Mystery photos of Brighton and Hove

Where was this shop?

By Stefan Bremner-Morris

This is a photo I took in the late 1980s, but I cannot recall where, although it might have been in the Laines?

It reminds me of coming down West Street in the '40s and 50s where there was a similar establishment about halfway down on the right hand side. A gentleman would be crouched over his bunsen burner tiddling coloured glass rods with great concentration. He never looked up in case of breaking his concentration I suppose. Of course over the years it might have been a different chap.

The models were often of drunks hanging onto lamposts, or cats slinking around the base of similar street furniture. I have seen such models of the period in antique shops fetching decent prices, and wondered if their origins lay in that shop?

Photo:Where was this shop

Where was this shop

From the private collection of Stefan Bremner-Morris

This page was added on 04/01/2009.
Comments about this page

I'm sure it's the Animal man who used to sit in his shop window in Queen's Road just down from the station. I remember when I was a child in the 70s standing outside watching him work.

By Carol Homewood (04/01/2009)

On 15th December '08 I added this comment to the section called 'Queen's Road' listed under Places-Streets-Day Trippers 1953; quote;
'Something else I just remembered. What about the glass man? He would sit in his window blowing glass for all to watch. His work was so delicate and fine. I remember buying a delightfull 'Lily of the Valley' to give to my aunt who was a painter and had given me one of her Lily of the Valley paintings some time previously.
I remember him so well and would gaze at him and his work in amazement. I suppose he is no longer there or perhaps not even with us any longer. A lovely memory.

By Sandra (04/01/2009)

This was the 'glass animal man' as we called him. He would be seen in the window of his shop in Queen's Road. This was on the right going down from station, just before North Road opposite. I believe he was somewhere else before, but my memory fails me. I do remember that a short film was made of him and his family for television. Hopefully someone else will fill in the gaps.

By Jennifer Tonks (nee Smith) (04/01/2009)

We used to call him the Glass Animal Man. I can't remember where he moved to, but in the early 60s he used to have a shop by the Aquarium entrance. The shop was located on the corner of the underpass to the beach. When I was a young lad I was fascinated by the way he made the tiny figures, he used different sized coloured rods of glass his blowtorch and a pair of pliers. He was very skilled and I think he enjoyed an audience watching him.

By Michael Brittain (04/01/2009)

There was also a shop in Queen's Road, half way down on the right, in the 60s and 70s, where a man sat in the window with burner and glass rods, mainly making animal ornaments. It may have even existed until the 80s, and looked very like this one. Could it be Queen's Road?

By Peter Groves (04/01/2009)

I was only today telling my daughter and Granddaughter about this guy sitting in the shop window in Queen's Road, making little glass animals. I believe he had another shop prior to this one.

By Maralyn Eden (04/01/2009)

I do believe the shop was situated in Queen's Road, Brighton.

By Paul (04/01/2009)

I think this is the Glass Animal man in Queen's Road.

By Mary Thomsen (04/01/2009)

I think this was the glass animal man whose shop was on the right hand side going down Queens Road. I am sure the shop was situated on the elevated part of the pavement.

By Fred Hine (04/01/2009)

I think that this is the glass animal man who had a shop down Queens Road, Brighton. I still have a model of a lamppost which has two cats perched up the top and a dog at the base. It must have been about 1968.
He appeared on Blue Peter and years later, I worked with his widow at Sainsburys! Her name was Ansell -I don't know if that was her married name or not.

By Diane (04/01/2009)

This was the Glassblower's Shop in Queen's Road; right-hand side as you came down from the Station, in the first block or so. I think it became a philately shop afterwards. I loved watching him make the ornaments.

By Penny Hajduk (04/01/2009)

There was a glass animal shop in Queens Road where a man used to sit in the window making glass models.

By Gill Bradshaw (04/01/2009)

Glass Animal man. Shop was in Queen's Road on west side near Masonic Lodge between Church Street and North Road.

By David Sewell (04/01/2009)

The name of the establishment was 'Glass Animal Manufacturing' and it was at number 28, Queen's Road from the late 1960s until the 1980s.

By Andy Grant (05/01/2009)

I too remember the Glassman Mr Ansell who had his shop in Queens Road. When I was 13, I used to work in the hot dog bar at the bottom of the steps of the Palace Pier. When I used to go through the tunnel to get the supplies, at the bottom of the Aquarium steps on the left, was the Glassman's Booth where he used work. I used to stand and watch him work and wanted some earrings and when I was 15, my friend pierced my ears and he made me a pair of dove earring which were very much treasured. When our children were young we used to go to his shop, and one year for a present for their Grandparents he made a branch with three little birds on it. He loved people standing watching him work and he always wore tinted glasses to protect his eyes.

By Pamela (05/01/2009)

For the record, in the message above from Pamela, I should have said it was at least 53 years ago when Mr Ansell worked at the bottom of the Aquarium steps in his Booth.

By Pamela (06/01/2009)

I am wondering if anyone else remembers seeing the television programme about the glass animal man that I mentioned on here? Thank you Pamela for jogging my memory, I knew he was somewhere else before Queens Road. Can we jog your memory further?

By Jennifer Tonks nee Smith (06/01/2009)

I watched this guy many times as a kid. He was down by the Aquarium at one time then moved to just down from Brighton railway station, that was in the 1960s. What a flash back in time. This site is great. R.Dawson, Canada, originally from Whitehawk, Wiston Road Brighton.

By Robert Dawson (06/01/2009)

He was certainly in Queens Road in 1965 as I got him to make me a little mouse with clogs on for my girlfriend, who was very fond of the song that was in the Hit Parade at that time.

By Dan (06/01/2009)

Thanks for all that folks! Obviously, he was a popular guy. Are you saying that the chap in my more recent photo is the same fellow as that in the Queens Road window? I certainly didn't take it in Queens Road; that is for sure. Maybe there are several people who did this glass blowing over the years? Thanks for the info, though.

By Stefan Bremner-Morris (07/01/2009)

The Glass Animal Man. I used to watch him from the bus as it slowed down on the approach to Brighton Station.

By Sara Robinson (07/01/2009)

Yes you are all right: definately "the glass animal man". It is interesting that so many people remember him by that name precisely as did our family. I am sure he was there at least by the very early 60s and possibly back into the 50s as I remember looking in through his window when still in tow with my parents.

By David Ward (07/01/2009)

What great memory of Brighton, the glass animal man. I also remember him at the foot of the aquarium steps. I stood there ages one day and he gave me a small animal. I was so happy and took it home. In those days he sat on a high backed chair and hanging on the back, so every one could see, was a picture of himself when he was on that early game show What's My Line with Eammon Andrews, Barbara Kelly, David Nixon etc. I think our man actually beat the panel. Does anyone else remember the picture when he was at the aquarium?

By Ken McNeill (07/01/2009)

I have never forgotten the glass animal man. When I was about 10 or so (in the 70s) I always got my Mum to stop and look in the window with me as we made our way down from the station. I remember he was on TV and think it was Blue Peter. I still have a few of the animals that he made.

By Sally (07/01/2009)

I to used to watch the glass aminal man working in his shop, and yes it was in Queens Road. I will be 62 on Sunday 11 January 09, so it must be over 50 years that I remember him at the afore mentioned location. He was absolutely fasinating, and in later years my wife and I also bought things from his shop.
I might be in the UK on Tuesday 13 January 09, so if I get the chance, I will look and see if the shop is still in Queens Road, but the man will have gone long ago.

By Paul Fleet (07/01/2009)

Yes, the wonderful glass animal man. I used to stand and watch him make his animals. He also sold metal detectors and things to stone polishers. And he told me once in the summer time he would be making his animals 22hrs a day and he would sleep on the shop floor.

By Patrick kite (08/01/2009)

Yes, that is definately the 'glass animal man' in Queens Road. I used to stand and watch him for ages when I visited my Grandad's shop (Johnsons Photograph Shop). He was always very busy but always managed to give us a smile. How lovely to be reminded.

By Sara Brown (nee Varley-Roblou) (10/01/2009)

I remember him coming to our house a couple of times in the 70's to do 'glass animal parties.' He was such a nice chap, unfortuntely he's passed away some years ago. I also recall the short BBC film that was made too. I guess I must have picked something up from stareing at his lovely works as, despite a career in electronics, I have ended up becoming a lampworker too!

By Glenn Godden (13/01/2009)

Hello Glen.  Yes he was an extremely nice man, I chatted to him often. The film we both saw of him featured his children. Any idea where they might be? Wonder if they know their dad is on this great site? So glad you put that on here about the short film. Hope other people remember it.
I meant to congratulate you on your career change. I would be interested to hear more if you would like to email me at jennifer.tonks@yahoo.co.uk

By Jennifer Tonks (nee Smith) (15/01/2009)

I occasionally see his widow and I will mention it. I remember her telling me that a son flies helicopters. I think her name might be Axcill not Ansell as I said earlier.
She told me the children appeared with their father on Blue Peter.

By Diane (17/01/2009)

This may be him but the distance to the buildings reflected in the windows (and the elevation) makes it a bit off for actually being the QR shop.

By Liam (17/01/2009)

They are all correct - glass animal man. A regular stopping off point for us in the 70s on the walk down Queens Road, along with the stamp shop, on the way to Gamleys.

By TRHK (16/02/2009)

I have enjoyed reading all the comments and it is lovely to see a photo of the glass animal man at work. I live in Southampton and I have a sister who lives in Brighton. Back then when I visited her I always wanted to go to see the glass animal man. Now I have a large collection of small glass animals, just like he used to make. A few times I asked him to make particular things for me and he was always happy to oblige. I was so sad to hear he had passed away, but have very happy memories of visiting the shop.

By Lisa Joynes (nee Gibbs) (15/03/2009)

Sorry Stefan but I'm afraid it is your memory at fault this time - that is definitely Mr Ansell aka The Glass Animal Man, in Queens Road. Was not the shop called Geobright? There was also a small feature on him in A Child's Gude To Brighton, published late 70's - can't remember by whom as my copy is at home. I remember him very clearly right from being a tiny toddler up to my early 20s and loved watching him at work - an even bigger treat was buying one of his animals! I still have a couple of lovely little dragons and one tiny elephant with red ears and a red trunk! Happy days.

By Cat (07/06/2009)

The photo is of Bill Axcell in his shop 'Geobright' in Queens Road. He started at the Aquarium before moving to Queens Road where he worked until his sadly early death in 1991. Bill used to say that his shop window had the noseprint of every child in Brighton. The TV programme featuring Bill and his family was 'Look Stranger'. His children and family are all very well (I married his daughter, Pearl). They don't know about this site yet, and will be delighted to read the lovely comments.

By Paul Carter (10/06/2009)

My sister Pearl just told me about this site so I'm heading back to the top of the page to read about our lovely dad whom I worked with for years and still miss. Thanks so much to all who have left comments I will add more after reading.

By carol bill axcell's daughter (10/06/2009)

Well what a lovely surprise all the people that remember The Glass Animal Man. He did start out at the Aquarium and then moved to 28 Queens Road and he was the only one in Brighton. He did beat the panel on 'What's my line?' and was on 'Blue Peter' as well as a few other programmes. I worked with him when I left school and learned the trade. It was the best time and I loved watching him work. The tv programme was 'Look Stranger' and yes we were all in it even the dog. I was the one making the octopus. Dad died about 18 years ago and we still look for glass animals to bring home. There is something very magical and special about each one so to all those who treasure them thanks. This site has brought back some memories and made me smile.

By Carol Bill Axcell's daughter[the Glass Animal Man (10/06/2009)

Hi Stefan
I was really thrilled to see your photo of my Dad Bill Axcell. It was especially moving to read the comments sent in regarding peoples memories of him. He was certainly one of Brighton's colourful characters and the only Glass Animal Man (named by the children who used to watch him). He was born in Leigh-on-sea Essex and moved to Brighton in the mid 50'. His original shop was down by the Aquarium and when I was born in 1956 he put an announcement in his shop window. He moved to 28 Queens Road in the early 60s and remained there until his death in 1991 aged 63. He always maintained that he never did a days work in his life as his job was his hobby and life long love. Through the years the he developed different interests which he ran alongside the Glass animals and one of these was as Geobright. He sold rocks and minerals as well as jewellery. It was a fascinating shop to visit and as children we all worked there at various times to earn our pocket money. My sister Carol and myself were taught how to work the glass, something that I loved and would dearly love to do again. If you would like any more information about him then please contact me. Your article has invoked many happy memories.
Many thanks

By Pearl Carter nee Axcell (11/06/2009)

Mr Axcell the glass animal man was my granddad and my mum Carol Ann was in a short film along with her brother and sisters. Bill sadly passed away about 15 years ago and is missed by everyone who knew him. His family still live in the West Sussex area.

By Sarah (10/06/2009)

Glad you liked the picture, Carol, Pearl, Sarah, and that it brought back happy memories to you all! Were no other shots taken of the shop, over the years? I can't believe there weren't.. I wonder if there is a text book/pamplet that describes some of the basics of that type of glass-blowing? It would be interesting to see how it was done. Maybe it was learnt only by word of mouth?

By Stefan Bremner-Morris (17/06/2009)

To Stefan Bremner Morris. Re Bill Axcell. Watch this space.

By Ron. (19/06/2009)

This will probably sound silly...but to my family it isn't. I was Brighton born and bred and have been married twice-both my brides (one Brighton-born, one Bognor-born) wed with glass ear rings by Mr Axcell. It was somehow important to us. By my second marriage I have three step children (two girls and a boy) and two children (both girls). All four girls have pieces by Mr Axcell, and all saw him working in his shop. He was a lovely man.

By Dave White (12/09/2009)

I still have a box-full of glass animals that I collected as a child in the late 1960s: many were made by Mr Ansell

By Judith Teasdale (25/02/2010)

I carry a small ginger and white kitten made by Mr Axcell in my wallet. It has been with me all over the world and never leaves my side. It is for me a piece of Brighton and always brings me home safe. We should get a petition together for Brighton council to put up a memorial to this great man. He was the embodiment of everything that makes Brighton great; eccentric in the uniquely English way, friendly and kind.

By Nathan (15/04/2010)

Bill was my uncle. He teased me and I teased him back, he had such a great sense of humour. I can remember being stood in his shop watching him work, everything seemed to come from nothing! And most of all I am so glad and proud he has been remembered, he was held in high esteem. He made many items especially commissioned for several TV programmes: Blue Peter a few times, but others, slighty more high brow. Perhaps me happening upon this link might allow his kids, my relatives, to get in touch - I hope so.
Carol, Pearl or Peter - please feel free to get in touch with Douglas, your dad's sister's youngest lad (even though I am 50 and a bit now) email douglasazzurro@aol.com

By Douglas Brend (06/06/2010)

Here is some film of the glass animal man http://www.britishpathe.com/video/glass-animal-man

By Delbert (14/01/2013)

It is correct to say that the glass animals man's surname was Axcell. He was originally at the aquarium site before moving to Queens Road.

By Ken Bishop (21/06/2013)

It is the glass animal man in Queens Road. I remember him well. He would look up occasionally at the window where people were watching.

By Peter Green (07/08/2017)

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