Every now and again signs or adverts become visible around Brighton, and spark my curiosity. This one is on an otherwise ordinary end of terrace house at the corner of Shaftesbury Road and Ditchling Rise, just opposite the beer garden of the Signalman pub. Quite how this painted advert got revealed I don’t know, but it was hidden for quite some time. The picture below is from Google Street View, and shows the panel painted over. The picture above (zoomed in on the right) I took in June 2019.
Anyway, I did some research into “E Corney, Sign Writer, Decorative Painter”. What is strange to me is that he never lived in this house! I guess this was simply a bit of advertising, showing off his skill in a neatly done sign. Here’s what I found:
Eli was born in 1833 in Clayton, a small village just north of the South Downs, about 6 miles north of the advert in the pictures above. In the 1841 census – Eli, aged 8, was living with his parents William and Mary and 7 siblings in Clayton village.
1851 census – Eli, then aged 18, and already employed as a painter, was living with his parents William and Mary and two of his sisters at 21 Whitecross Street, Brighton.
1861 census – Eli, wife Frances and 3 children were living at 10 Belmont Street, Brighton. Eli was described as a Signwriter. Interestingly on the same street were a dressmaker, a boot-maker, a wheelwright and a whitesmith (who worked with iron and steel in ways that made it bright and shiny for example making knives, scythes, cf a blacksmith who did basic shaping work with iron and steel).
1871 census – Eli and family (now with 6 children), still at 10 Belmont Street.
1874 Eli Corney was living at 11 Elm Grove (this house, unlike the ones in Whitecross and Belmont Streets, or the later house he lived in on Ditchling Road, still exists)
1881 census records him living at 74 Ditchling Road, with his wife Frances, and their 8 children.
In the Brighton 1885 General Directory he had premises at both 40 Jubilee Street and 32 Beaconsfield Road.
In the 1891 census Eli was living with his wife and children at 84 Roundhill Cresent, and his son Frederick (b. 1868) was recorded as also being a signwriter.
By the time of the 1895 Brighton General Directory Eli’s business was listed as a Signwriter based at 40 Jubilee Street, though he died in 1892 – presumably his son Frederick was carrying on the business. Eli’s wife Frances died in 1919. His children nearly all moved out of the area, to Essex, Birmingham and Oxford.