember the family that lived in the old station. I went to the St John the Baptist School that was in Upper Bedford Street.

    By John Leach (19/02/2015)
  • Hi Chris Wrapson. I was in the first batch to go to Woodingdean but alas I had just passed my 13+ exam soon after and went on to Varndean.

    By Jim Stapleton (22/02/2015)
  • I have found an old 1967 photo (in the James Gray Collection – JG_22_137.tif) of the Maltings and Stores you mentioned David, but the windows don’t match. If you look at the College Church though, which is also in that photo, they do match those in the photo of the railway station.  It would be great to see a Brighton & Hove map on this website from the 1950s and also the 1970s. Is there any chance of that please Jennifer?

    By Alan Hobden (24/02/2015)
  • I remember walking (exploring) through the tunnel one night with my friends John Darby and Alan Dart. We were Dick Barton, Snowy and Jock respectively (I was Dick Barton of course!) and must have been about 14 years of age because we boasted about it to a couple of Whitehawk School girls, before leaving in 1952. I think the station was still in use as a goods yard. I recall seeing the stars as we came out the other end (London Rd/Beaconsfield Rd?) and a viaduct I think, like the one that used to be over the Lewes Rd at the now, Gyratory.   

    By Brian Hatley (02/03/2015)
  • I lived in a railway house at the bottom of Freshfield Road which overlooked the goods yard. The east part of the yard would on the very odd occasion be used to bring racehorses to run at Brighton. They would be unloaded and walked up Freshfield Road to the course. They could not be walked up Sutherland Road as Craven Vale had not been built, it was allotments. I would spend many hours on the outside toilet roof of our house watching the shunting operations going on. I and my friend Paddy worked together as engine cleaners, firemen and drivers for many years at Brighton and depots in the Croydon area. Happy days.

    By Robert Dainty (22/04/2015)
  • Playing in the Goods Yard at the back of Kemp Town station, I remember watching a train being filmed – in the late fifties. From memory they were trying to film a train crash (but I may be wrong as it was a very long time ago!). On the day, I think we were having races and I managed to rip my nose whilst trying to squeeze myself through some metal contraption. I was taken off to the First Aid tent. I have tried to find out if a film was being made at the Station – but haven’t been able to find any reference to it.

    Also I remember deliveries of bananas and once (only once!) seeing, what I thought was a little rabbit but, on closer inspection, I realised it was a big fat rat. I shudder at the memory of running along a platform and throwing myself into some straw at the end of it… no doubt, disturbing other furry friends! My Aunty Ede saw me running wild in the Goods Yard when she was walking up Sutherland Road – and reported me to my mother – who was not impressed! All good fun though.

    I attended St. John the Baptist school and lived in the converted Police Station at the bottom of Freshfield Road. There were offices on the ground floor, and two flats above. We had the top flat with access to the roof. My Dad was a Post Office Engineer, based at Telephone House in Freshfield Road.

    By Heather Sickelmore (15/12/2019)
  • Has that Heather Sicklemore, nee Munn, I remember playing on the roof.
    Teresa Colbeck, nee Stapleton.

    By Teresa Colbeck (05/09/2020)
  • Hello Teresa – I’ve just seen your post. Yes, my maiden name was Munn. It all seems such a long time ago now and, of course, it was! My memories of that time are happy ones. We both attended St. John the Baptist and another pupil who lived near us was Hazel Scott in Freshfield Road. My family lived in a converted Police station at the bottom of Freshfield Road. Prior to moving to the converted Police station my family (seven of us) lived in a ‘two up two down house’ in Rochester Street off Sutherland Road. No bathroom there! I think that was probably the main reason my mum wanted to move – circa 1957. The converted flat was huge in comparison and had a bathroom. Absolutely freezing in the winter though – I used to sit on a parafin heater to warm up.

    By Heather Sickelmore (17/03/2021)

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