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Inside Brighton's 200-year-old gun shop: ‘Don’t say anything negative'

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THE shopkeeper cocks a £1,000 gas-powered gun and shoots.

The thing’s fuelled by a canister of diving-grade gas, equipped with a silencer and comes with a top-of-the-range loading mechanism.

But there’s no bullet in the barrel, and hardly a sound as Ivan Mather fires the air rifle towards the shop floor inside C & H Weston gunsmiths.

The 54-year-old has run the store in Brighton’s East Street since 1982. It has stood there for more than two centuries and Ivan believes it is one of the oldest shops in the city.

There are racks of rifles and shotguns, pistols in glass cabinets and antique arms mounted on the wall.

The one Ivan just fired is a high-end model made in Sussex.

“From 50 yards, you can get ten shots through a 5p piece with it,” he says.

There’s a lot of admiration for that kind of thing here.

Men inside the shop are talking about how far military snipers can shoot.

One says they can fire almost a mile. Another knows a soldier who shoots a gun with a range of two kilometres.

But while they’re talking, Ivan is keen to make sure we don’t get the wrong idea.

He is concerned about negative coverage of the gun shop and does not want anything inaccurate reported.

As he’s speaking, a man comes in to have a big gun repaired and lays it on the counter.

Ivan shows where the green-lensed scope fits and points out the crosshairs.

I ask him what the appeal of owning and shooting a gun is and he is keen to stress the sporting dimension.

“It’s about discipline, trying to get better and being the best you can be,” he says.

The £1,000 air rifle in hand, he explains the rules around buying a gun.

“It’s all properly regulated.

“For a shotgun, you need a licence. For an air gun you don’t, but we still take ID and register the customer’s address.”

It’s a hot topic. Other men in the shop chip in. They say the UK has some of the tightest gun regulations in the world.

One says: “The laws used to be less strict but now people break it and buy guns illegally. That used to be unheard of.

“Gun control doesn’t stop gun crime.”

I ask what the guns here are used for. There are guns for clay pigeon shooting, guns for target shooting, and guns for pest control. I’m told that usually means rats – but “some people get upset by that”.

Who buys Ivan’s guns? More than half of his customers are regulars. “It’s a very social sport,” he says. “It’s not one you dip in and out of.

“We get a lot of customers coming back – from youngsters to people at club level. Our oldest customer is 95.”

There are several shooting clubs and clay pigeon ranges around Brighton.

Ivan turns to an antique gun mounted on the wall. “This one was made in 1750,” he says. “It was all done by hand. It’s a work of art.”

I rejoin the discussion about sniper ranges. The men are talking about rifles.

One says: “Some guns will go 1,000 yards. You’re firing at eight inch targets or 20 inch targets.”

“The size of a man’s head, basically,” another says. He’s polishing a big old gun.

I thank Ivan and say goodbye. It’s been an unusual morning for The Argus business section.

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Worthing greengrocers closes after 95 years

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A FAMILY greengrocers has closed its doors after 95 years of trading.

Paul Brown started working in the shop run by his grandfather and father when he was just eight.

Paul, his sister Caroline Knowles, wife Kate and son Matthew said they had “mixed emotions” as G A Brown and Son in Worthing opened for the final time on Saturday.

Paul said: “It has been sad serving our last customers.

“People have been so kind to us. Over the years our customers have become our friends.”

Paul’s grandfather Charles Brown started the business in 1925. When Charles’s father Graham was born in 1933 the family lived above the shop, in Brighton Road.

Paul used to run home from school aged just eight to help his father serve customers – and started working full time from 1978.

In recent years Paul has turned to supplying the restaurant trade but when he was made an offer for the business the family decided it was time to hang up their aprons.

T G Fruits will be taking over the catering side of the business. Paul will remain during the changeover and the shop will become a new business.

Paul, 57, said: “I have really enjoyed it over the years but it’s hard work.

“With the catering trade I can be on the phone to customers at 10pm and then at the markets at 3am.

“I’m looking forward to a rest and a change.

“Over the years I have been supported by many great staff and family members.

“I’ve worked with my sister for 25 years. My wife and son also work here.

“It’s fantastic to work as a family, but it’s time for a change.”

Loyal customers were sad to see the shop close.

Wendy Faithless said: “I just love the quality of the fruit and it’s a shame they’re closing but I really wish them well in the future.

“The staff here are all so nice and helpful.”

Another shopper said: “This is very sad.

“They were one of the few greengrocers which actually purchased directly from Covent Garden market.”

Paul’s wife Kate said: “It’s been mixed emotions serving our last customers.”

Paul thanked his customers for their support over the years and said: “In recent years, with shopping habits changing, I have concentrated on supplying the catering trade, building a large customer base from many of the best local hotels, restaurants, cafes etc.

“Recently, I was approached about selling the premises and have agreed with a firm to take over the catering business and so it is with some sadness that the shop will soon close after over 90 years of trading.

“I am very pleased that T G Fruits will be taking on my catering customers.

“They are a larger family business who I have dealt with for decades and I will be helping them in this. I have always found them a good, reliable company and would thoroughly recommend them.

“The business was started in around 1925 by my grandfather, Charles Brown. During the Second World War he was called up into the Marines so closed the business until his return.

“In the 1950s he purchased number 26 Brighton Road, making it into one large shop.

“My father, Graham Brown, was born in 1933 and from an early age he helped in the shop and eventually ran it with my grandfather. I started helping in the shop in the early 1970s, joining full time in 1978.”

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Pubs and bars can open for extra two hours to mark VE Day

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PUBS, clubs and bars will be able to open for an extra two hours to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

Venues which are licensed to trade until 11pm, will be allowed keep serving until 1am on Friday May 8 and Saturday May 9.

The order will also apply to premises licensed to provide entertainment such as music, dances, plays and films.

Commemorations and community events will be held across the country to remember the heroism of armed forces personnel and the contribution of ordinary citizens to the war effort.

The early May bank holiday has been moved from Monday May 4 to Friday May 8 to mark the anniversary.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “VE Day events across the country will see the nation come together to pay tribute to the heroes who fought for our freedom and supported the war effort at home.

“Pubs are at the heart of our communities and this is a great opportunity to raise a glass to mark this historic occasion.”

Past national occasions where the government has extended licensing hours have included the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.

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Largest vegan restaurant to open second site in Brighton

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A VEGAN chain is opening a new restaurant.

Erpingham House, renowned for its “Insta-friendly” interiors created for taking selfies, has announced it is launching a new branch in Duke Street, Brighton.

It comes two years after bosses opened a branch in Norwich, Erpingham House, the largest vegan restaurant in the country.

Loui Blake, managing director of Erpingham House, said: “Five years ago, I was working in the city in a fast-paced marketing role, always on the go, when I suffered what many people in a similar situation do – burn out.

“It was then that I decided to adopt a plant-based diet and travel the world before bringing the foods and drinks I fell in love with to my home city.

“Since opening in early 2018, the response has been phenomenal, which is why we feel there is an appetite to take it further and look to pastures new.”

The first site, in the centre of Norwich, gained national attention in its first year, being recognised by The Times as one of the UK’s top 20 vegetarian restaurants and featured on Channel 4’s What Britain Bought.

More recently, the restaurant has been nominated by VegFest as vegan restaurant of the year for the second year running, a testament to its growing popularity and subsequent demand for more locations.

Brighton has more places to dine per 100,000 people than in any other city in the UK.

The company successfully raised £250,000 crowdfunding to raise 15 per cent of the overall cost of the new restaurant in the city.

Spread over three floors and housing a cafe, restaurant, bar, roof terrace and delivery service, Erpingham House Brighton will be 100 per cent plant-based, free from single-use plastic and certified carbon-free dining.

Its mission is to normalise a plant-based lifestyle. The Brighton branch will see “a modernisation of the brand and food” with expert consultants from Los Angeles working on the menu.

Backers include Brighton native and professional footballer Russell Martin and current Brighton U23 coach and former player Andrew Crofts.

“We’re incredibly excited to open in Brighton and contribute something new to an already flourishing hospitality scene,” said Mr Blake.

“Plant-based dining is a rapidly emerging trend, and we want to support more people in their quest to eat more sustainably, without sacrificing flavour or experience.

“Brighton is at the forefront of the plant-based food scene in the UK and so it made total sense to open here, in order for us to push the boundaries and innovate to drive the space forward.

“It’s important to us that we carry Erpingham House’s mission forward, but do so in a way that’s specific to Brighton and the local area.

“We are excited to be opening in such a welcoming and culturally diverse place and will feel right at home in the heart of the city.”

“We want to be a helping hand for people who may have not been willing to try a plant-based diet in the past.”

Erpingham House specialises in vegan food from lattes and smoothies, to “build your own buddha bowls”.

It will open in Duke Street on March 14.

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