WWI Recruitment Poster Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

WWI Recruitment Poster
Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove


Treasure Hunt

The Annual General Meeting of West Hill Community Association was held on 29 April 2014 at the Hall. The Committee was re-elected and looks forward to another successful year of providing a well-maintained community space that is West Hill Hall.

After the resounding success of last year’s Treasure Hunt, the dynamic duo of Dorothy and the esteemed Mr Jackson (Bright News) are teaming up again for this year’s event on Sunday 27 July. Meet at West Hill Hall at 1.45pm and set off from 2pm (entry £1 per adult, 50p per child).

There will be a welcome at the Hall, the ever-altruistic Meena and Vinod (Bright News) will be providing refreshments; a sunny afternoon has been ordered and there will be a number of intriguing clues along the way to keep you puzzled.

Suitable for the whole family (dogs welcome) or a team of friends to join in. It is an enjoyable way to spend your Sunday afternoon and see/learn/explore more of your local area.

There are prizes to be won, including a prize for the best team name. Get your thinking caps on!



Dear Ed

Re: The Hippodrome

Why should we put on arty rubbish or put up with an old theatre that had ‘old hat’ Larry Olivier, Harry Houdini, Sarah Bernhardt – performers of old, out-of-date years, when, instead of looking at the past of, yes, even The Beatles and the old Rolling Stones, we could have new, junk architecture revolving around making millions/trillions for our esteemed developers?

David McKnight, Stanford Avenue

Dear Editor

On reading your article in The Whistler about the Brighton Hippodrome, I felt I must drop you a line and see if we can get together and save this beautiful theatre.

I worked at The Hippodrome in the mid 1950s. I played Robin Hood with Jimmy Edwards and Freddie Frinton in the pantomime, ‘Robin Hood’. And what a thrill it was to stand on that stage and look out to that auditorium. The acoustics were perfect, the lighting was perfect, and the sightlines were perfect. As to the back stage, there was plenty of room, nice dressing rooms, good wing space, and an enormous dock door leading onto a large area, big enough to house Jimmy Edwards’ big hunter, standing there and waiting for his entrance. The point is, is that it has been announced in the press that I would lay down in front of the bulldozer to stop them pulling it down. However, as I am now an aging actress of nearly 87 I may have to think again on that one. But I would certainly like to do all that is possible to keep this wonderful Grade II listed building as a theatre. After all, we do not have a large theatre in Brighton. By large, I mean big enough to take Opera and Ballet Companies. We miss out on all the large touring musicals. Let us not forget that Brighton was the Number 1 touring date outside London.

So, let’s get together and do all we can to save this beautiful Frank Matcham theatre for the people of Brighton – they deserve it. Thank you so much for your time for reading this.

Sheila Matthews, Southwick


Vignettes from Seven Dials’ Past – The Pet Shop

Like most people, I suppose, my early memories are pretty fragmented. Possibly when we are toddlers we only memorise the important events, but I have an alternative theory; this is that we actually forget the whole darn lot, but we do remember remembering the important things, in other words the five-year-old selects which of the three-year-old’s memories will be retained. Some of the memories are reinforced, to a greater or lesser extent, by parents and others reminding one of past events.

The earliest thing I remember is walking out of Brighton Station with Mum, and meeting Dad in his car parked on the station forecourt. I know from them that Mum and I had been to Newcastle–upon-Tyne, staying with her parents while Dad, who was opening a pet shop, “The Animal Dispensary” at 42 Dyke Road in Brighton, found us somewhere to live.

This was in 1936 and I was two and a half years old.

Dad took us in the car to our new home, Clifton Cot, a rented bungalow in Underdown Road, Southwick, on the coast four miles west of Brighton. The bungalow had a large and rather unkempt garden. Dad needed the garden for dog kennels, so that the pet shop could offer boarding facilities.

The_Pet_ShopI was not a well-behaved child but my misbehaviour was due more to curiosity than malice. One sin I didn’t confess until I was grown up. Besides the stream of canine residents at our boarding kennels we had some dogs of our own, Jock, Hitler and Lady. Lady had two pups, a few weeks old, Porky and Milky. Porky was better at suckling and Milky was rather under-nourished in comparison.

In the living room where I was playing with the pups, there were some cords hanging from the ceiling; obviously I hadn’t attached them and I’ve no idea why they were there.

Anyway, I thought the pups would enjoy a swing! Mum had a large copper preserving pan, the kind with two handles, and I tied a cord to each handle. The pan hung there nicely. I gave it a push and it swung backwards and forwards, just like the swings in the playground on the green.

Time to try it out on the pups. I picked up Milky and put him in the preserving pan. I gave it a push. Milky became frightened and moved to the side of the pan. This upset the balance and the pan turned upside down. Milky fell on to the floor, from a height of perhaps three feet. You might have expected a puppy to survive such a fall ninety-nine times out of a hundred, but sadly, Milky did not.

I burst into tears, convinced I would receive terrible retribution.

Mum and Dad came in. “Porky did it, Porky did it!” I blubbered.

To my amazement they believed me! Dad even said that Porky must have shaken Milky by the scruff of his neck, the way a dog kills a rat.

A crime for which I was punished, I committed for, what I considered, a justifiable reason. The pups’ mother, Lady, had got out of our garden and was on the other side of the fence in the Rest Garden. I obligingly broke a hole in the fence to let her in. And a hundred dogs got out! It took three days to get them all back. Our three dogs were wire-haired terriers, which Mum’s father Granda Green used to breed and show. I’m not sure if they all came from him. Jock was a lovely dog who would let me do anything with him. Hitler got his name from his appearance, a white face with black around and on the left ear, which looked like Adolf’s hair. But the name suited his character, he was a villain. Dad had not meant to keep him, and had sold him three times in the pet shop, but each time the new owners returned him and demanded a refund. Hitler bit me when I was three years old, and Dad hit him with a broomstick that happened to be handy. Hitler learned his lesson and never so much as growled at me afterwards. Apart from the fence episode I remember nothing about Lady.

Tony Hill

To be continued…


My Mother

Throughout March 2014, my mother had an exhibition presented in her name at ‘Churchill Square’. It displayed some of the clothes she wore in the 1960s.

It was called the ‘Concetta Exhibition’, her clothes, together with photos and snippets of biography, were displayed in glass cabinets on the walkways inside the centre.

I’m aware that some of The Whistler readers saw the exhibition and the overall feedback was very positive.

After my mother died in June 2012 I started to sort through her personal things. In the process I came across two large suitcases, and inside, neatly packed in between tissue paper, were clothes I recognised that she used to wear in the 1960s.

I contacted a friend in the fashion business who, in turn, put me in touch with someone called Hannah who was interested in vintage clothes.

When we met up she was surprised by the condition and quality of the clothes. She suggested donating some of the clothes to the fashion department at Brighton university, and I agreed. A student called E-J Scott was so impressed by my mother’s clothes that he made the collection part of his masters degree in History of Design and Material Culture. He wanted to put a human face to the clothes, so he made contact with me.

Concetta Trotta

Concetta Trotta

When we met up he asked if I minded him recording me talking about my mother, I jokingly said as long as you don’t want to film me! Some time later he left, with more than he bargained for. I understand he eventually passed his degree with flying colours.

In the early part of this year I received an email from E-J telling me about the forthcoming exhibition. I was surprised but also pleased at the idea. Then, at the beginning of March, I received phone call from E-J saying the BBC wanted to interview me. I was thinking he meant local radio but in fact it was local TV.

I suddenly found myself in front of a camera, a rather nerve-wracking experience if you don’t like being filmed!

How did this all came about? According to E-J he was walking through Churchill Square one day and thought to himself, “This is exactly where Concetta and Reg lived when they first came to Brighton, right underneath where I’m standing now.”

He got in touch with his lecturer in the fashion department and discussed it with her and the result was the exhibition, Concetta Trotta’s Everyday Clothing Collection 1964-1970

Reginald Gennaro Woodhouse


Peter Batten

Brighton resident Peter has been writing articles for The Whistler since 2011. It’s time we found out more about him…

DSCN9065He celebrated his 80th birthday in July last year. He has been married twice and has 5 children. He has a degree in English Literature, a master’s degree in Adult Education and is a qualified Russian Interpreter.

Some of his earliest memories are of London during the Blitz of WW2. His family come from the Isle of Dogs, an area which was heavily bombed. From September 1944 he attended St Olave’s Grammar School in Southwark, where he played in the first Cricket XI.

Peter dreamed of becoming a professional cricketer, but he was not good enough. He was developing a strong interest in the Arts. In 1952 he was offered a place at Jesus College, Cambridge, which enabled him to develop his understanding of literature. This increased during his National Service, when he trained as a Russian interpreter.

After Cambridge he worked for the London County Council before becoming an Adult Education tutor at a Village College. He was able to enjoy the link between his work and his interest in Literature.

His next move was to Stevenage, where he was one of the first lecturers appointed to teach ‘Liberal Studies’ in technical education. By 1965 he was Head of the General Education Department at Chichester College. He became involved in the life of that city and served for several years on the Gala committee. In his final career move he was the first Principal of a purpose-built Adult Education College in the London Borough of Sutton. This was very rewarding work but after 10 years he clashed with the College Governors about Adult Education Policy. To resolve this he was given a golden handshake which he still enjoys.

In the early 1980s his life changed completely. His marriage broke up and he met his second wife, Nikki. Financial security freed him to work as a free-lance lecturer and a jazz musician. In fact, Peter had been leading a double life since the 1950s. During National Service he argued with a friend who played Doris Day records every evening. Peter insisted on playing records of his own. He had been introduced to recordings of Jelly Roll Morton by his English teacher, so he went out and bought one. He was hooked. Soon he was buying a jazz record every week. He moved on to King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and a whole collection of jazz greats. He was obsessed. His home today contains an enormous collection of jazz CDs. He talks about jazz, writes about jazz, lectures on jazz. He is totally obsessed. Worse was to follow: he became a jazz musician. He had years of piano lessons as a child. As his obsession grew he tried to play jazz on the piano, but failed. He needed an instrument which made fewer demands on his fingers – perhaps the trumpet. He bought an old brass band cornet and found he could get pleasant sounds almost immediately. Soon he was playing scales and simple tunes. At university he played in student bands and in 1957 was in the Cambridge band which won the English Universities Jazz Contest. As his working life began, he played trumpet and cornet in many different styles and bands. He felt he had to play at least once every week, although he was only an average player.

Peter is not being heralded for his age, his musicianship or his love of jazz alone. He has had to overcome several health problems. The photograph shows him holding his throat. That is because he has a hole through to his windpipe to enable him to speak – the result of cancer of the vocal cords which, 37 years after he first put the cornet to his lips, forced him to give up playing. He has had a quadruple by-pass and is minus most of his sternum, thanks to a post-operative infection. His ribs are held together by some clever plastic surgery. Despite all this he still exercises regularly at Ralli Hall and finds time to write for The Whistler.

Carmen, Bournemouth
It was a Sadler’s Wells tour, and they were at Bournemouth with ‘Carmen’. In the middle of the smugglers’ scene a gigantic Pyrenean mountain dog walked onto the stage. Apparently, the theatre they were using was part of a building with offices and other rooms, and the dog, which belonged to one of the officials working there, was a very friendly beast and had the run of the building. Many of the audience who were unfamiliar with the opera thought it was part of the scene and were delighted. Others who knew better were, doubtless, even more delighted. The dog eventually roamed downstage opposite the conductor where it became hypnotised by the baton, which by then, was being used partly to conduct the music and partly to shoo the beast away. The dog was used to having people throw sticks for it to fetch, and was convinced that the baton was about to be thrown. When it wasn’t, the dog became cross and emitted a series of mournful barks. These, when added to by the cries of ‘piss off!’ which the Carmen (who had been endeavouring to kick it surreptitiously to no avail) was adding to the uproar, finally persuaded stage management to bring the curtain down. And not a moment too soon.

Aida, Rome
As a father taking his very well-brought up young daughter to the opera for the first time, Peter Ustinov was unwise enough to choose the Baths at Caracalla in Rome. So far we have allowed the Arena at Verona to have pride of place as far as animals are concerned and my own memories of Caracalla are virtually limited to the constant cries of “Gelati, gelati” (ice-cream) which obliterated the entire performance – which, incidentally, was also completely invisible from where I was sitting. Mr Ustinov must have had a better seat, because he could actually see that the whole stage became, at a certain point, completely covered with animals – camels, elephants, horses, stray cats, etc. At a climatic point, all the animals relieved themselves simultaneously. As he stared aghast at this incredible sight, he felt a light tapping on his shoulder, and his daughter’s earnest voice, “Daddy, is it is alright if I laugh?”

Hugh Vickers from ‘Great Operatic Disasters’

War Stories

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, a major new exhibition at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery will bring to life the wartime experiences of 15 people whose personal stories reveal the impact of war.

The exhibition, called War Stories: Voices from the First World War will run from July 12 2014 – March 1 2015. Admission is free.

The wide range of people featured will reveal both familiar and surprising stories of a war that profoundly changed British society. Visitors will be able to see the war through the eyes of a young girl, born into war in 1914; young soldiers from Brighton who fought and died on the Western Front, including Robert Whiting, a Brighton & Hove Albion footballer; an Indian soldier wounded on the Front and taken to hospital in the Royal Pavilion in Brighton; nurses who cared for the wounded; a young gardener who was imprisoned for his pacifist beliefs.

Relatives of those featured have contributed letters, diaries, medals, photographs, uniforms, and other personal items which help to evoke the love, excitement, fear, bravery, grief loss and longing that touched the lives of millions of people.

Councillor Geoffrey Bowden, chair of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Economic Development and Culture Committee, said: “The exhibition will commemorate the historic anniversary of the start of World War One and recount the experiences of local people caught up in the conflict – bringing their stories to life for younger generations. We asked people last year to share their wartime family stories with us for the exhibition. The detailed accounts they have provided, from young brothers going off to war, to a nurse tending the wounded brought to Brighton to recuperate, provide a powerful and moving insight into the way so many lives were affected in so many ways.”

Robert Whiting

Robert Whiting

Bob Whiting joined Brighton & Hove Albion football club in the summer of 1908 and quickly became one of their most important players. He wore the goalkeeper’s jersey in every game in the 1909-1910 season, culminating in Albion winning the title and the FA Charity Shield. His powerful long kicks earned him the nickname ‘Pom Pom Whiting’, taken from the Pom Pom automatic gun known for its long distance firing.

When war broke out in August 1914, the football season kicked off as usual but came under fierce criticism. Despite protests from the Football Association that no club had refused to allow their players to enlist, it was considered unpatriotic to continue playing. To encourage sportsmen to enlist the War Office raised a new battalion, the 17th Service Battalion Football Middlesex Regiment and appealed for players and their supporters to join.

Bob Whiting, along with other Albion players, joined the Footballers Battalion in January 1915. After being posted to Loos and Vimy Ridge, France, Whiting contracted scabies and was evacuated to the 2nd Eastern General Hospital, Brighton. In June 1916, Bob was due to return to his regiment in France, but instead, went absent without leave. He was arrested in October and charged with desertion. Despite pleading not guilty due to health concerns he was sentenced to nine months imprisonment and demoted to Private. His prison sentence was suspended and Whiting was sent back to his battalion, near Arras, France. Bob was killed by a German shell in April 1917 as he tended wounded colleagues and was buried near the scene. In 2012 Brighton & Hove Albion erected a memorial at their new stadium to commemorate players, those who worked there and supporters of the club who fell in the First and Second World Wars. Personal objects on display in the War Stories exhibition include original postcards of Whiting and his team mates at the Albion.

credit Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton&Hove

Florence Holdgate

Florence Holdgate (1877 – 1945) lived in Hove after the Great War and her great nephew and niece found traces of her military service history in the attic.  An old trunk held many clues, including a nurse’s uniform and further research revealed that she had served with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service. Florence Holdgate’s service included a short time at the Kitchener Indian Hospital in Brighton before being sent out to the Middle East. Personal items on display will include her nursing uniform, badge, nursing equipment and photos.



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