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12 January 2016

Hove People

Judy Middleton (2012)


Bert Frampton was born in Kendal Road, Hove in 1909, youngest of 12 children but only nine of them survived to adulthood. Like so many of Hove’s inhabitants, the Framptons were not local people. The Framptons hailed from Hampshire where the men worked as agricultural labourers and Bert’s father worked as a shepherd boy. The fear of the Workhouse always hung over them because they lived in a tied cottage and should the father become too old or ill to work, they would be evicted. Bert’s father never forgot that lesson and when he had his own family at Hove, he was willing to work under any conditions and frequently walked four or five miles to his place of employment. He was a skilled carpenter by trade but sometimes in a freezing winter, work would dry up and then the family relied on the soup kitchen set up by Hove Council where a large jug would be filled with hot soup for one penny.

Although Mr Frampton was a first-class carpenter, he was sometimes required to help out in other jobs. However, he was always hopeless at handling glass. Once he was asked to fix a large mirror to a wall and he managed to break it. His workmates were horrified, fearing he would face instant dismissal or be made to pay the cost. The millionaire employer was furious and demanded he paid for the damage out of his wages. But Mr Frampton calmly replied that his employer would have to go and see his wife because he handed his unopened pay packet to her each week and she sorted out the money to pay various bills. The employer was taken aback at first by being spoken to in such a way but later the two men became firm friends and if ever he needed a carpenter he would send for Mr Frampton.

Mr Frampton also worked two allotments to feed his large brood and on Saturday mornings the children would take the surplus produce around the streets to sell. Bert had his own ideas about earning some pennies. This involved following the 20 horses going from nearby Wrapson’s stables to the corporation depot and collecting the manure in a barrow. People with gardens or allotments were willing to buy some to fertilise the soil.
During the course of his career Samuel Thomas Lewonski
was an auctioneer, manufacturing upholsterer,
cinema proprietor, provider of horses and Hove councillor.

 On the subject of horses Mr Frampton had an amusing tale to relate. It happened before Bert was born when the Framptons lived at 3 Shirley Street opposite to Lewonski’s the undertaker. In those days a funeral was sometimes an elaborate affair with the hearse being drawn by black horses with black plumes on their heads. The undertaker walked slowly in front of the hearse holding his top hat and all along the route people stopped to pay their respects, the men pulling off their caps or hats. In order to prevent the horses from being too frisky, they were given some exercise beforehand such as an outing around the park. But the strategy did not always work. Mr Lewonski loaned these horses to the Volunteer Fire Brigade located in George Street as well. On the day of the incident Mr Frampton watched the funeral procession passing slowly along Old Shoreham Road. All was going smoothly until suddenly from Leighton Road the muffin man emerged with his covered tray balanced on his head and ringing his hand bell. The horses pricked up their ears and thought they were being summoned to a fire and so off they raced at a fair old gallop to Hove Cemetery, the hearse rattling along behind them, leaving the startled undertaker and mourners far behind.

Mr Frampton remembered another occasion when the Hove Volunteer Fire Brigade turned out to a fire in Western Road only to discover that the house was situated just over the border in Brighton and they were not allowed to touch it. Afterwards an arrangement was made whereby the separate fire brigades agreed to work in cooperation.

Bert’s two oldest brothers ran Frampton & Son, a butcher’s shop at 93 Westbourne Street. One of Bert’s duties as a youngster was to take the family’s Persian cat to the shop every morning to catch mice. The butcher’s shop lasted until 1915 when the brothers volunteered for the armed services and the business closed. During his Army days the eldest brother courted a girl called Minnie Willett, a baker’s daughter from East Grinstead who came to live at Hove. It is claimed she became the first bus conductress in Hove working for the Brighton, Hove & District Omnibus Company. Another brother also joined up and when they came home on leave, the youngest children had to sleep three to a bed. But the Framptons were fortunate to have all three men return safely although each had a pension because of injuries and wounds.

Two of Bert’s sisters were in domestic service and lived in the house of their employer. But the eldest daughter (another Minnie) was obliged to stay home and mind her siblings when her mother became debilitated after an attack of rheumatic fever. But she was a resourceful young woman and supplemented the family income by giving piano and violin lessons at home. Later there was a small organ in the front room and on Sunday evenings family and friends would enjoy singing their favourite hymns with Minnie at the organ. Minnie belonged to an orchestra that once gave a concert to entertain the wounded Indian soldiers in the Royal Pavilion.

Bert’s playground was the street because there was hardly any traffic and most vehicles were still horse drawn. The boys kicked a soft ball around or played cricket and they were remarkably quick at disappearing if any damage were done. Sometimes a rope was attached to the horizontal bar at the top of a lamp-post against which the lamp-lighter leant his ladder and this made a good swing. Good Friday was a bank holiday (although working men received no pay) and fathers borrowed a scaffolding rope so that the whole street could skip but it was always mothers and older girls who had the first turn. Girls played hopscotch or admired each other’s dolls particularly those with a china face. Boys played marbles, or sent hoops rolling along with the aid of a stick, or swapped cigarette cards.

copyright © J.Middleton
In June 1915 Portland Road Schools became no 2 Eastern General Hospital and schooling did not resume full-time on the site until the 1920s.

It was only the main roads that were macadamised; the side streets were just gritted. During hot weather the swirling dust was so unpleasant that Hove Corporation sent a water cart to spray the surface much to the delight of the children who followed behind. It did not matter if their legs and feet became wet but if their clothes were drenched there would be trouble when they returned home.

Various vendors, delivery boys, and tradesmen such as the baker with his horse-drawn van frequented the streets. The milkman put in an appearance three times daily, pushing his heavy churn on a three-wheeled barrow. He had three different measures with which to ladle out the required amount into jugs or cans. The postman called four times a day. He always knocked the door to alert people to the post’s arrival and if he required an answer he gave a double knock. Then there was the cry of ‘Fish all alive oh’ and the fish seller would arrive accompanied by the usual retinue of cats. He trimmed the fish for his customers and threw the heads and offal to the grateful cats. If there happened to be an abundant catch of sprats or herring, then the fish man would call on a Sunday afternoon too. The rag and bone man was a regular visitor and the children exchanged empty jam jars for a balloon or a paper windmill. Another street cry was ‘Thou art green’ and this was heard on a Sunday afternoon when the watercress seller came. He was a tall, thin man with a long white beard and he sold his wares from a wicker basket carried on top of his head. The children flocked to hear the barrel organ playing the old familiar tunes while the organ grinder’s monkey held out a tin cup to receive coins

copyright © J.Middleton
Although Bert Frampton was too young to join this outing on 15 June 1910, the photograph certainly gives
us some idea of the huge following the Clarendon Mission inspired.

Bert’s pocket money was a half-penny a week. He could spend it all at once on some broken slab toffee or eke it out by buying a farthing liquorice strip and a farthing sherbet dab.

Near the foot of Kendal Road there were some small shops including a Clark’s Bread shop. One of Bert’s chores was to visit this shop early in the morning to join the queue waiting to buy stale bread at half price. He took with him a clean bolster case in which to carry the bread home. He was often sent to the butcher’s shop to purchase 6d worth of bones with which his mother made soup. Dripping was cheap and readily available. Bert’s favourite treat on a cold winter’s day was a slice of bread toasted on the range, then covered with dripping and sprinkled with salt and pepper. The children ate bread and margarine for breakfast and tea. They could have jam if they wanted but then they had to do without margarine. On Sundays there was cake for tea and on special occasions a jelly.

copyright © J.Middleton
The Mission Hall, Clarendon Villas. A leading light in the early days was the Revd W Taylor who with his friend William Willett often visited the homes of the poor and sick. William Willett was responsible for building many substantial houses at Hove.

In the house at Kendal Road there was gas lighting downstairs but nothing upstairs and the children used candles in their bedrooms. The parents had a glass bowl full of paraffin set on an iron stand and when the wick was lit it gave out both heat and light.

Bert attended Portland Road Schools but his education was disrupted during World War I when the premises were turned into a military hospital. He then went to Ellen Street Schools, sharing the facilities with the children already there by going mornings one week, alternating with afternoons the next week. Later on he and his sister attended Connaught Road Higher School, which cost 6d a week per child. For this sum extra subjects were taught such as science, algebra, French, book-keeping, shorthand and woodwork.

Bert left school at 14 years of age and his father arranged an apprenticeship for him to learn carpentry and joinery. He had to wait six months until the current apprentice finished his stint and meanwhile worked as an errand boy for a chemist in George Street. The apprenticeship was a legally binding document drawn up by a solicitor and cost £35. Mr Frampton could not afford such a sum all at once and arranged with his employer to have one penny an hour deducted from his wages until the debt was repaid. A consolation was that Mr Frampton could count on continued employment until the debt was discharged. All the same Bert was very grateful to his father for taking the time and trouble not to mention a cut in wages to set him on course to learn valuable skills.

copyright © J.Middleton
The first building to be erected on a site purchased
 for £380 was the Sunday School, which opened in 1863.
The Congregational Church, designed by Thomas Lainson, 

 followed in 1870. It became the United Reformed Church in 1972.
The Framptons were a very religious household and the family attended the Mission Hall in Clarendon Villas. There were early morning prayers at home and a Scripture reading before the children set off for school. The children attended Sunday School both morning and evening when a ‘golden text’ had to be memorised. The reward was a pretty coloured text to take home. The Mission Hall was not licensed to solemnize marriages until 1932 and Bert and his fiancée were the first couple to be married there, followed the next week by his sister Irene’s wedding. In 1936 the Framptons transferred to Cliftonville Congregational Church (now the United Reformed Church) and they worked with young people in Junior Church and Boys Brigade.

Later on in his life there was a serious conflict between his church duties and his employment. By this time Bert was superintendent of the Boys Brigade and visited each team in the Brighton and Hove area at least once a session. He could usually manage to get there in time for 6pm but it was difficult when he worked outside the area. For example when he was working at Eastbourne he used to take his uniform with him to save time. He was general foreman and his employer knew very well that he was reluctant to discuss business on a Sunday. But the employer would often ring him at home just as he was setting off for church or Sunday School. Eventually the employer issued an ultimatum – give up Boys Brigade or lose your job. Bert felt he had no choice and left his employment. But it all worked out for the best in the end because eventually he started up his own business.

copyright © Frampton
HV Frampton in his later years.
During World War II Bert helped to build motor torpedo boats in a shipyard. One day the scaffolding around a ship on which he was working collapsed and he sustained injuries to his back and legs. He was unable to work for a year and it was very difficult to manage with just £1-50 (30 shillings) coming in weekly. After he recovered and following D-Day he was sent to London to repair bomb damaged houses.

There were often times when money was short. In fact when his son Paul went to Hove Grammar School the headmaster wondered whether the family would be able to afford him staying on at school until he was 18 years of age. Eventually Paul trained to be a minister at the Congregational College in Manchester. His parents travelled up to see him when they could and on one of these trips Mrs Frampton fell ill and died – she and Bert had been married for 48 years.

In 1983 Bert suffered six months of ill-health, starting off with bronchial pneumonia. But he was wonderfully cured on 1st January 1984 at a service of healing held for the first time at his Hove church. Bert was also blessed with healing powers and became involved in the healing ministry. He had many wonderful tales to tell and went on to publish two books on the subject.


copyright © J.Middleton
The Neptune was already in business in the 1860s
when its original address was 8 Albert Terrace.
It became part of Victoria Terrace in World War I
Gladys was proud of having been born at 42 Hyde Park Gate whereas her sister was born in the Mile End Road and liked to keep quiet about it. Gladys moved to Brighton as a young child when her parents took over the Olive Branch Hotel in Bedford Place. In 1920 her father, James Tooley, took over the Neptune in Hove and he ran it until he retired in 1941. At that time there were three pubs in Victoria Terrace – the Neptune, the Victoria and the St Aubyns.

The Neptune had three bars and a small bottle and jug department and boasted a slate shove ha’penny board. Next door to the Neptune (but separated by a narrow passage) was Clarke’s Funeral Parlour. Customers sitting in the Neptune could often hear a knocking sound but perhaps they did not realise it was the carpenter making coffins.

Fishermen used to bring their catches in straight off the beach and ask if anybody wanted some fresh herrings. They cost one shilling for 24 and were silvery and gleaming. Gladys soon learned to tell if they were fresh or not by simply looking at them. She said you should never buy a red-eyed herring because it meant it had been kept on ice.

In 1939 Gladys went into the Army and worked in Movement Control, Southern Command. However, her mother died in 1941 and her father retired and so she left the Army and took over the Neptune’s licence without any trouble.

The war years were busy times at the pub because of the influx of Army and Naval personnel. For instance, there was HMS King Alfred, the RNVR training establishment for officers, near at hand. Then there were Canadian soldiers billeted in Osborne, Medina and Albany Villas. The Welsh soldiers were somewhat lively but Gladys had no difficulty keeping her house in order. Occasionally the plaster Neptune on the façade was decorated with rude notices but nothing drastic was done. (Perhaps it was during one of these escapades that Neptune lost the top part of his trident (now restored). As well as running the pub, Gladys also took her turn at fire-watching from the top of the Sussex Hotel opposite Victoria Terrace.

One spring, after the war there was an exceptionally high tide and strong winds. The coastguard warned them of possible danger and sure enough the sea came surging up the narrow alleyway and poured into the Neptune’s cellars, flooding them to a depth of around three feet. Under normal circumstance the cellars were excellent, carved out of solid chalk and with a slight humidity that was good for the beer. But inundation by the sea was a different matter. Crates floated about and labels came off the bottles. In those days bottles were uniformly dark and the caps were all the same colour. Gladys was left with crates of unidentifiable drinks. Were they Guinness? Were they Bass? She phoned the brewery for advice and they told her to get rid of them. She sold them off at one shilling a bottle and the customer took pot-luck as to what was inside.

In the 1950s the Neptune became a favourite pub with theatrical folk. Alan Melville popped in virtually every day and sometimes helped behind the bar; he called Gladys ‘Nasty’ because she was nice and he gave her a copy of his book ‘Merely Melville’ with a long inscription on the fly-leaf. Gilbert Harding was another regular; he was genial and good company and quite unlike his famous persona as a bad-tempered TV panellist. Dickie Henderson used to come in and often performed his ‘dropping dead’ routine on the pub floor. Jerry Desmond sometimes came by and so did Elizabeth Allan who lived nearby on the seafront (a blue plaque decorates the house today). Gladys remembered that time with great nostalgia ‘Ah, those were happy days, wonderful times.’

In times past the management of beer was quite an art. First of all the barrel was mounted on a special rack behind the bar. Then you had to spile it to let the gas escape. (Once on her day off, this procedure was not carried out and when the barrel was broached, the pressure of the gas inside blew the tap off). Then you put finings (fish entrails) into the barrel and rolled the barrel up and down the counter. After that the barrel was put up behind the bar and kept at an angle by being mounted on chocks. The finings pulled down the sediment to the bottom of the barrel and you would be left with a beautiful clear beer. Customers often commented upon it. You came to know how much finings to put in with practice and you kept an eye on the quantity in the barrel by means of a dipstick. The waste beer or ullage as it was called, could be thrown on the garden as fertiliser.

During her time at the Neptune, Gladys dealt with four breweries – Smithers, Tamplins, Watneys and Courage.


Bernard Reid was born at the turn of the 20th century, the youngest of three sons. His father worked as an engineer and maintenance man at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton.

Bernard began his education at the age of five at the school in Coleridge Street. It must have been a noisy environment because there were three classes, each containing around 30 children, all squashed into one long room. Examinations were held each year and children who passed went up into the next standard. Those who did not reach the required level stayed put for the next year. All the teachers were female but discipline was not allowed to lapse and if necessary the headmistress Miss MacCarthy would administer one stroke of the cane across the palm of the hand. Bernard remembered receiving this punishment when he discovered Miss MacCarthy’s large hat hanging in the hallway and rammed it onto his head.

One of the children’s favourite playgrounds was the land east of Hove Manor where later Vallance Gardens was built. In particular there was a row of trees growing fairly close together. They were known as the Twelve Apostles and boys often dared each other to climb from the first tree to the last without once letting their feet touch the ground. On one occasion Bernard was standing in this field when he glanced across to the terrace on the east side of Hove Manor and saw King George V and Queen Mary promenading up and down.

Another dare was to knock on the door of the witch’s cottage (so called by the children). It stood opposite the barn in Hove Street. The children believed that if they were caught, the old woman would shove them under the stone that spanned the ditch and that would be the end of them.

In 1914 Bernard was 14 years old and left school for good. He went to an employment agency in Blatchington Road and the first thing he was offered was a job as a carpentry apprentice. He did not fancy that at all, having been hopeless at woodwork in his school days. Then he heard about a job at Ham’s and off he went.

copyright © J.Middleton
Charles Ham’s shop at 212 Church Road.

Charlie Ham’s ironmongery shop was situated at 212 Church Road, Hove – that run of properties from Hove Street to Hove Library once known as Lewers Terrace. Ham was a good employer and gave his workers holidays with pay (this started in 1916) but it was by no means common at the time. Bernard started at Ham’s in 1914 and apart from some war service, there he stayed until his retirement in 1957.

His weekly wage in 1914 was 2/6d and he took it straight home to his mother – she allowed him 2d pocket money. But even with this modest sum he could buy things he enjoyed such as comics and sweets. He remembered the excitement when a customer gave him 2/- as a tip, which was of course nearly equivalent to a week’s wages. However when he examined it closely, he found it was a South African coin. Nothing daunted he raced to Mrs Carter’s sweet shop and purchased a 1d chocolate bar, receiving 1/11d in change.

At Ham’s he became mate to Bert Picknell, a plumber/electrician. They used to walk to wherever the job happened to be, even if it took the best part of an hour to get there. They had a small push-cart in which to carry their tools. The hours were 6am to 5.30 pm. The early starting time was useful if they had to attend to a boiler. One house they came to know quite well was not far from Ham’s – it was Hove Manor. The downstairs rooms were curiously connected by doors let into the panelling or wall covering so that when closed, you could not tell there was a doorway there at all.

At the back of the premises Charlie Ham kept a substantial poultry run so that customers who came in for some nails could also purchase a boiling fowl. The birds were not despatched there but were carried off to a chap in Hova Villas who for 18d would kill and pluck a bird.

The wall facing the entrance to Ham’s shop was covered with little cupboards, all carefully labelled and with a sample hanging outside – something akin to an old fashioned chemist’s shop. Here were stored all the nuts, bolts, screws, tacks, nails, handles, hand tools and chandelier chains. To the right there was a large glass-fronted cabinet that held the crockery, tableware and cutlery. Knives and lawnmowers were not sharpened on the premises but sent to the other branch at Brighton. Ladies were always shown to a comfortable chair where they could sit in comfort while they made their purchases. All the items were priced in code, which meant well-heeled customers paid slightly more. In spite of the variety of stock, Ham’s could never please that difficult customer from Aymer Road. He was well known for his oft-repeated complaint ‘I can never find a damn thing I want in this place,’

copyright © J.Middleton
PC 40 John Turner, champion lifesaver.
The medals date from the 

Egyptian Campaign of 1882 and were 
the Egypt Medal and the Khedive’s Star.
Some of the surplus stock was stored not far away in an old barn fronting onto Church Road. One night part of the roof caved in. In November 1922 Bernard removed all the tiles from the barn and they were transported to Tunbridge Wells where an old cottage was being renovated. Soon afterwards the remains of the old barn were demolished.

Hove Park opened in 1906 but Bernard remembered part of it used to be a gooseberry plantation. The gooseberry bushes were planted on the slopes stretching from the Droveway to Woodland Drive. Sydney Holes owned the land and he also ran a farm called King’s Farm in the Droveway.

Bernard recalled the nicknames of the four buildings situated at the junction of Holland Road and Cromwell Road – they were a church, a pub, an electricity generating station and a school. The locals called them salvation, damnation, electrification and education.

Fatty Turner was the name of the policeman with a regular beat along the promenade. Some said he was given that beat because he was good at life-saving, others muttered that it kept him out of the way of pubs. In fact PC John Turner, who joined Hove Police in 1890, was something of a local hero. In 1905 he saved four people from drowning (two men and two women), the following year he rescued a soldier who was swept out to sea whilst bathing his horse and in 1907 he saved two more people. Grateful Hove Council awarded him a guinea for ‘meritorious conduct’ on each occasion.

copyright © J.Middleton
These cavalry horses enjoy a good soak in sea-water for the benefit of their hooves and fetlocks.

Before World War I you could often watch a concert party performing in the bandstand on the seafront. One group Bernard remembered particularly well was called the Poppies and numbered around eight people.

By 1918 Bernard was earning 14/6d a week when he left to join the Queen’s. But by 1920 he was back at Ham’s again on a wage of 30/- a week. His older brother joined the Navy in 1913 but was killed before his 18th birthday when his ship blew up. His other brother also joined the armed forces and served in the Middle East for three years.

During World War II Bernard called at the home of one of his regular customers in Langdale Road. The housekeeper told him the lady of the house did not feel safe living so close to the seafront in wartime and had moved away. Upon enquiry it turned out she had only moved as far away as Lawrence Road (practically around the corner). Presumably she thought the raping and pillaging would not extend further north than New Church Road.


(One morning in August 1984 Tom Hick walked into Hove Library where I worked. He was on a visit from his home in Yorkshire and having introduced himself began to tell me about his younger days at Hove. I asked him if he would mind putting his memories down on paper and letting me have a copy. Three months later his letter arrived and I reproduce it verbatim).

 copyright © J.Middleton
Part of the Vallance Estate in the 1920s based on Tom Hick’s sketch map.

Please excuse the delay in the matter of the Vallance Estate or Hove Street, Vallance Gardens and Vallance Road; in which I promised to let you know a little of the old place I loved and some of the characters I knew.

1st. Mr Knight of the Sweet Shop at the bottom of Hove Street next to Hove Lodge. He was a very religious man (chapel) and always said ‘if the Lord spares us’. He used to visit us on occasions, after my mother was widowed in 1934 and say he was ‘heeding the widow and fatherless.’ He was a first-class carpenter, serving his apprenticeship with J Parsons & Son, Church Road. His father was the foreman and was reputed to use the worst language in Hove! (Mr Knight was born in Storrington and remembered when Hove Town Hall – the old one – was cornfields).

2nd. Charlie Bookham, the taxi driver was brought up in Surrey and drove a four-in-hand for the squire in good service, he had the most perfect respect and civility and was a general favourite. Died in 1949.

3rd. George Jennings, born in Ockley, Surrey, son of a well-to-do builder but a born gambler. Born in the early 1840s, died in Southlands Infirmary in April 1929. He gambled away a fortune and it was said his wife and daughter left him on that account. He was also a noted sprinter, the Victorian equivalent to Roger Bannister. He joined up in the Boer War, served in South Africa and duly returned home. He had very little money but bred and raced greyhounds and he’d some very good ones. Money always pressed hard on him and he also had a sideline as a bookie and if he lost money at Brighton, Lewes or Plumpton, he could be seen outdistancing the crowd of enraged winners! Another way he used to earn an honest penny, even if illegal, was cock-fighting. In that stone and slate roofed hut, to which I give undue prominence, he had a proper main, which consists of white sheets all round the wall. As they were his own cocks that did the fighting, he knew the gamest and so made more than a few bob on the book. He also kept fowls, which he used to dress for the table and sell to a clientele of dear old ladies who probably paid slightly over the odds. But in those days, the well-to-do used to be the mainstay of the trades people of Hove.

He always kept a goat or two which he used to milk into a grimy jam jar and sell to the afore mentioned clientele. As a boy, I used to spend most of my free time and practically all the holidays with him and he always set me to work, killing, plucking and drawing fowls for the table; skinning rabbits etc is still the only skill I possess (apart from languages).

But the greatest humorous occasions were provided by his beautiful marmalade long-haired cat. Nobody could pass this cat that used to spend a lot of his time sunning himself on Mrs Miller’s gatepost at no. 21 Vallance Road opposite. Mrs Miller used to come and feed the cats every day and of course they would wait for her. Mr Jennings, unbeknown to Mrs Miller, used to regularly sell the cat to people as far away as Kemp Town or Portslade and it would be back in a couple of days (and hidden). All three cats were magnificent ratters of which the place abounded. He had to leave the Vallance Estate in 1927 and went up to an allotment behind Nevill Road and West Blatchington Farm. But in 1928 during the Autumn, he was taken to the Infirmary and died mainly from old age, about 86 in April 1929.

4th. Bertram Woods, sign-writer of Osborne Villas, the corner house (north side) going into the mews or the back of the east side of Osborne Villas. He had a plot, by agreement with Mr Jennings, on the Vallance Estate and then did the digging on the new allotment up at Nevill Road. Bert, as he was known, was the most accomplished tradesman I ever knew. There was nothing he could not turn his hand to – plumbing, building, bricklaying, carpentry and wireless. When everyone else was busy twiddling cats whiskers on the crystal set, Bert had set up an enormous ebonite panel in his basement sanctum with a multiplicity of condensers, valves etc could get any station in the world. He was trained in the old Royal Navy and during his boy service he was flogged for smoking. It did not stop him however, as he continuously smoked his old briar, smoking strong shag.

The last time I saw him was in 1937 but he died during the 1940s. He had retired from the Navy in 1910 and became a prison officer. However he was not successful in staying as his innate good nature made him give prisoners tobacco. The prison governor had a chat with him and it was decided that prison was not suited to him.

5th. The Donkey Man – He was a one-legged character who went round with a barrel organ pulled by a donkey. He was a favourite among organ players and when the Prince of Wales stayed at the Manor House, he had a word or two with him. Thereafter his barrel organ bore a placard ‘Under the patronage of the Prince of Wales.’ The Prince also had a chat with Mr Jennings.

Hope this will be useful to you, Tom Hicks

Molly Williams and Hilda Bailey were sisters-in-law who spent some 40 years living in the same house in the Kingsway. But during the early part of World War II they lived at the top of St Leonard’s Road. During 1940 when a German invasion seemed likely, house prices plummeted.

Hove was a restricted zone and anyone proceeding east past Wish Road needed to produce a pass. One night the two women went to a class run by the Red Cross at Southwick and in the rush to get there on time they forgot to take their passes. When it was time to go home they found the soldiers reluctant to allow them through. In fact a policeman accompanied them to their house and checked on their passes.

The seafront was a mass of barbed wire, beaches were mined and sections removed from the piers. Amidst all this the smooth surface of the seafront bowling greens remained undisturbed. Indeed the grass had never been in such excellent condition because nobody could play there.

The south end of roads bordering on Kingsway were guarded by sandbag emplacements and manned by soldiers. The men were often hungry and would gladly accept a pair of kippers whilst being considerate to visitors at curfew time.

The blackout caused problems of its own especially when there was general apprehension about German paratroops. One night Hilda caused high excitement at the local group post when she reported something strange hanging from the nearby telegraph pole and its festoon of wires. They rushed out to check but it turned out to be nothing more than a trick of light.

It was not always easy to make people to comply with the order ‘Put out that light.’ On one occasion a light was showing from a house in St Leonard’s Road. On being asked to turn it off, the lady replied ‘I can’t, the dog’s whelping.’ The air-raid warden was fetched to exert his authority but still the light stayed on. Then the policeman arrived and the lady tried different excuses. The last being ‘I can’t come downstairs, I’m under the doctor’ to which the policeman replied ‘I don’t care who you are under, come down at once and put that light out.’

A local lady councillor had a luxurious air-raid shelter constructed underground in her garden. It had a brick floor, bunk beds and its own dynamo. Most people relied on an Anderson shelter or dived under the stairs.

Not everybody would take cover when the air-raid warning sounded. There were two sisters who lived together and were pillars of St Leonard’s Church. One summer evening Miss Evelyn was seated in her porch on one of those wind-up piano stools. And nothing would make her budge. She kept repeating ‘I’m not afraid. The Lord will look after me.’ The rector could not be contacted, the warden was becoming furious and the police were finally summoned. ‘Come on Mother’ said the policeman ‘Get indoors.’ She repeated her mantra and the policeman’s rejoinder was ‘Well, I hope He comes and clears up the mess because I won’t.’

In 1940 several evacuee children arrived at Hove and one of the first tasks was de-louse them. This was carried out in a church hall near the old Rothbury cinema. Newspapers were tucked in around their necks to form a cape with the end turned up and you hear the lice falling out as the hair was combed – the newspapers were burned.

One small boy managed to get a chamber pot stuck firmly on his head. To avoid embarrassment on the bus to Hove Hospital, his head was wrapped in a turban-like towel.

Another evacuee boy arrived at his temporary home clutching a large marrow he’d stolen. Apparently at home he was used to stealing items for his mother. Although hauled back to the greengrocer’s to apologise, he refused, muttering ‘Not on your nelly.’

Some of the evacuees were old people. There was a frail old lady who arrived without any belongings. The WVS found her some different clothes, cleaned her up, popped on a pink bed jacket and tucked her into bed. A week later she died. The Medical Officer of Health thought that the encrusted dirt had probably helped to keep her warm.

The evacuees did not stay for long because after Dunkirk the Sussex coast was not deemed to be a safe haven after all.

The harbour and lagoon were especially sensitive areas but the Kingsway house provided Molly and Hilda with a grandstand view of whatever was going on. They watched the arrival of large blocks that were destined to be components of the Mulberry harbours and they watched the troops training. Canadians were stationed at Stanmer Park and they came to the lagoon with their uniforms camouflaged to practice with the DUKS. They also embarked under simulated cross-fire and could be seen on the beach beyond the lagoon.


(This is not his real name. I had a long and interesting interview with him but when I submitted the manuscript for his approval, he insisted his name be removed).

On the corner of Sheridan Terrace there was a soup kitchen for the needy. People would take a jug and have it filled with hot soup. Jugs were altogether an essential item in the home and another use was to bring home beer from the jug-and-bottle part of the local pub. Women liked to be discreet on these occasions and they used to conceal the jug underneath their aprons.

Some people were rather too fond of the drink. There was a fishmonger living in Clarendon Road and it did not seem like a Saturday night unless the police were called to his house and he was carted off strapped down to a barrow – the local constabulary’s version of the Black Maria.

copyright © J.Middleton
St Andrew’s School opened in 1858 at George Street 
and remained until the 1970s when a new building
 was erected on former churchyard land.
Albert attended the George Street School, later called St Andrew’s School but locals often referred to it by its old name. The boys used to chant a rhyme that demonstrates they considered their school a cut above the rest. It went like this
‘East Hove puppy dogs
Connaught Road the cats
When they see the George Street boys
They always raise their caps.’
Boys and girls were taught together until they were eight or nine years of age and then they were segregated. They remained at the same school until the leaving age of fourteen.

On his way to school in the mornings along George Street, Albert passed Stringer’s the draper and next door was a smithy with double doors opening onto the street. If you peeped inside you could see the forge and the smith hard at work on his anvil. This was where the fire-engine horses and the horse-bus horses came to be shod. Albert came to know George Street like the back of his hand. There was a particular newsagent he was fond of popping into, not so much for the sweets on sale as for the owner’s pretty daughter with her long plait of dark hair. This newsagent lasted until the 1980s.

On the right hand side going north there was the Home & Colonial Stores. The boys could not resist the hanging balls of string positioned by the counter, ready to tie up a customer’s purchase. The boys watched for an opportunity, then grabbed the end of the string and ran out of the door. If they were not careful, they had their ears boxed for being naughty. The street was cobbled in those days.

Opposite the top of George Street, in Blatchington Road, where Woolworth’s used to be, was the Goldstone Printing Press. The boys could see the presses in the basement and watch the paper rolling off.

There were two cinemas – the Electric Empire in George Street and one in Haddington Street. It cost one penny to see the Saturday morning matinée.

The stables and depot for the horse buses was down Brooker Street where it goes into Stirling Place. Horse buses were all open-topped and so too were the early charabancs. Getting wet in the rain was an accepted hazard of travel then. Men only outings were arranged from the Eclipse or Exchange pubs travelling in a roofless charabanc with hard seats. In the evening the women gathered to welcome back their menfolk, often the worse for drink.

Where Vallance Gardens are today, there used to be an orchard where the boys scrumped apples on their way back from school. The Ship Inn at the foot of Hove Street had a wind gauge fixed to the side of the building. It was in the shape of a sailor with flags in his hands that moved when the wind blew.

copyright © J.Middleton
Hove Coastguard Station and Battery in the 1920s.

Behind the railings of the Coastguard Station on the seafront there was an old life-boat from the ship Trevessa with a plaque nearby recording the details. (The ship, built in 1909, was sold in 1920 to the Hain Steamship Company of St Ives and renamed Trevessa – two other company ships were Trevean and Tregenna. The Trevessa’s last voyage took place in 1923. Some crewmembers were nervous because of the behaviour of two cats – one jumped ship in New Zealand and another adopted in Port Pirie decided not to sail with them. The Trevessa foundered on 4 July 1923 in the Indian Ocean. Fortunately the captain had previous experience of taking to the lifeboats and so began an epic voyage steered by sun and stars. No 1 boat covered 1,556 miles to Roudriguez in 22 days and no 3 boat covered 1,747 miles to Mauritius in 24 days. When the survivors arrived at Gravesend aboard RMS Goorkha they found all vessels dressed with flags and sirens blaring. No 1 lifeboat was set up in the grounds of the Ceylon Court of the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley and later it seems came to Hove).

copyright © J.Middleton
Brooker Hall became Hove Museum of Art in 1927.

Albert remembered when Brooker Hall was used to house German officer prisoners of war. This would be in around 1916 when he was still at school. At the time people were told constantly of the atrocities committed by Germans and began to view them as a different species. Albert and his friends went along to Brooker Hall to peer through the railings and they were disappointed to find that they looked like ordinary human beings after all.

There were local nicknames for parts of Hove. Tickle Belly Alley was the path running from Aldrington Halt to the Old Shoreham Road (where Amherst Crescent runs today). It was a place much frequented by courting couples. The Upper Drive was known as Nunnery Hill on account of the convent and a field near West Blatchington windmill was called Jackass field.

copyright © J.Middleton
A tranquil scene in West Blatchington  when the only buildings in sight belonged to Toad’s Hole Farm.

West Blatchington was rural then with fields on every side. There was a pond south of the windmill and where it was filled in, there is still a triangular piece of grass to be seen to this day in the Maple Gardens / Acacia Avenue area. Holmes Avenue was a steep slope leading down to Gibbet’s Farm while Nevill Road was just a cart track.

Further east Woodland Drive used to be literally woodland and here there lived a gypsy nicknamed Ali Sloper after the chappie on the label of the brown sauce bottle. He lived rough and goodness knows what he ate – probably he trapped his food.

copyright © J.Middleton
Hove Lagoon pictured in the 1930s.

Hove Lagoon used to be tidal – in fact it was more like a marsh. It was of course a happy hunting ground for local boys and when the tide went out there all sorts of crabs and bits of seaweed to be found.

There were once sheep grazing in the middle of the built-up area of Hove. They lived in a field overlooking the Kingsway. In the 1930s a large, grey house was built on the site for eccentric millionaire Mr Miller who lived at 20 Eaton Gardens before moving to his new house.

copyright © J.Middleton
A fine day in Edwardian times for the Sunday Church Parade.

The part of Brunswick Lawns nearest to the Brighton boundary was known as no 1 lawn and was kept fenced off all week. But on Sundays the railings were removed so that the famous Sunday Church Parade could take place. This was when all the fashionable ladies paraded up and down wearing their best clothes. In 1918 a tank nicknamed Egbert arrive on no 1 lawn as part of the publicity for War Weapons week. Crowds gathered to watch Egbert put through his paces but goodness what a mess he made of the turf.

copyright © J.Middleton
A postcard showing the daring mixed bathing at Hove in 1911 – it had first been permitted ten years previously.

Albert had a spell working with deckchairs on Hove seafront. There were two types of chair – the hard green ones placed on the promenade and around the bandstand and the deckchairs for the beach. The chairs cost 2d to hire for a session lasting all morning or all afternoon. It is interesting to note that some of the beaches were named after the men who owned bathing machines nearby. For example there was Woolger’s Beach at the foot of First and Second Avenues; Jenner’s Beach near the groyne opposite Medina Terrace and Port’s Beach at the foot of Hove Street. The deckchair office was in Brunswick Street West, at the back of the Dudley Hotel. The deckchairs were stored there but when the beach west of Hove Street was improved and chairs were needed, it was too far away to make such a long trek. Therefore a second depot was opened at Medina Swimming Baths. In the winter the chairs were inspected and repaired as necessary.

To finish with here is a political jingle once popular in the town.
‘Vote, vote, vote for Mr Cushman
Kick old Jordan out of town
For Cushman is the man
And we’ll have him if we can
And we won’t vote for Jordan anymore.’
(FWA Cushman was Mayor of Hove from 1919 to 1922).


Philip was three years old when he came to live at 9 Westbourne Villas in 1910. His mother had been recently widowed and she decided to try her luck at running a guest house in Hove. She must have been fond of Westbourne Villas because when she moved her guest house, it was only to number 41 just up the road; and after a brief spell at Streatham when she re-married, it was back to Westbourne Villas, this time to number 24.
Copyright © J.Middleton

Philip remembered long, lazy days playing on the beach and he and the other children thought nothing of running barefoot across the coast road to get there. They enjoyed playing with the capstans and sometimes the fishermen allowed them to help winch the boats up the beach. One summer his brother became so badly sunburned that his mother had to send two maids to carry him home.

Philip also enjoyed fishing but he did not have much luck. In around 1916 he was fishing from the West Pier and the only item he caught was his own finger. He walked all the way home with the hook embedded in his finger while his brother carried the weight. Their usual doctor was not available and so they went to a surgery in Sackville Road opposite Barclays Bank. There the doctor cut the line, pulled out the hook and charged 7/6d for his professional services.

copyright © J.Middleton
24 Westbourne Villas where Mrs Vaughan ran a Guest House.
Buses figured prominently in his memories. He recalled being on a horse bus going to Hove Station when he was around five years old and his mother asked the driver if her little boy could hold the reins for a moment. Another memory was of a day of pouring rain and his mother and her three children were sitting on the bus when the inspector told her the fares had gone up to 4d. A penny meant a lot in those days; she protested vigorously and refused to pay but the inspector made a note of her name and address. However, once home again, she began to regret her outburst and when a week later the inspector knocked on the door, she had the money ready and paid up without a murmur.

Philip’s older brother was away at sea, apprenticed to the Aberdeen White Star. When he came home on leave, he looked resplendent in his uniform with the brass buttons although Philip thought he looked more like a dog’s dinner. When the question arose as to what career Philip should follow, the lordly older brother suggested ‘Put him in tramps’ and mother not knowing anything about the sea, agreed.

Philip served for four years in tramp steamers before he transferred to something more congenial. Whenever the brothers’ leave coincided Philip would aim a kick at his brother’s shins and growl ‘What about tramps then?’ Their sister went to India and snobbery being rife there, she was very embarrassed when Philip came ashore at Bombay and visited her. When introducing him, she glossed over the fact that he was not in the Senior Service whilst stressing that he was in Royal Naval Reserve.


copyright © J.Middleton
This establishment in Church Road has been a pharmacy since 1875 and was known originally as the
West Brighton Dispensary.  TW Parris acquired the business in 1884 and BC Greening joined him ten years later

Robert Peel came to Hove in 1927 to work as a qualified chemist at Parris & Greening in Church Road, on the corner of Norton Road. He became something of a local institution because he remained there until 1977. In 1927 he earned £4 a week and in those days digs cost 30/- a week. It was as well not to live too far away because the shop was open every day from 8.30am until 11pm.

The dispensary was wonderfully old-fashioned with at least eight giant carboys exhibited in the windows. There was a magnificent mahogany shelf unit on which were displayed rows of bottles in different coloured glass – blue glass indicated a poisonous substance while green meant the liquid needed protection from the light. Then there were ingredients such as aloes, cinnamon, ginger, rose petals, orris-root and eucalyptus.

Robert Peel prepared everything himself, making tablets, potions, creams or whatever else was required. There were at least five different sizes of pestle and mortar made of porcelain for mixing or crushing the ingredients. The pills were hand made and after the ingredients were mixed into a solid mass, he rolled it out like pastry, cut it into small pieces, rounded them on a slab with a little French chalk and as a final touch gave them a coating of silver or gold leaf. It sounds a laborious process but with practice he became fast and at least the ingredients were fresh.

copyright © J.Middleton
Part of the original wall fitment in Parris & Greening.
When Robert worked at Cranbourne Street, London, he used to concoct a mixture for the famous singer Dame Nellie Melba; it was composed of honey, glycerine and lemon and she found it good for her throat. There was a rather more prosaic preparation he made regularly for a local fishmonger at Hove; it was eucalyptus citridoria and the fishmonger found the lemon-scented oil just the thing for removing from his hands the smell of a day spent selling fish.

Parrishe’s Food was a favourite remedy for anaemic looking children and Mr Peel was used to making it up for anxious mothers. It contained iron all right but the deep red tint was just colouring. The medicine was taken through a glass straw to prevent the stuff turning the teeth black.

Parris & Greening had a clientele outside the environs of Hove too and one customer was Sir Eric Geddes who lived at Albourne Place near Hassocks. He had been First Lord of the Admiralty 1917-1918 and Minister of Transport 1919-1921. His name became somewhat notorious in Naval circles because of the swingeing cuts he instituted at the end of World War I known as the Geddes axe. Whenever he suffered from a severe attack of gout, Sir Eric would send to Parris & Greening for 5 gallons of witch-hazel. This he found soothing and a nurse covered his swollen feet with the liquid by using a stirrup-pump.

The redoubtable Gilbert Harding was another customer – at a later date than Sir Eric of course. Gilbert Harding lived in Montpelier Villas, Brighton, and was famous for being bad-tempered on television. He suffered from asthma and on one occasion he phoned Mr Peel and said ‘Come over at once, I think I’m dying.’ On arrival at the house Mr Peel found that the patient was trying to inhale from an empty oxygen cylinder. He changed the cylinder at once but reminded him that the indicator on the old one was pointing to zero, to which the patient replied ’I never could understand anything mechanical.’


Ice has become a commonplace item today but in times past it was highly valued. Ice was a luxury item and country houses used to have an ice-house, a domed structure built underground where amazingly it was possible to store ice gathered from frozen lakes and ponds in winter to last all though summer. The Royal Pavilion had its own ice-house. Ice was also imported from Scandinavia by sailing ship through Shoreham Harbour, unloaded at Baltic Wharf and stored in ice-wells on the south side of Wellington Road, Portslade, opposite the Halfway House pub. These ice-wells were still in use in 1920.

Ice began to be manufactured in the late 19th century and in the 1890s the Kent & Sussex Ice Works were situated in the Portland Road area, south of the railway line and close to the Aldrington border. There was another ice factory at Holland Road, established in around 1909 and later operated by the Lightfoot Refrigeration Company. Today the site is covered by a new development called Chatsworth Court

Mr Grace who lived in Ruskin Road earned his living by transporting large blocks of ice from the Holland Road factory in a large motor van. The children of Ruskin Road were always ready to take advantage of any ice chips available and they sucked them like an ice-lolly. At Hove Carnival one year Mr Grace dressed up as an Eskimo and opened up the back of his van to reveal a lovely display of flowers and whole fish frozen in ice.

Jim Burtenshaw transported ice from a factory in the Warwick Street area of Worthing from 1929 to 1930. The ice was loaded onto a lorry in 1 cwt blocks and sold for 2/- a block. A piece of sacking was placed over the shoulders and the ice block was heaved on top and carried to the customer. A regular port of call was Arundel Castle where 6 cwts of ice was delivered daily. But the house-keeper’s permission had to be sought before one could venture into the kitchen regions. The housekeeper wore a wide belt from which hung a great bunch of keys but sometimes she would be in conference with the Duchess about menus and then Jim would have to wait with the ice dripping quietly away. Permission obtained, the ice block was carried to the ice-box situated in a corner of the still room. The ice-box was simply a large wooden box lined with zinc and the ice was tipped into the top – the perishable food was kept in the cavity underneath with butter and lard wrapped up in muslin.

Home made ice-cream was popular. Stanley Bishop was so fond of it that he thought nothing of walking all the way from Edward Street, Brighton, to the Holland Road factory to collect some ice. Back home the ice was packed into a wooden bucket around a central metal container that held the mixed ice-cream powder. By turning a handle the ice revolved around the cylinder – it was somewhat similar to the laborious churning of butter. Sometimes it took a good half-hour before the ice-cream was set properly.

Mrs Grove’s shop on the corner of Suffolk Street, Hove, offered home made ice-cream for sale. It was newly made every morning and was popular with children who had the choice of vanilla or pink ice-cream.

In the streets men sold ice-creams from large boxes placed on bicycles or tricycles. They also sold something called a snow fruit, an early version of an ice-lolly. If you wished you could have ice-cream delivered to your door. All you had to do was place a card with a large W in the front window and the Wall’s salesman would knock at your door on his rounds.

Copyright © J.Middleton 2012
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