Category Archives: Visitors

All Saints Sunday School outing in 1911

This photograph of children, on an All Saints Sunday School visit to the Pleasure Gardens in 1911, shows a real mixture of expressions! The building in the background was where lunches were served, and dances held. (Read more about All Saints Church)

The photograph was taken by Thomas Wiles of Hove, a well-known producer of Brighton and Hove postcards. Wiles eventually moved to live in Burgess Hill, and later Hassocks. He produced many Burgess Hill postcards in the 1930s.

The large hall eventually became Corbetts Engineering Works, the first factory building on the industrial estate:

Late 1954 when the western side of Burgess Hill was considered suitable for industrial development, building work began and extended southwards on land formerly occupied by the “Victoria Pleasure Gardens”, from 1897 to 1940.

The first factory established about 1950 was “Corbetts Engineering works” housed in an old wooden building (which was formerly part of the pleasure gardens) and the access road was extended from Victoria Road (now Victoria Close) westwards terminating in a cul-de-sac. The 30 acre site to the south of the extended Victoria Road eventually accommodated about 30 factories, all completed before 1960. At about that time the estate road was again extended via Victoria Avenue into Royal George Road.

During the next 20 years gradual development was extended to Victoria Way, Victoria Gardens, Consort Way and Albert Drive (including a 3-acre site which was formerly a boating lake filled in during 1977) and more industrial units were erected.


Bouncing Babies – 1907

The following story appeared on the front page of the Mid Sussex Times, Tuesday 21st May, 1907.

Yesterday’s Show at Burgess Hill

On Whit-Monday Burgess Hill had many visitors, from Brighton, Hove, Lewes, Haywards Heath and other places, and 1,500 of them went to the Victoria Pleasure Gardens, kept by Mr. E. Street. Some were interested in the swings, switchback, roundabout and lake boating, others in the music (by the Brighton Imperial Band and the Haywards Heath Quadrille Band) and dancing, but practically all were determined not to miss the “grand baby show” – that fine exhibition of plump, healthy, pretty, much-loved infants ranged along the stretches of tabling in the great dining hall. As was the case last year, when the show was inaugurated, the “little innocents” – who are musically at their best at mid-night and early morn – came from many parts of Sussex, and not a few of them had a good following of admirers, dressed up as the babies were in all sorts of finery. Why do people call them “bouncing babies?” Surely it is not because they take much of the bounce out of their parents? Listen to the remark of one tired-looking papa (pointing to a darling angelic form playing with its toes and sucking hard at a comforter): “There’s my little lump of trouble!” Trouble, indeed! Now look at that proud mother, walking up and down the room and shewing her little offspring, right and left, to envious women! It is the same child. The “little lump of trouble” has just brought her one of the prizes – a part of the five guineas offered by the proprietor of the grounds – and she is on good terms with the married women who have just acted as judges – “those women understood their business!” she declared – and with everybody else. The entries numbered 29, and the awards were as follows:–

Over six months: 1st, S. W. Knight, Gower Road, Haywards Heath; 2nd, B. Nye, Nye’s Hill, Bolney; 3rd, A. Marriott, Trafalgar Terrace, Brighton.

Special prize (given by Mrs. Ladd, of the “Potters’ Arms,” Burgess Hill): M. Stringer, 2 Beech Cottages, Hurstpierpoint.

Under six months: 1st, R. J. Anderson, Hove Park Avenue, Brighton; 2nd, I. V. Elliott, 5 Camden Terrace, Brighton; 3rd, E. Webber, 19 Married Quarters 2nd Bedford Regiment, Tidworth, Wiltshire.

Twins: 1st, 10s., N. E. S. Woolven and N. W. Woolven, Oxford House, Bolney (two of triplets).

Had the weather been as warm as at Easter there would doubtless have been a great many more exhibits, but as it was the competition was quite as spirited and close as the judges could have desired, and those ladies had no little difficulty in making the final selections. Although Mid-Sussex was well represented in the list of winners, it should be noted that none of the Burgess Hill babies came away with “flying colours.” The town might well and proudly boast of its record-low death rate, but what have local mothers to say of their failure to hold their own with “outside” women for prime infants? They have in this respect suffered “a great humiliation.” All the people who went to the Gardens appeared to highly enjoy themselves, the catering and other arrangements being perfect.

The Pleasure Gardens in 1939

This enlarged section of the postcard reproduced below shows the Swingboats.

Kathleen Watts wrote of her recollections of the Victoria Pleasure Gardens on the Facebook Group “Memories of Burgess Hill”. I have copied her comments here with her permission.

The only thing I remember about Victoria Pleasure Gardens was being taken there when it was almost derelict. My Mum and Dad took my sister and I down there. It was a sorry sight, the boating lake was scattered with broken and half submerged boats and some Bullrushes growing in the water. The only safe thing that could be used was the Swingboats, everything else was just rotting away. Such a shame because although I was only five at the time (1939), I can still remember the lovely ground.

1900 letter card – lost jacket

It is quite amazing that this little card has survived well over 100 years. I bet “A Page” would be surprised to see it reproduced here:

20 Coombe Terrace
Lewes Road
June 10th 00

Dear Sir,

When at the Gardens yesterday with the Congregational outing I left a jacket on one of the tables in the dining room. Could you kindly inform me if you have found same and oblige.

Yours respectfully,

A Page

P.S. The jacket is a navy blue with small pearl buttons.

Just out of curiosity, I searched on Google Street View for number 20 Coombe Terrace and found this building which is also a fish and chip shop. Click here to view on Street View.

“Emily & I”, an Edwardian Tale

Victoria Pleasure Gardens, the frozen lake, from the Mid Sussex Times

I called for my dear Emily at 6.30. The evening was a quiet, still and rather chilly one but there would soon be a full moon and the walk to the lake would warm us.

We took the footpath off the main road and Emily turned to me with her finger pressed against her lips, her breath curling around it in the cold winter air. I stopped talking and we could hear a distant murmur of excited voices, a few children laughing and I’m sure I heard an owl though Emily said I imagined it.

Through the bushes we could see the candles twinkling around the lake. We turned the corner and there it was before us, a magical view of our summer boating lake surrounded by what looked like half the population of Burgess Hill.

The fat man was still in his hut and the skate hire was doing a brisk trade judging by the queue. Lucky we had some, though mine had seen better days and Emily made me promise to tie the string out of sight of her friends.

We joined the crowds at the end of the lake opposite the switchback and in sight of the fat man’s hut. It felt warmer beside the candles but I put my arm around Emily, just to warm her you understand.

The door to the little hut opened and out came Mr Street, the large owner of our local Pleasure ground. Even from where I was, the other side of the lake, I could see he was a big man. A hush fell over the crowd. Emily squeezed my hand and the fat man sat down to put on his skates. Someone laughed and the fat man stood up, took a bow, and carefully moved onto the ice. You could have heard a pin drop.

He moved a little further in, looked up at the expectant crowd and then held his thumb aloft for all to see. There was a cheer, some applause, and everyone began to move onto the frozen lake.

Emily looked at me, her eyes sparkling in the candlelight, let go of my hand and ran onto the lake shouting at me to try and catch her.

I leapt onto the ice, one skate twisted, caught up on the long piece of parcel string and I fell backwards with a crash onto my… trouser seat. Everyone had a good laugh that night, mainly at my expense, but Emily did let me catch her before the candles burnt down.