I recently stumbled on an archive of old photos dedicated to a fancy looking department store similar to Selfridges in London, that turns out was open in Brighton for over 100 years … Say what? Brighton had a department store like Selfridges… for 100 years?! Why didn’t I know this?

Seeing as this snippet is sure to come as a surprise to plenty of people other than me, and generally we all love looking at old pictures, what better activity to indulge in today than a bit of time travelling to the golden era of the high street to shop at Brighton’s forgotten department store. Let’s go!

It all started in 1882 when Mr WH Vokins left his job at famous London store, Peter Robinson on Oxford Street, and teamed up with his friend Mr WT Leeson, to open a fashion store, silk mercers and general drapers at 32-33 North Street, called… you’ve guessed it… Leeson & Vokins.

Over the years, they expanded into more shops on North Street to become one giant department store with an extensive fashion collection, as well as a soft furnishings department, haberdashery and fitting room.

brighton's forgotten department store

↓ Swoon! I can’t help gushing over this photo of inside the fitting floor, circa 1922.

↓ Leeson and Vokins’ staff take part in the Brighton Carnival, July 1 1922

↓ At the Brighton Carnival again the followng year, this time on a float

The business thrived until 1925 when Mr Leeson and Mr Vokins went their separate ways although Vokins retained the original premises, and continued doing business in Brighton until 1997 as WH Vokins. In fact, he was still active in the business well into his 80s, working alongside his two sons, Howard and Gerald.

↓ Its new-style shopfront, as EH Vokins

↓ A Vokins ladies’ wear department, circa 1936

↓ In the 1960s, the entire ground floor was devoted to gloves!

↓ Housecoat anybody? A haze of pastel colours in the ladies underwear department, circa 1960

↓ A very strip-lit bedding hall, 1972

↓ First day of the holiday sales, Saturday 28 December 1974

↓ Sometime in the 1980s just before it closed…

The End.

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