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Caroline remembers Phyllis

Phyllis – thank you for the memories.
I met Phyllis just under a year ago at the Townhouse, from that first meeting she made me feel welcomed and I got the feeling that I had met someone that I was going to enjoy working with, as the months past my instinct was proved right. Not only was Phyllis a warm, generous and extremely funny person, she was a research addict; there is no one who will ever be able to match her enthusiasm for a Census report!
One particular occasion sums up Phyllis’s dedication perfectly. It was a Thursday afternoon and we were both working away on street research in the back room of the Townhouse, Nick had just wandered in, when all of a sudden Phyllis cries ‘there must have been a phone box!’ Nick and I look perplexed, but are quickly drawn into Phyllis’s world. She explains that through her research of Tidy Street, she has come across a health report, which describes a woman running out into the street to ring for a midwife – proof that in close proximity to Tidy Street was a public phone box. Now most of us would have left their research at that, but not Phyllis, as fast as a rat up a drain pipe (or a dog on a skateboard) she was on the Internet trawling for any snippet of information regarding public phone boxes in Brighton, her hard work paid of and she found some fascinating information. Phyllis’s history of Tidy Street is one of exceptional detail, and is testament to the many many hours of hard work that she put in.
I could have sat for hours listening to Phyllis talk - in fact many a lunchtime went on for more hours than it should have done because of this – her passion, and laughter were infectious. I wish I could have thanked Phyllis for all she has given me, I have learnt so much from her not just about history, but about life as well. I have never met anyone else like her; she had the guts and determination of a whole army and fought with dignity until the very end.
It was truly an honour to work alongside Phyllis and an even greater blessing that I got to call her a friend, a year was not long enough, but I cherish every moment.
My thoughts are with her family at this sad time.
Rest in peace Phyllis and thank you. Watch out for any skate boarding dogs up there!
Obituary for Phyllis

Shirley remembers Phyllis

I wanted to say a few words about Phyllis who, I know, will be greatly missed at The Regency Town House.
In fact, I became acquainted with Phyllis before I joined the RTH.  I did a course as a mature student at City College where she worked in the library and I was always pleased to see her there as I knew I could ask for her assistance without embarrassment.  She was always patient with my queries and helped develop my confidence with I.T. and research work. By the end of the course, the library was one of my favourite places to be!
Later, when I became a volunteer at The Townhouse, it was again Phyllis who was happy to help with so many of my research enquiries. I’m really grateful to her for the knowledge and  insights she shared.  I have an especially lovely memory of a day at ESRO together, sitting on a bench during our lunch hour, looking over a spectacular, sunny view of Lewes.  She spoke so enthusiastically about her own family and street research and I’m sure this memory will spur me on with my own.
We became closer still as we wrote up the research on our streets in the North Laine.  Again, it was Phyllis I turned to for help with my Bibliography and References.  And we developed an almost sleuth-like curiosity over the mysterious North Hall building.  We knew our research on this was not conclusive and in my last e-mail to her I said I knew that this was an investigation ‘to be continued’.  It’s such a pity we can’t continue it together.
Obituary for Phyllis

Thoughts of a novice!

Enzo, a volunteer who has joined us recently, provides some initial fedback on his MHMS experiences:
A total stranger to the world of Microsoft Office and the way records are entered and sorted into being, I spied a volunteer position at the Regency Town House on a trawl of the net. With a few emails exchanged, I met Nick Tyson for an informal interview. He told me about the MyHouseMyStreet project and soon I began my introduction into the how’s and why’s of data entry.
Excel was a little challenging at first but, with a few hiccups along the way, I was soon happily scouring data out of directories and census materials, collecting surnames and forenames, birthplaces and dates of birth, marital status, occupations, relations and resident staff.
Digging deep into the history of selected Brighton & Hove streets has been fascinating. Seeing the fluctuations between each census, the rise and fall in prosperity, the distinctions of being an owner, a lodger or a boarder, of the young being considered scholars or not! The social and professional realities of those long dead now mean so much more to me than the mass of words and figures I originally saw on the screen.
The treasure from my genealogical searching was often masked by comedic transcription errors: towns that have never been, words that legibility forgot. The translation of material from scrawl to screen sometimes obvious but not always!
What have I taken from it all? A new understanding of both the local and the national scene over the last 200 years; a historic perspective gradually blossoming, via the apparent tedium typically associated with executing data entry. Yes, tedium is not an experience I have felt when working on the project, due to the live and pertinent stories, both professional and personal, that have come through the information keyed into the system.
My efforts, merged with those of many others, has been woven together in a phantasmagorical manipulation of html to produce the website you are intently clicking through and reading from right now! I hope you enjoy!

There's more to do than transcribe data!

Most volunteers working on the MyHouseMyStreet project start by getting involved with data entry but many eventually choose a single streets' history to research in depth. I have not selected a particular street to study, preferring instead to help out others with their work and contribute in this way.
Consequently, I’ve been involved in visiting lots of the streets being researched and chatting to residents, explaining the project and gaining their permission to display MyHouseMyStreet posters on their properties.
Invariably, when I visit a street almost everyone is very receptive to the project and keen to participate. However, there’s usually one household that’s wary of the initiative and who say they would prefer not to join in.
I’m told by longstanding volunteers that, come the time of our street exhibitions, even these ‘die hards’ usually come round and, upon seeing other’s displaying posters on their properties, agree to participate.
Just last week, I was out speaking to the friendly folk in Brighton’s Sydney Street. As per usual, with the exception of one character, everyone showed enormous enthusiasm and interest in the project, agreeing to place our posters in their shop windows, and sometimes fliers on their counters. Hopefully, the solitary naysayer will enjoy the event, once it’s in full swing!
I also visited Hove’s Waterloo Street, where I talked to residents and also met the "Old Market" gardener, and the manager of the Iron Duke pub, once again a happy group of people keen to be involved however they could.
Some of my favourite recent activities have involved visits to record centres. In the East Sussex Records Office, we uncovered pre-war plans for a proposed Newsreel cinema in Charles Street, Brighton. It was never built.  In the Brighton History Centre, leafing through Street Directories dating from 1845, we found an old advertisements for a Sydney Street businesses that still has local practitioners, the listing: ‘Left Off Clothing bought’.
It’s amazing what local history can be found when you just scratch at the surface of the huge reserves of records that are held in the area.

I hate correcting proofs!

Elaine, is a longstanding MHMS volunteer:
I hate correcting proofs.  It’s tedious and fiddly work if you’re like me and more interested in what happened to whom rather than if the spelling is correct.  However, it has to be done and we have a duty to be accurate both to the records and to the current occupiers of houses we have researched, so with heavy heart I set about correcting ‘my street’, Queen’s Gardens.  What insights it revealed.  By correcting transcripts of all the census and street directory data for the street in one go, I begun to get a sense of the street’s residents moving on or staying put, the sorts of jobs they did and how those jobs changed over the years. 
Whilst the streets were built by Brighton’s nineteenth century speculators and developers on pretty much the same model as developers work today, the people who lived in them were very different from most of today’s residents.  Who knows, perhaps there is still a music hall limelight man living in Queen’s Gardens but it’s some years since limelight was used in the theatre.  Theatrical lodgings were in the street, too, housing musicians, singers of comic songs, music hall ‘artistes’ and gymnasts alongside stagehands and costumiers.
Some families occupied the street for many years, moving from one house to another.  The Igglesdens are recorded at number 19 in the 1851 census and they stayed there until 1906 when they seem to have moved to Gloucester Road.  Some of them also lived at number 25 from 1889 – 1906 and others in Robert Street from 1914 – 1958.  There don’t seem to be any Igglesdens in Brighton now – are there?  Number 19 must have had some magic attraction; the Darbys moved in after the Igglesdens and they stayed until 1954.  Prior to that they lived from about 1892 at numbers 15 and 18.  It seems different family members lived in the same street.  The Piedot family moved around in Queen’s Gardens, too and there are still some people of that name living in Brighton.  (If you read this – tell me, what is the origin of your name?)  This family lived at number 37 from 1899 to 1907 and then at number 26 until 1913.  After that they went to number 23 until 1958.
These are not unusual histories: many families stayed in the area and close to each other.  Mobility was less than now, few people would have gone away to University, to work or just for the hell of it.  Anyway, there was probably some sense in having your mum handy for childcare and your children handy for care as you aged. 

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