Get involved: Send your news, views, pictures and video by texting SUPIC to 80360 or email us.
In Your Street: History and a bombing horror in White Street
3:30pm Saturday 2nd March 2013 in News
White by name but with a slightly murky past, this slanting Kemp Town road is home to a unique mix of veteran residents and student digs.
The unassuming White Street is around a ten minute walk from the towering Brighton Eye and even less to the luscious green space of the nearby Queen’s Park.
On first view, White Street presents simple offerings. But according to one resident, things have changed around here.
Derek Peacock, 69, has lived in the street for nearly 40 years and was keen to describe how his road and the surrounding area has changed over time.
He said: “When we first came here the area was completely different and this street was completely different.
“The nearby St James’s Street had a wonderful little village with butchers, bakers, vegetable shops and fish mongers. We used to go down there and buy our paraffin heaters to keep warm during the cold winters.
“Everybody loved the little independent village shops and we didn’t have a single supermarket in sight.
“But now we’ve got Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons and so on.
“It seems like we’ve lost the village atmosphere and perhaps the identity of the area. I accept change but I think one supermarket would be enough, not five or six of them.
“It was completely different in those days but soon after we got here the express came along and started building higher and higher.”
The express Mr Peacock referred to is banking-giant American Express, one of the city’s biggest employers.
The juggernaut firm employs around 3,000 people at its offices behind White Street and according to Mr Peacock, they only have 18 car parking spaces.
He continued: “When they came here it did alter the area. Everyone comes here at 8am fighting for car parking spaces.
“For the other people on the street, they can’t get their own car in. I had to buy a car space over the road just so I can get my own spot.
“They’ve been quite good neighbours in general but we lost our view to the west hill.
“On a more positive note, when I came here there wasn’t a gay village to be seen anywhere.
“Then the Bulldog pub arrived, which was the first gay pub, and then other pink pubs and clubs followed.
“The whole village now is rather pink, which is great. Some of the history in the street is quite nice, too.”
Mr Peacock ventured outside his home and pointed at a set of houses that were visibly different to the rest of the street.
As you walk up White Street, from south to north, clearly visible on the right hand side, about a third of the way up, is a set of houses that look like they’ve been completely rebuilt.
On September 18, 1940, a German bomb dropped on the street, killing 11 people and destroying around seven houses.
Some of the houses were rebuilt and some partially repaired, but the extensive restoration work meant the building designs weren’t consistent with the rest of the area.
It wasn’t uncommon for Brighton and Hove to be on the receiving end of Luftwaffe bombs during the Second World War, but the events that followed the bombing earned White Street an extra page in the city’s history books.
Ten years after the bombing, a man who lived at one of the redeveloped properties went upstairs into the loft space of his home and to his horror, discovered a mummified human arm.
The gruesome limb was accompanied by a hand and more importantly, a unique ring on one of the fingers.
The find was reported to the police and after enquiries, a caller from Switzerland came forward to identify the owner of the ring as a lady who lived in one of the bombed houses.
'Slice of history'
Beattie Heart, 89, is one of the longest serving residents of White Street. Whilst compassionate for the woman who lost an arm, she also revealed an unconfirmed, but equally as grim, post-bomb discovery.
She said: “It sounds like she was literally blown apart, the poor woman.
“Apparently there was also a dead baby found in the roof of one of the bombed buildings a few years after the Nazis dropped it.
“It must have been horrible to find but it’s an interesting slice of history.
“Although some aspects of White Street have changed, one thing that will remain untouched is its history. I’m happy with that.”
See the latest news headlines from The Argus:
- Albion players cleared of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman
- Your say: Are the Greens fit to run Brighton and Hove City Council?
- So many good reasons to log on to Argus website
- Mum’s frustration after Sussex health panel refuses to pay for eye op
- Green city councillor resigns seat