Growing up in Kemp Town

My earliest memories are of my parent’s pet shop in High Street, just off St James Street. My father had completed his teacher training at St Bart’s but had then decided to open a pet shop. I remember the shop was full of budgies and canaries in cages, in the window we had terrapins in tanks and the back yard was full of goldfish in old roll top baths. One day my father brought home a monkey. I released him from his cage and he swung from the lampshade to the curtains and back again, throwing bits of banana at my mother. She was not amused and very glad when it was sold the next day. My dad bought a fridge. The first one we ever had, I sat and ‘watched’ it make ice cubes.

My grandparents ran a guesthouse in Abbey Road and also from this time I remember a trip from the Palace Pier on the boat the ‘Anzio’ with my grandfather and one of his pals. There was a bar on board; my first sip of whisky.

In 1957 my grandfather was admitted to hospital where he slowly died. Visitors to hospitals in those days were discouraged and only allowed on Wednesday afternoons. ‘The past is another country, they do things differently there.’ Thank God we’ve changed that!

Age six, I moved with my parents to live with my grandmother in Kemp Town. There must have been all of three cars parked in Great College Street then! My mother worked at ‘Bramptons’ the butchers. Among the famous people who shopped there was Dora Bryan the actress. My grandmother however went to the butchers in the Co-op because ‘he had been good to her during the war’. Under-the-counter liver and sausages – the mind boggles! I forget the name of the grocer but remember the red bacon slicer, butter pats and broken biscuits.

Saturday morning pictures were the highlight of my week and on your birthday you got a card from them and free entry! Gabardine mac fastened only at the top and a stick from St Georges Church gardens and Zorro kept the baddies out of Kemp Town. In the sweet shop they made fizzy drinks by putting a flavoured stick into a bottle of water and then connecting it to gas tanks. It cost one penny!

The Banjo beach and Peter Pans was the centre of the summer. One year I heard a young girl sing on the stage. Years later my mother told me it was Julie Andrews! Sneaking in to the Lido at Black Rock was also a summer favourite. We combed the rock pools at low tide for lost fishing tackle, spent hours undoing the ‘birds nests’ and then fished with these hand lines.

Walking home from choir practice at St George’s one evening people were coming out of the houses to spread the news of the assassination of JFK. Even as a child I remember thinking that something momentous was happening. Come to think of it, choirboys were paid quarterly; they still owe me my last quarter’s pay!

We moved away. I forgot Brighton until I stumbled onto your web site.

Thank you,
Chris Radford

Comments about this page

  • I’m sure the church will pay your your half-crown (12.5p) if you want. As a former chorister there during your years, and now a Vicar, I’ll even stump it up myself!

    By Richard Thornburgh (23/08/2005)
  • What a wonderful line to finish on. My compliments to the Rev Richard Thornburgh.

    By John Wall (23/10/2005)
  • Was interested in your trip down memory lane. I remember well your father, I was a pupil at St Johns School in Carlton Hill where your father taught. I lived above the hairdressers, next door to your father’s shop for many years, and remember him well. Thank you for the blast from the past. Certainly brought back many happy memories for me. Thank you.

    By Maurice White (13/11/2005)
  • I think the ‘grocers’ Chris refers to must have been the Home & Colonial Stores just a few doors away from Bramptons. The main greengrocer on the corner with Bloomsbury Place was ‘Mockford’. I remember going there each week with my mother to get the vegetables and to buy fresh-cooked beetroot, boiled on a small primus stove behind the partition, and wrapped, still hot, in newspaper. In the ‘Home & Co’ we also bought broken biscuits from angled glass-topped tins and cheese from the counter. We didn’t use Brampton’s – too expensive for us!

    By Richard Thornburgh (23/01/2006)
  • How lovely your page about Kemp Town is. I grew up in Chesham Road in the 1950s. I remember Peter Pan’s playground well as I once won two shillings singing in a talent competition. Chesham Road had a few little shops: Mr Brown’s paper shop, a chemist, a fish shop, and my first job was in Mr.Webb’s fruit shop. I live in Norfolk now, but the last time I went to Chesham Road a few years ago, I was so sad to see most of the old shops closed and everything looked so delapitated. In my days working at the fruit shop in the 1950s, I met Anna Neagle, Frankie Vaughan and several other stars of stage and screen as many of them lived around the crescents.

    By Vera Wakefield (19/08/2006)
  • Hello Carol of 19 Rock Street! Were you and your sister Mrs. Cushing’s daughters?  If you were, I remember your mum trying to teach me the piano. I think she gave up in the end.

    By Vera Wakefield (nee Bridger) (04/08/2007)
  • I remember working for Mr Jones’ kiosk on Eastern Road and after school going to see French films where my Mum worked at the Continetal Cinema. She sold you your ticket, sold the ice creams and kept every one in order.

    By Teryboyle(eggy) (19/02/2009)
  • As a young boy my grandparents, Tom and Peggy Butler (Nee Cooper), ran the Battle of Waterloo pub in Rock Place for many many years; until the mid 1970’s. I remember the old bar as a boy. The pub was supposedly haunted by an old Inn Keeper. I returned on three or four occasions only to find that in 2006 the old place had been turned into a wine bar.

    By Lee Bennett (28/06/2009)
  • Hi Vera. Yes,I was one of Mrs Cushing’s daughters. She tried to teach me to play the piano also. I used to love to hear her play the Blue Danube. Carrie (nee Carol Cushing)

    By Carrie Carter (08/12/2011)
  • There’s an elderly man, John Mockford, who lives in the Queen’s Park area now.  I think he was brought up down at Mockfords in the village.

    By Paul Bonett (22/01/2014)
  • I am beginning to think that I am the only survivor from my early days in Brighton. I have never succeeded in making contact with any school friends, St Marks, Ditchling Rd, or Brighton Junior technical (The Building school). Or from Boy Scouts (at St Augustines church, 4th North Brighton. Or from my first job at Allen West & Co, Moulscoomb branch. My grandfather had a ‘barbers’ shop behind Brighton town hall. And, after being bombed out in Bennett Rd, Kemp Town, my parents and I moved to Preston Drove where I continued a very happy childhood and beyond through the war years. I would dearly love to hear from anyone as I am now approaching 81. My email is  and am living in Australia.

    By John Starley (23/02/2014)

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