The National School in Church c 1940

In the middle of the 19th century a wide range of schools existed in Brighton. There were 189 private and 29 public schools.

Gloucester Place

Private schools abounded, catering for children drawn to Brighton from all over the country for the benefits of the bracing air and sea bathing. In North Laine there were several such schools, including that run for young gentlemen by the Misses Ashby at 23 Gloucester Place. According to their advertisement in the Gazette a fee of £30-40 per annum bought a pupil his "board, washing, pew-rent, bathing, books and school requisites".

One-sixth of the working class were illiterate

In Brighton public schools ranged from 13 church schools to those of the workhouse, the asylums and the ragged schools. The 1851 census showed that in Brighton 6443 children over five years and under 15 did not attend school. At this time it is presumed that at least one sixth of the working class were illiterate.

Three public schools

In North Laine there were three public schools that continued well into the 20th century: the Central National School for boys and girls in Church Street, the Infants School in Upper Gardner Street and the St Nicholas Memorial School in Frederick Place. There was also the British School in what was then North Lane (now North Road).

Swan Downer's School

The Swan Downer's School at No 12 Gardner Street, for girls aged 6 -12, was remarkable in that it was funded privately under the will of Mr Swan Downer:

"The children of such parents as do not receive parish relief are to be the first objects of the charity."

The school aimed to instruct its 50 pupils in "needlework, reading and writing" and each girl was to have "two suits of clothes when first elected and a cloak as often as the Trustees shall think fit".

Female Orphan Asylum

In Gloucester Street stood the Female Orphan Asylum. Where the road now opens into Sydney Street, there was the asylum's "neat garden".

Asylum for the Blind

The Asylum for the Blind stood at No 75 Jubilee Street. Folthorps Directory for 1852 refers to the children being "trained in the habits of industry, and assiduous attention is given to their religious exercises, thus in the midst of darkness opening the eyes of their understanding to the prospects of a better and brighter inheritance".

Even more formidable is the fact that both school and asylum were open for public inspection for several hours each week.

They moved away

All these charity schools were moved further out of Brighton in the late 1850s.

[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 15, August/September 1978; reprinted in No 200, September/October 2009]

Schools in North Laine

Some private, some public

By Elaine MacDonald, former North Laine resident

The plaque on the former Infants School in Upper Gardner St

The former Swan Downer school in Gardner St

The St Nicholas Memorial School Frederick Place, photo courtesy of The regency Society of Brighton and Hove

North Laine History

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