North Laine History

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The Tichborne Street Area

The area opposite Model Dwellings, based around present day Tichborne Street once housed one of the worst slums in England known as Pimlico. Built from 1808 the dwellings of the Pimlico area, (Orange Row, Pym's Gardens, East and West Pimlico and Robert St) were situated in narrow streets and courts and were for the most part, ill ventilated, badly drained, if at all, and grossly overcrowded. Many of these houses had been built with inferior bricks or with bungaroosh, and inferior mortar made of sea sand, and they were so damp that the walls were covered with lichen. A number of reports called to attention the miserable condition of these houses.

It was not realised that behind the glittering facade of the seaside, there were streets that equalled the worst of those in the manufacturing towns of the north. Even as late as the 1890s the houses of the working classes in the industrial cities of the north were not so overcrowded as those in Brighton.

In Thomas Street most of the houses were lodging houses where beds were shared and couples and the sexes were not separated. The area was subject between 1840 and 1860 to a number of reports in to the sanitation of the area and the condition of its people.

As a result of the work of Dr Kebbell and the Cresy and Jenks reports, Brighton Corporation began to buy up  properties as they became available and eventually in the early 1870s knocked down Thomas St and Pimlico East and Pimlico west and then rebuilt the area creating Tichborne St and widened North Rd above Gardner St.

Writing in 1840 on the sanitary conditions in the town, Jenks maintained that 'Pyms Gardens was the worst ‘a very narrow, badly ventilated court lined by very poor, cramped buildings. The surface gutter down the middle was always filled with sludge or filth and the single roomed tenements were often flooded as rainwater could not run away easily.'

When visiting the houses, Jenks noted that: Pimlico was a street of tiny two roomed dwellings that were let at between 1s 6p a week and 2s.

There were 75properties in Pimlico in 1861 were occupied by 385 people, over 5 per house. At No 71, 12 people lived. Most of these residents were fisherman, hawkers, shrimpers and labourers whilst the women were washerwomen, dressmakers, charwomen, laundresses or ironers.

Orange Row had 19 houses in a court 12ft wide.130 occupants resided in 17 properties (7.65 per house although No 9 contained 20 residents. Here four families shared the property.

This was an area in which 175 dwellings were packed amidst dung heaps, pig sties, open pools and privies and no drainage. Jenks reported that one in 15 of Brighton's population received poor relief and one in 18 were paupers.

In 1849, in his report on the health and condition of the inhabitants of Brighton, Edward Cresy paid particular attention to this part of Brighton. Of the nearby streets in North Laine, he wrote that:

‘’Orange Row, Pimlico, Foundry Street, Spring Gardens and Thomas Street were areas where

diseases prevailed, often the result of sulphurated hydrogen "which arises from the excrement retained in cesspools. It pervades all the breathing places found at the back of buildings. Many of the houses are wretchedly damp, constructed with inferior bricks and mortar made of sand. No methods are available for getting rid of the rain water. The walls are covered with lichen, and with the decomposition of vegetable matter the inmates seek the imagined restorative powers of the public house."

The 1860 Commission of Inquiry

In 1860 an inquiry into the government of Brighton resulted in the adoption of the Local Government Act. During this investigation it was shown that the drainage in parts of the town was deplorable. There was an inadequate supply of water-in 20 streets there were 2,391 persons who had no means of supply of water of any kind and in some parts of town the wells, sunk into chalk, were distributed among the cess pools and ashpits. The Local Govt Act enabled the new Corporation to provide cheap means of sewerage and drainage, for making new streets and regulating slaughter houses and it was now possible to apply this legislation to Brighton.

At this time the sewage of Brighton was discharged into the sea by eight separate outfalls, one of which entered the sea near the Royal Albion. The outfalls were below the low-water mark. These outfalls caused much nuisance so after much discussion and criticism a new intercepting sewer was built between 1871 and 1874 with an outfall near Rottingdean. As late as 1882 the Lancet was attacking the condition system in Brighton and a fund was started to repudiate the accusations. In less than a week over £6,000 was collected. Some of the biggest donors were the owners of the 150 schools in Brighton concerned that the accusations might damage their ability to attract pupils. It was at this time that Churchill was attending a school in Brunswick.

This area was full of lodging houses. A Common lodging-house is Victorian term for a form of cheap accommodation in which inhabitants are lodged together in one or more rooms in common with the rest of the inmates, who are not members of one family, whether for eating or sleeping. The slang term flophouse is roughly the equivalent of common lodging-houses. The nearest modern equivalent is a hostel.

It was not until the 1890s that new regulations required the regular inspection of premises by council officials. The new regulations required the landlords to limewash the walls and ceilings twice a year and the mixed sex accommodation, which was frequently a cover for a brothel, was abolished. Proper beds and bedding had also to be provided instead of mattresses on the floor and worse.


As you walk down Orange Row on your right you will see the backs of hte houses in Gardner St, built from 1808. These houses are constructed of bungaroosh as are most North Laine houses. Houses needed to be built quickly and cheaply because they were speculative developments. However you spell this concoction, it is the mixture which makes up many of the structural walls of Brighton and is responsible for much structural instability, dry rot, dampness, and probably plague and pestilence as well. It is the sort of cobbled- together material that emerged from those desperate days of cowboy (shepherd?) builders, hurried and financially rocky developments, and a lack of adequate building regulations, that characterise the Georgian and Victorian eras.

Up to the time when Brighton became fashionable most houses seem to have been constructed reasonably soundly in the vernacular tradition. These include timber framed (partly weather boarded, tiled or rendered), flint cobble in courses, or knapped flint from the fields.

Perhaps learning from the speculative builders of London, the builders of Regency Brighton concentrated largely on the front elevations. These were often brick — sometimes London stocks, other times grey glazed or brown multi bricks, probably from the brickfields towards Hove. The party walls, however, seem invariably to be bungaroosh. Often the rear wall was bungaroosh too and if an owner was singularly unlucky the front wall could be as well, underneath the elegant render facade.

The material is basically a freely interpreted flint rubble. A lime mortar was made up, and poured into shuttering, and anything else that came to hand was bunged* in too. This could include old bricks, bits of flint, odd lumps of wood, lumps of chalk, in fact anything solid. The spacing of the shuttering even seems to have regularised after the coming of the railways, since sleepers were conveniently available!

Lengths of bungaroosh walling were usually supported by brick piers at intervals, although on lesser houses these are not always to be seen. Chimneys and flues were always brick. Into the mixture in the shutters were added whatever fixings were required for supporting other structures, so baulks of timber or brick courses could be used to provide additional support.

For more information on the Orange St area go to:

Gardner  St houses  made of  bungaroosh, seen  from Orange Row

The former Co-op building in  Tichborne St

Three storey buildings on the east side of Tichborne St

Orange Row  remains from the early c19th North Laine townscape

The Orange Row area c1848 taken from  Cresy’s 1848 Report