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1980s Brighton – shopfronts

25 October 2010 17 Comments

In the first of a series, history writer Peter Chrisp shares his photos and memories of Brighton in the 1980s.

I moved to Brighton from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, aged 18 in late 1976, to study English at Sussex University. From the first view of Brighton from the viaduct, I fell in love with the place, and decided I’d never leave. Back then, it was a run-down shabby British seaside resort, which still felt like the town of Brighton Rock. There were pubs run by formidable landladies with dyed green hair, full of eccentric old people and teddy boys, and very individual cafés and shops. From 1981, I started to photograph old shopfronts.

Trigwell's Dining Rooms Brighton 1980s

This picture of Trigwell’s at 38 North Road shows just how run-down Brighton was in the 1980s. I loved this painted sign and it was the first old shopfront I photographed, in May 1981. Thinking the facade alone wasn’t interesting enough, I made my friend Phil stand in the doorway. Trigwell’s opened around 1918. It stood empty like this for many years, and the whole block was pulled down to build flats in 1987.

Cooper's hairdressers Brighton 1980s

Cooper’s barbers, at 27 Baker Street, was a Brighton institution, which he opened in the late 1940s. You can see a snoozing cat in the window, and it smelled of cats’ litter. The walls were covered with hand-written signs, including ‘Do not cut hard hair’, ‘Cannot cut hair in a rush’, and ‘Don’t go on!’ Mr Cooper was a foul-mouthed ex-desert rat who, despite all the photos of different hairstyles in the windows, could only do one cut, a brutal short-back and sides with clippers. But he only charged 80p – later rising to £1.20.

Acorn Snack Bar Brighton 1980s

The Acorn Snack Bar at 89 St James Street is now Grubbs burger takeaway, showing the change in Brighton dining – from greasy spoon to fast food. The Acorn had a lovely jukebox, and you could select the tunes from wall displays beside each table. Previously the Good Intent Café, it became the Nefertiti Restaurant in 1968 and the Acorn in 1973. We’ve lost this sort of place to the ‘Starbucks Experience’.

Gilmour's Corsetry Brighton 1980s

Before the She Said erotic boutique, we had Gilmours Distinctive Corsetry at 7 Gardner Street, now Moda and Soda. I love the window display and the beautiful sign writing, which dates from the early 1950s. It’s difficult now to imagine the transactions that went on in such a shop. Did they do bra fittings?

Beall's Cork Merchants Brighton 1980s

Beall & Co Cork Merchants at 51 Gardner Street, opened by T.H.Beall in 1883, was a relic from Victorian Brighton, when the town was full of small-scale manufacturers. Beall’s produced bottle stoppers, bath mats and other cork items, and the window was filled with cork doll’s furniture and 3-D cork pictures. When it closed in 1983, the shopfront was dismantled and reassembled in Brighton Museum, where you can still see it today.

Jack Marsh butchers Brighton 1980s

Jack Marsh’s Family Butcher, at 123 Islingword Road, is another example of the lost art of ornate signwriting. Hanover, largely residential now, was full of old butchers’ shops and greengrocers back then.

Coming soon: Peter shares his photos and memories of the West Pier and life in 1980s Brighton.

All images copyright Peter Chrisp

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  • Tweets that mention Vintage Brighton » Blog Archive » 1980s Brighton – shopfronts -- Topsy.com said:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lana C and Tic Toc Café, vintagebrighton. vintagebrighton said: How Brighton's shopfronts looked in the 1980s: http://bit.ly/9MfNPB […]

  • Jenny said:

    This is SO cool, what a great archive of pictures. Cannot wait for the next installment.

  • brian said:

    great to see the photo of the Cork Shop , people don’t believe me when i tell them about the TRULY oddball shops in those days !
    thanks for posting them

  • Barry Plank said:

    At the age of fifteen, I used to sit in the first floor window of the Cork shop watching corks bobbing up and down in a sausepan of boiling water on a gas ring, when they were soft enough I had to push them into the holes in Clutchplates.
    This was in 1961. The Clutchplates in question were of course for Ancient Classic Motorcycles. Mr Watkins the manager would then face them all off level to a certain thickness on a giant sanding wheel.
    But being fifteen and looking straight into the window of Gilmours Bra shop opposite my mind used to run riot!!
    I don’t know if the lady that ran it was the owner or manager, but I remember she was a lovely friendly lady.
    As for Mr Watkins, there were only us two working in the shop, and I have to say, he was one of the nicest people I have ever met.

  • gary said:

    brighton was much cooler in the 60’s when we went down there on bank holidays but now its full of what i’d call ner’do wells, theres something sinisterly boring about brightonians. i cant really put my finger on it. and why do they all try and speak like londoners, you can see they are yokels trying to come across as attitude
    great blog, please see mine

  • VintageBrighton.com (author) said:

    What is your blog Gary?

  • gotapennysir said:

    interesting pics thanks for sharing. I moved away from Brighton in 1994 and very rarely go back but I went back a few weeks ago and was actually shocked at how much its transformed! I think even in the 80s to the early 90s it was quite a shabby place apart from the town centre. I liked the shabbyness! It’s all gone a bit sort of flash and trendy now! Still has the best darn pubs in the country though 🙂

  • Nancy said:

    Brilliant – I loved the Cork Shop. Does anyone remember a tiny shop in the North Laine that only sold eggs?
    I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve imagined it.

  • Gail said:

    You didn’t imagine it Nancy! It was in Gardner street on the opposite side of the road from the cork shop.

    I lived in Brighton from 1981 to 1998 – this is making me very nostalgic. Jack Marsh’s was my local butcher for most of that time – all the anthropomorphised pigs in the window used to spook me a bit!

  • frosgrok said:

    A question, just because you mentioned Grubb’s burgers:

    The one I went to, in the late ’80s, had a weird conveyor belt that delivered the burgers from the kitchen upstairs. Is that still around?

    I looked at online photos of their locations, but none seemed like what I remember… Haven’t been back to the UK in over 20 years…


  • Maya said:

    This is the Brighton of my childhood in the 1980’s! My Mum used to take us into the cork shop to buy corks for her homemade wine! I can remember being fasinated by the models made out of cork and even after it moved to the museum I used to pop in to see them, still go when I am visiting Brighton! There used to be a coffee bean shop in the same street which I also found fascinating. Gardener street and St.James’s street were such great places to shop. Thanks for posting.

  • Graham Perrin said:

    I went to Coopers 🙂 Think: hairy pink gloss paint. More related memories: https://www.facebook.com/ellis.a.collins/posts/10152083260435946 and https://www.facebook.com/grahamperrin/posts/10152189239181693

  • Graham Perrin said:

    I think that Grubb’s near the floral clock in Hove has (or had) a dumb waiter …

  • Graham Perrin said:

    Yeah, shabby with character was a great attraction for me. The seafront is quite homogenised now.

  • Graham Perrin said:

    vimeo.com/16860928 a great short film …

  • Crumpi said:

    I think Grubbs was set up by Malcolm Kidd and there was another branch for a while, somewhere close to the clock tower, at the other end of Western Road.

    Does anyone remember, or have photos of Woodies Wine Bar?

  • Barry Plank said:

    Loving the photo of Trigwells Central Dining rooms. Annie Trigwell was married to my Great Uncle Arthur Plank. They had it for many years.
    I think it must have closed down or changed hands around 1040 when Arthur died.

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