Colourful characters

Tin Tin of Queensbury Mews

By David Bramwell

After twelve years of living here - and writing a guide book to the place - I have to confess, I still get lost in Brighton. Wander down some unchartered Twitten in the Old Lanes, past the backs of restaurants, hairdressers and snogging teenagers and I often emerge, ever-surprised, to find myself suddenly in Little East Street, Pool Valley or even Rottingdean. And those sidestreets of old Brunswick town niggle me too; I still have to reach for the map when trying to locate the Robin Hood pub, or my friend Sarah's house in Sillwood Place.  Another such obscure Brighton byway is Queensbury Mews. Turn left after the Regency Tavern, just before entering the Square, and this lonely sidestreet, with its meagre row of houses and back entrance to the Metropole, does little to suggest that just around the corner lies Brighton's tiniest pub, once known as the Hole in the Wall.

A very extra-ordinary house
Queensbury Mews holds another secret too, as I discovered last month when idling down there one afternoon; half way down sits one of the most extraordinary houses in Brighton, decorated from top to bottom with silk flowers, flags, pictures of old film stars, messages painted on the walls and several CCTV cameras, from which hang (what look like) a monkey, crocodile and toy boot.

Tin Tin in a summery dress
Curiosity got the better of me that afternoon, so I knocked on the door and was greeted like an old friend. Its owner, Tin Tin, attired in a summery dress and pair of novelty 'dog' slippers, introduced me to Baldrick (his dog), Cheeky Charlie (his parrot) and a friend Mark. Over a glass of beer and sandwich he spilled the beans about his unusual abode: "I first began two years ago putting up old job references in my window. I was getting intimidated about the way I look (Tin Tin is a half-French, half Indian transsexual) and wanted to show the world I was a good character."

Harrassment from drug dealers
From there he went on to gradually display the whole of his life story on the exterior of the house, with photos of his family adorning the windows, 'Thank God for Sussex Police' painted above the door, and - hanging from the top window - a sad story detailing the poisoning of his dog by local drug dealers. The CCTV cameras, it transpired, were not just a cosmetic touch. Unwilling to bow down to harassment he had them installed, along with secret recording devices, to keep himself from harm. But to show his defiance to his intimidators, he has even gone to the extraordinary length of painting on his roof, in large letters, the message: 'drug dealers', with an arrow pointing to the accused.

An exceptional character
After a guided tour around the place, Tin Tin's house revealed one final secret - a gloomy arched entrance in the cellar led directly to Brighton's old Victorian sewers!  Tin Tin is, I have to conclude, an exceptional individual who, like Quentin Crisp, has had the courage to face a hostile world with humour and wiliness.

'Would you consider moving?' I asked.

'In my own good time,' Tin Tin smiled. 'I'm a tough cookie, and I don't crumble!'

This is one of a series of articles by David Bramwell published in the Insight between 2001-2004. David Bramwell is the author of the Cheeky Guide to Brighton.
Added to the site on 12-05-05 
This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
Tin Tin has sadly now moved and the house gutted and turned "normal". He and his menagerie are much missed by many.
By Liam Mandville) (15/05/2005)
In the 1940s I lived in Regency Square and went to St Margaret's school that was in the Mews . It was only a little church school,and most years they got the highest percentage of all the schools in Brighton of children passing the eleven plus exam. In the rest of the mews were just stables and workshops. There were no houses.
By Viv Webb (08/04/2006)

It was nice to see a comment on St Margaret's School. I also attended this school from 1948-54. There were only four rooms in the junior school, run at that time by the following teachers: Mrs Gregory, Miss Purchase, Mr Gardener and Mr Venning. The Headmasters name was Mr Mason (affectionatley known as Pop). This school did have a good academic record with a lot of grammar school passes. Being a Brighton exile, it makes me sad to see that the old school has now gone. I visited Brighton about three years ago and took a stroll down Queensbury Mews and in my mind's eye, I could hear the sound of the schoolkids singing the evening prayer and the customary goodnight teachers gave as they were dismissed.

By John Wignall (14/08/2007)

It's nice to see St Margaret's School mentioned. I also went to this little school and was in Miss Purchase's class. I can remember we had lovely coal fires in the winter to heat the classrooms and the playground was in the basement, I never got to take the eleven plus at this school as I was living in Waterloo St, Hove, and not in Brighton

By Dennis Fielder (29/10/2007)

I went to St Margaret's during WW2 and after, and passed the scholarship and went on to BHSGS. The playground was mostly under the school and the (smelly) toilets were open to the sky. I was in Miss Purchase's and Mr Cullen's classes and remember 'Pop' Mason fondly, even if I was a bit scared of him. I was head boy in my last year there.

By Bryan Moody (25/11/2008)
St Margaret's School is alas no longer in Queensberry Mews; the school site now houses the Hilton Metropole Hotel Exhibition Halls. My patio/house in Regency Square now backs onto these Halls (Numbers 46B, 47, 48, 49 & 50), whereas it would have been attached to the school.
By Terry Wing (25/07/2009)

I was at St. Margaret's from 1943 until I passed my 11 plus in 1949. I recall wearing a gas mask to go to school during WW1. I am still friends with many of the pupils who were there at that time, as is my older brother. I remember Pop Mason taking us all down to the area underneath the West Pier where we practised running for the town's school sports.

By Judy Green (13/06/2011)

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