The last West Pier II

Part of the ‘Past to Present’ series from Jemverse

I found it on the high tide line
after a night of fire
the Grand Old Lady of the sea
destroyed by spite and ire
Yet carried on an ebbing tide
along the coast to me
a memory of those boards I trod
now rescued from the sea
So though her grandeur is no more
complete her fall from grace
Brighton's West Pier always will
in history have her place

©Jemverse

Photo – Jempics – Brighton’s closed West Pier, early 1980’s (pre fires).

On 28 March 2003 the pavilion at the end of the derelict West Pier in Brighton caught fire. Always presumed to have been the work of arsonists, yet never proven, it was still the final death knell for the grand old lady. Opened back in 1866 and surviving two world wars, the pier was sadly closed to the public in 1975. However, I still have fond memories of walking its promenade decks back in the 60s and early 70s. Who knows, I could have trodden the very board fragment I rescued and which now has pride of place in my back garden.

The pier head, summer 2002
My salvaged board fragment

The Gut

Part of the ‘Past to Present’ series from Jemverse

The beach Ted Bunker launched his
boat from sadly is no more
once called 'The Gut' its gutted now
no more a shingle shore
Filled in to make a car park
the beach where once we played
is another loss to history
and to the fishing trade

©Jemverse

Photo – Jempics (the Fisherman’s Beach [aka ‘The Gut’], Albion Street, Southwick, Sussex).

[‘The Gut’ was a small beach immediately behind Albion Street in Southwick, West Sussex. It was used by fishermen for many years and I can vividly remember playing there as a boy and talking to the fishermen as they pulled their boats ashore at high tide. But now – for no sound reason that I can imagine – the beach has been filled in to make way for a public car park].

This is what ‘The Gut’ looks like today

Bungalow Town

Part of the ‘Past to Present’ series from Jemverse

Just east of the church on the foreshore
bungalows once on the beach
presented a vista of Shoreham
history has put out of reach
Popularised by early movies
actors built many homes there
salvaging old railway carriages
the carriage works then had to spare
Mary Loftus, a music hall favourite
Florrie Ford, Ernie Mayne, Marie Lloyd
all of the lovelies who flocked to the beach
making it hard to avoid

©Jemverse

Photo – from a postcard in the author’s collection

[South of the town of New Shoreham, now fronted by the estuary of the River Adur, a spit of land formed by the eastward drift of shingle through the English Channel pushed the mouth of the Adur slowly towards what is now Hove. This spit of land is what eventually became Shoreham beach and, although there were probably dwellings there long before, it was popularised in the early 20th century when film studios were built to capture the light needed for early moving pictures. As actors flocked to live there, it became known as ‘Bungalow Town’].

Malduppinne

Part of the ‘Past to Present’ series from Jemverse

'Malduppinne' as it was first called
in thirteen forty-seven
by grant from John le Pottere
to his wife in his succession
Its purpose now long lost to time
a museum now it hosts
in the oldest secular building that
the town of Shoreham boasts
From 'Malduppinne' to 'Marlipins'
this build of Caen stone
with flint-knapped chequered walls remains
the oldest one still known

©Jemverse

Photo – from a postcard in the author’s collection

[Although vaguely referred to as ‘The Chantry’ (as this postcard claims) this ancient building in Shoreham’s High Street probably dates back to the 12th century and is one of the oldest buildings erected and used for entirely secular purposes remaining in Europe. Now hosting the town’s museum, the earliest written reference to it is in a deed dated 1st August 1347 (20th year in the reign of Edward III) in which John le Pottere of New Shoreham bequeathes a stone-built corner tenement called ‘Malduppinne’ in the market place called ‘Otmarcat’ (oat market) to his wife Juliana and thereafter to their son Richard to hold for life. However, the building itself (certainly medieval) probably dates back to at least 1100 with a reconstruction in about 1300. It was definitely a builder’s storehouse in the 19th century as it was then occupied by Messrs Gates & son, a long-established Shoreham family with roots back to medieval times. One other thing is definite; it has never had anything in common with a ‘chantry’. That’s nothing more than whimsical fantasy].

The Lanes

Part of the ‘Past to Present’ series from Jemverse

Up at the top of Buckingham Road
the elms, mature, still stand
a reminder of the distant past
when the manor house stood grand
part of a bygone Shoreham
a remnant of 'The Lanes'
with triangle of trees and shrubs
is all that now remains

©Jemverse

Postcard – from the author’s collection

[The image on this postcard shows ‘The Lanes’ as they were in the early 1900s. A local Shoreham historian, Michael Norman, said the elms were planted by the Lord of the Manor as part of a considered plan to provide timber for shipbuilding. Others say that they were seeded during the Napoleonic wars to provide gunstocks for the army. All that remains now is an overgrown triangle of trees at the northern border of Buckingham and Old Shoreham roads].

Two Bridges

When in flight over Shoreham
a hundred years ago
two bridges you would see
'cross the river down below
The Norfolk and the railway
but no footbridge crossing yet
for the town and all its people
had that pleasure still to get

©Jemverse

Photo – from a postcard in the author’s collection

[This picture dates to before 1921 when a new footbridge was opened spanning the river to the bottom left where a group of people can been seen. Shoreham airport (from which the aeroplane here probably came) opened in June 1911, just eight years after the Wright brothers first ever manned flight in December 1903. Strictly speaking, Shoreham had three bridges when the picture was taken, but the third – the old toll bridge – is to the north and out of shot]

Tarmount Shepherds

Now where people park their cars
on tarmac for some shopping
once stood an open field where
you'd oft see sheep a-hopping
A shepherd's hut stood to the south
close to its southern border
fenced in with wooden latticework
to keep the sheep in order
On Tarmount Lane in Shoreham town
the shepherd's field you'd see
for many years with grazing
for the sheep that wandered free

©Jemverse

Photo – from a postcard in the author’s collection

[This picture, taken from the top of St Mary de Haura’s church tower, shows an early 20th century view of Shoreham looking east towards the chemical works on the beach and the harbour entrance. You can see the shepherd’s hut and field in the bottom left hand corner. It’s now a car-park.]

Ferry cross the Adur

On the corner of East Street the Ferry Rigg
keeps history alive with its name
though the vista to South with a century past
will never now quite be the same
For once cross the Adur the ferryman pulled
his oars for the people to cross
from the beach to the town for business and such
with a gain to the past and our loss

©Jemverse

Photo – from the author’s postcard collection

[Until a footbridge was constructed across the river Adur in Shoreham in 1910, the only passage from the beach to the town was via the ferry men. The original footbridge was replaced with a new one called ‘The Adur Ferry Bridge’ in 2013. The new bridge retraces the route of the original ferryman rowboat service across the river. The ‘Ferry Ring’ is a pub.]

Eurovision 22

Watching Eurovision Twenty Two
aghast with whoops and cheers
we watched as UK on the boards
got its first points in years
Every time a twelve was called
to UK, loud we hailed
for this history in the making
that our 'spaceman' had regaled
Yet, saying that, the public vote
to place the winning sound
was absolutely justified
when Ukraine's turn came round

©Jemverse

Photo – Jempics

The silence of ancient walls

Beside old Railway Gardens this old flint wall has stood
built two hundred years ago but still it's looking good
And if its stones could talk and tell the history of the years
of Shoreham since the railway came of all those toils and tears
What a merry tale that would be for us who live
in this town beside the sea and what we wouldn't give
For history books are great to have but the interesting essence
can only come from something that has stood from past to present
So sadly we will never know for these old walls are still
and silent from the years they've seen as they forever will

©Jemverse

Photo – the old walkway, Railway Gardens, Shoreham, West Sussex – Jempics

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