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01 June 2018

Church Road, Portslade

Judy Middleton 2002 (revised 2019)

 copyright © J.Middleton
Church Road was photographed on 6 May 2018

At one time Church Road was even narrower than it is today. In 1904 Portslade Council agreed to pay Mrs Amelia Baker £110 compensation for giving up a portion of land called Court Cottage. In September 1907 Mr J. Eardley Hall agreed to give up some land in order that the road could be widened from Eastbrook to Smokey Barn.

In 1931 Revd J. Kerwin of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, and St Denis, agreed to exchange some land with Portslade Council so that church boundaries could be tidied up. Portslade Council gave him a piece of land, and he gave them the site of the roadway on the south side of the church.

Court Cottage

This was numbered as 4 Church Road. Arthur Charles Gundry lived there during the 1920s and until around 1931. He was a photographer and old postcards of Portslade bearing his name still come to light occasionally.

55 Church Road

 copyright © J.Middleton
Number 55 is the second house from the right.

In September 1913 Alfred Walter Noel Langrish and his wife Florence moved into this rented property, which cost them seven shillings a week, their landlord being wealthy Mr W. Hillman of North Street, Portslade. Alfred was Portslade born and bred, and his parents and aunt lived close by, but Florence hailed from Norfolk. The couple already had two children, and their third child, George, was born in the house three months after they moved in.

The house had basic amenities, but that was not unusual for the times. There was no bathroom, no running hot water, and the privy was outside in the back yard. There were two bedrooms upstairs plus a small box-room. In the kitchen, sticky fly-papers hung from the ceiling to catch unwary flies.

The Langrish family circle was soon interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War, with Alf joining the Royal Navy in 1914. Florence was left at home with the new baby and two other children to care for. It might be thought that a sailor would be miles away from any battle trenches but that turned out not to be the case. Apparently there were too many sailors and not enough ships, and thus the Royal Naval Division were sent to assist their khaki brothers-in-arms, and were issued with khaki uniforms too. Alf had an eventful war – he was twice wounded, served in the trenches at the Dardenelles, and was taken prisoner. On a rare spell of leave from the trenches, Alf’s war-worn uniform was so infested with lice that there was nothing else to do but make a bonfire of it in the back yard.

Although Alf returned home to Portslade in one piece, he must have suffered from his dreadful war experiences. He would never speak about them, and his children received a sound telling-off, should they ever venture to enquire along the lines ‘What did you do in the war, Daddy?’ This reaction was also common in First World War veterans – they closed the door firmly on past events.

Alf did not have to walk far to his job at the nearby timber merchants John Eede Butt, where his brother George also worked, unloading timber from ships. Four more children were added to the Langrish family, the last one arriving in 1925, and all born at number 55.

Despite the advantage of having an allotment in which to grow vegetables to feed his family, the budget must have been tight. One solution was to take a lodger into their already overcrowded house. Thus elderly Mr Spregget and his wife took up residence in the front room downstairs. Mr Spregget was a churchwarden at St Andrew’s Church, just up the road. The children enjoyed his company, particularly as he was the proud possessor of an old gramophone. He also enjoyed fishing from the beach – often the children accompanied him and watched him fishing for shrimps. He taught them a valuable lesson in demonstrating the correct way to pick up a crab without incurring damage to your fingers.

By 1948 there were still Langrishes at number 55, although by that time it was Alf’s son George who was the tenant and he paid 11/7d a week. In fact the Langrishes must hold some kind of record for occupying the house for so many years because they were still there in 1990.


  copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.  
This evocative photo was taken in the 1930s

In December 1992 in the ‘Flashback’ series of the Brighton & Hove Leader, a photograph was published of Church Road in the 1930s – it certainly stirred up some memories and readers wrote to the newspaper to record them. Jack Todd stated that Mr C. Pengilly ran a cobbler’s business in one of the shops, and as a youngster he went there to purchase a piece of leather so that his dad could repair their boots. The boots had metal studs on the soles to make the boots last longer. Mrs Pengilly’s 80-year old daughter also contacted the newspaper to say that the business dated back to 1908, and people regarded her father as a highly skilled craftsman.

     copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
This photograph of the same row of buildings looking south was taken in the 1960s.

Mr B. Young ran the shop on the corner, next was Pengilly’s, then Mengham’s, the newsagent where tobacco and snuff could be weighed out individually to suit a customer’s requirements. At Baker’s the undertaker’s children would go to collect wood shavings to put on the floor of their rabbit hutches.

   copyright © J.Middleton
This photograph of the same row of buildings was taken in May 2018.

Smokey Cottage

The ‘Smokey’ part has been part of this house’s name since at least 1841. It was first called Smokey House, but in 1881 it was called Smokey Cottage, then by 1891 it had reverted back to Smokey House.

According to the 1841 census, William Lucas, a 31-year old agricultural labourer, lived here with his wife Sarah aged 30. But ten years later the house was unoccupied on census night.

In 1881 Alfred Welles, a 61-year old smith, his wife Mary aged 68, and one lodger lived in the property.

  copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.
Portslade 'pea pickers' in the fields on the west side of Church Road. Smokey Cottage can be seen next to the barn, on the left is the railway embankment and the row of houses are in Trafalgar Road on the north side of the railway bridge

In 1891 the house was crowded because there were no less than nine occupants. They were 36-year old Mark Mills, gardener, his wife, two sons, three daughters, a nephew and Mark’s mother-in-law.
copyright © D. Sharp
Smokey Cottage in May 2018

In 1923 the house was up for sale and was described as follows:

Brick, flint and tile-healed cottage
Three bedrooms (two with fireplaces)
Scullery with copper and sink
Outside WC
Large brick and flint-built, slate-healed barn with sliding doors
Brick-built and tiled two-stall stables with chaff house
8 acres, 2 roods of rich, dark, fertile market-garden land

The property was let to H. Broomfield at £5-16s a year, and the remainder of the lot was also let to H. Broomfield as a market-garden for £46 a year, bringing the total to £51-16s a year.

Later on, Captain Bately re-conditioned the house.

Portslade Fire Station

   copyright © J.Middleton
The attractive-looking former Portslade Fire Station was photographed in March 2003.

Captain Hillman, Chief Officer of Portslade Fire Brigade, had been pressing for better accommodation for some time, and in 1908 events finally began to move his way. Mr J. Eardley Hall offered to sell some land to Portslade Council at a cost of 35/- per foot to enable them to erect a Fire Station. The plot had a frontage to Church Road of 50 ft and a depth of 100 ft. Mr A. Taylor Allen, Portslade’s surveyor, designed the building, which was erected in 1909 by Ernest Clevett, who also built the boundary wall at a cost of £35. The wall included a pillar on the north side of variegated brick, surmounted by an ornamental gas lantern. It gives the building a somewhat asymmetrical look – as though there ought to be a companion pillar and lamp on the south side. But according to old photographs, there was only the one.

    copyright © J.Middleton
Terracotta embellishments on the Fire Station

The Fire Station is an attractive looking structure, and best white bricks were used with terracotta decorations. At roof level there is a charming dormer window with gables set in a terracotta frame topped by finials.

  copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.  
Portslade Fire Brigade in 1906, at this time their fire appliances were stored in a council yard on the east side of Trafalgar Road before the new Fire Station was built in Church Road.

On 3 November 1909 Walter Hillman, chairman of Portslade Council, presided over the opening ceremonies of Portslade Fire Station. Mr Kille, chairman of the works committee, laid the commemorative tablet on the south side, while Mr T.B. Funnell, senior, vice-chairman of Portslade Council, laid the tablet on the north side. Both men were presented with solid ebony mallets bearing a silver shield with the name of the recipient upon it together with a facsimile of the council’s seal. Mr Clevett, the builder, presented Mr Hillman with a massive silver key, suitably engraved, to open the premises.

  copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting 
permission for the reproduction of the above photograph
from his private collection. 
The new Portslade Fire Station in 1909
Mr Hillman then motored down to the Britannia Flour Mills, where he gave the brigade their first call-out from their new headquarters. In less than two minutes the brigade were on the spot, and water was being poured over the mills from two powerful jets.

According to contemporary reports ‘nearly everyone turned out in the afternoon to witness the opening of the new Fire Station’. There were a number of visitors too including Superintendent Lacroix of Brighton Fire Brigade, and Captain Dumbrell from Hove Fire Brigade. Others came from Eastbourne, Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill. Councillors from Portslade and Southwick were also in attendance. Afterwards, around 60 people attended the Parish Room for ‘a substantial meat tea’. Apparently, the whole scheme – that is the purchase of the land, building and furnishing – only came to £500, and no loans were incurred.

copyright © D. Sharp
The former Fire Station in 2010, the doors have 
been re-painted to the original black
In the early days, the first floor of the Fire Station was utilised for council or committee meetings, and sometimes as a coroner’s court too.

In June 1913 an inquest was held into the death of a laundress from Ellen Street who died from ‘sudden relief from a state of acute constipation’ aggravated by injuries received in a fall,

On 12 January 1918 an inquest was held into a baby’s death. A labourer from Kemp Town, John Arnold, was walking towards the Mile Oak Waterworks on 11 January when he noticed a parcel in the hedge near the Industrial School. The parcel contained the body of a baby wrapped in a blue serge skirt, tea cloth, and a very old towel bearing the laundry mark H201. Inquiries brought no results; it was thought the baby had been born that week.

On 26 April 1924 an inquest was held into the death of George Street, the celebrated Sussex cricketer, who crashed his motorbike into the wall near Tate’s Garage at Southern Cross two days previously.

 copyright ©  Brighton & Hove City Libraries
 Captain A.W. Hillman in front of Portslade Fire engine at a fete held in the grounds of Windlesham House in 1927

In 1928 Portslade Library was situated in this building, and remained there for a year or two.

In April 1935 there was an inquest into the death of a woman who had put her head in the gas oven.

It seems that the Fire Station was no longer in its designated use by the time Portslade Fire Brigade became part of the nationalised fire brigade in 1941. All the same, after the Second World War, the new fire authority inherited the building when the East Sussex Fire Brigade was established. It was designated as ‘Station 3’. It is amusing to note that it was kept because of the notion that it ‘might be easier to recruit retained personnel in Portslade than in Hove’. This hope was not fulfilled, and the building was used as brigade stores until 1972.

   copyright © J.Middleton
The former Fire Station photographed in the context of its surroundings.

After that date it became an antiques warehouse, then as premises for a builder. In 1988 Freeway Tools and Fixings purchased the building. In the 2000s the old fire station became the headquarters for Blair Installations (electrical engineers and contractors)

St Andrew’s Parish Room

  copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.
Church Road in the 1950s, from right to left :- The corrugated Church Hall (partial view), St Andrew's Church, St Andrew's Vicarage, Our Lady Stat of the Sea & St Denis and St Mary's School..

Although hard to imagine today, this site had an ancient history, and Anglo-Saxon graves were discovered there.

The Parish Room was built on the corner of St Andrew’s Road and Church Road, and Portslade Council approved the plans in July 1901 with Mr A Hillman being the builder. It was ready for use in 1904. Although it was officially called the Parish Room, it was popularly known as the Tin Hut because there was a roof of corrugated iron – it was called the Scout Hut too since scouting activities took place there. From the 1920s to the 1940s, it was also home to a small private school called St Winifred’s.

In 1950 the church hall was restored. In October 1987 the Great Gale finally put paid to the old place, and the architect reported that the building had shifted – demolition took place in August 1990. There were plans to build six two-bedroom flats on the site but this scheme fell through and Tate’s built a car showroom of unusual design that opened on 2 October 1993. A striking feature was a weather-vane in the shape of a vintage motor car. For whatever reason, the premises had closed down by May 2000. Lexus Luxury Cars then took over the premises, showcasing the distinctive LS400, the dynamic GS300 Sport, and the IS200 Sports saloon. But perhaps this part of working-class Portslade was not the ideal spot to display luxury cars, and the venture did not last long either. The building now sees service as a dental practice.

   copyright © J.Middleton 
Portslade Dental Centre was photographed in November 2012.

St Andrew’s Vicarage

On 7 February 1880 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners wrote to say they could not make a grant towards the cost of erecting a parsonage house. However, on 28 October 1880 there came news that the administrators of Queen Anne’s Bounty were prepared to make a loan of £350 to build a parsonage house upon the glebe land belonging to St Andrew's Church on the north side.

copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.  
St Andrew's Vicarage north of the Church, note the sheep grazing in front of the church and the open fields on the right.

A handsome, red-brick building soon arose and by the time of the 1881 census, the vicar and his wife were already living there. He was Revd Edward Winterbottom, aged 40, his wife Sarah, also aged 49, one son and two servants.

On 17 February 1911 a mortgage for £200 was taken out to build additions and make alterations to the vicarage. The debt was not cleared until April 1931 and un unknown hand (perhaps the vicar, churchwarden or treasurer) wrote on the envelope containing the document Laus Deo (Praise God) as though the debt had been regarded as a millstone around their necks.

One of the last vicars to live in the house was Revd F.R. Long who was in fact a man of small stature.

Unfortunately, with declining congregations, the vicarage became surplus to requirements and was demolished. Portslade Health Centre was built on the site, and opened in 1982.

St Richard’s Flats

    copyright © J.Middleton 
St Richard’s Flats were photographed on 6 May 2018.

St Richard’s Flats owe their existence to a charismatic Anglican clergyman Revd Basil Jellicoe (1899-1935). Jellicoe was a Sussex-bred man, born in Chailey where his father Revd Henry Lee Jellicoe was rector of St Peter’s Church. The rector was a cousin of the celebrated Admiral of the Fleet John Rushworth Jellicoe (1859-1935). Basil Jellicoe was brought up in comfortable circumstances, and went to Magdalen College, Oxford. After he was ordained priest, his old college sent him as Magdalen Missioner to the slum district of Somers Town, London, It must have been a great culture shock to him to encounter at first hand the miserable housing conditions in which many of his parishioners lived and where rats and bugs flourished. He considered it an absolute disgrace, and made it his mission to do what he could to alleviate the problem. He contacted the great and the good – such as the Prince of Wales and the Archbishop of Canterbury – for assistance and patronage. Jellicoe was in advance of his time because he realised the value of publicity to his cause – he made a film of the slums to be shown in cinemas so that people all over the country were made aware of these scandalous conditions. Jellicoe founded the St Pancras House Improvement Society, and other housing associations in London, Sussex and Cornwall. He also took the trouble to ask the people what they wanted in new housing, rather than dictating what others might have thought suitable. As a result the flats were built amidst greenery – gardens, trees, swings for the children and even ponds.

Jellicoe also considered a housing scheme specifically for the elderly, and founded St Richard’s Housing Society – it was fitting that he chose St Richard for his society, since Sussex churchgoers regard St Richard and St Wilfrid as patron saints of their county. St Richard’s Flats were designed by the local firm of architects Denman & Son, and were built in 1935. Jellicoe insisted that the elderly who came to live in the flats would not be questioned as to their religious allegiance. On 8 February 1936 the Bishop of Chichester blessed the ten flats individually. But because of the bitter wind prevailing on the occasions, the service and address took place next door at St Andrew’s Church. Although Basil Jellicoe died at a young age in 1935 – the very year in which St Richard’s flats were built – his influence was considerable, and there is a Jellicoe Community to this day.

Salvation Army Citadel

  copyright © J.Middleton
The former Salvation Army Hall was photographed in June 2003.

William Booth (1829-1912), universally known as the General, founded the Salvation Army in 1865, although its first name was the Christian Mission and it was not changed to the Salvation Army until 1877.

Although now universally recognised as a force for good, early Salvationists faced strong antagonism. Indeed, meetings held in North Street, Portslade – then the principal shopping area – caused riots. The Salvationists started operations in Portslade on 2 August 1882 – thus becoming the 290th corps in the first 300 units. Their first citadel was located on the north side at the west end of North Street, and by 1907 no less than three services were held there on Sundays, with evening services on week days, plus Band of Hope meetings to steer young people away from the demon drink. (This building was subsequently converted into the Picturedrome Cinema).

  copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.  
Portslade's Salvation Army Band in 1911

Meanwhile, a new citadel was established on the south corner site of North Street and Church Road. Richard Smith, owner of nearby Britannia Flour Mills, donated the site, while Oswald Archer of 10 Victoria Street, London, was the architect, his plans being dated April 1909.

The stone-laying ceremony took place on 27 August 1910 with six memorial stones. Richard Smith’s name was on one of them, and other names were Walter Hillman, Mrs E. J. Parker, Ernest Clevett, and Jasper Cowell. 

  copyright © G. Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.  
Portslade's Salvation Army Band leading the Portslade United Sunday School's children to Portslade Station for an outing to Hassocks on the 22 July 1911 (the advert on the left is for H. Baker's of Portslade)

Planning Blight

Church Road suffered from planning blight for a number of years owing to the uncertainty caused by future development plans concerning Shoreham Harbour. At one stage there was an idea to turn the road into a major port route, which would entail demolition of properties and road widening. This is not now considered an option due to the incredible expense of such a scheme, although of course harbour traffic continues to use the road.

In October 1988 consultants looking into the future of Shoreham Harbour, came up with the idea of a road tunnel linking the foot of Church Road with the Hangleton link road. Such a tunnel would cause less disruption than the overland route, but naturally would cost many millions of pounds.


In May 1999 residents were grumbling about the double lot of road-works taking place; Trafalgar Road was shut for around six weeks while a new gas pipeline was being installed – then there were road repairs going on at Southwick Street.

Debbie Stevens, aged 39, who ran Tiffany’s Café , said their takings had halved, while trade at the Cricketer’s Arms had also dropped and there was no compensation.

 copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
The shops at 20-24 Church Road were photographed in the 1960s.

   copyright © J.Middleton 
The shops at 20-24 Church Road were photographed in June 2002. Tiffany’s Café at number 24 has become the Expressos Café, while at Number 22 Catch 22 has taken the place of Something Fishy. At number 20 the Church Road Post Office was still in business with its pillar-box outside – the pillar-box has been moved to the opposite side of the road.

  copyright © J.Middleton 
The same shops were photographed in August 2012. The Post Office has gone, while Peking Chef  has replaced Something Fishy. In 2018 it is still a Chinese takeaway bit is now the Bamboo Garden.
Sewers and Drainage

The south part of Church Road had a long history of trouble with the sewers. This has to do with the geography of the road as much as anything else. In times past, water naturally collected in a hollow, and it is also probable that there used to be a winterbourne stream here.

In October 1906 a storm caused the sewer to overflow. In January 1936 the sewer overflowed again.

In May 1998 a sewer became blocked with the result that a significant amount of sewage ran into a storm overflow that drained into the canal – then there was trouble for causing pollution to Shoreham Harbour.

At last residents thought there was light at the end of the tunnel because on 14 September 1998 work started on constructing a new sewer for lower Portslade at a cost of £300,000, and it was expected to take around ten weeks.

Apparently, the flood defence system did not function properly, and when on 4 July 2000 a huge downpour occurred, Church Road was flooded once again. At Grate Fireplaces (in the old Salvation Army Hall) the water was a metre deep.

Residents blamed Southern Water, while that company laid the blame on Brighton & Hove Council for not installing proper gullies. The Council expressed surprise because they had undertaken all the work requested by the company, and put in new drainage.

In August 2000 a new row of gullies was installed, just in time for the wettest autumn on record. Unfortunately, on 2 October 2001 there was such a deluge that the new £100,000 storm drain could not cope – rainwater backed up into the sewers, and sewage washed into some of the houses. Grate Fireplaces was again hit by flooding, and Mt Hynan, the owner, said he could no longer obtain insurance cover.

Southern Water stated they would install a 750,000-litre tank to prevent future flash floods from causing trouble.

A Fire

A landmark building with a distinctive roofline was suddenly obliterated, much to the regret of local residents. The building was situated on the corner of Eastbrook Road and Church Road, and on 23 October 2007 at around 8.30 p.m. fire broke out. Apparently at the time, the shop was in the process of being renovated, and because of the quick spread of the flames, it is believed that arson was to blame. It was indeed fortunate that the occupants of the first floor flat, and the flat at the back of the premises, were not at home at the time.

It took more than 30 fire-fighters around two hours to quench the conflagration, and even then crews remained at the site until midnight just in case the fire flared up again. Fire-fighters from Hove, Preston Circus and Roedean attended the scene, while crews from Barcombe and Newhaven were summoned to provide additional cover.

The shop was formerly in use as a florist, although the business did not last long. It was hoped that having a florist’s right next door to Baker’s the undertakers would ensure an excellent trade. But unhappily for the new enterprise, long-established Baker’s already had their contacts in the floral world.

The site remained derelict and boarded up for an incredibly long time. Rumour had it that there was either a problem with insurance, or perhaps in discovering proof of ownership. Meanwhile, it was a delight for pigeons that could be seen squeezing into the roof space.

   copyright © J.Middleton 
New housing under construction in May 2018.

It was not until eleven years later that early in 2018 things really started to happen. It was worth the wait because the new building was sensitively designed to blend in with other housing in the area – in other words, it was not another unattractive modern block, which would probably have been the case if the fire had occurred in the 1960s. The splendid roof also impressed the locals, and if it was not slate, then it certainly looked like it.

copyright © D. Sharp
New housing completed late 2018.

Portslade Council Planning Approvals

1897 – Britannia Flour Mills, alterations and additions
1901 – Portslade UDC, gullies, stables and depot
1901 – A. Hillman, Parish Room
1903 – M. Barnes, St Andrew’s Vicarage
1911 – Catholic Church and Presbytery
1920 – Britannia Flour Mills, extension
1921 – Britannia Flour Mills, wheat store
1931 – Baker & Son, private chapel and mortuary
1940 – Fire Station extension
1948 – A.W. Avery, extension to Smokey Cottage
1955 – New Catholic school
1958 – Corner site of St Michael’s Road, outline planning for garage and showroom for Tate’s
1959 – Initial Services, change of use from flour mills
1994 – Planning permission from Hove Council for six houses to be built on site of Catholic church.

See the following pages for other buildings from the past and present in Church Road :- 

The Britannia Flour Mills

Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea & St Denis

St Andrew’s Church

St Mary's R.C. School

The Crown Inn (at the junction of Wellington Road and Church Road)


Brighton & Hove Leader
Hamblett (Langrish) J, Langrish Family HistoryThe History of 55 Church Road, Portslade.
Middleton J, Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade 

The Keep

DO/A35/1 1898-1900 Portslade UDC Minute Books,
and thereafter to DO/A35/5 Portslade UDC Minute Books 1909
DO/A35/23 UDC Minute Books 1930,
and thereafter to DO/A35/40 Portslade UDC Minute Books 1939

Copyright © J.Middleton 2018
page layout by D.Sharp