Pubs and cider bars

In the 1950s, most of the pubs used by teenagers (18 and over) were in the centre of the town. All the big Edlins pubs, which are no more, such as the King and Queen, the Arlington and Jimmy’s were considered too fuddy duddy for the young person. On Sunday, if you went into an Edlins pub, all you’d see was elderly people sitting in armchairs and reading papers and the weekdays were not much different. But having said that, Edlins pubs were never empty. The Sussex in East Street was entirely different as it is today. There were two football tables in the main bar against the front window and, like pool tables today, people put their money on them to book the next game. The Bath Arms in The Lanes had a wonderful sports room with two dartboards, two table tennis tables and a half size billiard table.

During the week it was easy to get a game, but not at the weekend. Most big pubs had a football table as that was the ‘in thing’ at the time, and of course the juke box.

The Feathers in Queens Road was a good pub, as was the Quadrant, also in Queens Road . My friend’s mum, Primrose Taylor, used to run the Royal Standard and it had a great dance hall at the back. That pub was always packed. Down West Street there was the Half Moon and the Full Moon both in Boyce’s Street. They were very lively pubs, but there was always a fight or two there. At the bottom of West Street you had Chatfield’s, another good pub with live music, but a hive of trouble. On the corner of West Street, where the Kingwest is, was The George another live music pub. Along Kings Road you had Harrison ‘s Bar with Bill’s Dive underneath. You got two lots of live music there, up and down stairs.

Cider bars
There were two cider bars in Brighton, Applejohns in New Road, which only sold Merrydown vintage ciders, and the ciders bar just along from the old Town Hall. Scrumpy, or Brain as we called it, was 5d (21/2p) a pint and it was horrible, but two made you drunk. The Colonnade in New Road was a very select pub in those days and they sold a drink called Russian Stout. It slid out of the glass like the white of an egg!

There was another dance hall called the Palais. It was where the Sea Life Centre entrance is. It wasn’t as big as The Regent, and it was more jazz than rock and roll. There were some great pyjama parties there. Later on in the 60s The Who used to play there until they became famous. Other local Brighton groups played there too, including my friend Laurie Poore with The Web.

Comments about this page

  • I grew up in Nile Street (b. 1954) and I remember the Cider Bar in Market Street that was opposite the entrance to Nile Street. The Teds used to drink in there on Saturday nights and afterwards had a meal in the Nanking chinese restaurant next door. Sometimes they tried to bunk out without paying and their normal excape route was along Nile Street right under my bedroom window. The restaurant staff never took this lightly and would chase them up the street sometimes waving cleavers from the kitchen with everyone yelling ( the Teds shouting “leg it!” and the restaurant staff shouting in Cantonese ). Bluey, were you there?

    By Adrian Baron (01/07/2007)
  • Yes Adrian, I was there! I personally got chased by the podgy chinaman with the moustache. The passage going into the Nanking was a false partition joining the cider bar. Once or twice it caved in, always falling towards the cider bar. Happy days. Thanks for reminding me.

    By Harry Atkins (16/07/2007)
  • Has anyone got, or does anybody remember, the Great Eastern in Eastern Road

    By Damion Hawkins (09/02/2008)
  • Cider bars? What about the Alliance, in Edward Street?

    By Ed (21/10/2008)
  • I remember Harrison’s Bar on West Street. I had forgotten the name, but it was a packed, chaotic sort of a place. You almost had to negotiate the price of a drink, as it seemed to be different every time you ordered, and you had to wait an interminable period of time for service, so overwhelmed were the staff on a hot summer’s day! People fell in and out, and down to the basement. I never got that far myself! My cousin told me that one of the ‘rock groups’ we listened to at the time (1960s), was led by Tommy Steele’s brother on electric guitar, but I don’t really know if that was true. It was a holiday venue that certainly stuck in my mind, that’s for sure!

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (26/12/2008)
  • It was Tommy Steele’s brother, he was called Alan Hicks and in the late 50s played with the skiffle groups near the Palace Pier. I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Bill’s Dive. There was another pub above, but I can’t remember it’s name. Or was that Harrisons Bar on the front very near the Old Ship?

    By Joan (09/01/2009)
  • Thanks for that Joan. I must have seen Mr Hicks without realising it! I think you are right – Harrison’s wasn’t in West Street at all, but on the front. However, I didn’t know the basement was called Bill’s Dive.

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (12/01/2009)
  • During the 1950s ‘The Cider Bar’ in Market Street was the haunt of students and other young Brightonians. It was a place where you always met someone that you knew and was a great spot for meeting girls. They sold a drink called ‘A Blockbuster’ which was half rough cider, half Merrydown and a sprinkling of ginger – It was lethal ! Sadly, the Cider Bar became so popular that it started to attract a rough element and, as always happens, the decent youngsters stayed away and the bar eventually closed. Sad, because it was a really good place that had started out catering for the decent well behaved kids but was ruined by a bunch of yobs! The Nangking Chinese Restaurant was also a great favourite. I had my first ever Chinese meal there (there weren’t many Chinese restarants in Brighton in those days).

    By Philip Lovell (28/01/2009)
  • Re The Alliance: I remember the pub very well. My dad, Bert Wilmshurst, used to work behind the bar for Marie Pocock, the owner, and her brother, after our pub (the Carlton Arms in Carlton Hill) was closed down when the Council bought the property along with many others in George Street Gardens, John Street, and Henry Street for the clearance of the area. This area became a Coach and Car Park for years and eventually became the new police station.

    By Brenda Holden (Wilmshurst) (10/02/2011)
  • I remember Harrison’s bar on the seafront. As a small child I would stand outside listening to the music – there was a great drummer who regularly did a drum solo Sandy Nelson style; fab days, thanks for the memories.

    By John Desborough (07/12/2011)
  • I used to go to Bill’s dive. I was a little younger then I was telling them, but that did not matter-It was a great place to hang out and have a dance in my flared skirt. This is where I met my husband on a blind date, but he was meant to meet my friend but he liked me instead, and I liked his mate, but anyway I ended up with my future husband and had four lovely children. My husband’s name was Ron Godfrey and he was a real teddy boy. We loved Bill’s dive and I tell my grown up children about it now, and the fun we all had. My friend who came with me on the nite was called Kathy. If anyone thinks they know me or Ron I would love to hear back from you. 

    By Sylvia Fenson (15/08/2012)
  • Yes, I remember Harrisons and Bills Dive and Sylvia. We used to have some good times there, I also met my husband in Bill’s Dive. Sylvia and I were at school together (Pelham Street). It would be good to get in touch again. I now live in Turkey. Bill’s Dive was where the Thistle Hotel now stands, near the Old Ship Hotel. This site has bought back a lot of memories of how much Brighton has changed over the years.

    By Kathleen Catt (nee Cornford) (16/11/2012)
  • Remeber Sylvia and her husband very well, it would be nice to catch up. We went to Pelham Street School which when I was in the UK in January. I went to see if it had changed but it was still the same and bought back a lot of memoires – it is part of Brighton college now. KATHLEENCATT69@YAHOO.CO.UK 21/3/2013

    By kathleen catt (21/03/2013)
  • As a child in the ’50s and ’60s I was taken to nearly all of the pubs mentioned above. My family were great drinkers and wnet to Sherries and Chatfields, the Basketmakers, The Half Moon, The Eagle, The Robin Hood etc. Who knew The Barn next to the fish shop in West Street? A mod by that time. Not forgetting The Regent. They were fantastic days, and The Starlight Rooms. Later our haunts were The Pickwick in East Street, The Sussex and The Druids Head among many others. The Suite: saw the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. Would be delighted if anyone has lots more comments on The Barn and The Starlight Rooms. [Janet, I amended your posting slightly as we are no longer permitted to publish ‘where are they now?’ type queries. I do hope you locate your best friend at the time. Comments Editor]

    By Janet Williams (10/05/2014)
  • Hi Janet, you can find The Barn here:

    By Peter Groves (10/05/2014)
  • Do you mean the Starlight rooms in Montpelier Road? if so, remember it well but wouldn’t have known your good self as you were not Swedish, Finnish or German! To my eternal shame I confess to being rather predatory at that time, though we knew no better. Then.

    By Phil Galpin (04/06/2014)
  • Hi there folks. ‘The Green Man’ was a pub east of Western Road I think. Any information about this pub would be appreciated. Thanks

    By Michael Hicks (15/08/2015)
  • The comment above re the Royal Standard pub in Queen’s Rd. It couldn’t have had a dance hall at the back, not big enough. It is quite a small pub and I lived in a flat above it for years.

    By Elsie (11/11/2018)

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