Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A Philpotts beauty

The young girl in the centre worked at Philpotts sent by the lady
IT must have been around 1995 when I acquired the beach hut at West St Leonards. I was busily decorating it when I noticed an elderly lady looking wistfully at the hut. She bent down to pick up a pebble which she slipped into her pocket.We smiled at each other and struck up a conversation .
"I love this beach." she said "It brings back so many happy memories."She looked into the distance and I knew that her mind was whirling with images of the past . A gentle smile flickered across her face.
"Do you live here ?"she asked
"Yes . I came here in 1986 , the year of the hurricane . I love it ."
"You are so lucky . We left years ago..marriage you know ..." her voice faltered She pointed towards the far end of the huts . "We had a simple wooden  hut here . Every weekend a gang of us would come down to the beach , families , friends , boyfriends . We courted here ."she laughed.   

family and friends at the hut on West St leonards beach sent by the lady


I made a cup of tea for us both. She was an elegant , peaceful lady , her voice quiet , refined easy to the ear  and yet I suspect that she was a lady of modest means .
 She touched my old type writer . "you don't see those very often now. "
"I am going to replace it with a laptop.My spelling is hopeless and my typing is  beyond belief.""
"Do you write ?"
"Yes , just odd experiences ...memories . I want to write about the beach huts"
" I have some photos of this beach ...I will send them to you . We had such good times on this beach." Again she wistfully looked towards the horizon and I could feel the memories whirling through her head .
"I worked at Philpotts , the department store...before your time here . It's closed now. I will always remember the breakfasts...we had bubble and squeak, delicious . It was such an exclusive store . St leonards has changed an  awfull lot since then . The Kings Road was thriving ,every type of shop you can imagine. "
She tied the belt around her coat as she bade goodbye. "I promise to send the photos ."  and disappeared down the beach towards St Leonards.
A few days later the package arrived with four photos inside together with  a sweet letter thanking me for my hospitality .
I always meant to thank her but so much happened in this period, my father died and grief took over .  I never got round to writing to her. Of course I feel guilty but she has remained in my memories and the photos are treasured . I never saw her again and although I have searched high and low for her letter I still have not found it .
from the album

from the album
.It was at least six  years later that I was browsing through an antique shop when I came across an old photograph album. I felt a surge of sadness as I flicked through the pages ..abandoned forgotten memories always make me sad . Who would throw away a beautiful album? Then I saw her smiling , laughing on the pages with her gang posing on a groin .(2nd one in ) Of course I purchased it .
Whether the album had belonged to her I am not sure . It was obvious that at some period the owner of the album  had been in service by the inscriptions of the photographs..grand cars appeared ..smart picnics always addressed as Mr and Mrs etc ..., Somewhere in my many many boxes of photographs the album still exists..I looked today but I cannot find it .... hopefully it will turn up . I took out the interesting photographs years ago  which I have uploaded here .I could not resist this photo taken in 1928 in Bournemouth ..the dog is called Prince .



  1. Hello Laverne,

    My name is Penny, I'm a freelance commercial artist, a Londoner originally, then we moved north, but I have wanted to live by the sea for years and years, and we have finally managed to buy a house in Mercatoria, St Leonards on sea. We are renting it out untill we are able to move. I was looking on the internet about the area and came accross your blog, brilliant! you sound like such an interesting lady, so I thought I'd say hello.

    I dont have a blog myself, I have linked through my son Toby's blog, (you might know his jewellery, in St Leonards he used to sell it through Aardvark and now has a few pieces in Plenty)

    I look forward to visiting St Leonards Follies again. Thank you!

    Here is my email

    Best regards,

  2. What a lovely story.....my mother was always down at west marina her father was the caretaker of the old concrete beach huts that were there....so her and her twin sister spent lots of times on the beach and made lots of friends....they came to Hastings in 1937.. When my mum was 14 she became an apprentice furrier at philpotts and many a tale was retold to me about her time there....c 1942 ....mum was born in 1928.. I too have a few photos of the socials that philpotts had mostly in fancy dress ...they had prizes for the best one....I would love to know who the lady was....it may have been one of mums old friends

    1. Hello - I so enjoyed reading about Philpotts and I would love to know more. It was owned by my great grandparents but there is no one left in the family who knew it in its heyday! Please get in touch if you have stories to tell. Many thanks Sarah. saraht06@hotmail.co.uk

    2. Hi there.
      Am very interested to know you as Philpot’s was owned by my late Father and his parents before he took over.