Post War Brighton

VE Day street party 1945. Rugby Place
From the private collection of Brian Hatley
West Pier. This wonderful picture was taken soon after the pier's reopening post WW2. It shows the interior of the Concert Hall (the building that was closest to the beach) when it was used as a café.
A Volk's railway train leaving the terminus with passengers. C.1940s
Image reproduced with kind permission from Brighton and Hove in Pictures by Brighton and Hove City Council
The "bookies" at work during a race.
My Brighton and Hove

With the Second World War finished it was time to get back to some form of normality.

The First Meeting of Brighton Races.

Brighton’s first race meeting after the end of the war took place on Friday 24th August 1945.

It is understood that all police leave had been cancelled for this event and the Police were out early at the Railway Station and in the Town Centre. About 10am large contingents of police officers were seen heading into the racecourse to take up positions for the afternoon racing. In fact almost 100 Police Officers reported for duty together with 2 Police Inspectors and a Police Superintendent. This was a big day for the Police as well as the general public and large crowds were expected to attend.

These expected crowds started to arrive early in the morning, some slowly making their way to the racecourse while others, it seemed, were happy to spend their time around the shopping areas. Many of these people had arrived in Brighton from London on the various extra trains that had been put on. As each train arrived they were packed with people and as they left the trains it was just a sea of faces walking shoulder to shoulder. The gates were opened to let the people through, there were far too many to worry about checking tickets as they left the trains.

A family day

All of a sudden Queen’s Road was choc-a-bloc with these people all heading down to the sea. This was because it was the first time they had seen the sea for more than five years. It was evident that this was turning out to be a family day as children were very much in evidence.

The weather was sunny and very warm, just what the race-course staff had wished for. The good weather was sure to boost the race goers on this very first race day. Very soon ‘shirt-sleeve’ was the order of the day. The beaches very quickly were filled with people, many adults paddling in the sea. It was a very happy scene, a scene Brighton always enjoyed.

More and more people arrived in the town as they made their way to the seafront and the shopping areas. As the time approached for going to the race course, crowds of people had to queue for the buses to take them there. The Bus Company had every bus they owned out and in service, ferrying hundreds of people up to the race course.

The visiting crowds built up throughout the day adding to the crowds of local people as the people gradually converged on the Race Hill.

As the time of the first race approached it was estimated that there were some 60,000 people in attendance, a record which has never been broken at the ‘Brighton Races.’

Brighton Race days are renowned for attracting wet weather and it was to everyone’s surprise to find the day started with ample sun in the skies. However, it wasn’t to last as the weather quickly started to go downhill during the afternoon and the overcast skies produced some very heavy rain. However, this failed to dampen anyone’s spirits and betting money changed hands with every race. At the end of the races large crowds queued to get their winning from the bookmakers. Four of the favourites won their races and that usually signalled that the bookmakers were not having a very good day. However, the punters were. There were loud hoots and hollers as the various punters received their money from the bookmakers.

A day at the Races.

Everyone was enjoying a wonderful day at the Races.

The Police had very little to do, there were a few arrests, mainly for drunkenness and two people were arrested as pickpockets.

As the last race finished there was a mad dash for the buses to take many of the people back to the Railway Station and there were huge queues for a long time before the last of the racegoers managed to board one of the buses.

With this record crowd the Brighton Corporation, who owned the race course did very well financially, the only losers on the day were the bookmakers.

David Rowland – Author and Researcher.



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