If you’ve ever walked down (or up!) Havelock Road you may have noticed a building on the west side of the street at numbers 121-123 called Glovers Yard. If you’re relatively new to the area you may not know why it’s called that, but I’m going to tell you, along with some history dating back to the late 1800s.
Glovers Yard is so named because from 1955 to 2002 the building that is now several homes and businesses was the home of Cornelia James Ltd, glove makers. In 2010 the firm moved to Ripe (a little village east of Glyndebourne and north of Alfriston) where they continue to make high quality gloves, and retain their By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen, which they were awarded in 1978. Their connection with the Royal Family started way back in 1947 when Cornelia James was asked to make gloves for the Queen (then still Princess Elizabeth) to wear after her wedding to Prince Philip.
The buildings at 119 to 125 Havelock Road have an interesting history dating back to 1883, when they were designed by a local architect Thomas Henry Scutt, when the area between Preston Park and Fiveways was first being built on. The design included a double fronted house at No. 119 and a standard narrower house at 125 intended to be a foreman’s cottage, with numbers 121-123 to be a builder’s yard, complete with stables for three horses out back, a timber store and plumbers workshop on the ground floor and joiner’s shop, foreman’s office and paintshop on the first floor. This design was approved by Brighton council in October 1883. In 1911 Scutt lived at “Beeches”, 94 Stanford Avenue, and died in 1926, when he was living just off Dyke Road.
The building was built by 1888. Despite the original design, the first recorded business operating out of 121-123 Havelock Road was not a builder but a laundry – the Sunlight Sanitary Laundry Ltd, which occupied the premised from 1891 to 1927.
There is a very old photo from 1897 in the splendid James Grey photo collection that shows the back of the building – admittedly from a distance – when No. 125 was the last building on Havelock Road. The back of 119 to 125 can relatively clearly be seen – I’ve included a zoomed and cropped part of that photo below, but if you want to see the original take a look at http://regencysociety-jamesgray.com/volume18/source/jg_18_051.html
The Sunlight Sanitary Laundry was managed by many different people in this period, including Alf and Theresa Quaife, Cowgill and Pierce, Messrs Jeffries and Tomlin, Henry James Holmes, and J Lawrence. There were an incredible number of laundries in Brighton from the late Victorian era until the late 1930s (for example there were around 196 laundries in 1896 in Brighton and Hove, which included private individuals who took in washing, and still 70 laundry businesses in 1928), but their number declined in as domestic washing machines became available, and self-service laundrettes were introduced – the first self-service laundrette in Brighton was opened in 1954 in St James Street.
By 1930 the laundry had gone from 121-123 Havelock Road and – at last, one might say, having seen the original designs – a building business took over the place. Walter Saunders was there from 1930 to 1938, and when he retired W A James, another builder, took over.
From 1955 Cornelia James Ltd took over the building and were there until 2002, as I’ve already described. Cornelia James was born Cornelia Katz in Vienna in 1917 and came to Britain in 1939. She married Jack James soon after arriving in London. She set up her glove making business in Davigdor Road, Hove, by 1947. Their son, Peter James (b.1948) is the well-known crime thriller author, who bases many of his books in Brighton. Cornelia James died in 1999 but her business continues under the leadership of her daughter. If you want to learn more about Cornelia James and her company take a look at the firm’s web site at https://www.corneliajames.com.