20 March 2022

Mile Oak Road, Portslade

Judy Middleton (2002 revised 2022)

copyright © G. Osborne
Mile Oak Road passing by the Mile Oak Public House

This was one of the original roads of Portslade, winding its way up the hill and turning north towards Mile Oak. Of course it used to be nothing more than a cart track with farmland on either side. It led to Mile Oak Farm, the Paddocks Racing Stables and the Waterworks. (Valley Road was a later development).

Probably the oldest properties are the two cottages set into the hillside and almost opposite Chalky Road. At one time they were known as Vera Cruz Cottages although nobody seems to know why such a name was chosen. Perhaps some old timbers from a ship of the same name were used in the construction. Agricultural labourers probably lived in the cottages.

copyright © G. Osborne
This establishment in Mile Oak Road was originally known in Edwardian times as the Portslade Industrial School and in subsequent years renamed as the LLC School and finally in its later years as the Mile Oak Approved School. In St Nicolas Church there is a Roll of Honour to the memory of ‘The Old Boys of the Portslade Industrial School who died in the First World War'.
See the Mile Oak Approved School for more details.

In 1909 Mr T. Trigwell submitted plans for a new house to be called The Elms. It cannot be said to have had the most salubrious surroundings because there was a slaughterhouse situated behind the house, which was extended in 1929. It was still in use in 1933 when his slaughterhouse licence was extended for three years.

copyright © G. Osborne
The rural Mile Oak Road, the bus stop is near the LCC Approved School, looking towards the farmland at Mile Oak

Mile Oak Road remained a country road until the 1920s but development of the area had already begun in a small way. Mr D.J. Stallabrass was one of the first developers and he was the son of Marianne Stallabrass the owner of Portslade Farm in the village. His first enterprise was to convert an old Army hut into a bungalow. It seems he was fond of flowers because every dwelling he erected always appeared in Council Minutes by name – thus Buttercup in 1919, Daisy in 1920 and Daffodil in 1921. He followed a similar scheme when he developed Brasslands Drive, the street name being derived from his surname. In the 1920s Mr Stallabrass opened a tea garden in Mile Oak Road near the south lodge of the Industrial School. It was only a humble establishment but he rather grandly called it the Royal Tea Gardens.

copyright © J.Middleton
Mile Oak Road in the 1920s. The modest structure in the centre grandly proclaims itself to be the Royal Tea Garden, in the background are the two Lodges at the entrance of the LCC School.

Portslade Council endeavoured to regularise the vexed question of cesspool drainage. They sent letters to all property owners in Mile Oak Road enquiring if they would like the council to organise the emptying of cesspools at the expense of the occupants. But the inhabitants were an independent lot and not one person was in favour of the proposal, sixteen were against it and 30 did not bother to reply. Therefore nothing was done. But there were complaints that one person had emptied his cesspool after 6 a.m., which was not permitted.

copyright © G. Osborne
This Mile Oak Road building once stood near the junction with Rowan Close, in the background are the two Lodges at the entrance of the LCC School.

Building plans were submitted to Portslade Council all through the 1920s and 1930s. For example, in 1933 Mr M.A. Saunders produced plans for sixteen houses in Mile Oak Gardens (north side) and three houses in Mile Oak Road. Further up the same road in the same year development was taking place on the Paddocks Estate while the Kennels Estate was developed in 1935/1936.

copyright © J.Middleton
Mile Oak Road at its southern end. The wall on the left was breached in 1933 when houses on the north side of  Mile Oak Gardens were built.

It was not until April 1933 that a recommendation was made to number the houses in Mile Oak Road. In January 1935 Portslade Council again considered the question of providing a footpath on the east side of the road. Although such a scheme was desirable, the matter kept on being postponed because of the expense involved. The surveyor also suggested that it would be a waste of money to construct a footpath before the proposed widening of the road under the town planning scheme had been carried out. Mr Phillips said the path was essential, Mr Farrell said the work was long overdue and Mr Webb commented that he knew of no other road that was so dangerous at night.

copyright © J.Middleton
Mile Oak was photographed in the early 1930s with not a pavement in sight. 

According to Betty Figg who was born in 1925, there used to be several little wooden huts, complete with rain barrels, iron stoves and stack pipes strung along Mile Oak Road. Her grandmother told her the people living in them were establishing squatters’ rights.

Mrs Joan Stanford used to live in a wooden, black-painted bungalow, a one-time Army hut. Her then husband Tom Barnett had a piggery there and kept ducks and chickens. If anyone required eggs or plucked chickens, they dropped a note through the letterbox and returned for the goods later. Tom Barnett was killed while serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.

Bonny Cother, who was born in 1944, remembers Joan Stanford well because as a child she often spent time with her while her mother went to work at what was locally known as the Naughty Boys' School up on the hill. The friendship between the families continued and Bonny and her mother often went to the bungalow on a Saturday evening to watch television with Joan and her second husband Ray.

Joan Stanford sold some of the land behind the bungalow and Bert Brundle had his greenhouse there and grew wonderful flowers for sale.

Joan Stanford remembered a cottage with the evocative name of Rats' Ramble that was situated north of the Rifle Range but no other details were forthcoming.

 copyright © G. Osborne

On the site later occupied by Mile Oak Garage at number 345, there used to be a large Victorian house and at the back there was a factory that made pickles and sausages. At the side there was a wooden hut where the Mile Oak Ratepayers held their social events. The Mile Oak Garage was eventually known as Mile Oak Toyota Garage and it was demolished in the early 1990s. Compass Court was built on the site.

On 15 March 1943 Canadian soldier Charles Gauthier seized a gun from the top of the Portslade Brewery in the Old Village, walked up to a house called Hillcrest in Mile Oak Road and shot dead his lover Mrs Annette Pepper because of a love triangle. She was lodging at the house with her young daughter and was upstairs when Gauthier arrived demanding to speak to her. Naturally, she was frightened but he assured her he would not harm her. As soon as she came down the stairs he opened fire. He was later hanged for the crime.

 copyright © M. Smith
The Number 9 Mile Oak bus from Portslade Station c1940

A single-decker bus ran from Portslade Station (return fare five pennies) and the driver was most obliging and would set down passengers where they wished. When double-decker buses were introduced on the Mile Oak Road route in 1946 (after the old bridge across High Street had been removed) the tall trees along the road were cut back, among them several elms. The part where Stonery Road meets Mile Oak Road was known for some obscure reason as Hell Fire Corner and was well wooded too.

 copyright © G. Osborne
The Chalk Pit in the 1950s

Nearly opposite Chalky Road there is an old chalk pit. In the 1930s it was used to store rubbish but in 1938 some thirty-six residents signed a petition protesting about the pit being used for this purpose. Penfold Public Works acquired the site in the 1970s and it was used as a scrap yard until 1990 when it served as a depot with garage, workshops and offices.

copyright © D. Sharp
Mills Removals now run their business from the 'Chalk Pit'

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
The farm track end of Mile Oak Road in the 1930s showing Mile Oak Farm House and Waterworks in the background.
This photograph was taken by Herbert Edward Sydney Simmons (1901-1973)

See also the Mile Oak and the Mile Oak Paddocks pages


Census returns
J.Middleton Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Mr G. Osborne
Mrs M Smith

Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Thanks are due to Mr G. Osborne for allowing me to reproduce six of his wonderful photographs from his private collection.

Copyright © J.Middleton 2022
page layout by D. Sharp