Writing guidebooks to the unusual means I’ve trained my eye to spot all the little flourishes and details in a place that offer clues to the past. Other than old shopfronts and faded ghost signs, I’ve become particularly sentimental for vintage shopfront entrance mosaics. Like this one I found recently – isn’t she beautiful?
These beautifully tiled mosaic entrances were the height of fashion and sophistication in the 19th and 20th centuries and most shops and apartment buildings had one. I imagine nothing was more fancy than entering a shop which displayed their name in this way. To me, they’re not just pieces of social history, they’re works of art a lot of skill and patience has gone into creating. Personally, I think they should all be preserved.
Today, they’re increasingly rare, which makes it always so much fun to discover one. Since my first spot, I’ve been faithfully keeping an eye out for others, snapping them whenever I see one, which I’ve gathered together to share with you today. I’ve also included a handy map at the end of the post so you can plan your own treasure hunt. Let’s go!
Homewood Library was a stationers shop opened by Frederic Stanbridge Homewood and his wife, Elizabeth, in 1871. Shortly after they opened they added a bookshop and post office. It was open for 100 years, surviving both world wars!
Find it at 100 and 102 Dyke Road (next to Seven Cellars wine shop)
Tyler & Co Ltd Wine and Spirits Merchants
Tyler & Co Ltd wine and spirit merchants were founded in 1789 (if my research is right!) and were in business at this address from 1921. Before that, it was home to a grocers’ shop owned by Mr Charles Blaker.
Find it at 3 Victoria Road
Maison Francis opened in 1926 by Thomas Francis, hairdresser and ‘cosmetologist’ and was in business for about 30 years, when it became a different hairdressers.
Find it at 26 Western Road
Lea & Sons
According to a local business directory from 1927, Lea & Sons was a costumier and milliners with premises here and several other locations in brighton including at 6 and 7 Imperial Arcade, and 7, 61-5, 72 and 204 Western Road.
Find it at 43 Preston Street
Home and Colonial Stores
Hidden in the doorway of what’s now an ironing shop is this subtle mosaic dating back to 1893 when it was the setting for the Home & Colonial Stores Tea Co. The lady in the shop told me she thought it had been a haberdashery which it might have been. By 1896, the ‘Tea Co’ part had been dropped and it was listed as the Home & Colonial Stores. One record I looked at from 1923 shows the H&C stores at several addresses across the town.
Find it at 74 Western Road
The Stores relates to this building’s time as a Supply Stores located at 9 as well as 11 and 13 – ‘a post, money and telegraph order office’, according to a directory I looked at. In 1912, it became Smeed and Smeed wine merchants. Today it’s home to DK Architects who if you peek at the inside, look like they’re preserved a lot of the old interior, too. I feel a blog post coming on…
Find it at 9 Hove Park Villas
The Hat Box
The earliest record I could find for The Hat Box was 1912. It was run by a Mrs C Hall up until 1932 when another milliner named Winifred Ellen Silverthorne took over the business for a few years. It then swapped hands to Mrs P Remington. By 1949 it was gone and become Brighter Homes, a wallpaper business.
Find it at 53 Gardner Street
Terry’s was a jewellers in business from at least 1868.
Find it at on the corner of Gardner Street and Church Street
From what I can work out, this place opened in 1865 by two men – WE Vaughan listed at that time as a carver and gilder, and mr B Brown, a French polisher. I can’t work out at what point Vaughan went it alone. But by 1912, Vaughan was the only person listed at this address, and was a fine art dealer! It’s not listed as of 1914, so perhaps this is when it closed.
Find it at 10 Ship Street Gardens
Still open today, the Royal Standard pub has been going since 1859 when the landlord was J Saunders.
Find it at 59 Queen’s Road
It took me ages to work this out, but I think this was a hotel from 1925 run by a Mrs Ball until sometime in the 1970s.
Find it at 71 Middle Street
This was a dairy in business from around 1912 up until 1960 when it became a fruiterers.
Find it at 71 Lewes Road
This might be one of my favourites, for the brass plated doorstep! It’s outside a building turned now into flats. It was a guesthouse Ivy House from around 1905.
Find it at 46 Devonshire Place