A real sense of community in Trafalgar Terrace

Photo:Trafalgar Terrace

Trafalgar Terrace

'In your street' feature in The Argus, 9th July 2013

On Friday 5th July 2013 Argus reporter Ben Leo visited Trafalgar Terrace for another in his series ‘In your street’. He quickly learnt that the residents there call themselves the ‘twits’, not a derogatory name but short for the word ‘twitten’,  which is the Sussex word for a path or alleyway.

Houses and gardens separated

Trafalgar Terrace, developed in the late 1830s, is unusual in that it is a narrow pathway with a row of terraced houses on one side and their front gardens on the opposite side, so technically residents are required to cross the street in order to access their front gardens, as Ben says “ a manoeuvre that’s probably not seen anywhere else in the county”.

Quite rural

The Terrace looks quite rural, with luscious green trees overhanging the pathway, and when Ben visited there was the usual abundance of cats. Some have nicknamed Trafalgar Terrace ‘Cat Alley’.

Katie Harrison

Katie Harrison, who’s been a Trafalgar Terrace ‘twit’ for two years, said: “We love being on Cat Alley. Our cat, Izzi, is one of the newest kitties on the block. She’s 18 months old, a tabby, and she likes to guard against any feline intruders from neighbouring Over Street.”

They moved from Barcelona

Katie and her partner Richard moved to the street from Barcelona. She said: “When we moved back to the UK we wanted to be by the seaside, so Brighton seemed the best bet. This is the friendliest city and street we’ve ever lived in. We have twitten parties in the summer, which is the best chance for the residents to get together. There was one just after we first moved in and it was nice to meet everyone in one go. We wrote songs and dressed up. It was good fun.”

The twitten parties

The twitten parties first started around eight years ago and generally carry a theme, with last year’s bash being Calypso. There was a write-up in the North Laine Runner (see elsewhere in this section of the website). At the 2011 party all the twits brought a self-written poem and hung them on a special ‘poem tree’. A barbeque fed hungry stomachs and entertainment included a giant snakes and ladders, swing ball and a sing-along.

What Katie does

Katie told Ben about herself: “I’m a writer of novels and non-fiction. I worked in news and documentaries at the BBC before publishing my first novel ten years ago. I’ve written a cookbook, a diet book, novels for women and a teen thriller series called Soul Beach which definitely takes inspiration from living near the sea. I’m passionate about writing, veggie cooking, baking and eating out. It’s very handy to live so close to the great Jubilee Library and there are so many good food shops about."

What Katie likes and dislikes

"My favourite food places include Idyea, which is really good, and I love the new Street Diner on Fridays in the Brighthelm churchyard off Queen’s Road. It’s like a mini festival every week.

"Apart from the lovely neighbours, the next best thing about the Terrace is the location - being on the doorstep of the station and all the fantastic independent shops and businesses of North Laine feels like such a treat. I have to pinch myself...

As I’m a writer and work from home, I only have to take a few steps before I’m out and in the middle of so much life and inspiration. Yet it feels like a little oasis with all the gardens and no traffic. On the downside, you do occasionally get people dropping litter or shouting when they head home from the clubs at 2am via the terrace. But that’s city life.”

Alison Smith

Alison Smith, a ‘twit’ for seven years, said:“It can be hard transporting anything heavy or unwieldy down the terrace. When we moved here the house needed a lot of work doing to it and being right in the centre of the terrace, it’s a long way to carry everything. But living in the centre of town is great and, although the houses are very tiny, we are lucky to have gardens opposite.

“We are shielded from traffic noise and it’s usually very quiet. On the whole people walking down the terrace are doing so because they enjoy the little oasis of peace and quiet and they like looking at the gardens or at the cats that are always wandering around.”

They moved from Hackney

Alison lives with her two daughters, 13-year-old drama and dance enthusiast Ella, and 11-year-old Casey, a keen photographer and story writer. The trio moved to Brighton from Hackney in London and described the sense of community as “incomparable”. She said: “We had great neighbours in London, but the sense of community here is unrivalled. It’s a sociable, friendly and supportive place to live. The girls have grown up here knowing everyone and feeling secure and happy. Many of our neighbours, past and present, have become firm friends.”

Francis Clark-Lowes

Francis Clark-Lowes, NLCA Street Representative for Trafalgar Terrace, told Ben about how creative the twits become at Christmas time, with all the residents’ windows decorated with a festive-inspired display. “As there are twelve houses in the twitten, we did the Twelve Days of Christmas one year. In 2010 the theme was a ‘winter wonderland’. I think the fact that we are traffic free and that our gardens are on the opposite side of the twitten makes us more conscious of our neighbours than might otherwise be the case. We all know each other.”

They are now retired

Francis continued: “I’ve lived here with my wife Christine for 15 years. We are now retired. I have at various times in my life been an immigration officer at Heathrow, an English language teacher, a psychotherapist and counsellor, and an adult education teacher. Christine was for many years a veterinary nurse. Her last work was as a research coordinator."

What he likes and dislikes

"I love the community spirit here, the lack of traffic, the large gardens, the seagulls on the roofs and sharing produce from our gardens. I’m not fond of the disturbance at night because of the closeness of people to our windows, especially drunks. There’s also the need to carry or wheel large items to the house from vehicles parked at the ends of the twitten; also there is some restriction of sunlight by surrounding houses."

His interests and hobbies

I’m passionate about classical music, particularly Bach and Schubert, and I love railways and steam engines. We both enjoy walking. Christine likes working in the garden and is absorbed by researching her family history. Looking after Tag, our young dog, is a big part of our life now.”

Looking back in time

Ben wondered whether, having been built more than 150 years ago, there was always such a strong sense of community spirit in Trafalgar Terrace. In 1911 a 38-year-old town postman and his 31-year-old wife lived at No 7. George and Louisa Lake had been married for 12 years and had three daughters and one son. Also living in the house was a 34-year-old ‘licensed bootman’ by the name of Thomas Priest. Next door at No 6 was a similar type of household, this time made up of the married Charles Lasseter, 42, and his wife Ada, 41. Their 20-year-old son, Frederick, was a French furniture polisher, while his daughter Elizabeth, 20, was a typist. Head of the house Charles was a ‘miller’s carman’ – someone who drove around town with a cart and horse delivering flour and seed. But he probably didn’t park his cart down the Terrace, as it would have been too narrow..

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


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