Joyce’s memories of Shoreham

Joyce Alcott from Shoreham with one of her 90th birthday cards
Joyce Alcott from Shoreham with one of her 90th birthday cards

A SHOREHAM reader who has lived in the town her whole life has told of her memories of the area she loves.

Joyce Alcott, who celebrated her 90th birthday at her St Julian’s Close home last weekend, was born in Bungalow Town.

Her birth mother was a society lady who had come down to the ‘Bohemian’ Shoreham Beach area, because she was having an affair.

At three weeks old, Joyce was adopted by well-known Shoreham midwife Emma Bailey, who had three sons.

“A solictor friend said to her ‘don’t foster her, adopt her’, and he sorted it all out for her,” said Joyce. “My mum had always wanted a girl. Her youngest son was 14 when I was taken in.

“They put me in a baby competition and I won first prize.”

Joyce remembers horses taking railway carriages across the River Adur to Bungalow Town, where they were turned into living accommodation.

“People made lovely homes in them,” she said.

Her late husband, Jack Alcott, left school early and worked as a telegraph boy.

“He took a telegram to Bungalow Town and the woman came down to get it and she didn’t have a stitch on,” said Joyce. “They were like that over there, very Bohemian.”

Her adoptive mother was a midwife and nurse in Shoreham and worked on Beach ward at Southlands. “Everyone knew her,” said Joyce.

Emma and her husband, Walter, lived in New Road. Joyce remembers the London Road stores nearby, and the deliveries by horse and cart.

“It was big in those times, but it wasn’t really that big. It sold everything you could think of,” she recalled.

Joyce worked as a housekeeper for Dr Lowe at Southlands. “He had a house at the back,” she said. “I had to run from the hospital, across to the house where the doctors lived and help them, too.

“One day, in the war, the doctor asked me to go across to get some chloroform, so I was walking to his house when a Messerschmitt came over and ratt-a-tatted bullets down.

“I was terrified and didn’t know whether to run back to the hospital or carry on. Luckily, it then went over.”

She met Jack when he made deliveries to the hospital for a butchers and married him at the age of 19. Later, he worked as projectionist at the Coliseum Cinema, where the Civic Centre is now.

While he was away in the RAF in Italy, Joyce managed to get one of the new prefabs being put up in Stoney Lane.

“I was expecting him home and I heard these prefabs were coming but I was told they would all go to Londoners. I went to see the chairman of the council and I said ‘I will sit here all day and all night until I do see him’. He turned up 10 minutes later, and we did get a prefab in Stoney Lane.”

She remembers Stoney Lane being just that – covered in stones.

Later, they lived in Surrey Street and then moved to St Julian’s Close.

“When we moved here, we could see the Downs, you could see the cows and sheep. Not long later, they sold Penfold Yard and all the land and they built houses. We watched the houses going up and it was goodbye Downs.”

Neighbours still talk about the day the Alcotts’ house was turned into a ‘cinema’.

“My husband was in radar in the RAF and when he came home, he built us our first television,” recalled Joyce. “I remember it was a big thing because no-one else had a TV.

“Everyone came in to see the Queen’s coronation. I was making teas and serving them like an usherette.”

Joyce has three children, Linda, Gillian and Jeremy, and remembers long walks they used to do across the Downs to Sompting.

They were among the 25-plus guests at her birthday party, where they had a marquee in the garden.