Albert Sambucci – A Brighton Italian fighting with the British

 Alberto Sambucci was born in Brighton in 1892 to parents, Philiomena and Loreto, who had emigrated from Italy. “He was married and had a son, Loreto, who was only two when his dad was killed. He also had a baby daughter, Philomena, who was born after his departure for France so he never saw her.”
Written account by Alberto’s grand daughter as published on: ‘The Wartime Memories Project – The Great War’
In 1891 the Sambucci family was living in 4 rooms at 16 Spa Street, Brighton. Spa Street was demolished in the late 1890s under a slum clearance scheme, and replaced by Tillstone Street, which runs from Park Hill at the bottom of Queen’s Park to Eastern Road. Sometime before 1901, the family moved to Ivory Court in Ivory Place, where Albert spent much of his life. Like other immigrants of Italian descent in Brighton, the Sambuccis set up an ice cream business.
At the time of the 1911 Census, the Sambucci family were living in 4 Ivory Court (listed as having 3 rooms). Albert was aged 19 and living with his two younger sisters, Clara (aged 13) and Nellie (aged 9). His mother is recorded has being head of the family and the father’s name is crossed through. This could indicate that he had died or was no longer living with the family, or in another house nearby, as other Sabuccis are listed on the same census on the same street (Ivory Court). There is also a Loreto Sambucci recorded as living in Lewes during the 1911 census too.

In 1911 the census form was completed by the residents of a property and later checked by an enumerator. Interestingly the form for 4 Ivory Court was completed and signed by Albert’s elder brother, Joseph Sambucci, who didn’t live there.  Joseph’s postal address beneath his signature isn’t clear. It looks like he wrote 2 Ivory Court and changed the “2” to a “4”. However, he was actually living close by at No 1. Ivory Court.  Why did Joseph fill in the form? Perhaps his parents weren’t literate or maybe their command of English wasn’t good enough and they required their eldest son to complete the form for them.

However, another strange feature of the 1911 census form is that Loreto’s name was crossed out in red by the enumerator and he was not included in the totals at the bottom of the form. This suggests that he wasn’t actually living on the premises and that maybe he had been included by mistake. Florrie was listed – again in red ink – as head of the family.

In fact the reason why Joseph completed the Census form for his mother and the explanation for Loreto’s absence is rather a startling one and can be found in London Daily News of March 25th 1911. The paper reported that Loreto had been charged with being drunk while in possession of a loaded revolver and he was sentenced to one month imprisonment. As the deadline for the Census return was 2nd April 1911, he would have been in prison when the Census was taken, which is why the enumerator would have crossed out his name.

Albert Sambucci birth
A previous census recorded Albert has having two older sibilings. His brother Joseph in 1911 Joseph ( aged 24) was living at 1 Ivory Court with his wife Blanche ( aged 22) and baby daughter Margareta (3 months).
His sister Mary (or maria) is not listed and must have had alternative lodgings. She married John Wilcox in 1921 and also lived at Ivory Place with her own family in the 1920’s.

In 1911 Joseph Sambucci (24) is living at 1 Ivory Court with his wife Blanche (22) and baby daughter Margareta (3 months) Joseph was born in Brighton & Blanche came from Middlesborough. They had been married for 2 years with the one child in 1911.  Joseph is listed as an employer & his business is Ice Cream Manufacturer – run from home. Blanche is a boarding house waitress.

Ivory Court was off Ivory Place, which runs parallel to Grand Parade between Morley Street and Richmond Parade. This area of Brighton was a slum area and the courts often contained the worst housing in the town.

Ivory Place

Ivory Place, 1935, Copyright The Royal Pavilion and Museums Brighton & Hove

Ivory Court was on Ivory Place, which runs parallel to Grand Parade between Morley Street and Richmond Parade. This area of Brighton was a slum area and the courts often contained the worst housing in the town.
The Sambucci family seems to have occupied several of the tenements in Ivory Court. No. 4, where Albert lived, only had 3 rooms, which, although not unusual at the time, may have made it a bit crowded. In 1911 Joseph was listed at living at No. 1 Ivory Court and Albert’s father, Loreto was listed in the 1901 Census and a 1902 street directory as variously living at number 2 and no 4 Ivory Court, so it is possible that, over time, the family rented several of the tenements in the court and spread themselves across the properties.
“Nobody moved into the area, because nobody moved out. Neighbours used to sit on the step and talk to passers by. This is why people didn’t want to move; the community was there. They married people who lived almost next door. The community feeling went when we were moved out to Whitehawk.” Carlton Hill Tea Party held at the Lewis Cohen Urban Studies Centre at Brighton Polytechnic May 25th 1984

Albert’s Marriage

In 1912 Albert married Virginia Panetta, from Lewes. Virginia was born in about 1895 in Italy but was now resident in the UK. She lived at 3 Malling Street with her Mother Maria Panetta, who was 40 years old in 1911 and head of the family. Virgina had a sister Emilia, who was 13 in 1911 and a brother Eugenie, who was 7; both of them went to school. Also living at the house was 61 year old Benedette Panetta, who is described as a general servant and domestic worker.

Interestingly Emilia was born in Dundee and Eugenie in Broughty Ferry (a suburb in Dundee), so the Panetta family must have moved down from Scotland in the previous 6-7 years. On the 1911 Census Maria and Virginia’s occupations were shown as “assisting in business”. Maria was also described as “employer” and the 1911 Kelly’s Sussex Street Directory lists her as a confectioner.

When Virginia married Albert she was 17 years old and he was 19 or 20. From Albert’s War Record it looks like they set up house at 3 Ivory Buildings, round the corner from his home in Ivory Court.

The Sambucci Family – Ice Cream Vendors

On the 1901 census Loreto Sambucci is recorded as being an ice cream vendor. On the 1911 census the family business continues to be listed as an Ice Cream Business. Albert and his mother Philiomena are listed as assisting in the business and Albert’s older brother Joseph as being an employer and ice cream manufacturer, and was possibly head of the business as a result of his fathers absence. The ice cream business is recorded as being run from home and the ice cream sold on the beach front.

“The penny capitalists

The opportunities offered by the holiday industry also encouraged a proliferation of small and miniature businesses, the ‘penny capitalism’ that flourishes in this kind of setting.
There was endless contemporary comment, in tones ranging from affection to exasperation, on the impossibility of promenading on the sea front or spending time on the beach without being serenaded by street singers or ‘German’ brass bands, snapped by itinerant photographers, accosted by organ-grinders with monkeys, invited to partake of fruit, sweets, gingerbread, shellfish or ice cream, or urged to offer a copper or two to a puppet or performing animal show. Boatmen, music-hall shows, lodgings and cheap restaurants touted for custom, and it was sometimes physically difficult to find a way through the importunate throng.”

The introduction of the ice cream machine

In the 19th century, ice cream manufacture was simplified with the introduction of the ice cream machine in 1843 in both England and America. This consisted of a wooden bucket that was filled withice and salt and had a handle which rotated. The central metal container, containing the ice cream was surrounded the salt and ice mixture. This churning produced ice cream with an even, smooth texture.
Previously it was made in a pewter pot kept in a bucket of ice and salt and had to be regularly hand stirred and scraped from the side of the pewter pots with a ‘spaddle’ which is a sort of miniature spade on a long handle.
The key factor in the manufacture of ice cream was ice. Where was it to come from? In the early 19th century importation of ice started from Norway, Canada and America, this made ice cream readily available to the general public in the UK. Ice was shipped into London and other major ports and taken in canal barges down the canals, to be stored in ice houses, from where it was sold to ice cream makers.
This burgeoning ice cream industry, run mainly by Italians, started the influx of workers from southern Italy and the Ticino area of Switzerland to England.In London they lived in the most appalling conditions in and around the Holborn area. The huge ice house pits built near Kings Cross by Carlo Gatti in the 1850s, where he stored the ice he shipped to England from Norway, are still there and have recently been opened to the public at The London Canal Museum.
BTNBeachIceCreamVendor

A photograph taken on Brighton’s seafront near the  Free Shelter Hall around 1910 showing a woman holding a child and offering “pure ices” and ice cream from a barrow. On the sides of the barrow are painted the words “Pure Ices” and “Hokey Pokey” ice cream.

Carlo Gatti and the Italian Ice Cream Trade in 19th Century London

Carlo Gatti is credited with being one of the first to offer ice cream for sale in the streets of London. Carlo Gatti employed his fellow countrymen to take his ice cream around London streets in insulated barrows. They offered small sample of the ice cream wrapped in waxed paper by calling out “Ecco un poco“, which roughly means “Try a little“. The Italian phrase “ecco un poco” sounded something like “hokey pokey” to London ears and the ice cream vendors became known as “Hokey Pokey” men. The ice cream itself gained the nickname “Hokey Pokey“. A photograph taken near the Free Shelter Hallon Brighton’s seafront around 1910 shows a woman holding a child and offering ice cream from a barrow.  On the sides of the barrow are painted the words “Pure Ices” and “Hokey Pokey” ice cream.

Before the introduction of edible cones in the late 1880s, ice cream was served from the barrow in a small glass cup called a “penny lick”. The purchaser of the ice cream would lick the ice cream from the glass and return it to the vendor. The glass would be wiped clean with a piece of cloth and then filled with ice cream for the next customer.  Customers who did not want to eat the ice cream standing at the barrow could take the ice cream away after having it wrapped in waxed paper.

Carlo Gatti and Battista Bolla invited their relatives and other Swiss-Italians to join their thriving catering businesses in London. Hundreds of Swiss-Italians emigrated from Ticinoto London in the second half of the nineteenth century. Ticino had a growing population but only a small amount of good farming land.  Unemployment was high and during the series of poor harvests between 1847 and 1854, a large number of Ticinesi left their nativeSwitzerland for other European countries and North America. [The local council in Ticino actually paid a lump sum (equal to six months’ wages) to working men in order to encourage them to leave Ticino].

The prospect of finding paid work in the Swiss-Italian cafes an restaurants that were springing up in London, encouraged a further exodus of emigrants from Ticino in the latter half of the nineteenth century. By the late 1870s and early 1880s, Swiss-Italians who had found work as waiters, barmen, pastry cooks and confectioners in London migrated to expanding seaside towns such as Brighton.

Alberto in France

Albert Sambucci enlisted in the Royal Sussex 11th Battalion for a three year term, or until the end of the war, in September 1914 in Hove, East Sussex. In records, he is listed as both L/Cpl Albert Sambucci  and also as Private Sambucci in TheyservedWiki & the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) with either of these enlistment numbers:  SD/3144 or 3444.  Most sources agree SD3444 in the Royal Sussex Regiment – 11th Battalion.
He died in June 1916 at the age of 23 in the run up to The Battle of Boar’s Head at Richebourg, and The Somme, it is not know how he died. He is buried in Cambrin Churchyard Extension  (Grave/Memorial Reference N.42)
Burial place of Sambucci

“His letters speak of the cold and lice-ridden blankets. He also mentioned being made a bomber and trench raids. He said on one occasion it took him 2.5 hours to cover 120 yards from no mans land back to his trench. His last letter written just two days before his death said he was in the pink and hopeful of some leave. On the day that he was killed the Battalion diary states that three other ranks were killed when Sap15 was blown in, then an hour later two other ranks were shot by sniper fire, so we do not know the circumstances of his last moments.”

Written account by Alberto’s grand daughter as published on: ‘The Wartime Memories Project – The Great War’

A Bit About Cambrin Churchyard

At one time, the village of Cambrin housed brigade headquarters but until the end of the FirstWorld War, it was only about 800 metres from the front line trenches. The village contains two cemeteries used for Commonwealth burials; the churchyard extension, taken over from French troops in May 1915, and the Military Cemetery “behind the Mayor’s House.” The churchyard extension was used for front line burials until February 1917 when it was closed,but there are three graves of 1918 in the back rows.
The extension is remarkable for the very large numbers of graves grouped by battalion, the most striking being the 79 graves of the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and 15 of the 1st Cameronians (Row C), the 35 of the 2nd Royal Welch Fusiliers and 115 of the 1st Middlesex (Row H), all dating from 25 September 1915, the first day of the Battle of Loos.
Cambrin Churchyard Extension contains 1,211 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 8 being unidentified. There are also 98 French, 3 German
and 1 Belgian burials here. The cemetery was designed by Charles Holden.
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