A potted history

There were several characters around the town in the 1950s. You didn’t have beggars like you do today but you had the well-known tramps. People like Pop the tramp, who used to frequent the Catholic churches for food and was an intelligent man. You could sit on a bench next to him and talk to him about anything. He never asked you for money. He was well liked by lots of us youngsters. Then there was Sunshine Joe. I supposed you would call him a hippie type today. He was very shrewd and he would try to con you out of a shilling, but, if you had it you didn’t mind and gave it to him. No one could institutionalise him and every time they put him in a home he walked out. He certainly was a colourful person.

Rag and bone men
There was a rag and bone man who used to push his barrow around town wearing a grey pin stripe suit collar, tie and a Homburg hat. People called him Gentleman Jim the Totter. He was over 6ft tall and sported a moustache (just like Private Walker in Dads Army). Then there were the Mitchell brothers, the last rag and bone men to use a horse and cart. They had their store at the bottom of Bear Road, and used to drink in The Bear. They were smart at work; Percy wore a brown grocer’s coat overall and Homburg hats. They used to take liberties in the traffic with their horse, cutting right across a car to turn in front of it, but nobody minded because everybody knew them. Their kind will never be seen again; such a tragedy.

Mid-week football
The shops in the main high streets shut on Wednesday afternoons and, for the men who had to work on Saturdays, there was a thriving mid-week football league. It has phased itself out now, but in the 50s it was very popular and at Preston Park on a Wednesday afternoon hundreds of people watched the games. There was also a cycle track on Wednesdays and Saturday evenings. Teams like Preston Nomads, Brighton Excelsior, Brighton Mitres and Worthing Excelsior raced there.

Joe Lyons Corner House
In St James Street there was Joe Lyons Corner House. People used to go in there just for the ice cream. It was a round block of Cornish Cream taste. Lovely! Further up the street there was the hot pie shop. The bakers baked the pies right before your eyes. For 1s 2d (7p) you could get a beano pie and an apple pie. The beano pie was meat and beans. It was so hot you couldn’t bite into it and, when you could, there were so many beans in the pie they oozed out of your mouth and down your shirt. People used to travel miles to go to the pie shop, but we were lucky because it was en route to Whitehawk when we walked home.

Chris’ Fish and Chip Shop
In Edward Street there was another well-known landmark, Chris’ Fish and Chip Shop. Again people used to go there, travelling quite a distance to sample his chips. He was there for years (into the 60s).

The best ice cream in Brighton?
In Oxford Street, on London Road, there was an ice cream shop run by an Italian and his wife. His name was Pip and people called his wife Mrs Pip. This was definitely the best ice cream in Brighton, with lots of flavours, big helping and I hope any reading (even people in their late twenties) will be reminded of the pleasure of eating Pip’s tasty ice cream.

Public baths
In North Road, Cobden Road and Park Street were public baths. For a shilling (5p) you would get a towel and a piece of soap. You would then see the attendant and he would usher you to your cubicle and, when you were undressed, you called for the water and he’d operate it from outside of the door. Some of my friends and I went up on Saturday afternoons and had a bath. We all used to shout “more hot, more hot!” at the same time and had the poor bath attendant running up and down in panic. Sometimes we would climb over the cubicles and one of us used to shout that the door was stuck, and when the attendant opened it there were five of us standing in the same bath!

Comments about this page

  • Harry, halcyon days indeed. We had another rag and bone man in Preston, we called him ‘LUUUMBOO’, because that is what it sounded like when he shouted ‘rags and lumber, his name was Tommy Deakin and he had an old stable stall in Corralls Coal Yard, South Road. I haven’t read all the messages yet, but as a Whitehawk man, you must also remember Cracknell the greengrocer and that poor horse of his.

    By Jerry (05/09/2007)
  • Hi Jerry, I well remember Cracknell and his horse. My friend and I had to keep throwing things at a boxer dog that was attacting the horse. It turned round and bit my friend and he had to go to hospital!  I lived in Preston Village from 1945 up to 1951 at 245 Preston Road.

    By Harry Atkins (08/09/2007)
  • Those were the days Harry. I remember the barrows that came around selling winkles (or other seafood) and we used to have these for Sunday tea, lovely with vinegar and pepper plus bread and butter. We had hat pins to fish out the meat. There were also fish sales on street corners and there was a fish restaurant somewhere near St Mary’s Church, on a corner site, that sold all kinds of seafood including jellied eels which my father loved. There was also a pie shop further up in St James’s Street somewhere near Woolworths that also sold Beano Pies; they were great. I sometimes had to walk down to get them; the smell was fantastic. I do not recall any health problems through eating the food. Have today’s standards improved things? I seem to remember rag and bone men in and around Edward Street and there was also a butcher selling horse meat.

    By Dennis Parrett (15/11/2007)
  • I was doing some research for an article and came across your site. I lived at 125 Compton Road, the house right at the top of Black Hill. I attended Clermont Church for many years and was a member of the Girls’ Guildry (6th Brighton). My older brothers were members of the Clermont Boys’ Brigade. My husband and I were married at Clermont in 1958, eventually moving to Canada in 1964. I attended Varndean School for Girls. I have many memories of the Preston area as it was my route up to Varndean for five years. I certainly remember Corralls. Snaky Lane always terrified me but my mother and I would go there to pick dandelion leaves for our rabbits. As a teenager I went to the cricket ground both to watch cricket and the cyclists on a Wednesday evening and I played a mean game of stoolball in Preston Park on a Friday evening.

    By Diana Anstead (nee Bowyer) (18/02/2008)
  • Winkles by the pint, rag ‘n’ bone men, knife grinders, onion men, mobile grocery shops and the one I remember most, a closed bread waggon pulled by a rather smelly horse.
    We were near the end of the baker’s round, so all the loaves were at the far end of the cart well out of reach of everyone. The baker’s ingenious means of retrieving them was to impale the chosen loaf with a rusty nail fixed to the end of a long wooden pole.

    By Roy Grant (26/02/2008)
  • I am surprised that no one has mentioned the ice cream seller Crolla who was related to the Gizzi family who run a milk bar/cafe in St James St. Crolla would push his rather heavy cart around Kemp Town. Us local kids would help him push his cart up Sutherland Road to Rochester Street in return he would give us a cornet .

    By Bob Dainty (03/06/2008)
  • Hi Dennis, Do you remember Moorhouses, the fish and chip shop next to Ogdens bakery?  And opposite there was a sweet shop with a little old lady who used to sell a penny-worth of sweets and put them in little cones she used to make from newspaper?  And the ice cream shop next to Fogels bakery in St. Georges Road who used to make his own square ice lollies, mint flavour, for a penny, with grease proof paper?

    By Harry Atkins (20/06/2008)
  • I remember the rag and bone men as high up as Hollingbury back in the 50’s. I don’t know if they pushed their wagons all the way from down town or if they had means of a van that dropped them off once at the top of Ditchling road. Hollingbury is ALL hills. As soon as you are up one there appears another, down, round or up and over.
    Also in the 50’s all the trades men began to call. We had a greengrocer once a week then the Co-op mini market bus would come Saturday mornings. Then the local baker, not to mention a string if ice cream vans. And milk every morning. often raided by the blue tits of course.

    By Sandra (23/12/2008)
  • Moorhouse’s fish and chip shop at the top of Edward Street was owned and run by my grandparents – Tom and Mary Moorhouse. Mary was born Mary Bardsley and her sisters and their husbands all also owned chip shops – the only one left now is the famous and brilliant Bardsleys in Baker Street.
    Whilst I’m here – does anyone have any memories of ‘Scotch Annie’ my maternal great grandmother who lived in William Street and was apparently a force to be reckoned with?

    By Natalie Moorhouse (25/04/2009)
  • I remember Scotch Annie as you called her! I lived in William Street at No. 10. Our family name was Newman and we lived next door to the Gunn family and this lady lived further up the street, she really was a force to be reckond with. All us kids were scared of her because she would tell us off for making a lot of noise, but on reflection she was a kind woman who always helped others in need. There were lots of great people around in my youth and us kids were safe to play in the street, not like now. I remember all these things that have been said and lots more. I love this site.

    By George / Duffy Watkins (15/11/2009)
  • My husband, Ronnie Coleman, had many happy years in Hendon Street. Does anybody remember the Colemans, Bakers, Kirbys, Lees, Pontins, Hendersons or Chapmans?

    By Chris Coleman (27/02/2011)
  • I remember Joe Lyons Corner House. Lots of young people used to meet there on dates, including me on a Saturday and Sunday night. I also knew Chris’s fish and chip shop. They were relatives of my husbands.

    By Kathleen Catt (03/05/2011)
  • So many things mentioned that were part of my young life. Chris’s, Pips, the Hot Pie Shop, the Public Baths. I worked in St. James’s Street at Pigalle Modes (clothes shop, anyone recall it?) and used to go to Lyons for our lunches. Favourites I recall: their cheese and pickle sandwiches, Dunkies (iced doughnuts), and Koola Fruta (iced lollies). Loved to go to Clarks for lunch, their Welsh Rarebit was fabulous.

    By J. Soutar (nee Gladwell) (04/05/2011)
  • I was working in Clarks 1964ish. Yes I recall the Welsh Rarebit, lovely. I can also picture the cook preparing it, although sadly I have forgotten her name. Was Pigalle Modes the other side of the road further up beyond Gunns? If so, I bought a suede skirt there. Ohh the pie shop! Beanos, yummy. Just across the road above the chemist, was a bank. I recall a raid there with dustbin lids used to fend off the thieves! Below the chemist was Parsons Son and Basely – two yummy young men worked there. I got into trouble for slipping an extra cake in the bag! Below that a radio / TV shop. The manager was the spit of Max Bygraves.

    By Jennifer Tonks (04/05/2011)
  • Just remembered that there were three Clarkes the Bakers in St James’s Street. One opposite the pie shop, the other on the same side nearer the bottom. I worked in all three at different times but mostly No. 21 in the middle of the street below Dorset Gardens. This was where the small dining area was. Can anyone remind me what was there before the Woolworths was built? I also worked there for a time. To think in those days how plentiful jobs were! Up towards Rock Gardens behind the church was a bottling factory. You guessed it, I worked there for one morning only. My mum was horrified that I smelt of beer! Going home that lunchtime on the 42 bus was an unpleasant experience!

    By Jennifer Tonks (04/05/2011)
  • Hi Chris, I remember the Kirbys from Hendon Street, in fact I’m a distant relation of the Kirbys of Hendon Street.

    By Maureen Howell (06/08/2011)
  • All is not lost. There is a pie shop in Baker Street just down from Bardsley’s and he sells BEANOS and various other delicious pies. The shop is called Bangers and I can highly recommend it. Anybody remember the Whiskey-Go-Go in Queen’s Square? I always tell people that I was lucky enough to be a teenager in Brighton in the fifties. Oh, Happy Days!

    By Brian Littlechild (18/02/2013)
  • Hi, Does any one remember Lizzie Bath, she used to live on Gloucester Cottages? She used to help with delivering babies and laying out people when they passed away. Thanks

    By Angela Berzolla (07/04/2013)
  • Oh the memories, I remember most of the above, yes teenage life in the 50s was good. I used to be in The Little Chef most nights and out on the back of the motorbikes Sunday afternoons. Happy Days indeed.


    By Audrey Wilson (30/05/2015)
  • Yes, I remember Cracknel and the horses and cart and also the man selling winkles in a barrow in Whitehawk. I also used to love the baked bean pies from the pie shop in St. James St. As teenagers, we used to get them after we had been in a coffee bar also in St. James St. I can’t remember the name but it was nearer the bottom and up some stairs.

    By Iris Dove (Watts) (18/05/2021)

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