Bennett Road

Fish and chips and fun without money

By Andrew Gumbrill

 
Photo:Bennett Road

Bennett Road

Photo by Tony Mould

Grandparents won the pools

My grandparents lived at 27 Bennett Road. They had a big Rover car which they bought when they won a lot of money on the football pools. My brother Paul has the old cheque that I think they were given as a memento. With the winnings they bought my mum's house in Reading Road and my auntie's house in Arundel Street. They also bought my uncle his house but he moved away. Bennett Road in those days seemed so wide, especially as there were no cars on the roads in then. My grandparents had a big Alsatian dog called Yogi, after Yogi Bear.

Left over cakes for a penny

Rugby Road, the next one down, had a great fish and chip shop on one corner, and the bakers on the other corner. You could go in first thing in the morning and buy left over cakes for a penny. My brother-in-law worked in the garage that was at the north end of Rifle Butt Road. I remember my class at St Mark's School had a school trip to the bakers at the south end. We were taken down to the basement where the oven was. And the smell of bread baking is making my mouth water even now.

Fun without money

Me and my brothers, and our friends, would walk down Rifle Butt Road on the way to Black Rock. If you were brave, you climbed into the graveyard. And was it Andrew’s Removal Storage at the top end somewhere? We also used to play in 'that old bomb site' as we called it. What great days. You could go out and have fun without any money. Great memories.

This page was added on 17/11/2012.
Comments about this page

I see from the Brighton Encyclopaedia that Bennett Road and Rugby Road were ones that were quite badly bombed during the latter part of WW2.

By Stefan Bremner-Morris (18/11/2012)

A house (may be two) in Bennett Road received a direct hit from fleeing German raiders, but Rugby Place (not Road) next door remained untouched throughout the war. We had one casualty: Old Mr Beal who was killed whilst looking out from his outside toilet during an air raid, probably by shrapnel from ack-ack guns. His body was placed in a lock-up garage virtually next door to the fish shop on the corner. Shops in Whitehawk Road were also bombed.

By Brian Hatley (20/11/2012)

Apparently Bennett Road was the most bombed road in Brighton. I've studied the Brighton Bombing Map, and it shows that 8 bombs fell in Bennett Road and/or the gardens of Bennett Road. It also show that about 8 further bombs landed very close by, including 2 or 3 in Rugby Place. It would be almost impossible that Rugby Place "remained untouched" as a minimum, even if there were no direct hits on the houses of Rugby Place, blast damage would have been severe. David Rowland's book War in the City, states that during the first bombing raid on Brighton, 15th July 1940, 9 bombs fell on the area, including Rugby Place!

By Peter Groves (21/11/2012)

Sorry, but I'm as certain as can be that NO BOMBS EVER FELL in Rugby Place! Whitehawk Road and Bennett Road yes, but strangely, Rugby Place escaped. There was no doubt plenty of collateral damage. I remember that the latch on our pantry door never worked properly after the Bennett Road bomb. I was in my house (no.55) at the time, hiding under the steel Anderson shelter which was also my bed and ping-pong table. The bombs were discharged willy-nilly by fleeing daylight raiders to lighten their load in order to facilitate their escape. The gasholder next door to St Mark's school (which is now the Bell Tower Industrial Estate) received a direct hit from one such bomb. It was during the lunch hour (when children came home) and we didn't return again until after the war, or so it seemed. My father was on Fire Watch at 17 Madeira Place at the time, and saw the gasholder go up in flames. 

By Brian Hatley (26/11/2012)

Hi Brian / Peter, I see that there is some disagreement between you as to whether bombs fell in Brighton Place. For what it's worth, the bombing map of Brighton published in the Herald of 7th October 1944 clearly shows two strikes, almost in the centre of the road. Looking at the houses in the road today, numbers 28 and 30 have subtle differences in their construction to the other houses of that type in the road, and the railings on both are dissimilar to the the other properties. IMHO this seems to be indicative of the repairs undertaken to extensive damage on the front of both houses and accords with the precise location of the hits by 25kg bombs on the map. Regards, Andy

By Andy Grant (27/11/2012)

Hello again Brian, I have amended Marine Place to Madeira Drive on your previous posting. As far as uploading a photo goes, you might be best emailing Jennifer Dury on jennifer@mybrightonandhove.org.uk for assistance. Hope that's helpful.   

By Brian Hatley (27/11/2012)

In the above photo, just about where the lad is walking on the left, there were five houses missing when I was a kid. We loved the bomb site where we played in the late '40s. I can't remember exactly when the new houses were built but it must have been in the late '40s, I think, as I used to cut the grass for one lady and did Saturday shopping for another in the new houses. Mike Peirson

By Mick Peirson (27/11/2012)

Andy, I don't think the map to which you refer is entirely accurate (other people have mentioned one or two errors). It was indeed published by the Brighton & Hove Herald, and when I started work there in 1952, a framed copy hung on the editor's office wall. I remember questioning the appearance of two blobs in Rugby Place. It has occurred to me that because I arrived at number 55 approximately 1940-41, it may well have happened earlier. With this in mind I managed to contact Alan Dart, my childhood friend who lived at number 30 (the very house you say shows signs of extensive damage). He confirmed that the house virtually opposite (no 35) was actually boarded up for the duration because of a direct hit. But since it fell inside the house, hardly any damage occurred externally. The occupant, a Mrs Murton survived. Numbers 28 & 30 look different because they were infill houses built before the war. I apologise for being so adamant (and mistaken) that "no bombs fell in Rugby Place"!

By Brian Hatley (29/11/2012)

Hi Brian. There is nothing like personal experience to record (fairly recent) history, but it must always be borne in mind that memory is not always perfect - particularly those that were experienced during childhood. The 'Herald' map was drawn from the records of bombs that fell and is largely representational, inasmuch that a bomb was recorded as having fallen very near to where the 'blob' was drawn. There may have been minor positional inconsistencies, but on the whole it is a pretty good record of the sites where bombs hit. In this instance the bomb strike was the first Brighton experienced, occurring at 06:00 on the morning of 15th July 1940 and it was surveyed more thoroughly than many others because of that fact. The nine 25kg bombs destroyed 6 houses and around a further 30 suffered serious structural damage. I have looked back on old maps and concur that 28/30 were indeed infilled sometime before 1911. Regards, Andy

By Andy Grant (02/12/2012)

G'day all-I seem to have started something from my first post. One thing that I wondered about was why the bombs were dropped in the first place, not being a local. Were they off-loading ammunition prior to a return to France or Germany, or was there actually something specific they were trying to hit, albeit rather unsuccessfully?

By Stefan Bremner-Morris (05/12/2012)

Hi Andy, thanks for the info and from the precise dates you give it is obvious to me that this particular bombing occurred just prior to my arrival in Rugby Place, which would account for my ignorance of it. I was about three and a half (b. 19/7/37) when I first walked up that street (not leaving till 1952) and though many memories have faded away, I can never forget the awful thump of bombs exploding and the house shaking with the noise of low flying aircraft directly overhead. After every air raid, when the "all clear" siren had gone, we would be back out in the street to collect bits of shrapnel. I think I would clearly remember for all time if I had ever noticed extensive damage, as seen to the shop in Whitehawk Road (incidentally right at the back of Alan Dart's house). I will shortly get around to posting the picture mentioned previously, which will of course be on the Rugby Place page. Best Wishes.

By Brian Hatley (06/12/2012)

Stefan, although I was never privy to Herr Goering's plans (!) I'm sure you're right about the bombs being offloaded in panic by light fighter-bombers (Fockers?) chased away by our brave lads in Spitfires /Hurricanes. In order to invade us, the Germans first had to knock out places like Tangmere, Biggin Hill etc but soon gave up on daytime raids.

By Brian Hatley (06/12/2012)

The target for the bombs in the area was the gasometers at Black Rock, which I think only one was ever successfully hit. The bombs were mainly dropped by single seat fighter bombers like the Focke Wolf FW190; as they were dropped by the pilot from under wing mounted ordinance, the accuracy was very poor, hence Kemptown and Marine Gate being hit many times. I may be corrected but I don’t think Brighton was subjected to any high level bombing raids similar to London and the industrial cities and ports. I have read stories that most Brighton raids consisted of three or four aircraft, they would drop their bombs and often strafe the area with machine gun fire before darting back across the Channel.

By Michael Brittain (06/12/2012)

Hi all, the bomber in this case was a Dornier DO17, flying on its own and dropping all nine bombs before flying out again to sea. I don't profess to know what it was aiming at, but would imagine that, at that stage in the war, it was chancing its luck at anything that looked strategically interesting to it. Regards

By Andy Grant (07/12/2012)

Hi Andy, Stefan and Brian. After the war some photos and maps of strategic areas for the Luftwaffe to bomb in the UK were found. Copies of the maps are available to buy on the internet, but on the images freely available the Black Rock gasometers are marked as a target. Also marked for bombing are Brighton Locomotive Works and Kemptown railway sidings. There are also some Luftwaffe aerial photos of the local area on this website. http://www.clique.co.uk/coloptics/luftwaffe/BRIGHTON.htm Looking at the bomb pattern which was dropped on the area around Bennett Road and Rugby Place, you can see a stick of bombs from the Dornier DO17. The Dornier DO17 was a twin engined aircraft and the payload was certainly capable of dropping that amount of bombs. According to accounts the single bomber turned out to sea then doubled back to empty the rest of its payload on Church Road, Hove. As Peter Groves stated, there are stories and images of wartime Brighton to be found in David Rowland's publications, a particularly good read is 'Out of the Blue' which is about Brighton's worst air raid on May 25th 1943, when Bennett Road was bombed again.

By Michael Brittain (09/12/2012)

Seeing the lovely photo of the kids in Rugby Place having a street party to celebrate V.E. day had me wondering if anybody out there has any photos of such a party that took place in Bennett Road. Or if there are any photos of the coronation street party that took place in 1953. I wonder. Mike Peirson.

By Mick Peirson (16/12/2012)

From memory there were five houses destroyed opposite our house at No.14 Bennett Road. For some time after the war ended the building site was a wonderful place to play, it was also the source of hard core for the concreting of our back garden which until that point had been a small lawn. Those five houses should still be readily indentifiable as they were slightly different in design to other houses abutting them.

By Phil Mansfield (14/04/2013)

The bombs that hit the gas works also blasted Marine Gate, then occupied by the Royal Navy. My sister Alma worked there as a maid or waitress. That day my friends and I were fishing at Queens Park Pond. There were fishing boats there that were taken off the beaches, we heard bangs and saw smoke rising in the direction of the  east, so we went towards the smoke and found it was Arundel Road, St Marks school, the gas works and also Marine Gate. We went down the road to the new flats to witness people with injuries coming out the side door. Any memories out there? 

By James Guile (02/03/2014)

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