Then it was Robert Street's turn

Photo:Street sign

Street sign

Photo:Robert Street

Robert Street

Photo:Ted Lambrick

Ted Lambrick

Photo:Interesting door knocker in Robert Street

Interesting door knocker in Robert Street

Feature in 'The Argus', 30th July 2013

On 30th July 2013 it was the turn of Robert Street to be visited by The Argus for their ‘In your street’ series (printed under the corniest headline imaginable).

Once the home of The Argus itself

Ben Leo, the journalist but not the headline writer, recalled that: “the sound of chugging machines and a non-stop stream of people once occupied this now sedate street” because it was once the home of the The Argus itself, formerly called the Evening Argus. Almost the entire west side of the street is still dominated by the old print works building, occupied by the newspaper until 1992 but now redeveloped as luxury apartments, aptly named Argus Lofts.

A nasty fire

While the building was empty it endured a nasty fire on 5th December 1999. Flames shot as high as 30 feet in the air as local residents grabbed their phones to call the emergency services. The houses on the opposite side of the road were all evacuated before a gas cylinder inside the building exploded, sending debris and glass everywhere. The roof of the building was completely destroyed, but fire investigators could never work out what caused the blaze.

John Chandler

Ben interviewed John Chandler, Robert Street resident since 1977. He said he missed the old Evening Argus printing works:“The noise of the printers made it a living street. But although it’s gone, I still like the architecture here, with the terrace of houses with railings on one side and the old Argus printing works on the other side.”

What John likes and dislikes

“The good thing about living in the street has firstly got to be the other people living here. A fair portion of people move on but there is still a good community spirit. Parcels can be left at neighbours’ houses, cats will be fed, and our next door neighbour is a professional hairdresser, so she comes round and cuts our children's hair. 

“One thing I dislike is that it’s used by drunks coming to and from pubs. It's not the fact that they are drunk but I can't understand why they have to shout at each other when they are walking together.

“The second thing is the graffiti at the Gloucester Road end of the street on the Bathstore showroom. Why the designers of the building made a perfectly white wall which is ideal for graffiti is a mystery. Apparently it is made of a type of stone that washes down very easily - except that it doesn't. The council try to wash it off but there is always a ghost image of what was sprayed on before.

“The third thing is that it would be good to get rid of the tarmac pavement on one side of the street and replace it with paving stones. The tarmac is uneven, has weeds growing through and basically looks cheap. You can tell that the firm that gave the cheapest quote got the job.”

John's house

John’s house was built in 1837 and as part of the MyHouseMyStreet project he was given a printout of all the people who lived there before him. When it was first built there were three families living there. "Now it seems crowded with three children, let alone with three whole families back then.”

The 1851 census

The 1851 census for No 18 Robert Street showed no less than three thriving families occupying the same house. George Sutton (42) was a tin plate worker and his same aged wife Martha was a dress maker, while his four sons and one daughter, aged between one and 14, either went to school or stayed at home due to their young age.

The Suttons shared the three-story house with laundress Harriet Nightingale (26), who lived with 5 year old Emily and 2 week old Edward. If that weren't enough, the Goldsmith family also occupied a floor of the house.

George, a 45-year-old shoemaker, and his wife Harriet, 38, were parents to three daughters aged 3, 7 and 10 and a son aged 9. What must have been a very cramped set-up in the house is a far cry from the way most families expect to live today!

An ugly death

In 1924 an ugly death occurred in Robert Street. Lucy Newman, in her 70s, was living in a basement flat there when she died after accidently setting herself alight. On the evening of November 22nd she ran into the street screaming for help, her clothes fully alight. Two men, Alfred Lambert and Thomas Avery, heard Lucy’s cries. They tried to save her and put out the flames, covering her in an overcoat, while a third man also tried to help.

An ambulance took her to the Royal Sussex County Hospital but she sadly died. The three men each received £4 from the Coroner’s fund and were praised for their bravery.

Ted Lambrick

Ben Leo also interviewed Ted Lambrick, Robert Street resident for 15 years. He said he was now finding it hard to go up and down long flights of stairs but on the positive side he did find living there handy for the shops.

Background from this website!

North Laine offers good material for Ben’s ‘In your street’ series because he can easily refer to this website to get background information and interesting stories about the past history of each of the streets. Which one next, we wonder…

[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 224, September/October 2014]

This page was added on 21/10/2013.

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