Memories of a 'manufactured' town

Trevor Povey's Fishersgate Tales

By Peter J Stoker

Photo:Trevor talks about Fishersgate

Trevor talks about Fishersgate

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Trevor Povey local historian

Trevor Povey local historian

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:The house I was born in

The house I was born in

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Here I am!

Here I am!

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Down by the water

Down by the water

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Fishersgate plaques

Fishersgate plaques

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Trevor Povey, an engineer by trade, was born in Fishersgate and has seen a lot of changes over the years.

Trevor Povey's Fishersgate Tales

By Peter J Stoker

Trevor Povey, an engineer by trade, was born on the Portslade-Fishersgate border and has seen a lot of changes to the area over the years.

Fishersgate - a new Industrial town

Fishersgate has nearly all been renewed with 1960s housing. 1870s Fishersgate was mainly agricultural. With the coming of the Gas Works in 1870 homes for the new workforce were built on the fields close to the main Shoreham Road. By 1872 there were four streets.

A mixed population

As the locals were either boatmen or farm workers and lacking the skills of the gas company, large numbers of people from all over the country came to work here: Geordies, Scots, Yorkies and Welsh settled in Fishersgate making a very mixed population.

Fishersgate grows

Engineering works like the famous Metal Box Company were established, there was an old windmill which had been used for making cement. Flinns the Dyers and Cleaners built their factory in Fishersgate. Flinns chimney was the local landmark which could be seen from a great distance.  Steadily the number of houses grew and a school, shops, a pub (making 3) and several chapels were added. Fishersgate had its own Coastguard station (conveniently next to the fish and chip shop).

Fishersgate Halt

The railway built in 1840 passed Fishersgate on its way to Shoreham. Fishersgate Halt was added in 1905 making the area much more accessible. The Fishersgate Inn stood by Fishersgate Halt. Its name was changed to the Gladstone Inn but it had a fire and the area where it stood is now covered by flats. Much of the industry has gone and there is but one shop. The rows of neat little houses were replaced in the 1960s by flats designed with workers in mind.

Norman origins

Until the late 1800s Fishersgate consisted of a tithe barn (now demolished), a couple of farm cottages just south of the railway (also now gone), a row of cottages at right angles to the main Brighton Road by the western corner of Fishersgate recreation ground and a pub called the Gardner's Arms which has been gone for many years. Fishersgate dates back to Norman times when it was a Hundred. Fishersgate hundred was split in to two half hundreds for administration purposes. Lord Howard, the Lord High Admiral of all England stayed (in what is now the doctors house), in Southwick Street.

Sold for £550!

He had a map made of all the likely landing places and best places to put fire beacons in preparation for the Spanish Armada. Because he had a vested interest Fishersgate and Eastbrook are shown on the map. In 1578 Lord Howard sold Eastbrook for £550 to Henry (dog) Smith a London Alderman. The "Dog Smith Charity is still helping organisations to this day. Before the gasworks in 1870, Fishersgate was mainly farmland. The Gardner brothers were the main tenants and they lived in Eastbrook (now Southwick) manor house. Eastbrook Manor was reached by a track from Portslade where Eastbrook Road now stands.

A 'company' town

The gas works was, in effect, a self-contained town with sports and social clubs, a bowling green, cycling clubs, their own fire brigade and fist aid staff. A large number of people from Fishersgate were employed by the gas works. The gas works helped to keep the rates low.

A Fishersgate 'cockney'!

I was born on the boundary of Fishersgate and Portslade - 38 Shelldale Crescent . The houses were built on the last bit of allotment in 1938. In 1933 there a great number of allotments. The area around where the Gardens link Fishersgate to Southwick was at one time mostly allotments. The path running at the bottom of our garden was the border between East and West Sussex and also the boundary between the Rape of Bramber and the Rape of Lewes. You can still follow this path from the old road near the canal just west of BritanniaWharf right up across the Old Shoreham Road and out on to the Downs. I have often been mistaken for an Eastender although I am true Portsgate and as a result was always known as a Fishersgate cockney!

Old makes way for new

On the road adjacent to the harbour it was all houses. In the 1960s they were knocked down and replaced by flats. Some of the "old 'uns" moved out into Summer Close a warden operated sheltered housing scheme built where the Congregational Chapel had been. Their children, now with young families of their own occupied the new flats. Now it's the turn of their children to occupy the flats and so on.

My first swimming lesson is nearly my last!

I asked Freddie Harlot who had boats if I could go on one. He said "only if you can swim". My granddad said "if he couldn't' before, he can now" and chucked me in the locks. I had to climb out sopping wet.

A grisly wartime tragedy

There were massive tanks along the quay beside the retorts at the gas works, one night during a black out, someone had left a manhole cover open - it was all boiling water underneath. My granddad was walking along with a mate when he disappeared. His mate fell in and was boiled to death in seconds. The old boy never forgot the incident

Old hamlets remembered

The little hamlet of Hazleholt and the hamlet of Brambledean are long gone and forgotten but their memory is kept alive by roads named after them.  Laylands Road takes its name from the local big house near the coast road which was called Laylands.  An interesting thing is that all the pubs round here served as meeting places for different tradesmen. Social drinking, as such, is a relatively new phenomenon. If you were a builder more often than not your next job would come from a meeting in a pub rather than the labour exchange.

Nature knows best

The canal bank at Fishersgate was quite steep and planted with tamarisk. Tamarisk has a very tenacious root system; it protects the land from the sea and holds the bank together. It's a plant with pink flowers. In the 1960s they got rid of the tamarisk and then the bank collapsed. The Tamarisk also provided great cover for making camps.

All our working lives

I'm an engineer by trade. When I came out of the army after serving in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers as an armoured vehicle mechanic, I was offered as a pre release course, paper-hanging or bricklaying. I told them to do me a favour and give it to someone else and I will find my own. I did and spent seven weeks with the local bus engineering works in Portslade. I worked for the Southdown Bus Company for twenty years until it closed. Bus companies were deregulated in 1986 and Southdown Motor Services works became Southdown Engineering working on Lorries and all manner of things.

This page was added by Peter J Stoker on 15/05/2008.
Comments about this page

On a google search on my name I see your site quotes me as still alive but age about 80!
I am still alive!
But only 77 - or 21.
Really you should know that ladies should either be listed as 21 or at least younger than they really are - NOT older.
For more info on me see my website.

By Miss Aileen Chase
On 07/07/2008

Very interesting, my name is Cliff Yeo grandson of Charles Yeo who owned the 3 story shop near the sea front was known for the business and part time entertainer. My Father Harold Yeo was also well known.
I have lived in Australia for nearly 40 years and have returned for personal reasons but have a great and fond memory of Fishersgate in the 50's and 60's when I grew up. Saddened a little by it now but still like to wander those streets when I go to Brighton to see my sister. I now live in Bristol. Would like to make contact as I think I can make contribution to Fishersgate history and my sister certainly can.

Cliff Yeo

By Cliff Yeo
On 29/01/2010

I used to live in No: 77 St. Aubyns Road, Fishersgate. From time to time I have driven around the Fishersgate, Southwick areas. I too am saddened by the way the whole area has become industrialised. My sister, Vicci, and I spent many happy hours playing down 'the bank' and taking the ferry over the canal (in front of the Old Power Station) to go to the beach.

By Anita Burt (French)
On 14/06/2010

I lived in Fishersgate as a child first at 14 West Rd and then in 1942? at 21 Fishersgate Terrace. I well remember playing on the canal bank and had many "adventures" there. I also remember spending nights in the air raid shelters during the war and the landing craft etc on the canal prior to D Day. I remember "Millers" the grocers and "Stevens" the bakery with the lovely smell of the new baked loaves. "Slades" the butchers and the lovely old (to me) Mrs Penfold of the greengrocers. Hardings of the post office and the little shop of "Kensits". The trips into Brighton on the top deck of the "Number 6 Bus". What lovely memories of a very happy childhood in Fishersgate.

By Colin J Wadey
On 29/09/2010

Has anyone got any photos of the old Brighton engineering factory?I worked there in the 60s and lived in St Richards Road. I went over recently to take some pictures and blow me its all been built on! My Dad JOE was a Gassie for about 40 yrs, While I did a couple of yrs over there after national service in 1959. I wonder if Colin knew my Grandad James Penfold and his family in West Road?

By den king
On 17/11/2010

With reference to Den King's grandfather. I cannot remember James Penfold but do remember old Mrs Penfold and most of the rest of the family. I do not know what ages they were (are) but there was Jim, Leslie, Gert?,Eileen, Mary and Kathleen. They lived at number 12 West Road.

By Colin Wadey
On 16/12/2010

Thanks Colin, I always wondered what number it was. James died in 1946. He was in bed at home with a broken hip and tried to get up to spend a penny but knocked himself out and died before they found him! Three other children were Nancy,Doris and Jean.He already had 5 kids by his first wife my mum Grace being the eldest,so all together he fathered 13 kids. When I was a nipper I sometimes went over to west st with my 2 cousins Ron and Gordon Halewood but once we crossed the Fishersgate bridge we,d run like the clappers in case we met any of the Fishersgate gang!! then run all the way back later.

By den king
On 19/01/2011

I was born, raised and still living in Fishersgate, Do you remember the Jolly Boatman and the Star Laundry?

By Stephen Ruff
On 19/01/2011

I was born, raised and still living in Fishersgate, Do you remember the Jolly Boatman and the Star Laundry?

By Stephen Ruff
On 14/04/2011

Does anyone remember the Brazier family who lived in West Road Fishersgate? Kit, Bill, Glad and so many more, would be interested to hear from anyone who knew them.

By dawn wales
On 21/08/2012

My grandfather Joseph Flinn was one of the last family directors of Flinn's dyers & cleaners. The firm was actually bought up by Johnson's of Liverpool in 1920 but the name was kept. The Flinn family business of silk dyeing was started in Dublin some time in the early 18th century. Walter Flinn who was born in 1799 in Dublin came to Brighton around the 1830s when the business in Ireland fell on hard times in the early 1800s. If anyone is watching this board, I'm interested in finding more out about the background of Flinn's from people who worked there or anyone who knows about the history, email

By Nick Fleischmann
On 21/08/2012

i know colin wadey i remember lampkins ,pellings hardings postoffice penfolds the greengrocer millerslewis on the seafrontgardeners the sweetshop in leylands road,aileen chase the morrises and triggs savages cornishes and so on

By len sisley
On 21/08/2012

my mother and father worked in the star laundry can't be exact on dates, but i was born in 1961 so either side of this date

By shirley n
On 21/08/2012

i lived at no 18 chapel road fishersgate in the 1950s to early 1960s when our house was pulled down with the rest of the street... on the left of us as you look at the house lived a dr wilcox... onthe right was a old man called mr internapp... then the post office/grossers called slaters... anyone got any old photos of chapel road... that would be chris 24/7/2012

By chris mcclelland
On 21/08/2012

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