Children’s Roundabout in Brighton

Vintage photo of children's roundabout in Brighton, Sussex.

I recently bought this photograph of a children’s playground or fairground with roundabouts. (Click on it a few times to see it larger.) The image quality is not bad but parts of it have motion-blur and parts of the photo itself are in pretty bad condition. You can see the upper right part that is missing – that needs to be replaced – and if you look at the larger version you’ll see that there is all sorts of stuff on quite a lot of the rest of it, including stains and what looks like clay or mud spashes.  It’s been stuck on cardboard – probably originally, not later – and that’s also in a pretty poor state, with stains and other marks. There is no writing on it, back or front.  I’m hoping, in due course, to restore it… but I expect that to take a while.

I thought, when I saw it, that it might have been taken in Brighton, which is a popular seaside resort in Sussex, on England’s south coast. And I was right.   I had a look on Google streetview and went to where I thought it might be but was puzzled not to see the structure, that’s only partly in view, at the top left, so I looked for the history of the area and found it further east from where I was looking. And really, I should have known because I’ve been there so many times!

The photo was taken in Madeira Drive, Brighton.

If you look at the embedded Google streetview, below, you’ll see where it was. (You can click and drag inside the image to move it around, and click on or near the arrows that you’ll see on or against the ground, to go forward and backwards).

In our time, the wrought ironwork is still intact, as is the bank above it – albeit restored now (would the white or pale part of the bank in the photo have been repairs from bomb damage, I wonder?) and the railings at the top of that. The shelter is probably the original one or is restored.

The structure at the top left corner of the photo was a lift (elevator). That is still there, though I don’t suppose the lift itself is still operational.  The lamp-post and its lamp are probably the original ones though it looks to me as though the shade has changed. It will most likely have been a gas-lamp, originally. Now I expect it’s probably an LED… but I may be wrong.

I think the date of the photo is probably late 1940s or early 1950s, going by the clothes and the rather unsophisticated look of the rides. One is a pencil, another is – what? A panda? I can’t make out all of the detail yet, that will come as I work on it and tell myself the ‘story’ of the image.

There’s what looks like a small coach or bus in motion, and a lot of bunting hanging up. The hut is too small for refreshments, but might have been for buying tickets, and the other structure to the left of it looks like it’s the back of something at the top of which I can see the back of two head-and-shoulder silhouettes. In between the rides and the archways is a small coach, in motion. Curiously, I discovered that, at another time, this coach was also replicated as child-size coaches to ride in (but this is the full size version, the real thing.)

The roundabout rides were probably part of Peter Pan’s Playground in its early stages. It still exists, though obviously not in this form!  I have to do a bit more research into that, but here’s a photo of a miniature Southdown Coach at Madeira Drive and Peter Pan’s playground is mentioned. You can see the lift and railings in the background.

Later on, I shall probably colour this but for now, I’m just enjoying it as it is. What a find! I’m so pleased about it!

Here’s more information about Madeira Drive and Lift. The info is below a gallery of photos, and you can click the pictures to see them larger and get a little more info about each, and there are links above each photo (on its own page) to the next and the previous photos.

There’s also a fairly good view of the other side of Madeira Lift in this short article. And a nice photo of it with the ironwork arcades, here, too.

As it’s difficult to see the shelter on Google Streetview from the ground level, below is another street-view of it from the street above (called Marine Parade). On the left, you’ll see the back of the shelter (the sea-facing side will look the same), and to the right you’ll see the upper part of the lift building. It looks to me like there is rubbish of some sort beneath the shelter’s benches, and to the left of that around the base of a street light, there are some red and white barriers surrrounding an open hole… a fairly normal sight on a British street or pavement: something started and left. The workmen have probably gone off to have a cup of tea!

Please tell me what else you can see in the photo that I might have missed! Is that a motorbike with sidecar in the background near the boy on the bicycle? If it is, I wonder what make and model it is?  Can you make out any of the other rides and what they are meant to be? To me, they look like rounded train-carriages or even logs! And what of the children and adults?

What are your thoughts about this photo and its contents? I’d love to know!

10 thoughts on “Children’s Roundabout in Brighton

    1. It’s probably a Leyland Tiger or Leyland Tiger Cub. If you look at this link http://www.classicbuses.co.uk/sd50.html to Southdown Coaches 1951 – 1961, and follow some of the links at the bottom of that page (and other pages leading from it) you’ll see many examples of these, though not the exact one. There is also mention, on one of the pages, of the 1930-style bodies that they were still using in the 1950s. So, yes you’re right. However, this is a coach. It might have been used as a bus, but it’s a coach. In the UK, buses are more commonly used in cities and you’ll see the double-decker ones, though there are certainly single decker ones, too. While buses can go several miles, they’re mostly for making several stops in an hour, whereas coaches are used more for longer distances with fewer stops. That said, a lot of seaside resorts use coaches as buses (it can get confusing!) This one was probably ferrying passengers from the nearby Hove (a seaside suburb to the west. Some think it’s a suburb of Brighton but people from Hove strongly protest against that!) to tourist spots in Brighton.

      Why aren’t they wearing hats? Because it’s informal and, by that time, people had relaxed a bit more in their fashions. I think it’s late 40s or early 50s.

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  1. What a wonderful find. I asked my husband about this picture as he used to visit Brighton in the 50s and 60s and had no recollection of this. He remembers a minature railway though. Looking at the clothes it looks more 40s than 5os. Hope someone can help you more.

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    1. Your husband is thinking of Volk’s Railway which is a tiny train that runs along the seafront. It’s very cute! 🙂 I rode in it many times. Yes, I think you’re right about it looking more 40s than 50s, though it will have been after the war so, if 40s I think the earliest will be ’47 as they will have been rebuilding and probably not had the money before that. Also, it took quite a while for fashions to catch up so the early 50s were similar. People ‘made do’ after the war, and used older clothes.

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  2. I love that you were able to find the Google Street View to show what it looks like now. I love seeing the layers of time simultaneously like that!
    Also, I really love the face on the pencil car. And who would even think of associating pencils with transportation vehicles? What fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It helps so much, doesn’t it? I’m so glad about that (and thank you again for guiding me through this! 🙂 )

      The pencil car makes me smile.

      Curiously, yesterday, I found a video of the little single-track railway that runs nearby (another commenter mentioned it) and found that the playground was a half-way point stop off point – and, although not the same roundabout rides, there was footage of how it was then. 1950, I think. Here it is:

      It should start at the right point, but if not, look for it, one minute and five seconds in. Have the sound on, because it’s quite amusing, too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love that video! The buses (or should I say coaches?) in the background, the repetitive footage of the rail cars making the switches on to the right tracks — the way the people riding seem to notice that the walkers are going just as fast as they are! I am going to start saying “temp-ry” as the announcer does. 🙂

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        1. I hadn’t noticed the ‘tempry’ til you mentioned it! It’s speeded-up Southern-England pronunciation. Yes, it’s a fun little video. I remember riding on that train and it did seem like the pedestrians were going at the same speed as us! 🙂

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