North Laine in the 1950s and 60s

Photo:Old invoice from Shoesmith & Sons Ltd, 31-32 Jubilee Street (corn, seed and forage merchants) dated 30 September 1929. The invoice was for oats, chaff, clover and straw.

Old invoice from Shoesmith & Sons Ltd, 31-32 Jubilee Street (corn, seed and forage merchants) dated 30 September 1929. The invoice was for oats, chaff, clover and straw.

From Terry Etherton's collection

Terry's memories

By Terry Etherton, North Laine resident

My introduction to North Laine was in the 1950s when in the school holidays I often accompanied my father on his rent collecting rounds. He would go to all the houses and knew where to find the rent money - four florins under a tea tray, a ten shilling note in a teapot. (In those days all the houses were unlocked.)

Apprenticed to a printer

I was apprenticed at the Brighton Herald as a letterpress printer at the end of 1957, at the starting wage of £4 1s 6d for a 46 hour week. The Herald had their bookbinding works on the corner of Church Street and Regent Street and behind in Preece's Buildings was their process engraving works. They, together with  Line & Tone in Gloucester Road and the Evening Argus, made between them virtually all the printing blocks in Sussex.

Sydney Street

Sydney Street was full of butchers' shops and people would go there last thing on a Saturday for a bargain. The butchers opened at 7am and stayed open until they were sold out.

Jubilee Street

Jubilee Street was an intriguing street. I remember walking through on Thursday mornings on the way to work as Walter & Lynn's were smoking their bacon joints. You could still see the ovens until they cleared the car park for redevelopment. The smell of bacon mingling with the smells of the firm making milk crates and that of paint spraying from Newman's the car dealers made for a heady mixture.

At the southern end of Jubilee Street abutting the Wagon & Horses, Shoesmith's had a forge. In 1965 I was working at the Southern Publishing Company and my boss/charge hand at the time, Charlie Stone, recalled how in 1927 he was in hospital after a motorcycle accident and he met a man there who had been kicked by a horse in the Shoesmith's yard and subsequently died. Near to Shoesmith's was the Crown & Shades public house, a double fronted place where they put up many of the actors and actresses who were playing at the Theatre Royal.

North Road

North Road was a wonderful road. At the bottom of the road was Bennett's Ironmongery, where the owner called the staff in for morning prayers before work. Woebetide you if you did not appear. Next to the Dolphin Pub was a magic shop, where you could buy all sorts of silly tricks, like plastic eggs for Dad's plate and nails with blood attached to put onto your arm or hand. Where Infinity is there was Ross the chemists. Just below here was George Smith, ironmongers, and opposite where North Road Timber now stands was Walter & Lynn's, wholesale grocers.

At the top of North Road was the Grand Theatre. Its shows were a bit too iffy for me.

Kensington Street

I remember Kensington Street being pulled down. They simply used steel hawsers, which were put around the houses, pulled and down came the houses like a pack of cards.

Spring Gardens

Around the corner from the Grand was Spring Gardens, where on the north-east corner was a car showroom (Nutt Motors) with three-wheeled cars in the window. On the opposite corner was the Moulders Arms. On one side of Spring Gardens there was a row of terraced houses, the majority being owned by the Dolphin Press. They had their printing presses in six of them, then there were private houses, and then there were the offices of the Dolphin Press. This was one of the best printers in Brighton.

Portland Street and Gloucester Road

For some time in the late 60s and early 70s I worked for the Argus in the commercial printing department and often when it was quiet we would go into the derelict Canteen pub (now the site of the Bathstore), where the billiard table still remained, and there we would chase the rats off before enjoying a few games of billiards. Later the Argus bought the pub and demolished it for a staff car park.

If parts broke off a printing machine, we would take the part to Blabers Foundry in Portland Street and they would make you up a new part in a couple of days. Further down Gloucester Road was Polleys motorcycle works, which would mend anything and everything. At the top of the road was Charman Davey, who produced bill posters for the Theatre Royal.

Frederick Street

I remember how in the 1960s the fire brigade set fire to the houses in Frederick Street in order to demolish them. The houses were council owned and had been derelict for some time.

Gardner Street

Gardner Street was another wonderful little street which was full of small shops for ordinary working class people. There wasn't a single cafe and no A-boards. Instead there were useful shops for local residents. There were several TV shops, with TVs for rent at 12s 6p a week. There was a shop at the corner of Church Street selling the latest twin tub washing machines. Bolton's sold just eggs and the Coffee Mill gave off an exotic aroma. You could buy anything you wanted and do a whole week's shopping in just the one street.

[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 201, November/December 2009]

This page was added on 28/11/2009.

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