The British Empire

Discover the North Laine on foot

From Brighton Museum to Orange Row

Construction of the stables was begun in 1803 and in 1805 the grounds were laid out.

On becoming Prince Regent in 1811, the Prince wanted something grander, befitting his new status and so the Prince employed John Nash to transform the Marine Pavilion into a new royal palace.

Grove House was bought and connected to the pavilion via a tunnel and from 1815 the interior was re-modelled. In 1817 two new square wings with pagoda roofs were added and then the Music room and the large onion shaped Indian domes  were constructed. By 1818 the interior the eastern facade were finished although the North front was not completed until 1821.

The Prince moved in, in 1821 but stayed in his new home for only 3 months, not liking the prying tourists. William, his brother stayed more often but Victoria did not take to Brighton at all and made her last visit in 1845, eventually selling the Pavilion to the town for £53,000, having first removed all the furniture and fittings. In order to buy the building the town decided to have a referendum such were the feelings for/against the Pavilion. Just 36 votes, 1343 to 1307, decided the issue.

The Dome was originally built as the stables for George in 1803-5 by William Pordern who based his design on the Paris Corn market. The Dome was one of the largest in the world at the time it was built and could accommodate 44 horses with ostlers’ and grooms’ quarters in the galleries around the stables. The West Wing, now the Corn Exchange housed the Riding School. An underground passage was constructed in 1822 from the stables to the northern end of the Pavilion. When the Corporation purchase the Estate in 1850 the Dome was let as Cavalry Barracks before being converted to a concert hall in 1867. Later the building was fitted out in a  Moorish style, opening up in 1873.

The western lawns gardens were acquired by the Prince in pieces from 1795 until about 1819. Following the purchase of the estate in 1850 the public was admitted for the first time. The cafe at the western end is run by the Sewell family and is frequented by many North Laine residents. After the end of the Second World War Brighton Art College ran a competition to design the new café. Construction began on the winning student’s design  in March 1950 on the present site. This Art Deco-style building took seven months to be completed at an estimated cost of £1000.

New Road

In 1803 the Town Commissioners allowed the Prince to close off that part of Great East Street which ran in front of the Pavilion provided that a replacement road be constructed as a replacement. New Road was laid out in 1805 under the supervision of William Pordern and built over the next ten years.

The Theatre Royal was begun in 1806 soon after New Road began to be built. It was completed for Hewittt Cobb for £12,000 and consisted of three storeys with a Doric colonnade. The current building dates from 1894 when the theatre was rebuilt after the Corporation demanded safety improvements.

The Unitarian Church was built as Christ Church in 1820 by AH Wilds. The building with its fluted Doric columns was modelled on the Temple of Theseus at Athens.

Corner of New Rd and Church St

The Waggon and Horses was originally built by Sake Mahomed in 1848 as a gym, hence the first floor is larger than the ground floor. The Mash Tun was originally called the Volunteer and reflects the fact that at the bottom of Church St stood Infantry Barracks which although established during the Napoleonic era became later the HQ of the Sussex Artillery volunteers. The pub was once housing for the Prince’s stable boys, built about 1805.The building on the corner of New Road and Church St opened as  the Regent Hotel before becoming Crabbs Wine merchants from 1808 to the 1980s. Beneath the building and running the length of Dockerells next door in Church Steer are huge wine cellars.

The Demolition of the National School

Carluccios is the site of one of Brighton's best Regency Gothic buildings, the Central National School which operated as a school from 1829 until 1967. It had two shops on the ground floor with the master’s residence. It became the Central Church of England school and eventually the Central Voluntary Primary school. It closed in 1967 and was shamefully demolished in 1971 before a protection order was received during a postal dispute.

Jew St was named from Brighton’s first synagogue dating from about 1792, It moved in about 1808 to off West St before finding a permanent home in Devonshire Place.

Bond Street

Bond Street (together with King St) was the first road built north to link North Road with North Laine. Its buildings date from the late c18th. Originally called Bond St it was renamed New Street by the Town Commissioners in 1794 before reverting to its original name in 1805 once New Road was started. There are a number of listed buildings at Nos 2-3 and 4-7. No 35, the back door to the Theatre Royal is from the late c18th. A few former warehouses dating from the c19th still exist, of which no 18 is the best example.

Model Dwellings

This block of flats was built about 1852 by Dr William Kebbell in response to the poor condition of Brighton's housing. Dr William Kebbell  was chairman of a charitable trust, 'The Brighton Association for the improvement of the industrious classes' which built the Model Dwellings and Clarence Yard in the 1850s. Trusts like these became quite popular in Victorian England as when in the 1860s the Peabody Trust was set up.

Dr Kebbell was physician to the Brighton dispensary and author to a piece on climate in the town. In 1848 he published his ''Popular Lectures on the Prevailing Diseases of Towns'' in which he observed that ''the streets and districts of the poor, both in filth and general untidiness, and the squalor of the inhabitants, are a disgrace to any civilised people.'' In 1847 Kebbell reported that 40% of all deaths in Brighton were of children under the age of 5.

Each of the fifteen flats had a living room, two bedrooms and a scullery which had a meat safe, WC and a sink. The Model Dwellings movement did not catch on though for it was not possible to provide a 5% return on investment. In London many Peabody buildings were provide in this way.

Tichborne St and Pimlico

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.

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.

The Health Reports: Jenk's Report, 1840, was on the sanitary conditions in the town. Writing in 1840, 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 75 properties 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.

Royal Pavilion Estate

The Royal Pavilion as we see it today was the result of a development which began in 1786 when the Prince’s Clerk of the Kitchen acquired the lease to Kemp’s farmhouse which the Prince then had Henry Holland transform it into the Marine pavilion, a classical 2 storey villa in the shape of the letter E, timber framed with mathematical tiles. A domed saloon with ionic columns stood at the centre

The Prince was charged an annual rent of £1000 eventually buying the house in 1807 for £17,000. By 1801 the Prince was considering alterations the house and Holland drew up an Oriental plan. So two new oval shaped wings were added and then the Prince had the whole interior decorated in Chinese wallpaper.

North Laine in 1826

Pym’s Gardens today

Orange Row today

Model Dwellings

The William IV on the corner of Bond St and Church St

The former NationalSchool

The Pavilion Gardens Cafe

The Dome as a stables