Lanes and Laines: that old chestnut!

Photo:The incorrectly named Bond Street Laine

The incorrectly named Bond Street Laine

Photo by Henry Bruce

What is the difference?

By John Kendle, North Laine resident

I’d been living in Brighton for about seven years (not yet in North Laine) and I was talking to one of my students who mentioned North Laine. "North Lanes" I corrected her. "No, North Laine" she corrected me. She was right of course and as so often more observant and interested in her surroundings than most Brighton residents.


This was my introduction to the phenomenon of confusing Lane(s) with Laine(s). It causes me as much anguish as when people say ‘less’ when they mean ‘fewer’ - I’m that kind of bloke. Do you remember the Tesco sign ‘six items or less’ controversy? They were forced to  accept that a large number (not amount) of people considered it grammatically wrong and that it should be ‘fewer’. It was changed to ‘no more than six items’.

I correct them all!

Anyway, how many times have you heard people talk about ‘the north lanes’ or ‘south lanes’ or seen written ‘north laines’ or some variation involving a capital ‘N’ or ‘L’ or a ‘the’? I correct any and everybody nowadays - individual, corporate, organisational, whatever.

They ignore the spelling

Most people accept and are interested in their mistake. People seem to think that there is an area south maybe of Black Lion Street leading to the seafront and the north lanes lie north of it to North Street. Or they ignore the spelling and think of it as the north Laines. It seems to come from the migratory nature of the population of Brighton and Hove.

A lot of people not born here

Newcomers don’t know that Laine is an old Sussex word that means something like field. I’ve lived and worked in Brighton & Hove for 17 years now and I can count the people that I know who were born here on the fingers of one hand. Even the local council is not immune, as it reflects the population it is here to serve and unfortunately does not value taking the lead in informing or preserving local culture.

The Council has been at fault too

I used to walk past a green Brighton & Hove Council ‘North Laines Swimming Complex’ sign until it was rebranded a few months ago. Presumably it had been there since its inception in the seventies. The same ignorance re-appeared recently with the ‘Bond Street Laine’ farce reported in The Argus last August. It was decided to install a brand new street sign for one of the walkways running west off Bond Street. Unfortunately back in the seventies it was designated as a ’laine’ rather than a lane and it is now too expensive to rectify the error and so must remain.

Raising awareness

So well done to the Brighton Society and the NLCA and traders for producing maps and tours and trying to raise awareness, but I’m afraid there is more ‘brand awareness’ work to be done.  I for my part will be sending letters, emails and doing every other educating that I can to preserve the North Laine identity of which I now feel part.


And yes, I have a thing about apostrophes as well. That’s another article. I’m off now to the grocer’s, and there’s a fair chance I’ll be buying some tomato’s!


[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 223, July/August 2013]

This page was added on 12/08/2013.

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