The Brighton Bead shop at 25 - then and now

Photo:Plaque above the shop door celebrating 25 years of trading there

Plaque above the shop door celebrating 25 years of trading there

Photo from the Bead Shop's collection

Photo:The Bead Shop in 1986

The Bead Shop in 1986

Photo from the Bead Shop's collection

Photo:The Bead Shop in 2010

The Bead Shop in 2010

Photo from the Bead Shop's collection

In Sydney Street since 1986

The year 2011 marks 25 years since the Brighton Bead Shop opened its doors for the first time in Sydney Street. Like the infamous Sex Pistols gig at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall, thousands claim to have been there.

It opened in March 1986

On that first icy Brighton day in March 1986, notable for its three-inch snowfall, the shop was sparsely populated and less than £50 was taken. A quarter of a century on and, a bit like the aforementioned rebel rousers, the Brighton Bead Shop is now a highly successful, stately, silver haired lady and very much part of the establishment.

Not many interesting outlets then

Back in 1986 there were only a handful of interesting outlets in the North Laine area, usually with a didgeridoo busker or two playing outside, but the scene was growing and a buzz had begun. Now it has grown and matured into a cosmopolitan, must-visit world of gorgeous shops. Businesses have come and gone but the Brighton Bead Shop remains a distinguishing landmark and the original and best place to buy for all eager beaders.

The proprietor lived above the shop

In the early days of the Brighton Bead Shop, proprietor Geoff Ellis lived above the shop. The only bath and toilet facilities were outside at the back and the pipes froze with reassuring regularity. Legend has it that Geoff wrote his business plan on the back of a beer mat, not exactly the approach that would have Dragons in the Den clamouring for a taste! Beloved black cat Poland was employed from the start to keep the mice down. He fast became a local celebrity when he left the mice to their own devices and turned into a regular fixture, reclining in the shop window until June 2000.  

Back to the future

The Brighton Bead Shop has come a long way since its quaint beginnings and is now considered a national treasure amongst the beading community. Beads and findings can now be ordered at the click of a button. However, customers still love to see their beloved beads ‘in the flesh’ and the Brighton Bead Shop has a dedicated clientele who come from far and wide.

Celebration time

To celebrate its Silver Jubilee, the Brighton Bead Shop (aka Beads Unlimited) is running a whole host of events. A major part of this is its aim to raise £10,000 for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Money raisers include ‘Sea and Cakes’ parties where staff, customers and casual acquaintances are holding tea parties throughout the year. These have ranged from a simple Victoria sponge passed around the office to full-on events with jewellery being sold and hand masseurs lending their services! The total is steadily rising, but they still have a long way to go.

How to make a donation

If you would like to know about other events being held, ways to join in or simply to make a donation please visit the fundraising page:


[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 210, May/June 2011]


This page was added on 13/06/2011.

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