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Remembering our local shops

Ellen Street
Image reproduced with kind permission of The Regency Society and The James Gray Collection

Warm buns on Saturday

I was born in Prinsep Road, and went to Ellen Street School and have lots of memories of Shirley Street and the shops there. I remember the chemist shop very well, it was owned by a Mr Foulkes; I was in the same class as his son Geoff. I recall very well sitting right behind him when we did our 11+. On the other corner, was a grocery store operated by Mrs Sinkfield where my Nan would go to buy warm buns on a Saturday morning. She also bought what I seem to recall was called Breakfast Sausage, pale pink sliced meat with big chunks of fat in it, a big treat.

Buying rationed sweets

I was more familiar with the stores closer to St Barnabas Church, especially the sweet shop next to the hall, where a lovely old couple, Mr and Mrs Bullen, used to sell half-penny and penny drinks, and cut up the sweets, then rationed, to make it seem as if there were more. At the end of the same block, on the corner of Ellen Street, was a bakery where we’d buy small Lardy cakes on the way to school. Oh the wonderful smell coming from that basement bakery early in the morning.

What shops do you remember from when you were a kid? Please post in comments below

Nan offered pigs ears!

Next along the street was Mr Ball the butcher, he managed to offend Nan by offering her pigs ears one day when she had no meat coupons left. He also used to sell the most disgusting stuff, whale meat, ugh. Outside was a horse trough, inscribed ‘A merciful man is merciful to his beast’, I never forgot that. There was also a lower trough for dogs, but neither contained water unless it rained.

A safe neighbourhood

We used to have the rag and bone man come round, also a knife grinder. Every spring it would be the Gypsies selling paper flowers and clothes pegs. Does anyone recall the Breton onion men with their onion braids festooning their bikes? I haven’t met anyone else that does. but it’s good to look back and remember the old haunts, and a time when we had so much more liberty to wander safely in the neighbourhood, unlike today.


Comments about this page

  • I’m not from Brighton, but I do recall the French onion men in London tottering about on their bikes with their great loads. How you made a living out of that I don’t know, but it must have been worth the trip, I suppose! These days French people come all the way to places like Greenwich to sell cheeses, so the tradition continues in some respects. Bon chance, mes amis!

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (15/01/2016)
  • What a lovely old photo. Despite what appears to be a shed in the right foreground, Ellen Street looked a great deal better then than it does now, with its bleak-looking flats and soulless warehouse buildings. As well as the pram outside one of the houses, there appears to be an old Austin of England car parked further up the road, plus three other vehicles and a Series I Lambretta on the right. The backs of the properties in Goldstone Villas, seen at the far end of Ellen Street in this photo, can still be seen today.

    By Alan Hobden (16/01/2016)
  • Also Pat, re the horse-drawn greengrocer. One day something spooked the horse and he charged up the steps of one of the houses on the north side of Princep Road!

    By Jenny Bainbridge (16/01/2016)
  • I remember the French onion man and he used to come to us in Mackie Avenue in about 1956-57 when I was 6.

    By Marilyn Jones (18/01/2016)
  • I lived in Chailey Road, North Moulsecoomb and can remember Woolvines shop almost under the railway bridge on Lewes Road. We stopped there often on the way home from school.

    By Barry Upton (19/01/2016)
  • Hi Barry, I lived in Colbourne Avenue in the early 60s and I used the same shop. I wrote a page about it a couple of years ago, here’s the link….

    By Paul Clarkson (23/01/2016)
  • I was there when the picture was taken. I’m walking up the left-hand side of the street and it’s my scooter parked on the right. I spoke to the photographer (probably James Gray). My mum was born at 40 Ellen Street and my grandparents bought 35 across the road. I lived at 35 from 1948 until 1951. This was a nostalgic last visit. The next time I came back from college the street had been obliterated. I still have vivid dreams about the happy childhood spent here.

    By Mike Lacey (25/10/2016)
  • We lived at 34 Ellen Street. The council moved us there and it was our first house with a bathroom and with my dad being a coalman, it was great such a luxury and better than the old tin bath we had in Goldstone Road. We lived there till the redevelopment started. Strangely enough, some nearly twentyfive years later I moved back to Ellen street in the flats for a short while and rediscovered  families like the Luckhursts from years before, who too had moved in to these flats.

    By Wendy Carpenter (05/12/2016)
  • Hi Pat, ref the whale meat, I believe this was known as Snooks (wartime slang).

    By John Wignall (03/06/2017)
  • Hi John, snook (or Snoek) was not whale meat but it is the name of a fish that was caught off South Africa and shipped in vast quantitiies to the UK during WW2. However, it was unpalatable to the public and rather than throw it away it was rebranded as cat food (some might remember the very pink, smelly catfood that we used to get). Regards

    By Andy Grant (04/06/2017)
  • My Mother and I lived in Brighton in Arundel Road near the Marina from 1949 to 1950 and I went to St Mary’s Hall school.  I remember my Mother taking me to a store in the High Street called Plumber (or Plummer) Rogers where I used to ride the rocking horse called Plummer – now long gone but they were happy days.  Does anyone else remember the store?

    By Val Hibberd (20/08/2017)
  • Val, I think you must be talking about Plummer Roddis in Western Road, and yes there was a rocking horse there which I had forgotten about until seeing your posting. My mother ran the photography branch of Store Studios in Plummers. Of course no Marina in the years you mention either, it was Black Rock Swimming Pool in those days. Our house and garage in Church Place backed onto St Mary’s Hall and grounds. All gone now I’m afraid.

    By Tim Sargeant (21/08/2017)
  • Hi Tim, Yes it was in Western Road.  My Mum and I lived at No. 4 Whytecliffs while my Dad worked for The Times in Cape Town where we joined him in 1950.  I used to paddle at Black Rock and catch shrimps with my little net and have tea served on the beach – a luxury not enjoyed today.  I also loved Hanningtons and Palace Pier.  I have lived back in Guildford, Surrey since 1978 and try to visit all my old haunts in Brighton and Rottingdean (prior to the above address we lived at 32 Chichester Place).  I have lived by the sea practically all my life and would love to do so again - Brighton holds a very special place in my heart. 


    By Val Hibberd (23/08/2017)
  • Does anyone know the name of a Bakers in Old London Road, Patcham around 1940. My mum told me she was taught to drive in the bakers’ van and she delivered bread out to Stanmer House to the Canadian soldiers who were stationed there.  Could it be Hammonds?

    By Gloria Unsted (19/02/2018)
  • Further to my feedback of 23rd August, 2017, I returned to Brighton on 4th April 2018 to see the old Plummer Roddis building in Western Road - it’s now being refurbished from an Indian Restaurant in garish red paint and looks a sorry sight.  Continuing down to North Street the same could be said of the once majestic Hanningtons. The whole area looked very run down and uncared for.  The Council should get cracking and smarten up this once interesting and historic seaside resort. Rottingdean has lost many of its charming shops and café/tearooms and is in danger of losing its one and only bank.  We had hoped to live on the coast but I am glad we did not do so.

    By Val Hibberd (10/04/2018)
  • When living in Muswell Hill, London in the 1940s, I used to love buying bread and rolls from Monnikadams (?) – the ones covered with caraway seeds. Can anyone recall the proper name of the shop, I’m sure there were several of their shops.

    By Doug Robinson (26/06/2018)
  • I recall my aunt taking me for lunch at a restaurant on a street corner opposite East Street. It would be about 1960 and it appeared to be a rather refined place. Any idea of the name of the establishment?

    By Ken Broomfield (22/05/2020)
  • That restaurant could be one of many, but ‘refined’ narrows it somewhat! My guess would be ‘Howards Pavilion Restaurant’ aka’Howards Grill’ in Pavilion Buildings that has been since 1979 Al Duomo pizzeria[see elsewhere on this site]

    By Dr Geoffrey Mead (22/05/2020)

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