North Laine History

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The Drill Hall in Gloucester Rd

The Argus building

Marks & Spencer, photo courtesy of The Regency Society of Brighton & Hove’

Foundry St

Frederick Gardens

Born in 1901

I was born in this cottage that I’m still living in – in 1901. When I lived here as a kid, my mother was only paying 5s. a week rent for this cottage. There were 7 of us kids living here with my mother.

The 'boneyard'

Where the Post Office building is now there was a steel foundry and at the Gloucester Road end Ind Coope had a brewery. During the First World War the works were used as a depot for ambulances that picked up the war wounded from Brighton Station. We kids used to call the brewery site the ‘boneyard’ because it was rat infested.

A pub in every street

No 3 Frederick Gardens was a greengrocer’s shop and on the Gloucester Road end of here was a pub called ‘The Pond’ [it’s now called The Pond again, although it had other names in between]. There was another pub on the corner of Over Street. In fact there was a pub in every street around here and they all got a trade. There were two pubs on the corner of Spring Gardens at the side of the Grand Theatre, called the ‘Moulders’ and the ‘Masters Arms’. The Grand Theatre had a lot of plays put on by Alan Melville. When they had religious plays I used to earn 1s. a night for appearing as a choir boy.

Trams in North Road

The trams ran both ways up and down North Road, from the Aquarium to the Station. The fare was 1d. One time the driver got off his tram at the Station and it ran away down Queen’s Road and crashed into the building at the corner of North Road, where the Eagle Star building is. Before that it was Churchill House.

The old shops

Further down North Road opposite Foundry Street, Jim Verral kept a barbershop and every time he did a haircut he would pop across the road for a half pint of beer. In Spring Gardens the Argus had their printing works and on the corner of Gardner Street and North Road there was a Penny Bazaar (forerunner of Marks & Spencer’s). Next to the Bazaar there was a fish shop. Where the motorcycle shop is now at the bottom end of North Road, there was a small cinema – we called it the ‘flea pit’. [This was the ‘Coronation Cinema’ and then it was Redhill Motors for many years before being sold for redevelopment as offices.]

Butchers bought the cattle alive

On Monday nights we kids would go up to the Station goods yard in Trafalgar Street to meet the cattle that had been sent to be poll-axed at the slaughterhouses in Vine Street. We would enjoy taking a stick to help the drovers whack ’em along down Gloucester Road to the slaughterhouses. The butchers would buy the cattle alive and then collect the carcasses from Vine Street. I think the slaughterhouses were in Vine Street until just after the First World War.

All houses before the Argus building was constructed

Kensington Street and Robert Street were all houses before the Argus building was there [now Argus Lofts]. Every time one became empty it was bought up by the Argus people until finally they put up their building there. The last place they got was in Gloucester Road, where there was a fishing tackle and a coffee shop. It is now a car park for the Argus.

The Territorial Depot

A little lower down Gloucester Road, where Surridge Dawson’s are [now Gloucester Mews], was the Territorial Depot, where the soldiers of the First World War assembled for their journey to France.

The old Central Infants School

In Upper Gardner Street was the Central Infants School [subsequently the Tindle Centre and now Little Dippers], Durtnalls (the furniture removers), a barber shop and a nice row of cottages.

School in Regent Street

I went to school at the Central Boys School in Regent Street. The girls’ school was in Jubilee Street.

Services at the Mission Hall on Sundays

There used to be a Mission Hall at the end of Trafalgar Terrace – it’s a furniture store now. They had services there every Sunday night and my mother used to go. The Galeed Chapel in Gloucester Road has been there as long as I can remember.

Timber yard in Trafalgar Lane was larger

Trafalgar Lane was a large timber yard all the way along, much bigger than it is now. They must have employed about a hundred men there once.

Houses owned by the Manor of Brighton

Most of the houses in this area belonged to the Manor of Brighton, a Mr Scrace Dickens, and when he died a lot of the property had to be sold off to pay the death duties. Most of them were auctioned in lots of three for about £900.

All houses around here

It was all houses around here – none of the empty sites like there are now [very few of those left today!]. Bread Street and Spring Gardens both had houses but they haven’t got any at all now.


[This article first appeared in the North Laine Runner, No 20, June/July 1979. It was republished in No 213, November/December 2011. The words in square brackets above were added in 2011 to assist readers in identifying some of the sites being referred to, since there have been so many changes in the area since Ernie Longhurst’s original piece was written.]

Ernie Longhurst

Trafalgar Terrace

The Galeed Chapel in Gloucester Rd