31 January 2017

Abinger Road, Portslade

Judy Middleton 2001 (revised 2017)

copyright © G. Osborne  
An early 1920s photograph of Abinger Villa.

Background

The road was named after Abinger Villa, a farmhouse that already stood there before the road was laid out. Originally, the land was called Great Shelldale and Elizabeth Bridger was the owner in 1797, the Bridgers owning a quantity of land in Portslade. Great Shelldale passed down to her daughter who was also called Elizabeth Bridger. In 1832 when this daughter married Thomas Thompson Cattley, her land was put in trust and Charles Bridger and Henry Colvill Bridger were tasked with the duty of managing it.

Eventually, the Bridgers sold Great Shelldale consisting of 11 acres, 1 rod and 23 perches to Abraham Peters, a Portslade farmer. On the same date as this transaction, Peters took out a mortgage for £900 on the land with John Sharp, a Southwick ship-owner. Abraham Peters was already familiar with the land because he had been farming it, having rented it for seven years on 26 February 1859 for £227.

The property next passed to to Abraham’s brother, Frederick Peters who was left with the problem of sorting out the moiety and the real estate. He put the whole lot up for sale with the agreement of his nine surviving nieces and nephews. He then purchased the land for £2,482 and out of this sum £1,241 was divided between the nine relatives.

In 1893 Frederick Peters died. In 1901 Kate Burstow, one of his daughters, with the agreement of her sisters, purchased 83 Abinger Road and 1 and 3 Gardener Street for £545 from William Hudson Dudeney, executor.

In 1922 Kate Burstow took out a mortgage for £100 with Ellen Eliza Novis of 41 Shirley Street, Hove, with interest of £6 a year. In 1936 Kate took out a further mortgage with the same lady for £50, both mortgages being repaid by 1942. On 25 May 1942 Kate sold 83 Abinger Road for £225 to Ernest Arthur Osborne of 87 Abinger Road.

Abinger Villa, 87 Abinger Road

 copyright © G. Osborne   
Abinger Villa decorated in celebration of the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977

Frederick Peters was responsible for building this house and he named it after his wife Kate’s birthplace of Abinger Hammer, Surrey, five miles west of Dorking.

The 1873 Ordnance Survey Map shows Abinger Villa standing on its own but fronting a footpath leading to what was later named Old Shoreham Road.

The 1881 census records the Peters family comfortably ensconced in Abinger Villa. They were:

Frederick Peters, 63, farmer employing ten men
His wife Kate Peters, 56
Unmarried daughter Kate, 23
Unmarried daughter Fanny, 18
Daughter Eliza Kate, 15
Grandson

 copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove (Brighton Graphic 
Mr A.Terry ran his removal business from Abinger Villa before 
the First World War, by the end of 1915 the business had moved to 
27 Beaconsfield Road Portslade

H.W. Tubbs, Portslade photographer whose premises were in Station Road, took a photograph of Abinger Villa in the 1920s. The stuccoed exterior looks much the same as it does today. The name ‘Abinger Villa’ was painted or engraved above the front entrance. There is the same decorative ball and finial on the pediment above the door. There were cast-iron railings adorning the dwarf wall plus the cast-iron gateway with decorative supports in an embossed design topped off with a twisted finial. All this ironwork was removed during the Second World War as part of the scrap metal drive.

The executors of Thomas Buckland, former owner of Abinger Villa, put the house up for auction on 20 May 1935. It was described as a freehold property consisting of two floors, brick-built with a slate roof.

First floor
Two front bedrooms with fireplaces and cupboards in the recess
A small front room
Three back bedrooms with fireplaces

Ground Floor
A wide hall
Two front rooms with bay windows, fireplaces and cupboards in the recess
Two back rooms with fireplaces and cupboards
Kitchen with copper and sink
Excellent cellarage below
Outside WC
Large garden
A temporary motor garage with double gates leading to it at the side

The frontage measured around 54 feet and the depth was put at around 145 feet.

At the time the premises were let as three tenements with a weekly rent of 11/-, 15/6d, and 17/6d, producing £2-4s a week or £114-8s a year.

Arthur Ernest Osborne of 15 Shelldale Crescent purchased the property for £710. A deposit of £71 was made and a memo signed on 21 May 1935. Osborne’s son Alan was born at 15 Shelldale Crescent in March 1929.

Mr Osborne preferred to be called Ernie rather than Arthur. In 1919 after the Great War was over he started a window cleaning business and employed around twenty war veterans who were glad to find work. It was also good publicity to call his enterprise the Ex-Service Window Cleaning Company. Some of the barrows used to carry ladders and cleaning equipment around Portslade streets were kept at Abinger Villa; others were stored in Shelldale Road or behind the Half-Way House pub. Ernie died on 29 June 1964. No doubt he would be fascinated to know that his grandson Gary still carries on the family window cleaning tradition in Station Road / Boundary Road today.

Abinger Villa passed on to Ernie’s son Alan Osborne. During the 1970s and early 1980s there was a lively atmosphere in the house when Portslade Girl Pipers practised their bagpipes there. 

Alan Osborne and his friend Jack founded the band in 1973 and their first public performance took place on New Year’s Eve 1973/1974. Afterwards there were regular performances at both private functions and public events such as Hove Lions Day in Hove Park. 

 copyright © G. Osborne                                                                                   copyright © J.Middleton
A youthful Alan Osborne was photographed in 1947 when he was doing his National Service with the Cameronians.
Portslade Girl Pipers were photographed marching along Brighton seafront in August 1977 with the Hotel Metropole
 in the background. (the photographs are mounted on the Dress Gordon tartan of the Portslade Girls Pipers)

A highlight was participation in the youth march-past to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 when they marched past Buckingham Palace, bagpipes playing at full blast. Other highlights were visits to Holland and Ireland.

Alan Osborne was interested in bagpipes because when he was called up for National Service in 1947 he was drafted to the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). Portslade Girl Pipers wore a uniform consisting of a kilt in Dress Gordon tartan with dark green jacket and lace jabot. Mr Osborne obtained special permission for the girls to wear the Gordon’s badge on their Glengarry hats and the Cameronian badge on their plaids.

In its heyday the band could muster 43 girls on parade but not all of them played bagpipes because a few of them played bell lyres. The band broke up in around 1983.

Alan Osborne died on 30 June 2005 but Abinger Villa had already been sold.

Abinger Barn

copyright © J.Middleton
Abinger Barn is a potent reminder of the area’s agricultural past. 
This photograph taken in July 2015 shows exterior staircase and the extension at the back.

Abinger Barn stands two houses along from Abinger Villa on the north side and on the corner of Crown Road. It is an old flint-built barn, tall and somewhat narrow but there is a large doorway of a suitable width for a wagon to enter. Above the doorway there is a semicircle of red bricks and nearby a small door. There are nine windows on the east frontage of varying size and width but all are surrounded by red brick dressings. On the north side there is a steep brick staircase leading to a door higher up in the wall. The stairway wall has been raised, and an extension built on at the back.

In the 1930s the barn was used as stables for six large cart-horses. On one occasion a fire broke out but all six horses were rescued safely.

It seems probable that during the 1940s the barn was used as a warehouse because F.C. Greenfield sought permission from Portslade Council to build an extension to his warehouse.

After the Second World War the barn was home to an unusual enterprise because it became a handbag factory. It started in around 1947 and David Sharp who lived in Trafalgar Road was one of the men employed there. But the female workforce must have heavily outnumbered him

copyright © D. Sharp
The staff and their families assembled in Crown Road for a handbag factory's 'works outing' circa 1950.
This photograph was taken from the exterior staircase of Abinger Barn (Crown Works)
copyright © D. Sharp
The staff of the handbag factory assembled in Crown Road for a 'works outing' circa 1951.
David Sharp is standing to the right of the coach, Pamela Howell was aged around eighteen when this photograph was taken. She stands behind and to the right of the man in the black hat.

The handbag factory was still going strong in the 1960s and Charles Roger ran it. His sister was Dorothy Norman who ran shops selling fashionable clothes for ladies. By this time the handbag factory had a workforce consisting of five men to cut the leather and around twenty women who stitched the bags on sewing machines and earned around £4 a week. The finished articles were sold in a shop in Trafalgar Road near the pub.

The barn was known as Crown Works while today it is called Crown House.

In June 1989 Hove Council was asked to approve plans to convert the premises into three two-bedroom flats. Hove Council, and in particular planning officer Michael Ray, endeavoured to find out the barn’s history but without success. It seems no written records about it survive probably because in times past it was regarded as just another agricultural building. But it has survived to this day whereas the surrounding farmland has succumbed to bricks and mortar. The flats idea was turned down and the building remained in light industrial use.

Dudeney’s laundry

Albert Dudeney owned the Westup Laundry, which was on the corner of Shelldale Road and Abinger Road. It was rumoured that the building had previously been used as a smithy for many years. Mrs Cecilia Peters used to work at the laundry. She was very proficient at ironing and an expert with the goffering tongs that were used for the frilly aprons and caps worn by female staff at top Brighton hotels such as the Old Ship Hotel and Hotel Metropole before the Great War. She used a flat iron for ordinary work and because she needed a hot iron she frequently had to change to another one. There was a circular stove in the ironing room upon which stood around fifteen flat irons heating up.

copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Dudeneys would have had the same machinery
as this Brighton laundry of the early 1900s
The following article appeared in the Commercial Motor Magazine on the 16 April 1914 “I am only too pleased” says Mr. Albert Dudeney, proprietor of the Westup Laundry, 33, Shelldale Road, Portslade, “to give your readers my experiences of our motor-delivery facilities. The machine I use is an early Daimler, the date of its manufacture being 1890.
I myself have had it now for five years and three months. I use it for collecting and delivering laundry goods, which are packed in hampers, and on some occasions it has carried as many as 43 different baskets of linen, and this in addition to three passengers. The machine enables my assistants to call on 60 customers in a day, and it usually covers about 50 miles in that period.
Before I bought the machine, I use to have a pony-cart to deliver the articles, the cost of upkeep of which was 12s a week, whereas I find the motor costs me but 7s., so that a direct financial saving is effected. In addition to this desirable advantage, there is no horse to see to at nights or on Sundays, consequently our men work less hours."

Gardener’s Arms

 copyright © J.Middleton
The Gardener’s Arms was still advertising Home Cooked Food 
and Beer Garden in July 2015.

The pub was aptly named because of the local market gardens. The pub used to be numbered at 103 or 105 Abinger Road but in the 1920s the road was re-numbered and it became 40 Abinger Road.

Thomas Peters was the first landlord; he was there in the 1890s and remained there until the early years of the new century.

On 2 July 1898 James Briggs of 7 Jubilee Terrace was enjoying himself in the pub but he was the worse for drink and when asked to leave he refused to do so. The landlord was obliged to eject him forcibly. Later in the same month Briggs was fined 5/- with costs for being drunk and refusing to leave. He was unable to attend the court in person and he sent his mother along instead. It seems he had hurt his leg when he was thrown out.

By 1910 C. Whiting was the landlord, followed in around 1920 by Mark Lulham.

But it was the Grangers who were the longest serving landlords. Edwin J. Granger was there is 1930 and on 10 November 1933 the licence was transferred to Cecil E. Granger who in 1958 was still behind the bar. 

By 1992 Ian Jenner had been landlord for ten years and he and his wife treated themselves to a three-week holiday in the United States. Mr Jenner was known for his practical jokes and some of the regulars decided to stage a practical joke of their own but it sounds a bit extreme. They pretended there had been a gas explosion at the pub at 3 a.m. They boarded up doors and windows and draped a tarpaulin over the outside of the saloon bar. Then they wrote notices saying ‘Danger Gas’ and ‘No Entry’. They covered the windscreen of Mr Jenner’s car with plastic, turned another car on its side, scattered rubble over the car park and finally cordoned off the area with tape and cones. It is indeed fortunate that Mr Jenner did not have a heart attack when he got out of the taxi and surveyed the appalling scene. But soon there were smiles all round when the regulars appeared from their hiding place singing Always Look on the Bright Side. 

The pub had a large outdoor space for use in the summer and a fine freestanding inn sign depicting a brawny male arm holding a tiny seedling.

  copyright © J.Middleton
A Co-op and small car park now occupies the former beer Garden.
 
The pub shut in the recent times but the building remains; it is now used as housing. Meanwhile, a modest sized Co-op and small car park now occupies the one-time pub garden. 

Saint Nicolas Church Hall

  copyright © D. Sharp
The former St Nicolas Church Hall in 2016
 
This building stands on the east side of Abinger Road on the corner of Hurst Crescent and was functioning from at least 1910. It replaced the old St Nicolas Church's Parish Room at Southern Cross, which had been in use since around 1899.

During the 1920s a men’s club was held at the church hall every evening; there was also a lads’ club and a gym was available. On Sundays a lads’ Bible Class was held at 2.30 p.m. and there was a girls’ Bible Class an hour later.

During the Second World War the church hall was let to Portslade Urban District Council for ARP purposes. Before the handover was made, an inventory of contents was drawn up and from this we know there was a billiard room and a small organ made by Thomas Harper. During this time extensions were built north and south from ‘asbestos sheeting with sandbagging for ARP purposes’.

 copyright © G. Osborne
A War-time photograph of St Nicolas Hall, note the bomb blast walls built in front of entrance and windows.

The loss of the church hall during the war years was a blessing in disguise for St Nicolas because the money thus earned was used to clear a £600 deficit.

When peace returned St Nicolas used its church hall to stage the annual Nativity Play performed by children of St Nicolas School. It was always a well-attended and popular event. It was staged there from 1948 until the mid-1950s and then the play was performed inside the church.

In the mid-1960s the church hall was sold for £7.500 because it was no longer needed. Instead a new Parish Centre was built near St Nicolas Church on part of the vicarage garden.

Meanwhile, the old church hall continues to exist. It is a two-storied structure, red brick for the ground floor, rough-cast coating above, with three gables and a slate roof. On either side of the hall there was a large tree, since cut down although the base is still visible. In 1994 Sigta Ltd owned it.

Stables

There were stables to house three large horses belonging to the Peters who needed them to transport produce from their market gardens to Brighton. The Steeles worked for the Peters and Henry Steele would often walk by the horse’s head because it was dark when they set off at 2. a.m. in order to reach Bartholomews by 6 a.m. A paraffin lamp hung on either side of the cart.

Rose Cottage

  copyright © G. Osborne 
Rose Cottage on the right of the junction between Abinger Road and Gardener Street

The Steeles lived in Rose Cottage, one in a row of three on the corner of Abinger Road and Gardener Street. There was only a small yard at the back of the cottage and so the Steeles liked to make a bit of a floral display in the front garden. Never mind the name ‘Rose Cottage’, they liked to fill the garden with a riot of dahlias.

  copyright © G. Osborne 
Looking north in Abinger Road, Mr T.P. Oden's Bakery on the left at the junction with Gardener Street, 
Mr F Webb's boot repair shop on the right and the high flint built Abinger Barn just off centre left.

House Notes

Number 28 – In 1891 John Miles, aged 36, his wife, two daughters, and four sons lived here. He worked as a brickfield labourer.

Number 34 – In 1891 Steyning-born James Roberts, aged 39, his wife, two daughters, and three sons lived here. He was also a brickfield labourer.

Number 39 – This house next door to the Gardener’s Arms was formerly numbered ay 101. In 1958 the house was sold for £600.

Number 49 – Mr and Mrs Grigson brought up thirteen children in this house before the Great War.

Numbers 89, 91, & 93 – Braybon’s, the well-known firm of builders, owned these houses in the 1930s.

 copyright © G. Osborne
No 95, Abinger Road Bakery

Number 95 – At the turn of the 1900s this building, now converted into a house, was T.P. Oden's Bakery,

  copyright © G. Osborne
No 102, Abinger Road General Stores

Number 102 – In the 1920s the building, now a house, on the corner of Bampfield Street was a General Stores.

Miscellaneous

In August 1895 Portslade Council applied to District Council Steyning East to obtain all powers for Abinger Road (Portslade was not then an Urban District Council). In 1903 part of the road was declared a public highway.

In 1923 a plot of land at the back of St Nicolas Church Hall fronting a way leading to Trafalgar Road, was put up for auction. The frontage was around 145 feet and the depth was around 45 feet. At the time Portslade Council occupied the land and let it out as allotments at an annual rent of £1-0-3d.

In 1931 Y.C. Smith and X.J. Smith built eight new houses on the corner of Abinger Road and Bampfield Street.

In 1945 army serviceman Charles Elphick died of stab wounds in a scuffle with Michael Niescior in Abinger Road. For further details see Portslade and the Second World War.

In April 1990 Express Lift Co, with offices in the road, won a £3.5 Million order to supply forty lifts for offices in one of London’s showpiece developments.

Sources

Argus
Census Returns
Directories
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Portslade Council Minute Books
Additional research by D.Sharp

Thanks are due to Mr G. Osborne for allowing me to reproduce eight of his wonderful photographs  

copyright © J.Middleton 2017 
page layout by D. Sharp