Discover North Laine on foot

Photo:Trafalgar Terrace

Trafalgar Terrace

Photo:Kemp St

Kemp St

Photo:A warehouse in Foundry St

A warehouse in Foundry St

Photo:Queen's Gardens

Queen's Gardens

Photo:A map of your route from Brighton Station to Brighton Museum

A map of your route from Brighton Station to Brighton Museum

Photo:Tom Sayers

Tom Sayers

Photo:The former Court House in Church St

The former Court House in Church St

From Brighton Station to Brighton Museum

By Peter Crowhurst

This text supports the leaflet, Discover the North Laine on foot, available in Rainbow Books and the Visitor Point at the top of Trafalgar St, underneath the archway.

Return from Brighton Station down Trafalgar Street and enter Trafalgar Terrace

This is just one of two twittens in North Laine. At the end of the terrace on the corner with Gloucester Road is a place where it is thought Herman Volk made sea planes . He had opened a seaplane station in 1913 from the Banjo Groin but with war in 1914 the hanger was requisitioned for the war effort. The terrace was built in the late 1830s and are unusual in that the houses are side by side, one room deep and two rooms wide with the gardens opposite the pathway. At the end of Trafalgar Terrace you will come to Gloucester Rd

 Galeed Strict Baptist Chapel, just a little way up Gloucester Rd, is a plain classical building built by Benjamin Nunn and opened on October 15, 1868.

 The Pond was rebuilt in 1908, having existed since the 1870s. During the 1970s it amassed a collection of 300 chamber pots of which a few remain. The pub closed in 1967 and became variously an antique shop, casino training school and then a restaurant before reverting once again to a pub.

 Before you wander along Frederick Gardens, take a brief diversion down Gloucester Rd.

Electricity Generating in North Laine

The large building on your right was the extension to the Post Office built in 1937. It was here that electricity was first generated in Brighton in Hammonds Yard ( now the back of the Post Office) in 1882 in the yard of the Regent Iron Foundry, for the illumination of shops. A new generator was then built in the Foundry Yard before  in 1891 the Council built a power station in North Rd. to supply the old town. This was soon replaced by the Southwick station in 1906. The Post Office was built in 1926, with the extension to Gloucester Rd in 1937.

 Kemp St

KempSt is opposite the Post Office,  dates from late 40s early 50s when so many houses were built in Brighton - the result of the arrival of the railway and the opening up of so many new job opportunities. The discovery of a trunk containing a torso at No 52 in July 1934 led to Brighton being called 'The Queen of Slaughtering Places'. Violet Kaye/Saunders, a 41 year old prostitute was killed by a blow to the head after an argument with her boyfriend  Tony Mancini. Mancini claimed he had found Saunders dead in his flat in 44 Park Crescent and wheeled her in a basket to Kemp St. This discovery came just weeks after the police had found a woman's torso in a trunk at Kings Cross but the head was never found. Tony Mancini was found not guilty having been defended by the brilliant defence lawyer, Norman Birkett. In 1976 Mancini confessed to the murder. Return now to Frederick Gardens.

 Frederick Gardens

Walk along Frederick Terrace, the other North Laine twitten, with front gardens but facing the north wall of the Post Office building and the former Regent Foundry. You will exit onto North Rd.


At the end of Frederick Gardens, look to your right and you will see the Brighthelm Church and Community Centre with its sculpture of 'loaves and fishes' by John Skelton. In the 18th century this was a market garden before becoming the Hanover Chapel in 1825. The chapel is visible behind the modern facade. Walk down North Rd past the Post Office sorting office, once the site of the Regent Foundry, once Sussex's largest foundry.

 The Regent Foundry and Bread St

The foundry opened in Regent Street and moved to Foundry Street in 1823, possibly for the larger premises it needed, for it was then making much of the ironwork needed by the Chain Pier, being built at the time. The foundry continued to make cast iron products for the town until it eventually closed in 1912. The building was demolished in 1921 and the Post Office was built on the site in the mid 1930s.

 Casting work undertaken at the foundry was a skilled process that involved many craftsmen of differing trades, not just metal workers. This is because the production of cast objects relies upon carved wooden ‘bucks’ or master moulds made by carpenters, joiners and carvers and is described in the following extract: 

 The range of goods produced by the foundry included: brass fire irons, fenders, curbs, firedogs, irons, coal scuttles, vases, fire screens, table kettles, music stands, paper racks, jardiniers , letter racks, sconces, candlesticks, candelabra, lamps, wall brackets, stoves and fire grates to name but a few. The foundryprovided most of the town's iron work from the 1810s to 1912. Walk a little further down North Rd and on your right is Foundry St.

 Foundry St

The Foundry represented a major centre of production and it seems that small business workshops were quick to spring up along its eastern side thereby starting the development of the road proper; as tradesmen took advantage of the commercial opportunity to supply goods and services that were often, but not necessarily, allied to or associated with the Foundry’s primary business. As the street gradually developed, it appears that these basic artisan’s workshops were slowly replaced in an ad hoc manner by warehouses, formal workshops and residential tenements, where and when the space became available.

 Foundry Street developed during the 1840s in a piecemeal fashion, over time, as a mixture of residential and commercial premises. The east side remained largely residential, once established, but the west side of the street appears to have become predominantly industrial and commercial during the mid-to-late 19th. It might be assumed that the houses in Foundry Street were built with the intention of housing foundry workers. However, the evidence in census returns from the mid-19th century onwards suggests that this may not have wholly been the case.  There are indeed smiths and iron labourers among the occupations listed in the returns, but there are also shoemakers, porters, laundry workers, carpenters and bricklayers’ labourers amongst the range of workers listed as residents. 

 At one time or another, commercial interests have included the foundry itself, as well as a bone mill and rag warehouse at No. 28, William Smith’s Patent Lead Pipe Works and Marine Store Warehouse next door at No. 27 and the stores at Nos 33 and 34. 

 Further along at No. 35, Messrs. Walter & Lynn kept stables and a delivery van shed that also contained stoves for bacon smoking - an activity that might appear to have been run as a sideline, but was in fact central to their main business as Wholesale Grocer and Provision Merchants.  In circumstances that would make an Environmental Health Officer’s hair stand on end, these stoves were originally only a few feet away from the horses and dung (a plan and elevation of their original premises are reproduced immediately below as Figs. 5 and 6). When Walter & Lynn submitted a proposal to rebuild in 1895, the new structure (today numbered 35, 35a & 36) included a fine ornamental pediment containing the initials W&L (subsequently defaced) and, thankfully, no facilities for curing bacon. The street has also been host to electroplaters, scrap iron merchants, tool grinding and boring specialists, leather processing merchants, weighing machine manufacturers and van and coachbuilders.

 Queen's Gardens

Queen's Gardens, the next street on your right down North Rd is an attractive street dating from the 1840s with many architectural features typical of the time. The houses are constructed principally of Bungaroosh, brick, Roman cement, lime-plaster and timber. Although sharing this common set of materials, the street has a distinct and unique personality, one derived largely from the efforts of the original developers to give the facades a unified and often slightly gentrified character with some properties displaying elaborated detail. A small number to the south-west end of the street have fine, moulded, door cases and further north on the same side are to be found properties with rusticated ground floor facades (deep, wide, channels laid into the render). On the north-east side of the street some houses have brick elevations, which would have been expensive at the time the properties were built. Some houses have stringcourses separating ground and first floor whilst  some homes have pilasters.

 Diplock's Yard

Diplock's Yard between Queen's Gardens and Upper Gardner St was where you could hire a barrow or handcart  with which to transport your worldly goods. A number of the regular customers were what were called ‘totters’ or ‘rag-and-bone men’. They would go round the streets shouting and collecting any item that would earn them a few coppers, including old clothing, bits of furniture and scrap metal. Some of these totters would cover a distance of over 10 miles daily.

 Travellers arriving at Brighton Station would hire a barrow to transport their goods and samples to the various stores in the town centre, such as Hanningtons, Vokins, Leesons etc.  The cost of hiring a barrow was 6d a day (a ‘tanner’). Also provided at the premises were a number of small sheds at half-a-crown a week, where the totters could store and sort out their treasures.In the 1950s the business was run by the Diplock sisters, W&J. Eventually the barrows became uneconomic and were disposed of. The yard became Diplock’s Market, with stalls that people could hire. In 1985 Roy Smith, the owner of the premises at that time, reported that he still got people calling to see whether they could hire a barrow.

Upper Gardner Street

Upper Gardner St dates from the late 1820s and a few houses remain. The Central National Infants School opened here in 1826 and later became the Central Boys Club. In the last years of the c19th barrow boys used to gather here and in Bond St. The police got tired of moving the boys along and so UGS was designated for their use on Sat mornings when you could get everything you wanted. It was first come first served to the best pitches in those early days until  Harry Cowley, so called King of the Barrow Boys, forced the Council to give stall holders fixed pitches. These pitches were in the hands of a watch committee which Harry chaired for the next 50 years. He ran the market almost as his personal fiefdom for if you didn’t please Harry you did not get your licence renewed. Harry and his wife Harriet themselves had a second hand furniture stall. Barrows could be rented around the corner at Diplocks. The large warehouse, 39 UGS, was used as a stables for Durtnall & Co who owned nos 1-4 which were used as stores.

 Upper Gardner Street in 1981 was a sad place indeed as the Council was following a policy in North Laine of allowing their properties to remain empty and condemning ,many other properties in the area as unfit for habitation. All of the original housing north of Trafalgar Street had been demolished and streets like Upper Gardner Street and Jubilee Street were earmarked for demolition. Fortunately in 1977 the area had been designated a Conservation Area and slowly the attitude of the Council changed.

 No 32 North Road

No 32 North Rd opposite Upper Gardner St, was the site of Brighton's first store of the Brighton Equitable Co-Operative Society, opened on May 16, 1888. The adjoining shop was bought as the business expanded and in 1900, 96 London Road was bought as a main office, and nos 97-101 were also acquired by 1909 and converted into a single store about 1919.President of the Brighton Co-operative society in 1888 was George Holyoake who infuriated shop owners by the utopian conditions he introduced. The staff of three at the shop worked a 73.5 hour week with a half day off on Wednesdays. This contrasted with the usual 80 hours a week with no half day off.


Tom Sayers plaque

On the wall of a musical instrument shop directly opposite Gardner Street can be seen a plaque to Tom Sayers who was one of the great English Boxing Champions. Born and bred in the North Laine,  Sayers was knownas the Brighton Boy and such was his fame that when he died his burial at Highgate Cemetery in 1865 was attended by ten thousand people. Sayers was born in 1826 and brought up in the Pimlico area of the North Laine. He was a bricklayer by trade and worked on the London Road Viaduct, which was completed in 1846. Sayers was not a big man, in fact he was only 5ft 8 ins and 112-154 lbs and had to fight men who were generally much bigger than he.Sayers often used the Plough Inn at Rottingdean for his training HQ in the 1850s when he was establishing himself as a national boxer.Sayers became the last English champion before the introduction of the Queensbury Rules when in 1857 he beat William Perry.

Tom was also the first boxer to fight an international match when in 1860 he fought the American John Heenan. Heenan seemed to have the advantage when after 37 rounds and 2 hours twenty minutes of fighting the crowd broke into the ring and the fight was declared a draw. Sayers received a special Silver Championship Belt to commemorate the fight.

 Fights under the rules(before Queensbury was introduced in 1867) were typically contested with bare knuckles. The rules also allowed for a broad range of fighting including holds and throws of the opponent. Spiked shoes, within limits, were also allowed. Also included were provisions dealing with how wagers would be resolved if various events such as interference by the law, darkness, or cancellations occurred. In contrast with modern boxing rules based upon the Marquess of Queensberry rules, a round ended with a man downed by punch or throw, whereupon he was given 30 seconds to rest and eight additional seconds to "come to scratch" or return to the centre of the ring where a "scratch line" was drawn and square off with his opponent once more. Consequently, there were no round limits to fights. When a man could not come to scratch, he would be declared loser and the fight would be brought to a halt. Fights could also end if broken up beforehand by crowd riot, police interference or chicanery, or if both men were willing to accept that the contest was a draw. While fights could have enormous numbers of rounds, the rounds in practice could be quite short with fighters pretending to go down from minor blows to take advantage of the 30-second rest period.

 Sayers retired from the ring after this fight. Following his retirement in May 1860 Sayers lived for just five more years, dying of diabetes on November 8th 1865 at the age of 39. In 1954   Sayers was elected to the ring Boxing Hall of Fame.

 Gardner St

 Development of this shopping street began around 1806 but the street was not complete until around 1824. The land had been owned by John Furner who had established gardens growing fruit and vegetables for the resort. It was always a shopping street and until the 1970s you could buy all sorts of local produce; eggs, coffee, meat.Interesting shops in the street were; Oliver  Westons gentleman's outfitters at No 26,27 from 1876, M&S (1918-1930s), Tesco, Bealls Cork Shop (operated 1883-1983), Swan Downer School at No 12 (later the Sussex Arms and now Vegetarian Shoes).

 Preece's Buildings

Turning left  into Church Street and between Gardner Street and Regent Street  is a small alley that used to be home to about ten families living in a courtyard. Behind the houses was a cork factory that produced cork throughout the night so the children lay awake at night listening to the sound of the machinery. The houses were built on three floors with one room on each floor with no back door or yard. There was no running water  and no WC. The wash houses were used on a rota basis and there were four WCs. Continue walking down Church St past the Waggon and Horses and a few cottages dating from the early c19th.

 Church St

The track at the back of North Road was originally called North Back side, and then Spring Walks. It was later was given the name Church St by the town commissioners in 1792. The building now housing Cotes was erected in about 1925 as an office and showroom for the Brighton and Hove General Company onthe site of the Pavilion Baptist Chapel. The chapel was designed byThomas Cooper in Ionic style and opened as the Trinity independentPresbyterian Chapel in about 1825 but in 1896 was converted into a bazaar and then a warehouse. From 1964-1999 the building housed the Music library, after which the Local Studies Centre moved in until 2003. In 2009 Cotes renovated the building. T

The Infantry Barracks

To the north of where Cotes is located today once stoodthe Infantry Barracks.The former army barracks, which gives its name to Barrack Yard, approached from North Road and the only clue left of its former use, were built from 1796 at a time when there was a danger of invasion from Napoleon’s forces. The barracks were wooden huts built on brick foundations and within a walled enclosure. Conditions were pretty grim and the soldiers often suffered from depression and got into fights. The soldiers acted as a guard for George IV but after 1830 the barracks fell into disuse. In 1859 Britain was blamed by France for the overthrow of Napoleon 111 and there was again the possibility of war. Around the country volunteer detachments were formed. In Brighton the Sussex Artillery Volunteers were formed in 1859 and from 1860 used the barracks to drill until they acquired their own premises in Gloucester Road. The barracks were demolished in the 1860s allowing the Council to take the area over for a highways maintenance depot and a slipper baths was opened in 1870. A 2nd class warm bath cost 2d, a cold bath 1d and many local children came here. It eventually closed in 1976 and is now a nursery.

The current swimming pool, the Prince Regent was opened  to the public on 22 April 1981. It was erected on the site of the town’s first swimming pool which opened in 1895. The old pool was originally opened to men and women on separate days. It closed in 1979.

The Old Courthouse

This building now used for a variety of events was built in 1870 as a County Court and remained in use as such until 1967.

Marlborough Place

This street, at the bottom of Church Street,  once had  resort housing for the rich visiting Brighton in the late c18th. It is the only part of North Laine that faced the promenade area of The Steine and the sea. The street was originally developed from 1772 and called North Row. The King and Queen (1931) is a Tudor pastiche of an earlier building that was built in 1779 on the site of a farmhouse. The original inn catered for cricket and other sporting attractions held on the North Steine. The inn was also the venue for the town's corn market until it moved to the Corn Exchange in the late c19th.

This page was added on 31/03/2017.

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