Preston Park rockery

Image accompanying MP3 audio clip: Preston Park Rockery, Brighton, 1994 ( KB)

Preston Park Rockery, Brighton, 1994

Click to hear Jessica speak

Newts and frogspawn

By Jessica, schoolchild

"This is the Rockery across the road from Preston Park. I like to go there in the spring and summer. The flowers are out, and there are newts and frogs and frogspawn. I like running up the paths and going across the little bridges which are over the waterfalls. I think about the Willow Pattern story a lot, because when it was built, it was based on the willow pattern. There's a lake in the middle, and there are stepping-stones on, and that's nice to go on."

Image and text from the 'My Brighton' museum exhibit
This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
I am very proud to be head gardener of Preston rock garden. Although looking a little sparse with regards to planting due to a bit of neglect over the last 10 years, it is still a superb place to visit. Hopefully in the not too distant future, the site will be returned to its former glory, courtesy of the National Lottery bid, which has already seen Preston Manor walled garden restored to its former glory. Any questions, please contact me. Kindest regards.
By Andy Jeavons (12/04/2003)
I remember the Rockery in the late 50s/early 60s. I would have been around 10-15 years of age. I often used to visit it with my father and loved to play hide-and-seek with him. I also remember playing truant from school on a hot summer's afternoon, buying lots of crisps from the tuck shop and hiding in the Rockery until it was time to go home! The pond was full of goldfish, especially after there had been a fair in the Preston Park!
By Ruth Mitchell (nee Rickards) (17/12/2003)
I lived in Brighton in the mid 80s, and I remember that garden so well. I was a student au pair. When I felt rather lonely, I loved having a walk there and feeling its quietness and beauty. I've never been back to Brighton since 1990, but this is probably one of the first places I'd go back to!
By Claudine (08/04/2004)
I live in Brighton and the Rockery is one of my favourite places to go. I remember hot summer days just laying in the grass and listening to the silence. Most of my friends go into town now at the weekends, but if it is too hot I normally persuade them to come with me to the Rockery and we have loads of fun and get lovely tans!
By Rachel Brott (23/05/2004)
My mum and aunties used to take me to the Rockery in the hoildays for a picnic. I used to love it there, until I fell into the pond. My mum had to drag me home dripping wet.
By Emma Gallagher (18/08/2004)
Most people refer to this as The Rockery, but I believe it is in fact correctly called The Rookery. I used to go there often as a child and loved the stepping stones and the beautiful big goldfish.
By Angela Taylor (11/03/2005)
Is this near where the Pet Cemetery used to be in the mid 1940s? We used to walk there when I was a pupil at St.Wilfred's. Whatever happened to St.Wilfred's? Does anyone have any photos of it?
By Alison de Caen (14/03/2005)
I am lucky enough to live next door to the Rookery (its correct name). B&HBC should do everything in their power to improve this jewel in our City and also do something about stopping the vandals who seem to take great delight in damaging the place Friday / Saturday nights in the summer. It's a shame the police seem to be more interested in tearing around in cars than patrolling the area on foot.
By Tony Ward (31/03/2005)
I have lived in Brighton & Hove all my life, I could never leave, but the Rockery is one of my favourite places, its so peaceful, yet vibrant with colour. I strongly recommend going to see it if you are visiting our lovely city.
By Lucy Golds (14/04/2005)
Hooray! Thank you Mr Ward - let's all call it The Rookery then, shall we? Apart from it being the correct name, 'Rockery' makes it sound so parochial - something Brighton never was.
By Angela Taylor (30/09/2005)
I used to live in Preston Road, in the 1940s early 50s and it was called the Rookery then. All the people that have spoken on this site have really brought back memories. Does anybody remember the Crown and Anchor pub when all the professional boxers used to train there?
By Bluey Atkins (17/04/2006)
The Rookery (correctly named) was the place where I did my earliest courting. Two girls will be always a happy memory of those days as being a teenager in the early 50s at that time I learnt all about life (and girls). Many thanks to Gloria and Pat.
By Bob Munro (07/08/2006)

My Mother was born in the early Twenties in Elms Lea House, which is where the road of the same name now is, and she always called it Rookery Nook. Has anyone else ever heard it called this, or was my mother unique?

By Neil (13/03/2007)

I agree...its Rookery. My most favourite part of Brighton in the summer holidays. But does anyone know how those huge rocks came to be there? My Mum was born in Brighton in 1906 and lived there all her life and she told me that a train was loaded with the rocks and stopped on the line just behind and above the slope[the Burgess Hill/Haywards Heath line]. The truck sides were then opened and all the rocks were tumbled down the hill. Where they rest now is the original place where they came to a stop. I wonder if anyone can confirm this story,I would be most interested. I don't know the year.

By Maureen Sweet (22/02/2010)

When I was young in the 60s, I would spend a week or so with my Grandparents in the summer in Brighton. The rockery was was one of my favourite places to visit. It must have been one of my first visits there when my Granddad offered to help me across the stepping stones in the big lake - but I was being all independent and refused and of course promptly fell in. My grandparents didn't drive so I had to go home on the bus soaking wet.

By Jacquie (20/03/2011)

Neil - no, you're not unique! My grandmother used to take me there as a young child in the early 70s, and she called it Rookery Nook (after a pang of nostalgia, I searched for it on this site using that very name!). She was born around 1910 in the Southover Street area.

By David (13/04/2011)

Hi Andy, a blast from the past, when we both worked on Brighton Parks Dept (me at Withdean Stadium). The gardens were second to none, sadly that is not true of today's Park and Gardens but they are trying to do there best. Get in touch - billtimson@gmail.com

By Bill Timson (27/10/2013)

Please, please, please can we continue to call it 'The Rookery?' That name is all part of the lovely nostalgia. Rockery is another meaning altogether although I am certain those who recall it by that name still have the same fond attachments to the place. I can remember when quite young hoping my legs would stretch easily from stepping stone to stone without getting my shoes wet.

By Sandra Bohtlingk nee Baldwin (27/10/2013)

I have just listened to Jessica's beautiful narrative and have to respond. As a very young boy, my parents would take me along the rocky pathways and over the stepping stones where I would stop and look for the goldfish and 'water boatmen'. The grassy slope always superbly groomed and the large almost sub-tropical plants dwarfed me. There was enormous temptation to run and hide or roll down the steep slope but the signs - Keep off the grass - and my parents were adequate deterrents. I remember the name Rookery but, later, logic perhaps even confusion took over and I started to call it the Rockery because of the large rocks quarried a long way from Brighton. In the summers there were plenty of rooks' nests in the treetops across the road in Preston Park but I do not remember any rooks above the Rookery, however there were lots of discretely hidden bird's nests in the shrubbery. In spite of traffic and train noise and surrounded by the often damp vegetation, there was serenity and it was easy to imagine being somewhere exotic. In retrospect, the Rookery certainly compared well with Japanese gardens; a far more natural beauty. For me it defined the ideal garden: my opinion hasn't changed.
You may also remember the pond, the stepping stones and goldfish at St. Anne's Wells Gardens which could be viewed in all seasons. I even caught my first fish in the pond at Queen's Park in 1945 at the age of seven. I remember the event well. A small goldfish about two inches long, put into a bottling jar filled with pond water with a single strand of water weed introduced at the suggestion of an on-looker, string for a handle, running to the Pepper Pot to catch the 42 trolley bus back to the Seven Dials and home to show my mother. Even at that early age, parents allowed relatively young children to move around town by themselves or with friends, even as the end of WWII approached. Pity it isn't still like that now. Brighton was a great place to grow up; hopefully it still is.

By Dudley Seifert (09/01/2014)

I went there today with my daughter (10), we live in Patcham and now the weather is improving we are starting to walk around more. We were on our way to the London Road and ended up walking for 4 hours as we wound our way back home! People were working on the grounds and have made a stick house of some description. It was fab! We saw fish in the pond and tried not to slip on the stones which are always wet. I have only lived here for 10 years and am very interested in local history. Didn't there used to be a playgroup in the building there? What happens in there now, anything?

By Toni Lloyd (27/04/2014)

I often went there when I was young - it was quite a fascinating place.

By Dennis Fielder (27/04/2014)

I love the rock gardens and the walled garden of Preston Park and Preston Park itself.  There is nowhere, in my view, more beautiful and peaceful. Thank you wonderful gardeners and volunteers who keep these places havens of peace and beauty.

By Cathy (11/02/2017)

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