About Kensington Place

Photo:The east side of Kensington Place today

The east side of Kensington Place today

Photo by Peter Crowhurst

Photo:The west side of Kensington Place

The west side of Kensington Place

Kensington Place

A brief history

By Peter Crowhurst, North Laine resident

Houses first began to appear in Kensington Place in the 1820s. A glance at J Pigot Smith's 1826 map of Brighton shows a number of houses on the west side of the street. These are what Timothy Carder in The Encyclopaedia of Brighton describes as "small terraced houses and cottages". The west side has a mixture of these small houses and taller three storeyed buildings, typical of the mid-Victorian period. The east side was constructed mainly in the late 1840s and consists of a terrace decorated with Ionic pilasters and now mostly Grade II listed.

Who lived in Kensington Place?

The residents of the street have generally been skilled artisans. The 1851 census refers to drapers, beer shop keepers, tailors, bootmakers, printsellers, cabinet makers, laundresses and general servants, whilst the 1883 census makes reference to the Hearts of Oak beer house at No 17 and a lodging house at No 8. The street has always had its share of teachers, with the 1900 census mentioning a teacher of music at No 31 and a day school at No 34.

Dramatic connections

The link with culture and education at No 34 was to last into the 20th century, for this was the home of the famous West End literary agent, Peggy Ramsey, who had a weekend home in the street from the 1960s. Peggy was to be made famous in the 1987 Alan Bennett-scripted film 'Prick Up Your Ears', about the life and death of the playwright Joe Orton. It was Peggy who discovered the talent of Joe Orton and then helped him in his career before finally identifying his battered body in 1967.

Peggy would spend many a weekend in Kensington Place, leaving London at 4pm on Fridays to travel down by train. She did not involve herself in the literary scene in the town (not liking one of the town's leading lights of the time - Laurence Olivier) but instead busied herself around the streets of the North Laine.

More cultural connections

Behind Kensington Place there is a little lane, Trafalgar Lane, where Peggy had bought a small cottage (which she called her hut) which she let her clients use. David Hare wrote most of 'Licking Hitler' here as well as 'A Map Of The World'. Having no telephone and being so close to London was ideal for writers.

Other notable residents of the street included William Moon, who published books for the blind and was Master of a Blind School in Church Steet. Moon lived for a short time at No 44 Kensington Place.

Kensington Place continues today to be one of Brighton's most attractive residential streets. It has been chosen as the set for TV dramas (in 1980 the street was used as the set for a TV serial ' A Little Silver Trumpet') and it now has a number of houses (on the eastern side) that have been given Grade II listed status by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Kensington Place in 1906

Kensington Place in 1906, a photo from the James Gray Collection


Census, 1851 and 1881
J Pigot Smith's 1826 map (in Brighton Local History Library)
David Cresswell's article, Peggy's Little Place
Trade Directories, 1883 and 1901 (in Brighton Local History Library)
Colin Chambers, Peggy: The Life of Margaret Ramsey, Play Agent

This page was added on 28/02/2008.

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