WORKERS have discovered a piece of history hidden underneath a shop’s floorboards.

The team unearthed bundles of decaying bank notes, the equivalent of £1 million today, buried in the 1940s under a shop which sold clothes made by one of Winston Churchill’s favourite tailors.

The extraordinary find was discovered under the floorboards of Cotswold Outdoor in Western Road, Brighton.

Shopfitters working at night were stunned to discover the mouldy and decaying £1 and £5 banknotes, many of which date from before the Second World War.

The face value of the hoard is about £30,000, which is the equivalent of more than £1 million today.

Between 1936 and 1973, the site was home to Bradley Gowns, understood to be a branch of London furrier and couturier Bradley’s.

The business, which had its flagship store in Chepstow Place, was founded in the 1860s.

By the middle of the 20th century the Bradley’s client list was a Who’s Who of Europe’s rich and famous, with customers including the Royal Family, Churchill and his wife Clementine – and Brigitte Bardot.

Howard Bradley, sole heir to the family business, now runs its last remaining outlet, a specialist dry cleaners in Milton Keynes.

He told The Argus: “Bradley Gowns was my grandfather’s baby.

“He invented the ‘guinea gown’, which was a way for people who weren’t quite so well-to-do to be afford to afford a beautiful dress.

“He didn’t patent it though. We were always better at sewing things than business.

“I know we had a number of branches around the country. I can’t be 100 per cent sure but I’m pretty confident Brighton would have been one of ours.”

Rumours swirled among staff at Cotswold’s after the discovery on May 10. One employee who asked to remain anonymous said: “First I heard it was more than two million, then thirty thousand.

“We don’t know how it got there or whose it was. The police took it away.”

The notes are no longer legal tender and are in an advanced state of decay, dog-eared around the edges and caked in the dirt and debris of decades. The £1 notes have a distinctive blue design which identifies them as emergency wartime currency first issued by the Bank of England in 1940.

All other £1 notes issued between 1917 and the note’s withdrawal in 1988 were printed in green ink.

Sussex Police said they removed the notes for safe-keeping.


IT SEEMS it is impossible to tell exactly when these blocks of banknotes were buried, who buried them, or why.

But Howard Bradley, sole surviving heir of the Bradley family whose gowns and coats were sold from this site, thinks he might have an insight.

“After Dunkirk it was looking pretty bleak,” he told The Argus yesterday.

“The family’s place in London was bombed.

“My grandmother even had to be rescued from under a pile of rubble after a doodlebug [a German V1 rocket] hit the building she was in.

“Banks were bombed.

“It’s definitely possible someone decided Brighton was less of a target - it wasn’t as high on the Luftwaffe’s list.”

Howard, whose father Eric joined up with the RAF on the day war was declared - which also happened to be his 18th birthday - believes there may have been another motive.

“We are English back to, I don’t know when, but I know there is some Jewish blood in the family.

“People on the Continent were buying their way out - out of Austria, out of France.

“They might have worried they’d have to buy their way out, maybe it was part of a getaway plan.”

With Britain’s allies having fallen to the fearsome advance of Blitzkrieg across Europe, it is easy to imagine a wealthy part-Jewish family taking precautions, were the worst to happen.

It was a family which had achieved a great deal.

Samuel Bradley Senior ran a cold store for ladies’ furs from a property in Chepstow Place, London, from the 1860s.

In 1896 this became Bradley and Sons Arctic Fur Store, and it relaunched as Bradleys in 1912. The Financial Times carried a full page story on the relaunch of what was, by then, Europe’s biggest fur specialist.

At the outbreak of WWI, Bradleys was commissioned to make troop uniforms and by the 1920s had a workforce of 600 including in-house fashion designers.

Bradley coats were sold for as much as 2,000 guineas - close to £80,000 in today’s money.

By the 1930s Bradleys clients included Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine, Hollywood film stars and members of the Royal Family.

At the other end of the financial spectrum, Bernard Bradley pioneered what he called the “guinea gown” - a quality dress for just one pound, one shilling.

Bernard saw both his sons, Eric and Victor, leave for war with the RAF in 1939. Neither returned home until the winter of 1944.

Business was harder in the austere post-war period, and some of the family’s buildings including its hat making facility in London had been destroyed by German bombardments.

After Bernard’s death, the business evolved into a specialist repairers and dry cleaners, in which form it survives to this day, as Bradley’s Quality Dry Cleaning in Milton Keynes.