Lion & Unicorn

Known locally as 'The Blue House'

By C West

The Lion and Unicorn was situated on the northeast corner of what was Claremont Place and Sussex Street before the 1959 redevelopment scheme. It was more commonly known as 'The Blue House'.

The photo shown here was taken in October 1993. The building no longer operates as a pub and has been redeveloped into flats. The map below shows the pub and the area as it is today.

Photo:The Lion and Unicorn

The Lion and Unicorn

From the private collection of C. West

Photo:Redeveloped building in 2011

Redeveloped building in 2011

Photo by Tony Mould

Photo:Location of The Lion and Unicorn

Location of The Lion and Unicorn

Map produced by Tim Carder

This page was added on 01/01/2011.
Comments about this page

Probably everyone knows, but in case they don't, it was known as the 'Blue House' as it was mainly frequented by coppers, from John St Police Station, just down the road!

By Peter Groves (01/01/2011)

I believe Peter Groves is wrong about the derivation of the popular name of this pub. As a young and sometimes underaged drinker living in Albion Hill, I used this pub in the early and mid-sixties when it was already known as the Blue House, and had been for a long time. The Police Station in John Street did not open until it was finally completed in 1965 when the Chief Constable and his staff moved in from various locations, including their former main HQ at Brighton Town Hall. The John Street police station was built on slum clearance land and there was no prior history of a main police station there. I do not myself know why it was called the Blue House, but I think this particular contention is mistaken.

By Chris Taylor (01/01/2011)

Actually the name of 'The Blue House' goes back at least 60 years as my Gran used to drink in there at that time and she always referred to it as that. It does appear to be a plausible explanation for the name but the police station was in Wellington Road just north of the Level in those days, too far away to be a "Mr Plod" local. Also in those days any form of music or singing was forbidden in pubs so I don't think too many of the local constabulary frequented that area, as a kid every time I passed that open door (the one on the corner) it was alive with singing to the accompaniment of George Harding and his banjo (he lived a few doors away at 29 Claremont Place). I suppose that singing may have been legitimate with a licence issued by the council but I don't think too many of the pubs on the east slopes could afford one. There you are Peter, you've started a thread of discussion on the origin of that name, can anyone else supply a suggestion?

By C. West (01/01/2011)

I lived close by in Scotland Street 1979 - 1986, it was known to us locally then, perhaps incorrectly, as the "Blue House", due to its association with the police.

By Peter Groves (01/01/2011)

When was this pub built?

By Julie Annets (02/01/2011)

Looking at the style of build, the pub looks like a number of newer pubs that was built around the Brighton and Hove area. The pub looks like what I used to call a Charringtons pub, as they all seemed to have the same brickwork and styling. As the pub was built in the middle of long established housing, maybe it was called the Blue House because of what may have been there before. I know we are creatures of habit, if there was for any reason a building referred as the blue house there before; the locals might have called it ‘the pub where the blue house was’ and the locals name for the pub stuck. Just a theory.

By Michael Brittain (02/01/2011)

There has been a pub on the site since at least the 1850s, but it was not originally known by either of the names above and its address was not listed as Sussex Street. It was initially listed as 1, Claremont Place and was called the 'Plumber's Arms' before taking on the name 'Lion & Unicorn' around 1857. However, the original building was obviously replaced and I believe the one shown above dates from 1926. During the 1930s it had something of a rough reputation, with pitched battles between various sectors of the armed forces that frequented it at that time. I have no idea why or when the alternative name 'Blue House' was conferred upon the place. Regards, Andy

By Andy Grant (02/01/2011)

I was led to believe that the nick-naming of the pub as the "Blue House" relates to the rivalry of the razor gangs that lived in the area of John Street, Carlton Terrace, Southover Street and Edward Street after the 1st world war. Their rivals frequented another pub, the Racehorse? Otherwise known as the "Red House" at the junction of Elm Grove and Queens Park road, not sure if info accurate as I heard it from my father 40 years ago!

By Martin Hedgecock (04/01/2011)

My brother in Canada jolted my memory and we both remembered a George Harding who played the banjo and lived with his common law wife a Mrs Gunn at 156 Wiston Road, around 1975 we lived at 158, so could this have been the same man? Not many with that name and played a banjo. If so, small world. He was very talented.

By Barbara Zammit nee Dawson (04/01/2011)

With reference to George Harding and Mrs Gunn, the name Gunn does ring a bell. I do know that George and his 'wife' had a daughter Molly who must have been born about 1940, her picture will soon show up on this site as an attendee of the 1953 Coronation party held in Dinapore Street.

By C. West (06/01/2011)

The Blue House - I remember it well. Another pub that my mother used as we were growing up 60 years ago. I can remember standing in the passageway. Then when I was married and my children were growing up we used to go there with a group of friends. The first time we were going with the children they wanted to walk there and we told them which way to go but when we got there they were nowhere to be seen. They told us later that they could only see a pub called the Lion and Unicorn which was the Blue House.

By Kathleen Catt (10/03/2011)

Well folks this might sound strange but I always thought the reason that this pub was called the Blue House was because of the habit of certain people stealing lead from rooftops and selling it to Freemans / Richardsons scrap metals. Lead was referred to as 'bluey'. You can write with a slice of lead as well.

By Duffy Watkins (07/04/2011)

My grandparents owned this pub in the early 50s. The front of the pub at one time was covered in blue tiles - hence The Blue House

By Dave Harding (31/05/2011)

I lived at the "Blue House" from 1957 to 1965 and loved the place. Dave Harding is right, it was because of the blue tiles. Nice one nephew!

By Alan South (31/05/2011)

I can go back to the 40s, just after the war, and the Duke of Cambridge at the end of Cambridge St. was alive with music, piano and various other instruments, played by George Harding and his brothers people enjoying themselves. I don't think anyone, worried about a music licence at that time. I believe The Lion & Unicorn, was called The Blue House, because part of it was painted blue.

By MPW (16/06/2011)

Just read the previous message, jogged my memory. Yes there were blue tiles, my mother lived in the house next door to the Blue House. It was bombed whilst she was out. I remember her metioning the blue tiles. It left a derelict sight which was used on bonfire nights, and we all contributed to stacking the fire. Happy memories!

By MPW (16/06/2011)

What a pity that no earlier photo of "The Blue House" has shown up, a nice colour one showing the blue tiled wall would have been really nice but of course colour photography in it's infancy and very expensive in the early fifties.

By C West (16/06/2011)

Alan (South) do you remember me? We went to St. Johns C of E together. I remember playing with you on the roof of the "Blue House" when you lived there. PS if you go into St. Johns infants school on this site (Mrs Payne) there is a picture of our class. I am sitting next to you at the top of the "jungle jim". Happy Days!

By Richard Golds (31/01/2012)

Richard Golds - talk about long time no see - it's been nearly 50 years! I can still remember at St Johns in art class painting a picture of you and you were wearing a bright yellow shirt covered in planets and spaceships! Please drop me a line sometime - alscaredofbears@gmail.com. Regards, Alan.

By Alan South (01/02/2012)

Hi Alan, I used to go out with your sister Pat, when Janice was going out with Denis, lovely girl. I remember you, what became of her? Bluey.

By Harry Atkins (04/03/2012)

The most contemporary version of the pub - before its conversion into housing - was an 'improved' rebuild in 1926/7 by the Kemp Town Brewery, by their in-house architect John Leopold Denman. It was a neo-Georgian design in brick, no tiles. So any derivation of the name Blue House due to tiling was presumably earlier or much later than that date.

By David Muggleton (10/07/2012)

My uncle John 'Tommo' Thompson ran this pub from the early 1980s until around 1990. He and his wife Brenda who passed away about 2006. John Thompson passed away on the 18th October 2012, a few days ago as I write. I spent many happy times there. Many characters and memories.

By Graham Hebbard (21/10/2012)

I remember spending a lot of time here as a youngster. My Dad, Tom, used to DJ there and I used to stay upstairs at Johnno's House.

By Michael Jones (13/11/2013)

The dear old Blue House. The landlord was Ernie Young in the 50s. His sons played in the dart team, which won the league a few times. The team was - Ron Young - and his brother Smudger, Stan Hawkins, and his brother Les, Ted Griffis, Charlie Watts, Babba Watts, Bunty, Chissel, his wife 'The Bearded Lady' played for the ladies team. My dear mate Charlie Saunders and myself. Curly Hawkins was our best supporter - he was very superstitious, when we were playing for the double for the finish, you could see him doing a slight 'knees bend` for luck. A pint was 11 pence going to a shilling and a penny during that period.

By Charlie Bull (19/04/2014)

I remember going up to the window on the side of the pub and asking for a pint of Guinness for my nan Mary Hawkins (I was only 8). She used to cook 12 roast dinners on a Sunday for six of them, one meal before a visit to the blue house and then they'd come home to another meal. Lovely memories of my dad Les Hawkins playing billiards.

By Maria Flavin (04/05/2014)

Maria, check out my comments on the Forester pub - a few names your folks may remember. Your Uncle Stanley was the (original) barrow boy. His pitch was outside Bellman's in London Road, which is now The Co-op. It was illegal to carry out this type of trading. Occasionally, my mate Charlie Saunders and I, would look out for the Copper. He would suddenly pop up and we would warn your uncle, who then run off - pushing his barrow - towards The Level. We helped him to push it to the flats, we thought that we were 'Jack the Lads.'

By Charlie Bull (06/05/2014)

Hi Charlie thanks for that, I only recognised Zena's name, I think she was a cousin to my dad, its great to hear of your memories of dads family as ours are so limited. I was only 11 when dad passed and Rod only 6 so they're important! I know my nan Mary Hawkins used to tie cress in her kitchen with her sister while enjoying a Guinness in Milner flats, and I remember my granddad Curly biting an orange through the skin to get the peeling process started and as kids we thought that's how you ate them-yuk. Feeding the pigeons in front of the flats, my nan telling a story of when Stanley and my dad Les opening the tap on the milk churn up Carlton hill and letting all the milk go and being chased by the milk man! So mischief followed them, but the best smells came from the municipal market. Great memories, but limited, thanks again Charlie.

By Maria Flavin (16/05/2014)

My mum and dad, Brenda and John Thompson had this pub from 1983 till 87. Loads of happy times and met some smashing characters.

By Jay Thompson (10/06/2014)

I used to work in the Blue House and also lived upstairs with my then husband Jon and the other manager Antonius. I remember the old drinkers at the pub telling me that it was nicknamed 'Blue House' because of the police station just down the road (although I never served any police when I was there). Great memories of that place. Miss the UK, miss Brighton. The landlord at the time was Frankie Frazer.

By Kelly (ex Blue House worker) (13/07/2014)

A relation Mary Gregory died in April 1973 and the place is given as the Lion & Unicorn, Ashton Rise, Brighton. Is this the same pub? Her husband who died in 1975 was Henry. Does anyone know them?

By Bill Craig (09/03/2017)

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