14 January 2021

Vale Road, Portslade

 Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2022)

copyright © J.Middleton
This view of Vale Road looks towards Station Road, and the houses were built in the 1930s

The Vale Road we see today did not always extend so far west. For example, in the 1890s it was more of an off-shoot from Station Road, and reached only as far as the footpath leading to the cattle-creep. In 1921 it was still not a through road, and the only outlet was to Gordon Road and Norway Street. It was not until the 1930s that work got under way to extend Vale Road to link up with Church Road.

copyright © G. Osborne
This Edwardian photograph shows the entrance to Vale Road next to Portslade's original Post Office in Station Road

Joinery Works and Thomas Barnard

copyright © P. Lucas
Thomas Barnard c1895

One of the earliest commercial enterprises in the road was the Joinery Works, established by Thomas Barnard around 1895. Family legend has it that Thomas Barnard (now around 53 years old) was obliged to leave Ropley, Hampshire, where his father William Barnard ran a saw-mill, because of a family matter; this was because his granddaughter Caroline May was born only three months after the marriage of his younger son Henry Archibald. Tongues were wagging in a small community, and so it was decided to make a fresh start elsewhere.

The family move entailed moving his 2 sons from his first marriage (the one sister went to live in Derby), his 4 daughters from his second marriage, his wife and mother-in-law. Incidentally, Caroline hated her first name, and was always known as May – she never married. But why did Thomas Barnard decide on Portslade? Obviously he wanted to start his own business, and it so happened that his sister Mary was then living with her family in Portland Road. His older son George William Barnard joined him in business at Portslade.

It seemed that Henry Archibald Barnard (known as Arch) was out of favour as the businesses of Thomas Barnard were always known as Thomas Barnard & Son – rather than Sons.

copyright © P. Lucas
Thomas Barnard's five daughters

Henry Archibald lived at 1 Alresford Terrace with his wife and daughter May. Their son Reginald Conrad Barnard was born there in January 1897. The Terrace, named after Alresford, Hampshire where Thomas had last lived, was built by Thomas Barnard and his son George William. This house later became 9 Gardener Street. His father Thomas and his brother George were living at 1 & 2 Gascoigne Villas, next to the Joinery Works in Vale Road; the houses were named after Gascoigne Lane, Ropley, Hampshire, where Thomas had been born. These houses lasted until at least the 1950s.

copyright © P. Lucas
A drain cover installed by 'Barnard & Sons, Builders, Portslade'

Meanwhile, Thomas Barnard was busy with his joinery works. He filed patent 4553 on 9 March 1900, being described as a manufacturer of joinery work in Vale Road. He had invented an improved machine to produce handrails, wreaths, ramps, mouldings of double curvature, or irregular mouldings with flat surfaces.
copyright © P. Lucas
F.A. Barnard & Sons, Post Office and Grocer
Store in Marine Avenue, Hove.

The second patent 4554 related to his invention of an improved machine to produce irregular, straight, or curvilinear mouldings; also for cutting out pocket pieces of pulley stiles for sliding sash frames. It is claimed that some of the spindles used in staircases in Brighton hotels originated from Barnard’s Joinery.

It is sad to record that a man with such an inventive mind, should have fallen upon hard times so rapidly because on 30 April 1903 he filed for bankruptcy in Brighton Court. By that time he had vacated his premises at Vale Road, and moved to Franklin Road. Soon afterwards he went to live with his daughter and son-in-law who ran a Post Office & Grocer Store at 1 Marine Avenue, Hove. There was a happy occasion for Thomas Barnard when his daughter from his second marriage, Beatrice, married Henry Sharp at St Leonard’s Church, Aldrington in 1910.

copyright © P. Lucas
In 1910 Beatrice Barnard married Henry Sharp at St Leonard’s Church, Aldrington. Thomas Barnard is seated next to the bride, while his sons George William Barnard and Henry Archibald Barnard stand directly behind him

Then followed something of a mass emigration to Australia with George Barnard and his family going in 1911, followed by the Sharps in 1912, and then Thomas Barnard and his wife Frances went in 1922. But Frances died there in 1926 and Thomas set sail back home to England. He lived the last few years of his life at Oxted with his daughter Frances and is buried in Oxted. Henry Archibald later went on to be a sawmill manager for Bensleys in the Hove Basin of Shoreham harbour. Reginald Conrad Barnard went on to marry and have a family at 12 Southdown Avenue, before building 197 and 199 Old Shoreham Road. The money for buying the land came from his mother-in-law Eliza Jane Winter who as a Victorian business woman had established the successful Mayo laundry in Brighton. Behind the houses in Old Shoreham Road he had a workshop where he continued the family tradition of making staircases and window frames. The workshop was partially destroyed by a storm in the 1950s. Today the site of the workshop is occupied by 197A. The Southdown bus depot ​was behind the houses and workshop which is now a car salesroom. (Information kindly supplied by P. Lucas)

copyright © P. Lucas
The grave of Thomas Barnard at Oxted, Surrey
Reginald Conrad Barnard (1897-1975) found time in the winter months to engage in his favourite hobby of playing football. He was more than an ordinary amateur because he was good enough to find himself chosen to play at county level. He must have been proud of this accolade because he is sporting his county badge in the two photographs shown below.

copyright © Courtesy of The Southwick Society
Southwick Football Club pictured in the 1924 / 1925 season features Reginald Conrad Barnard with the football between his feet

At a local level, he was captain, and centre forward, of the Southwick Football Club. His golden memory was from 1925 when Southwick FC took part in the Senior Cup Final and won, and the winning streak carried on for a further seven seasons. But Barnard retired in around 1928 when he was getting on for 31 years of age, and probably conceding that football was a young man’s game.

copyright © Courtesy of The Southwick Society
This photograph of Southwick F. C. dates from around 1928 and Barnard can be seen in the back row, third from the left

It is interesting to note that the sporting gene is still active in the Barnard family, and one of Reginald’s grand-daughters was chosen for the Great Britain team at the Montreal Olympics and she competed in two swimming events.

A Jam Factory

At the time of the First World War there was a jam factory In Vale Road known as Maison-le-Bry. In 1918 when there was a food shortage, the Ministry of Food in conjunction with the Education Committee arranged for local children to pick berries growing wild in the countryside. Thus it was that children from St Nicolas School, Portslade, spent several days roaming the Downs to pick blackberries. The outcome was an astonishing 11¾ cwt 17lbs of blackberries that were sold to the Maison-le-Bry factory for three pennies a pound. The children then had the sum of £16-13-4d distributed between them.

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Brighton Herald 7 March 1914
In 1914 the price of a house in Vale Road was £225
or it could be rented for £20 16s per annum.


Captain Irvine Bately (1881-1962)

copyright © J.Middleton
Captain Bately and his wife Lilian lived at 12 Vale Road

Captain Bately and his wife Lilian lived at 12 Vale Road, having moved there in 1921 especially because of the delightful surroundings because their windows overlooked the beautiful gardens of Courtenay House. The Batelys became tenants of this land from 1934 to 1960, but unfortunately were not allowed to purchase it. There was a mature orchard full of enormous apple trees and pear trees. Every autumn the Batelys gathered up the produce and sent boxes of fruit to local children’s homes. The garden was also home to other mature trees, such as chestnut, may and laburnum. The blossom in the spring and the prolific bird life were a joy.

Captain Bately was a much-noted resident of Portslade (see under Portslade Urban District Council). He, his wife Lilian, and at number 6 Vale Road, his brother-in-law R.Thurston Hopkins were founders of the Society of Sussex Downsmen. This society is still in existence and is now known as the Friends of the South Downs. In 2023 the society will celebrate its 100th anniversary, and no doubt more fuss will be made of these Portslade stalwarts.

Richard Thurston Hopkins (1884-1958)

copyright © J.Middleton
Richard Thurston Hopkins lived at 6 Vale Road

Robert Thurston Hopkins was born in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk the son of Frederick Hopkins a Furniture Broker. In 1911 Robert who was then working as Bank Cashier before becoming a full time author, was lodging with the Bately family in Gorleston, where he met Captain Bob Irvine Bately’s sister Sybil Beatrice, they were married a year later in 1912 in Lewisham, London. During the First World War, Hopkins served in the Royal Army Service Corp. In later years Captain Bately would illustrate some of R. Thurston Hopkins’ books.

He was the author of some popular books on Sussex. In 1928 when he wrote The Lure of Sussex he was living at 6 Vale Road near his brother-in-law Captain Bately. Hopkins also wrote Old Watermills and Windmills, and in 1929 published Kipling’s Sussex Revisited. In the latter book he wrote, ‘There is nothing like the Sussex sheep-bells anywhere else in the world, and their music rarefied by the silence and the innumerable hollows and slopes of the Downs would lose its mellow charms in other surroundings.’

Hopkins had a spaniel called Duster who accompanied him on his Downland walks. On one occasion he walked over to Hangleton Manor – he knew the owner – and saw the famous fluttering white hands of the female ghost at the gable window. Duster was most unhappy at the apparition, and crouched down low, tail drooping.

R. Thurston Hopkins was a prolific author of topographical works, ghost stories, and biographies of British writers. He also wrote articles on a variety of subjects for national newspapers and magazines. Between 1916 to1958 he published nearly 50 books and essays on ghost hunting, phantoms, horror stories and the occult.

A list of some of the non-fiction books R. Thurston Hopkins published:-

Oscar Wilde: A Study of the Man and His Work (1913)
War and the Weird (1916)
Kipling's Sussex
Rudyard Kipling, a Character Study: Life, Writings and Literary Landmarks
H. G. Wells: Personality, Character, Topography
Hardy's Dorset (1922)
George Borrows, Lord of the Open Road
Every Boys Open-Air Book (1925)
H. G. Wells (1925)
Rudyard Kipling's World (1925)
Sheila Kaye-Smith and the Weald Country (1925)
The Kipling Country (1925)
The Literary Landmarks of Devon & Cornwall (1926)
Old English Mills and Inns
Sussex Pilgrimages
This London: Its Taverns, Haunts and Memories
London Pilgrimages
The Lure of Sussex
Rudyard Kipling: The Story of Genius
In Search of English Windmills
Small Sailing Craft
Old Windmills of England
The Man Who Was Sussex
Romance of the Bank of England
(1933) - written in collaboration with Miss Kate Rosenberg
Life and death at the Old Bailey
Moated Houses of England
Famous Bank Forgeries, Robberies and Swindles
Literary Originals of Sussex
Sussex Rendezvous
The Heart of London
Banker Tells All

copyright © National Library of Australia
Articles from The Western Australian (Perth), The Worlds News (Sydney) and the Brisbane Telegraph

His son, Godfrey Thurston Hopkins, always known as Thurston, became a photographer with Picture Post. Another photographer who came to work on the magazine was Grace, whom he married in 1954, and she was a noted photographer in her own right. Her father was Fyfe Robertson, broadcaster and journalist, who was enormously popular on BBC TV during the 1950s and 1960s. Their first child, Joanna, was born in 1960 and Robert followed two years later.

In March 2000 it was stated that the couple had lived at Seaford for almost twenty years. Thurston was nearly 87 but he still enjoyed painting in his studio. There was a grandchild called Cressida. 

copyright © J.Middleton
These houses were amongst the first to be built in Vale Road

Vale Road Extension

At a council meeting in October 1933 it was stated that when the land north of the Catholic Church (Our Lady, Star of the Sea and St Denis) was transferred to Portslade Council, they would remove the walls on the north and west side, and re-create them curved instead of straight.

The Sussex Daily News (15 January 1936) reported that the Ministry of Transport had granted £1,377 from the Road Fund towards the extension of Vale Road to Church Road.

Fire at Vale Motor Works

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Fire at Vale Road Motor Works, Portslade. 14 May, 1938.

On 12 May 1938 there was a fire in the early hours that gutted the the Vale Motor Works and Garage, plus the adjoining factory belonging to the British Illuminated Glass Company. Portslade Fire Brigade and Hove Fire Brigade had a difficult task in preventing the fire spreading further. PC Dean and PC Masterton managed to remove seven cars from the premises, but the same two police constables, as well as Inspector Abbott and Inspector Hunt, plus Sergeant Goatcher of the Hove Police, failed to rescue the paperwork from the garage office; a huge explosion forced them to leave at once.

copyright © D. Sharp

The Cattle Arch (between Victoria Road & Vale Road)

A historic reminder of the many farms that used to surround Portslade Old Village. The tunnel was built in the 1840’s under the railway line to drive cattle to south Portslade. The route from the village was from Drove Road along various twittens and tracks, through the cattle arch crossing Vale Road on route to North Street, where Portslade's shopping and trading centre was once situated.

A Fire-Lighter Factory

There used to be a factory that made fire-lighters, but it made for an unpleasant atmosphere for neighbouring residential properties. In fact it was so bad, that people grumbled they felt as though they were eating and drinking creosote. In June 1946 this factory was also gutted by fire, but in 1948 Portslade Council gave planning permission for a new workshop to be built.


copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
These Pre-Fabs were built in Woodingdean, the Vale Road Pre-Fabs were of an identical design

In January 1946 the Emergency Housing Committee reported to Portslade Housing Committee that plans were going ahead for twelve pre-fabs to be erected on the south side of Vale Road. 

C. Baker & Co (Wholesale)

This tobacco company was founded in 1898 and made steady progress until it became one of the largest companies of its kind in London and the south east. One of the founders, and later chairman, was George Lowe Baker who was born at Liverpool and educated at Formby College. He was also a keen racing-motorist and ‘among his many trophies is that for the last race before the outbreak of the war at Brooklands when he averaged 100 miles an hour over a distance of 15 miles’.

copyright © D. Sharp
This matchbox label shows a drawing of Vale House

The firm’s headquarters was at Vale House on the north east side of Vale Road. The front part of Vale House was covered by a lawn with trees and a formal flower-bed set inside cast-iron railings. There were subsidiary companies in London and Bexhill with branches in Sussex, Kent and Surrey. By 1938 the firm had its own sports club that boasted a darts team, and a football team formed shortly after Christmas 1937. The sports club held their first dinner at the Royal George, George Street, Hove, in May 1938.

George Lowe Baker died in his 59th year at his home 7 Princes Square, Hove, in April 1942. He left two sons to become directors of the firm; Alec Baker, who ‘in recent months identified himself with several boxing tournaments for charity’, and Flying Officer Basil Baker.

In February 1945 the firm treated their staff to a social evening at the Rothbury Hall, Portslade. Guests were welcomed by the director Flight Lieutenant E. B. Baker whose brother, A. K. Baker was still serving with the RAF in India. The general manager was C. W. Green. The firm produced a souvenir ash-tray decorated with a map of the south east with the Portslade HQ prominently displayed. It also showed the smaller branches or depots at Kentish Town, Clapham Junction, Woking, Maidstone, Ashford, Herne Bay, Folkestone, and Bexhill.

In 1969 Alec Baker, chairman and managing director, retired after 41 years with the firm. But his brother E. B. Baker, remained as senior director. The new chairman was G. Franklin, and the managing director was D. Stevenson.

Eventually, Palmer & Harvey took over Vale House and they were a wholesale tobacconist and confectionery firm; in 1995 it was claimed they were Britain’s third largest private company with a turnover of £1.5 billion. By 1997 the company’s name was Palmer Harvey McLane, and in October of the same year it was announced that they had purchased Ewbank House, Davigdor Road, Hove, and would be leaving Portslade.

The next occupant of Vale House was Panorama Holidays. In November 1999 Panorama Holidays sponsored its marketing manager, Helen Armour, as a crew volunteer in the BT Global Challenge 2000/2001. Today, the premises at 1 Vale Road have been turned into luxury apartments called Panorama House.

copyright © J.Middleton
Vale House is now known as Panorama House

Tozer Court

The site on which the block of flats was later built was formerly Portslade Council’s depot. In the 1960s it was once used by Portslade Civil Defence as the perfect place in which to stage a training exercise to test the expertise of the volunteers in First Aid. This meant that several ‘wounded persons’ were strewn about the depot with realistic-looking injuries to await the attention of the First Aiders.

copyright © G. Osborne
Portslade Fire Brigade outside the former Portslade Council's Depot (now Tozer Court)
on the corner of Vale Road and Trafalgar Road

Tozer Court, containing twelve flats, was officially opened in April 1982. The unusual name comes from William Tozer who served as clerk to Portslade Urban District Council from 1946 to 1974, and indeed was the last occupant of that post before Portslade was hoovered up by Hove. Tozer Court cost £250,000 and was a ground-breaking building with energy-saving measures as well as facilities for the disabled. Tozer Court won a national award too with the Civic Shield Energy Savings Diploma.

John Standing, Outside Caterers

In November 1993 this company celebrated their tenth anniversary, and received a Clean Food Award from the Environmental Health Department for the third year running. Out of around twelve staff, some three-quarters had been with the firm for more than four years. The company had two departments – the pre-packed sandwich side, and the outside catering side. The delivery vehicle had evolved from an old Morris Minor that had to be push-started, to a fleet of refrigerated vans.

C & S Nameplate

In February 1994 the company celebrated their 25th anniversary. It started off in 1969 in small premises at Portslade, before moving to Vale Road. There were fifteen staff, and Gordon Povey was the director.

Portslade Planning Approvals

1896 – W. H. Dudeney, lay-out of road and 16 cottages 1-31

1901 – W. Lacey for Great Northern Bakery, a furnace

copyright © D. Sharp
34A Vale Road
The faint white lettering on the north side
of the building reads ‘Lacey’s Bread the Best,
Rolled Flour for Pastry, Self Raising Flour for Cakes’

– W. R. Berry, steam joinery workshop

1904 – north part of road declared a public highway

1907 – M. Cherryman, shop and milk-store

1909 – G. Burton, a laundry

1917 – Maison-le-Bry, factory

1920 – E. J. Evans, 17 houses, 8-34

1920 – J. Wrapson, 2 houses, 49/51

1921 – G. M. Jay, 3 houses

1923 – Mr Streader, 2 semi-detached houses

1924 – Lewis’s Garage, petrol licence, petrol tank and pump

1925 – Mr Lewis, 6 lock-up garages

1925 – Mr W. A. Streader, garage and store

1929 – Davis & Cohen, 22 houses in the extension to Vale Road, 73-94

1932 – Braybons, 21 houses, 73-111

1932 – Braybons, 4 houses, 113-119

1937 – R. Miles, 2 semi-detached houses 69/71

1938 – Wholesale depot, offices, and lock-up garages

1939Roman Catholic church, church hall

1955 – Extension to Roman Catholic school

1958Portslade UDC, corner of Denmark Road, block of five flats


Brighton Herald
Brisbane Telegraph

Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
National Library of Australia
Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
The Southwick Society
The Western Australian (Perth)
The Worlds News (Sydney)
Mr. G. Osborne

Copyright © J.Middleton 2021
page layout and additional research by D.Sharp