Memories of the Area

Photo:Alderman Frederick Dutton Briant

Alderman Frederick Dutton Briant

Bernard Dutton Briant

Bernard Dutton Briant, Street Rep for Montpelier Road, records the memories of his father, retired chartered surveyor Peter Dutton Briant.

My great grandfather Arthur Ebenezer Briant was of Huguenot descent and was born in Newport on the Isle of Wight in about 1830. He owned the Royal Bath Hotel in Bournemouth and also owned the mail coach that ran between Brighton and Bournemouth.  

His son Frederick Briant was born in Newport in 1853 and married a Miss Maskell from Brighton. They settled at 29 to 30 Queens Road in 1878. Frederick Briant opened a business as an Estate Agent, Auctioneer, and a Funeral Director. A Mr Dutton had been the best man at Frederick’s wedding, as a mark of respect he gave the name ‘Dutton’ to all his children. 

Frederick Briant sired some 14 children, some of whom did not survive infancy. Some emigrated to the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. By 1901, he and his wife Matilda, were still living in Queen’s Road with 12 of their children: Kathleen, 19, (pupil teacher, later to be headmistress of Elm Grove School) Hugh, 18, Ida, Hilda, 15, Leslie, 14, (to be chairman of Aetna Life Insurance Company in New York), Frederick, 12, Cameron, 11, Winifred, 10, Bernard, 9, (my father Alderman Bernard Dutton Briant, was war-time mayor of Brighton), Olive, 6, Bruce, 5 (who became a prominent High Court judge) and Eileen 7 months.  

We are the only surviving Dutton Briants - most of the others have died. There is however an Alison Dutton-Briant who curiously lives in Brighton, Adelaide, Australia! I have never managed to contact her.  

I was born in 1920, and as a child I lived in Reigate Road. I went to Compton House School in Compton Avenue. The playground was in Bath Street and is now a block of flats. I caught the tram outside the Good Shepherd Church, at about 8.30 for a fare of one old penny. I got off the tram at the Dials and walked into the school via the Bath Street entrance. We wore brown blazers with yellow banding. We were taught basic English, maths and French. I went home for lunch, bearing in mind that the tram took less than five minutes to return to Reigate road.  

Seven Dials - centre of the world

In the late 1920s the area known as the Seven Dials was the centre of the world for everything that you might need - in those days there were no refrigerators and people had to shop every day. Adjoining Bath Street, next to the corner pub, Freeman Hardy and Willis had a small shoe factory, this eventually became Murray’s bakery. Next to the pub was the Turbeville Garage, which had the only petrol pump in the area apart from Moores’ garage in Preston Street as there were very few cars. Hand carts were still used for milk and bread. On the north side of Bath Street, on the corner with Dyke Road, was Davis and Cowley who made excellent cakes. The (current) supermarket on the corner of the Dials was called the Montpelier stores. Three of the other corners of the Dials were occupied by banks. There were two estate agents, solicitors, greengrocers, chemists, wine merchants, dairies, hairdressers, tailors; you name it, you need look no further.   From here the trams ran to Rock Gardens and Queens Park. I would take a tram to Queens Park to play on the swings. The 6 and 7 buses went to the station.  

In those days St Ann’s Well Gardens had a functioning well and a bandstand. There were still a lot of First World War wounded who could be seen in the park on crutches. There were a lot of street musicians.  

Summer days on the beach

During the summer holidays, my mother, my sister and I used to walk all the way down to the beach by the bandstand. We kept the tent under the bandstand and we had a licence in order to erect it on the beach. Full bathing costumes were worn for swimming. I remember the West Pier which flourished and the paddle steamers Waverly and Devonia; they took day coastal trips and also went to Dieppe and the Isle of Wight. There was hardly any foreign travel at all.  

Tidal wave

I can also remember the tidal wave in 1928 which blew all the tents down, and came right up the beach. I had just come out of the water; there was a very strange atmosphere as if there were going to be a big storm. Suddenly there was a gust and the tide went out a quite a way. A huge reverse wave of water surged up the beach past the high tide mark before anyone could do anything about it. My mother, my sister, and I rushed back up to the bandstand – it was a tidal wave! Following the wave a violent wind blew all the tents down. People who were changing were left standing in the nude. Had I still been in the sea I would most certainly have been washed away. I was eight years old. After we had collected our scattered effects we went home.

This page was added on 26/03/2011.

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