The British Empire

The North Laine History Page

The North Laine area of central Brighton was once Brighton’s industrial suburb. Much of the area was threatened with demolition in the 1960s and 1970s but the local residents campaigned to save the area and with the support of a newly appointed Planning Officer, Ken Fines, the Council was persuaded to change its policy of benign neglect to one of conservation.

With Conservation Area status in 1977 and the protection and support that went with it the area has prospered to such an extent that it is now hailed as  Brighton’s ‘bohemian quarter’. Bohemian,the local residents are not. All they eve campaigned for was a halt to the policy of demolitions and to improve the character of the area and their quality of life.

The area now has  thousands of visitors mainly for its 300+ small shops and its cafe culture.

The area has developed a strong local community with the residents’ association, the North Laine Community Association at the fore but that community is now threatened by its very success. With the advent of flexible drinking North Laine with its Victorian streetscape has become a popular destination eating and drinking area and is now saturated with licensed premises. The negative impact of the Late Night Economy is beginning to drive residents away and the character and community that was once such a feature of the area is now threatened.

Despite the recent  changes there is a Victorian streetscape worth seeing. As The North Laine Conservation Area Study, 1995, says, ‘There is an interesting mixture of land use that still exists and although there are few buildings of individual architectural merit, it has in good measure what is described as “the rich texture of metropolitan life’” with several streets of modest Victorian terraced houses whose attraction lies in their simple, repeated facades.’

The Historical Development of North Laine

Part 1

Part 2

Ruff’s print of North Laine c1850

Forthcoming Guided Walks around North Laine

My next guided walks are on September 7th at 11am and September 10th at 11am, both starting from Brighton Museum. The walks are part of Brighton and Hove Open Door and should be booked through their website (www.rth.org.uk/BHOD17). The walks are free but as numbers are restricted, it is necessary to book.

North Laine Walk1

Available from Raining Books, Trafalgar Street and Brighton Books,  Kensington  Gardens

Leaflets produced by the North Laine Community Association and offering a guided walk through North Laine starting from either Brighton Museum or Brighton Station. Leaflets are available from Raining Books in Trafalgar St.