Brighton Municipal Market

Working at the market

By Mick Peirson

The night shift
I worked in the Municipal market as a teenager in the 60s. I first worked for Brighton Council at nights as a security guard and also to clear up the rubbish that had been left behind after the day shift had gone at 4 o'clock. I also had to let delivery lorries in at night. There were plenty of rats in the place at night, you could see their red eyes. In the morning I had the job of directing traffic for the fish market. There was always cheap fish at the end of the auctions.

Unloading lorries
When I left the Council job, I worked for Charly Watts unloading lorries at night with another older bloke that was never there, he was always at home kipping. I didn't care as I was young and fit and couldn't be bothered to go round his house and get him. The unloading consisted mostly of 1 cwt sacks of spuds.

Although I had a driving licence, I had only driven cars and motorbikes up till then. When I had finished unloading one lorry, I had to put it out into the parking lot and bring another one in. This gave me loads of driving experience. After I had finished unloading these lorries I started taking liberties and driving them around the parking lot and later on when I got used to driving them, taking them out of the market and doing a tour of Brighton every night. It felt so natural to me to be driving them. These lorries were two eight wheelers and a six wheeler. All of them Commer TS3s which had a really throaty roar, having two-stroke diesel engines.

Day driving
I did a bit of day driving in the summer going around the fruit farms of east Kent picking up cherries and apples and all the seasonal fruit. One dark night I was a bit late owing to different reasons (one of those days). I had a load of apples on the rear three feet of the flatbed piled up to about eight feet, just roped but not sheeted. I lost the apples going up School Hill in Lewes. There was a real mess all over the road. Good job it was late and there wasn't much traffic about. A police car came along and I thought I was for it. But they helped me pick them up and put them back into their boxes. I gave the policemen a load of apples for their trouble, sheeted up this time and went on my way. Nobody noticed the bruised apples when I got back.

Good times
I was also a porter in the mornings and had to barrow fruit and veg to the customers in the street. When I first started,the other porters loaded my barrow so that as soon as I lifted the handles, up it would go with me hanging on to the handles about 6 feet in the air and the lads laughing their heads off. I soon got used to this ribbing and we all had a good time, especially as the pub over the road had a special licence that allowed it to open at 5 in the morning, where we would wet our whistles and be half sloshed by 9 o'clock. Good times.

This page was added on 02/01/2007.
Comments about this page

When I came out of the Army in 1954 without a job, my Dad, who managed a fruit and veg shop in Hove called Nailards, got me work portering in the market with The Worthing Fruit & Flower Co. Very early mornings but finished early afternoon. Had some great times but hard work unloading the potato lorries and stacking the 1cwt. bags. Great characters, and the guvnors were brothers Ted & Howard Leney. You could hear ted arriving from some distance away in his Alvis sports car, but Howard was much more sedate in a Rover saloon. There was also a father and son combo, Reg and John aka Todd Slaughter. Young Todd used to get a little too big for his boots occasionally, but there was always someone there to put him right.
My dad used to come in to buy, and for a very long time I wasnt able to work out why the sales people called him Robin when his name was Leslie. But then I realised that it referred to his continually beating them down on price, to the point where calling him a robbing ........ could simply be abbreviated to Robin. But it was all in good fun and there could always be a stroll down to the pub on the corner for an early morning snifter. I think it opened in those days at about 6am.
As I mentioned it was hard work but I still remember fondly, at the grand old age of 80, many of the characters about at the time.  

By John Tester (17/05/2014)

John, I remember Worthing Fruit and Flower. They were at the end of the market if I remember and had Dennis trucks. Long time ago. The pub was a nice relief after unloading 1cwt sacks of spuds. I remember it well. I am 9 years younger than you, probably all that hard work kept us fit today.

By Mick Peirson (17/08/2014)

I worked for J G Hale and his brother Peter. They were New Zealanders and as zany as you like, I was only young (17). Not many women worked in the market at the time, and I remember the men had a bet on what time I would eventually arrive for work. The office was like a wooden box on stilts. I had to climb the steps to get up there.  If a box was broken the staff used to divide the spoils, often I was very proud walking home with my veg.

By Terrie Hounsome (21/03/2015)

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