Mystery photos of Brighton and Hove

It's 1950s - but where is it?

By Stefan Bremner-Morris

Can anybody identify this photo of a corner of 1950's Brighton for me?

Editorial note: This mystery was solved in 2008 - the modern day photo is Burnsall Street, Kensington, London, SW3".

But there are lots of interesting conversations below!

Photo:Where is this?

Where is this?

From the private collection of Stefan Bremner-Morris

Photo:Burnsall Street, Kensington, London, SW3".

Burnsall Street, Kensington, London, SW3".

From the private collection of Stefan Bremner-Morris

This page was added on 02/12/2008.
Comments about this page

Could it be Gloucester Place?

By P. Best (02/12/2008)

Gloucester Road, behind The Gloucester, I reckon.

By Colin Chalmers (03/12/2008)

The number on the black door looks as if it could be 17 and the number on the right of the photo 21.

By Maralyn Eden (03/12/2008)

I reckon it looks like Brunswick Steet East in Hove, or one street similar off Western Road.

By Dan Edwards (03/12/2008)

Possibly Sillwood Street/Sillwood Place area?

By Deslin (03/12/2008)

That is behind Gloucester Road, as that very tall monument (to the left of the photo) can be found there.

By Mia (04/12/2008)

Thank you all for your input on this photo taken by my uncle Henry Heath who lived in Cannon Place. I would like to see what the scene is like now, but am in London. I am assuming that Gloucester Road/Place is the correct location--anybody got a digital camera handy?! Cheers, Stefan.

By Stefan Bremner-Morris (05/12/2008)

Yes, bottom of Gloucester Road. My friend John Cooper confirms this.

By Patrick Kite (05/12/2008)

I'm not convinced. Assuming that Gloucester St is running left to right in the picture and the middle boy is in the begining of Gloucester Rd. Gloucester Rd does indeed run down and around into Glousester St, but that would make the street with the car Cheltenham Place so the house on the corner (19?) would be #10 and the car would be outside the Basketmakers. The building with the H on the pillar would be the end of the Gloucester PH/Gloucester Mansions (looks nothing like it).
Also, to the left of the house with #19 would be several properties, including a garage, leading down to the rear of the buildings in Gloucester Place such as the Astoria. Somehow the scale is all wrong if it is that area. Or have I got it upside down?

By Peter Barnard (06/12/2008)

Peter, my uncle still did his own film processing at the time. It is possible the picture was inverted whilst doing this! Would that make a difference? I have no other information to help, unfortunately.

By Stefan Bremner-Morris (06/12/2008)

I'm not at all convinced either Peter. I think you are absolutely right. The roads and old buildings there at present don't fit the old photo at all. Even if the shot had been taken from Gloucester Road looking towards Gloucester Street a) the distance between these two roads is far greater than in the old photo and b) no road fits the one in the distance of the old photo where the car is parked.
Can Mia tell us exactly where the monument is? I think that it's just a tall building on the extreme left. Does it have a street name scrawled on it. Maybe Stefan can get the original blown up to show more detail?
I did take a photo in Gloucester Road today, but it doesn't match the old one.

By Alan Hobden (06/12/2008)

Good heavens, I seem to have started a riot as the song goes! I have now blown the photo up on my screen, and the building on the left has some sort of name which was invisible to my poor old eyes on the original!
I think it says BURSTALL or BURNSTALL, OR BURSALL or BINSALL, or something similar. It is very faded. Perhaps it rings a bell with someone in Brighton? Thanks again for your all your interest and help!

By Stefan Bremner-Morris (07/12/2008)

Looking at the H sign in the left corner it would appear that the photo is the correct way check it by zooming in 4 and 3.

By Fred Hine (07/12/2008)

I'm not sure where it is, however I've noticed on the building on the LH side, three big bricks up looks like a street sign. Its very faint but looks like XXXXHIL St?

By Peter Groves (07/12/2008)

This is driving me mad. I have been in the Brighton area since 1960 and swear I recognise the building that the car is outside of. Cannot place it though!  With regard to the Gloucester area suggestion, this is hilly whilst the area in the photo is flat.  Something in my head is saying Kemp Town somewhere, but am not at all sure!

By Chris (08/12/2008)

It's definitely not Gloucester Road. I thought it looked so like it, but I walk through there every day. Even today I was trying to work it out as I walked through. Alan's points are correct. Someone please bring this to a conclusion as it is really bugging me!

By Ian Fennell (08/12/2008)

The 'Sold' sign shows quite clearly that the photo has been developed (and printed here) correctly. The fact that this is a flat area of Brighton should narrow it down considerably! Perhaps Andy Grant can tell us where Willett (the agent) was based in the 50s?

By Alan Hobden (08/12/2008)

Might the local fire brigade have a list of hydrants? This one is on a very distinctive concrete block and on a corner. The photo is definitely 1950's / early 60's so you might have to contact thier archivist rather than the present day administrators. Interesting to see that the house for sale used to have a vehicle entrance. The entrance has been blocked up but the pavement is the give-away. Thanks for the mind-teaser, Stefan.

By Suzanne Hinton (09/12/2008)

I think Willetts was Hove based. Maybe it is a part of old Brighton & Hove, long since demolished with its foundations lying under a multi story car park somewhere in the city. What a mystery though.

By Peter Barnard (10/12/2008)

I'm afraid I cannot pinpoint where this is. As a few pointers, if you look at the shadows, it implies the picture was probably taken in the afternoon and the view is looking eastwards. There appears to be a gradient sloping off towards the right, possibly towards the sea. The hydrant has no visible locational information, other than it is a 4 inch pipe, 3 feet away. Willet's was a Hove estate agency, so the picture might be of Hove. The buildings look typical for 19th century build and there is a very tall building behind the roof-line. This tall building may be in one of the main streets.

By Andy Grant (10/12/2008)

This looks to me like the junction of Osbourne Villas and Medina Place in Hove.

By Bob (one of the others) (10/12/2008)

The writing on the wall appears to read '???ensall St.' There is no street anything like this in my 1950s Brighton Street Plan index. Could it be somewhere else?  Perhaps you could email me a good scan of the original photo to play with, tim@permanden.co.uk
Is the car a Goggomobil?  Made during the petrol rationing period due to the Suez crisis 1956/7.

By Tim Sargeant (12/12/2008)

I think the car is probably a Renault Dauphine, which was first manufactured in 1957. The building to its right seems to have a very distinctive chimney and arched front door, but I can't see any real clues to pinpoint the location. The other buildings are very non-descript. I have a 1966 map of Brighton which shows a similar (un-named) side street formation on the east side of West Street, between South Street and Boyces Street, but cannot find anything matching in Hove.  If it was not for the Willett sign, I might think it was in another town, like Tim.

By Alan Hobden (13/12/2008)

Thank you all once again for your efforts I see we are now analysing the makes and dates of cars!  I think Peter Barnard may have a point with regard to the scene having vanished under new development. If the partial names I gave in my earlier comment (7/12/08) brings nothing to mind, this could be the case. I should say that my uncle seldom, if ever, left the Brighton area before he died in 1968, having moved there after the end of the war. He lived in Cannon Place all that time too, so I still think the photo was taken in the general area of Brighton. Of course nothing is totally certain, but I have no written evidence either way. I look forward to further episodes of this seemingly endless saga with interest... Cheers!

By Stefan Bremner-Morris (14/12/2008)

Could Alan Hobden check his 1966 map around the Oxford Street area as that could be the answer? There are only two streets turning off West Street on the east side. I believe that his unnamed street was the large garage that stretched between Middle and West Streets.

By Viv Webb (14/12/2008)

I might have to concur with the idea that it is now under Churchill Square or the Met, as the Canon Place reference gives a clue.

By Liam (14/12/2008)

I'm not a native of Hove or Brighton (my Dad was born in Hove) and I'm probably wrong, but is it at all possible that it could be Sussex Road in Hove?  Looking at pics I have there seems to be a similarity of buildings.

By Time Traveller (14/12/2008)

I am still being driven mad by this. I am sure I have been there (wherever it is) and that I recognize the building with the distinctive door and chimney. As far as the street name goes, it definitely seems to end in LL (or at least one L) and to be a street, as opposed to a road. There are actually not many existing streets meeting this criteria, but here is a list: -

Cromwell St
Mighell Street
Mill St
Port Hall St
Roundhill St
West Hill St
Windmill St

Arundel St
Chapel St
Ethel St

Bearing in mind that the street name looks as if it could be an old one left on there, there is also Lyall St which is now Chesham Place.

By Chris (16/12/2008)

It's not under Churchill Sq as I spent my early teens in that area. Could it be Brunswick Row, leading into Oxford Place as those streets are on the flat?

By vivwebb (16/12/2008)

I've lived in Brighton 35 years, and this does look familiar. At first I was inclined to agree that it's Gloucester Place, although it does also look like Kemptown. I have taken a shot of it on my mobile and will keep my eyes peeled as I stroll about town. If it does still exist and isn't buried under Churchill Sq etc, I'm sure we'll find it.

By Kate (16/12/2008)

I've looked at the Oxford Street area Viv, but it doesn't look right. The buildings in the Brunswick Row area are not of the same appearance. I don't think Sussex Road is right either, Time Traveller. I drove down there on Saturday, and also looked at some of the mews and little side roads down near the seafront in Hove and Brighton (Sillwood area).
The Metropole has been there since around 1890 Liam, and I don't think the later extensions in St Margaret's Place covered this photo's scene. Can Stefan tell us what his uncle did for a living, and if the people in the photo were his uncle's family? I am leaning towards the flat Poets Corner area of Hove at the moment, if only because of the Hove agent Willett's sign. Maybe Judy Middleton, with her extensive knowledge of old Hove, can help us?

By Alan Hobden (17/12/2008)

Greetings again, street detectives. I have now had a chance to do a bit of enhancing on the computer. I put the piccy through Picasa 3 and sharpened it, then I cut out the name on the left and enlarged it. This was followed by making the contrast better, and then I tinted it bright yellow. The result of all this is, that as far as I am concerned, the street name is revealed as 'BURNSAIL STREET' and it is NO 10. I hope this triggers something? Bye for now

By Stefan Bremner-Morris (17/12/2008)

We have the answer at last. Forgive yourself all those who pride themselves in knowing their town. This is not a photo of Brighton or Hove. With the help of the above research by Stefan I have located Burnsall Street as being just of Kings Road in Chelsea. The mapping layout fits the picture above and if you google images you will find pictures of houses to the exact specification and design of those shown. Our two week epic is over and I can sleep easy. It was so hard to believe that none of us had the answer-now I know why.

By Ian Fennell (18/12/2008)

Further to: Google 'Burnsall Street' and there is an image of the house that is shown in the immediate right of the picture.

By Ian Fennell (18/12/2008)

There has never been a Burnsail Street in Brighton or Hove in the 1950s. How do I know? I was a telegraph boy messenger.

By Viv Webb (18/12/2008)

There is a Burnsall Street in Kensington. Even the present-day road layout looks remarkably similar to the photo (see Google Earth). It also happens to be an area where the two William Willetts built houses. Must be a co-incidence. Or is it?

By Alan Hobden (18/12/2008)

This looks good. I have checked Google and the house designs do look similar. Also the chicane style layout of the streets adds up, although it still looks like BURNSAIL to me on the wall. I will have to take a trip down there from East London with my digital camera for confirmation of the angle of the shot. I will report back for those still interested. The mystery now is how, and why, my uncle came to be in the area at all. Sorry for all the anguish, and thanks again. Cheers, Stefan.

By Stefan Bremner-Morris (20/12/2008)

Ian is absolutely right. If you Google to diomedia.com and then enter Burnsall Street in the search box, it comes up with a colour photo of the same street, looking from the Kings Road. Even the small railing on the right is still there, and the corner post which protects the building where the Sold sign was displayed. Perhaps Stefan could obtain a present day photo of the same scene, taken from the same spot as the original. Then we can all see if the building where the car was parked is still there.

By Alan Hobden (20/12/2008)

Yes folks-it is Burstall Street off Kings Road. I took a photo today, and will try to get the powers that be to put it on for appraisal to draw a line under this lengthy thread. It looks very much more upmarket these days mind you, and now I have to discover how the picture came about in the first place. Thanks again for all the contributions. Stefan.

By Stefan Bremner-Morris (20/12/2008)

Well I'm glad that's settled. I have seen the photo of the street in Chelsea and it is uncanny, even down to the wrought iron work which is still there. Next please.

By Peter Barnard (20/12/2008)

I'm pleased that the mystery photo has been identified; Perhaps your uncle took photos specifically for Willetts and travelled to London for this? I had tried the trick with the photographic filters but the MyB&H image just wasn't sharp enough and the 'R' still came out as an 'E'. Hence the suggestion that it wasn't in Brighton as it didn't fit the street index. Alan. Re the car: I still don't think it is a Dauphine for the following reasons; 1) The headlamps are too low, on the Dauphine they were faired into the bonnet and hinged forward when that was opened. 2) There appears to be a grille between the headlamps which the Dauphine, being rear engined, didn't have. 3) The top edge of the windscreen is too flat. Of course I could be wrong but our solicitor whose office was in Bartholomews had the 'Gordini' version. With these old photos it often is what is in the background that is more interesting to present day historians than the actual subject that the photographer was taking at the time especially for dating purposes. I have all my mother's negatives back to the 1930s but don't know who most of the people are. I suppose Viv Webb explored all the back streets on a BSA Bantam ? I only had a bike then.

By Tim Sargeant (20/12/2008)

Thank goodness the mystery has been solved, even if it does create another one for you, Stefan!
Just for the record, the spelling should be Burnsall as opposed to Burstall. This was by far the most interesting mystery photo to date, even if it wasn't anywhere near Brighton & Hove. I wonder just how many people had convinced themselves they recognised the building by the car?

By Alan Hobden (20/12/2008)

A far simpler thing, we never have 'red SW' in our street signs in Brighton.

By Blackpixi (14/01/2009)

Blackpixi --- the colour photo wasn't available before we had discovered the whereabouts of the street! NOT so simple!

By Stefan Bremner-Morris (17/01/2009)

Yes , I remember my family bought there house in Hove through Willett's. I found the advertisement and Willets were in Hove and London.

By Angela B (26/02/2009)
If you look closely at the street name on the wall it states Burnsall Street SW. It is in London leading into Godfrey Street, just around the corner from Royal Brompton Hospital.
By John Eaton (21/07/2009)

Hi, REALLY late to this thread, however, I live on Burnsall Street in Kensington, just off the Kings Road, and this is the street in the picture. I walk past these houses each day!

By Ian (26/09/2009)

Good heavens, Ian-I thought this thread was indeed truly dead. You could have saved us all so much agony back then. Never mind, you live in a very attractive London street that will, I'm sure, be forever imprinted in our memories. Cheers

By Stefan Bremner-Morris (09/10/2009)

And Willetts had its HQ at the corner of Sloane Square and Lower Sloane Street. You can still see the name Willetts House on the wall. Rather irrelevant to this discussion now, I fear.

By Helen (15/02/2012)

Anyone noticed the London SW street address on the LHS building ?

By Neil Woolley (07/06/2014)

Burnsall Street is off the Kings Road, Royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea SW3.

By Phil lambert (07/06/2014)

Perhaps Jennifer could extend the caption under the modern-day photo, to read: "Burnsall Street, Kensington, London, SW3". Some people who have commented recently don't seem to realise that this conundrum was solved back in December 2008!

Editor's note: Done that Alan

By Alan Hobden (26/07/2014)

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