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14 January 2019

Clarence Hotel, North Street, Portslade

Judy Middleton 2002 (revised 2019)

copyright © G. Moore
The Clarence in its heyday

The Clarence was most probably built in the 1860s, and in the early days it was known as an inn rather than a hotel. Although the Directories list James Hammond, builder, as the occupant in the 1860s and 1870s, the 1871 census identifies Walter Flint, aged 44, as the inn-keeper. He lived with his wife Emily, 35, two sons, one servant and five lodgers.

In 1881 Walter Hylands was the inn-keeper. Both he and his wife Philadelphia were aged 40 and they lived with their eight children:

Susannah, 18
Louis, 15
George, 14
Clara, 10
Ernest, 8
Louisa, 7
Albert, 5
Frederick, 3

In the 1890s John Rich was in charge. It is interesting to note that he had moved from the Stag’s Head, Portslade where he had been landlord in the 1880s.

The Silverthorne and Myers Families

 copyright © G. Moore
This photograph dates back to around 1926. Left to right, Monty Myers, Ruth Mercy Moore holding Oswald William Moore, Gladys Mary Moore (nee Silverthorne) and Mary Jane Myers (formerly Silverthorne)

Mr and Mrs C. Silverthorne had previously run an ale-house on the coast road before they moved into the Clarence. By 1905 Mrs Mary Silverthorne was listed as the landlady because she had already been widowed and lived on the premises with their only child Gladys Mary. However, Mrs Silverthorne was a lady of some enterprise because she also ran a fishmonger’s business at 46/47 North Street, Portslade. It also seems she was acting in the family tradition because there was a Charles George Silverthorne who was a fishmonger located at 28 Trafalgar Street, Brighton from 1889 to 1912, while also running a public house – in 1905 it was the Dorset Arms, 28 North Street, Brighton, and in 1912 it was the Reservoir Tavern, 1 Howard Place, Brighton. By 1911 a George Silverthorne was a fishmonger at 64 North Street, Portslade until 1915.

Meanwhile, back at the Clarence, Montague Myers was the landlord by 1910, and since he remained for a good few years, the pub came to be nicknamed Monty’s. Mary and her daughter Gladys still lived on the premises because Mary Silverthorne had married Monty in 1907 and the couple went on to have four sons:

Edward (Eddie)

Eddie and Eric ran another Myers family enterprise – a Mineral Water Factory, located near the Clarence. Family lore suggests that the factory also produced ginger beer and lemonade. Later on, when it closed, Eric set up a car-breakers yard on the site.

Bertram was slightly disabled, and walked with a limp – he helped out around the pub.

Leo became an engineer, and originally worked for the well-known Brighton engineering firm of CVA.

Gladys served behind the bar before marriage. She was an accomplished pianist and was much in demand at the cinema in North Street, Portslade – originally called Prince's Imperial Picture Palace, by 1920 it had become the Picturedrome, then in the 1930s it became the Pavilion Cinema, and finally from 1936 until it shut the Portslade Pavilion. Back in the days of silent films, a pianist such as Gladys provided the music. Sometimes, a score was provided, but occasionally the pianist was expected to improvise. The music played was appropriate to what was happening on the screen. For example, slow, tender music was played for a romantic scene, while an exciting chase needed a vigorous bashing on the keys.
When Gladys became Mrs Moore, the couple rented a cottage near the Clarence, before moving to a house in Eastbrook Road.

 copyright © G. Moore
Mary Jane Myers 
(grandmother of Oswald William Moore)
Monty ran a Tontine Slate Club at the Clarence – it was an unusual type of Christmas slate club because customers saved money specifically in order to enjoy a spot of Christmas spirit of the superior sort. Every winter Monty and his son-in-law would take their annual trip to London to visit a wine merchant’s in the City of London where they selected a barrel of port and arranged for it to be delivered to Portslade. When the barrel arrived at the Clarence, it was set up in the cellar where the precious contents were decanted into glass bottles and finished off with a label proclaiming Monty’s Port - to be sold in the pub for half-a-crown (2/6d).

By 1930 Mrs Mary Myers was the licensee and it seems probable that she took over the running of the pub because her husband was ill – in fact Monty died on 14 June 1940. Mary Myers remained the licensee until the 1950s when Bertram Montague Myers took over.

In 1936 Bertram undertook the sad task of identifying the body of his brother Edward Myers, both being noted as of the Clarence Hotel. What happened was that on 17 February 1936 Eddie had been flying a Tiger Moth two-seater from Shoreham Airport when he ran into a thick bank of fog and crashed into a field in Yapton Lane, Walberton. His companion in the aircraft was his fiancée Miss Ruby Dickerson from the Adur Hotel. She died soon after the crash and he died the next day in hospital.

In November 1933 it was Eddie who discovered the unconscious body of Joseph Bedford who kept a second-hand shop at 1 Clarence Street, Portslade. Eddie noticed that several articles of clothing had been left outside the shop, and that the door was ajar. At first it was believed that Joey had met with an accident inside his shop but it soon became apparent that he had been murdered, and two men were later hanged for the crime. (See also St Andrew’s Road). When the Clarence Street building was being cleared of its contents, Eddie took his step-nephew inside the shop where young Oswald was allowed to choose any toy that caught his fancy.

In the 1930s and 1940s Frank Lucas, a man of ample girth, used to play the piano at the Clarence. He earned his living as ferryman for the Portslade Gas Works and he enjoyed taking part in the Gas Works Concert Party as well as playing the piano for the Gasco Rhythm Makers, an accordion and banjo band. 

 copyright © Doug Mepham’s family
The Gasco Rhythm Makers making music in the 1940s. At the back Fred Lucas, senior, ferryman, can just be seen seated at the piano. He also enjoyed playing the piano at nearby pubs such as the Clarence and the Windmill.
Brewery Owners

Tamplin’s owned the Clarence in the 1890s and by 1902 it was the property of the Rock Brewery.

Assembly Room

The Clarence had an Assembly Room that was well patronised, there being nowhere else for large gatherings in Portslade-by-Sea at the time.

The room measured 20 feet by 15 feet. On 18 December 1870 the first service of the Portslade Baptists took place here. The noted Revd Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) heard about the needs of the people at Portslade and arranged for a student from the Baptist College to visit them. Thus Revd E.A. Tydeman battled his way from Brighton to Portslade in the middle of a snowstorm to bring comfort to a congregation consisting of eleven people and a few children. 

The furnishings in the Assembly Room consisted of a piano in one corner and a table in the other corner upon which rested a Bible and a glass of water. Access to the room was by a dark stairway at the back of the Clarence. For the first twelve months the average collection on a Sunday came to £1 but the congregation quickly grew and the Portslade Baptist Church was officially formed on 29 October 1872. By 1873 the Baptists had moved out of the Assembly Room and into a small School / Chapel at Chapel Place, off North Street, Portslade, while in the 1890s a large, twin-towered Baptist Church was constructed in North Street. 

  copyright © G. Osborne
The earliest long term 'Mass Centre' was in the Assembly Rooms next to the Clarence Inn, (Tamplins Ales) These Assembly Rooms were converted into a chapel and named after St Aldhelm. North Street at this time was Portslade main shopping and commercial area, all the buildings in this road have long since been demolished.
(With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection)   
It is also said that Roman Catholics used the Assembly Room and later had a small chapel at 45A North Street, which was named after Saint Aldhelm, an Anglo-Saxon saint. On 28 July 1912 their new church, Our Lady, Star of the Sea,and St Denis, Church Road, Portslade, was officially opened.

On 30 April 1897 a meeting was held to consider the conversion of the south part of Portslade from being managed by Steyning East Rural District Council to becoming Portslade Urban District Council.

When St Andrew’s School, Portslade, was being re-built, the children had to be taught in the Assembly Room until the school re-opened in 1914.

Other clubs and societies such as the Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes also used the Assembly Room.

Thomas Huntley Wood (1868-1951)

Thomas Huntley Wood was a regular at the Clarence where he used to sit in the private bar at one of those hard-topped tables with ornate cast-iron legs, and he always wore his Naval cap. His visit to the pub was good news to young Oswald William Moore whose mother was Gladys (nee Silverthorne) because Sailor Wood would sometimes perform his special trick to amuse the child. Mr Moore later described his experience as follows:

He (Sailor Wood) would produce a penny from his pocket with his right hand and place his left hand under the table, tap the top of the table with the penny, say some magical words and produce the same penny from under the table in his left hand. I would think two pennies were involved but, at my age, when a child’s world was a magical one, to me it was just the one coin with a touch of mystery.’

Thomas Huntley Wood's image on a 
Player's Navy Cut cigarette packet
It was said the ‘scars, tattoos and countless yarns bore witness’ to Sailor Wood’s worldwide adventures. It was in 1897 that a photographer visited the ship on which Wood was serving, HMS Edinburgh, moored in Galway Bay; the photographer was struck by his fine nautical appearance that included a ‘full set’ (beard and whiskers). He took a photograph, which was later re-worked into a coloured portrait of Wood framed in a lifebelt with the sea and two ships in the background. This celebrated portrait appeared on the front of Player’s Navy Cut cigarettes.

Wood knew nothing about this development, but it must have been a realistic likeness because his shipmates recognised him. Officers advised Wood to write to John Player & Son about using his likeness without permission. The clerk who wrote the letter on Wood’s behalf suggested that he ask the firm for the sum of £15, but Wood thought this was too much. Instead the letter stated, ‘I am quite willing to allow you that permission, providing that you give me the nominal sum of 2 guineas and a sample pound of your Navy Cut to allow my mates to test its quality.’

Player’s had a bargain, because by the time Wood died, his portrait had been seen by millions of people over the course of some fifty years. But actually, the fame became something of a burden because he could not go anywhere without some man pulling out a packet of Player’s cigarettes, pointing to the portrait, and asking ‘Is that you?’ Eventually, Sailor Woods resorted to becoming clean-shaven to avoid recognition.
When Sailor Woods retired, he moved first to Southwick, before buying a house in Ellen Street, Portslade. While living at Portslade, Wood and his wife Rebecca celebrated their Golden Wedding. The couple are buried in Portslade Cemetery, leaving behind numerous descendants – no less than eighteen grandchildren, and sixteen great-grandchildren.

Final Days

By the late 1970s the Clarence was a lively place to go. The regular DJ was Rockin’ Bill – then there were Rockabilly bands such as Matchbox making popular appearances not to mention the go-go dancers prancing about on a Friday night in their daring bikinis. Youthful patrons included young men who liked to ride British bikes and meet up at the Clarence, leaving their precious machines parked in a row on the opposite side of the road.

It was a shame when the Clarence was demolished, and the once bustling North Street became something of a desolate-looking industrial site.


Argus (22 November 2001)
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Family information from Mr G. Moore
Further research by D. Sharp
Middleton, J. Portslade and Hove Memories

Lost Pubs Project-on-line-Clarence

Copyright © J.Middleton 2019 
page layout by D. Sharp