Brighton and Hove Miscellany
During the First World War, a large number of troops from the Indian Army fought on the Western front. Many of these Indian soldiers were injured and came to Brighton. A number of buildings and hospitals were pressed into service in Brighton to cater for them.
The main hospital was the General hospital situated at the top of Elm Grove. This hospital was evacuated of all the patients just prior to the Indian soldiers arriving. These patients were sent to other hospitals either in Brighton or the near vicinity to carry on with their treatment. The Hospital was re-named ‘The Kitchener General Indian Hospital’. A number of other buildings also became make-shift hospitals, including The Royal Pavilion and the York Place School (Later called The Fawcett School and later still The Patcham-Fawcett School.’)
These hospitals were responsible for their treatment and they also had to provide places for worship for the three main religions of the Indian troops.
A large marquee was erected in the grounds of the Royal Pavilion as the Sikh temple. There was also another large marquee erected for use as the nine kitchens that were required to cater for the various different foods needed to meet the dietary needs of the different religions of these soldiers.
On leaving Brighton a large number of the soldiers remarked on how well they had been treated, not only by the medical staff but by the people of the town.
The Bat and Ball Public House.
The Bat and Ball public house in Ditchling Road takes its name from the old game of ‘Bat and Trap.’ This game was played on The Level, opposite to where the public house stood.
The pub has two signs, and the picture on the sign in Ditchling Road depicts the correct game referred to in the pub’s name. The other sign, showing a cricketer, is a reminder of the time in the 1980s when the pub’s name was changed to ’Lord’s Bar’ and given an erroneous cricketing connection. But ‘bat and trap’ is a very old game, which was traditionally played on The Level on Good Friday morning.
The way the game is played is that the ball was thrown in the air by the trap, which was like a see-saw catapult, when the ‘batsman’ hits the raised end of the trap with his bat.
During the 1960s Brighton was the scene of a number of clashes between rival youth culture gangs who were generally known as the ‘Mods and the Rockers.’ The worst of these clashes occurred on the weekend of 17th and 18th May 1964. During this weekend it has been estimated that some 3,999 youths were involved with clashes. A vast number of police were on duty to deal with the youngsters. The majority of these young people were aged around the 15 and 16 years. A large number of these youths were arrested and at one time there were 76 Mods in the Police Station cells. There were fewer ‘Rockers’ arrested and because they had to be kept separate, some of them were housed in the female area of the Cell Block.
This weekend incident had started on the late Friday afternoon and carried on until late on Monday afternoon when it started to rain. Huge numbers of these young people left the beaches and started to make their way to the Railway station. The Police had anticipated this and took over ‘crowd control’ and shepherded these people up North Road, Queens Road and to the Station. A large number had come down to Brighton from London. but, at the railway Station, whether they were from London or not these youths were loaded onto the trains, even those youths living in Brighton were ‘herded’ on to the London bound trains. At Victoria railway station there were a large contingent of Metropolitan Police awaiting their arrival. The Police were accompanied by dogs and horses. There was no trouble at Victoria Station.
This weekend incident was made the subject of a very popular film called ‘Quadrophenia’ in 1979. Much of it was filmed on location in the town. The name of this film comes from the music album called ‘Quadrophenia’ by the group ‘The Who.’ This now world wide famous group was resident at the time at the ‘Florida Rooms’ in Brighton in the 1960s.(The Florida Rooms are now part of The Sea Life Centre at the Aquarium.)
The Music Scene in Brighton.
During the 1960s there was an explosion of music throughout this Country and Brighton became very popular within the Music Scene.
Some of the top groups came to Brighton to perform their latest hits. The young people loved it at this time.
Among those people who came to Brighton included Gene Vincent (of Bee Bopaloola fame) he played to packed crowds at The Essoldo Cinema and Theatre in North Street. This later changed to become a large shop called ‘Sports Direct.’
A large number of up and coming groups played at the ‘Florida Rooms’ at the Aquarium. The Aquarium was next to the Concorde Club, this was another venue very popular with the groups. This enabled the new groups to get their experience of being on stage in front of large audiences.
The already famous groups like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles appeared at the Hippodrome, playing to packed audiences.
The Brighton Dome was the main venue until the Brighton Centre was built. They too had some of the top American and English stars appearing and entertaining large audiences. Among those appearing around the 1960s were Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd.
Interestingly it seems that a few odd venues and the odd particular area held onto their history even 50 years on. You would find the Mods at The Top Rank Suite, which is now The Oceana Club found in West Street. The West Street area has always been the centre of entertainment and so it is still today with its various clubs and, of course, The Brighton Centre. These days there is the Life Club which is home to some of the hottest electronic music, House and Techno as well as Reggae. These days it is home to the hundreds of students, which Brighton has in abundance.
The Top Rank Suite was a huge venue like today but in those days long ago there was a very large revolving stage. Even today there are quite large number of Police patrolling the area when the clubs shut, in an effort to quell any trouble that maybe brewing.
Probably one of the largest changes occurs in The North Laine area when it is compared with the 1960s with the present day. Today, there is a high density of some top quality pubs around North Laine putting on live music and wonderful inexpensive food on what was once land doomed to be demolished. The North Laine area was once a slum that people resided in post war due to the house prices being so low. Things have moved along since those days as North Laine is now hugely popular as a shopping area. There are large numbers of coffee bars and food in different venues to suit all tastes.
Whchever way you might look at Brighton these days it has always had a passion for music and is rarely overlooked by the more popular bands.
St. Nicholas Church.
The churchyard of this wonderful old church is the final resting place of some of the more famous names in Brighton and Hove’s past. Firstly Martha Gunn is buried there. She was known as ‘The Queen of the Dippers.’ The ‘Dippers’ were the attendants who looked after the women bathers on the beach during the 18th Century. She also was a registered captain and took people out in her boat for short trips.
Then there is Phoebe Hessell. She was in madly love with a soldier and couldn’t bear to be parted from him so when he was posted away, she cut her hair very short, dressed in men’s clothing and joined the same Regiment as her lover and went with him. She deceived the authorities for several years. She was certainly a remarkable character. She was born in Brighton in 1713.
Her lover was wounded and invalided out of the Army. She saw no reason to stay and admitted she was a woman and she too left the army. Her lover, Samuel Golding died and she moved to Brighton where she married William Hessell. He was 80 years of age when he died and she received 3 guineas from the parish. She spent this sum of money on a donkey and became a fish hawker around the streets of Brighton. She also sold gingerbread and apples. In 1808, she was then in her 90s and she received a pension from the Prince Regent of half a guinea a week. In 1821 when the Prince became King George IV she attended his Coronation in London. She died the same year aged 108 and was buried in the churchyard after a large crowd attended her funeral.
Another of the famous Brighton people who was buried in the churchyard was Captain Nicholas Tettersell. He became famous for taking Charles II across the Channel to France and safety.