My childhood in Tichborne Street

Photo:Mary Wagstaff (as I was in 1936) on the steps at No 33 Bread Street

Mary Wagstaff (as I was in 1936) on the steps at No 33 Bread Street

Photo from Mary Reeves' collection

Photo:Here I am in 1947, aged 19, wearingithe 'new look', again photographed outside No 33 Bread Street

Here I am in 1947, aged 19, wearingithe 'new look', again photographed outside No 33 Bread Street

Photo from Mary Reeves' collection

We also lived in Spring Gardens, Kensington Street and Bread Street

By Mary Elizabeth Reeves

I was born on 21st April 1928, the day that our present Queen was two years old. My second name is Elizabeth.

First home in Tichborne Street

Our first home in the area was No 8 Tichborne Street. To my amazement this house is still there. It was a lodging house with families having a few rooms. My parents managed to bring us up with no washing machine or vacuum cleaners. I had two brothers. My parents did not have much money but we were always clean and had enough food. My brothers were able to play out in the street with simple games and they would look out for me in my pram.

First school in Upper Gardner Street

My first school was Upper Gardner Street Infants. When I pass this building now, I remember the smell, the little bottles of milk and the camp beds when we had a nap.

Second house in Spring Gardens

As we got older, we moved to a little house in Spring Gardens. This was another lovely street with nice neighbours. Whenever we moved, it was always using barrows hired from Diplock’s Yard, which is still in North Road.

Third house in Kensington Street

Spring Gardens was being redeveloped, so it was on the move again to Kensington Street, but not for too long though as these houses were knocked down for the Argus offices to be built, which I believe are quite expensive apartments now.

Fourth house in Bread Street

Our last stop was up to Bread Street and I started school at Central School in Church Street, which was a beautiful Gothic building. It was heartbreaking when it was knocked down and became a derelict site for many years. This was my favourite school with lovely teachers. One of them, Miss Bardswell, would bring in a box of chocolates on Friday afternoon – it was always Milk Tray. This was before the war of course and we would try to be good to have a chocolate. I had a slight hearing loss, so I always sat at the front of the class, but I didn’t mind. I will always be grateful to the teachers for teaching me to read and write. The school door is in Brighton Museum and I often go to look at it.

Senior school in Pelham Street

At the age of 11 it was time for me to go to senior school, which was the Senior Girls in Pelham Street. When the air raid sirens started, we would go into the shelters under the playground. I wonder whether they are still there… As the war moved on, it was decided to evacuate children to Yorkshire. I was one of those children, as my parents were both working and my brothers were away in the forces. It was decided for me to go on Sunday 16th March 1941, so 50 of us girls left from Middle Street School and walked up West Street to the station with our parents. There were many sad goodbyes and some of our teachers came with us.

Evacuated to Yorkshire and Lancashire

I went to Waddington in West Yorkshire and Clitheroe in Lancashire was the nearest town. It was not a happy experience for me as I spent a lot of time in hospital with ear infections, which resulted in more hearing loss. Time moved on and when children were being evacuated from London to Brighton my father came and fetched me back, so I returned home to Bread Street and Pelham Street School. I was 14 when I left school and my schooldays were over.

My mother knew the shopkeepers

I loved living in North Laine. My mother knew a lot of the shopkeepers in North Road and Gardner Street, where we would shop for our rations. One shop in North Road was Waite’s sweet shop and Mrs Waite and my mother were great friends. Sadly Mrs Waite’s son was killed in the war – such a handsome young man. I can still recall seeing him in his RAF uniform.

Lucy's general store

Another was Lucy’s, a general store, just below the café on the corner of Tichborne Street. It was always in a muddle but Lucy could lay her hands on everything in seconds.

Toys in short supply in wartime

Toys were very short during the war but you could buy American cloth without coupons. My Dad was very clever at making things. He made two patterns: one a rabbit and the other a penguin. We had a sewing machine so were able to make quite a few toys. With my school friend who still lives in North Laine we had the job of pulling apart an old mattress to stuff the toys with. It wasn’t pleasant as the fluff got up our noses but I’m sure that we were rewarded with some pocket money. The toys were very popular and two good selling places were the Pedestrian Arms, still in Foundry Street, and the Zylo factory, where Dad worked.

Bread Street was busy

Bread Street was always a busy place. The Electricity Board Garages were opposite our house and we had the little church of St Mary’s on our side of the road. I believe there was another chapel, Toc H, further along the other side.

The Odeon cinema opened

Another memory was the opening of the Odeon Cinema in West Street. One of the first films in 1938 was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. A competition was held for the boy who most looked like Tom Sawyer and my brother Arthur won and his prize was a lovely new bicycle. A lot of boys came round to look at it.

My favourite places today

The favourite places for me are the Royal Pavilion and its grounds and café, and also the Museum and the Theatre Royal.


[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 222, May/June 2013]

This page was added on 17/06/2013.

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