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Photo:Laine map

Laine map

Photo:Volk's station (with advert for seaplanes)

Volk's station (with advert for seaplanes)

Photo:Map from Unicorn publication 1973

Map from Unicorn publication 1973

Photo:Electric Light Company advert, 1893

Electric Light Company advert, 1893

Photo:Regent Foundry advert, 1881

Regent Foundry advert, 1881

Facts about North Laine

By Maureen Brand, North Laine resident


Many of the early Victorian housing in North Laine is built of 'bungaroose'. Bricks were scarce and expensive and in this largely artisan area houses were built of flint and chalk blocks in regular courses and in a mortar consisting of lime and fine shingle.


'Laine' is a word of Anglo-Saxon origin meaning 'loan' or 'lease' and was the local term for the open arable fields common in medieval agriculture before enclosure, the freeholds of which belonged to several people but which were let in small portions to tenant husbandmen. Each field was divided into 'furlongs', which varied greatly in size and were known either by numbers or by individual names; these were further divided into 'paul-pieces', the basic land unit of about one eighth of an acre and often rented in groups known as 'yard lands'. The furlongs themselves were separated by paths known as 'leakways'.


Sailplanes were built in Gloucester Road by G H Volk, a relative of the better-known Magnus Volk (inventor of Volk's Railway). Volk and Alderson built the parts for the planes at No 86 Gloucester Road (Silicon Beach Centre today) and they were assembled elsewhere.

William Huxford Butler

The poet, William Huxford Butler, opened the Unicorn bookshop at No 50 Gloucester Road specialising in modern poetry and writers. The bookshop was raided several times by the police, and though strongly protesting his innocence, in 1968 he was charged and convicted of stocking pornography.

Electricity generation

A SEGB booklet One hundred years of electricity supply 1881-1981 credits Roger Hammond and Brighton as "having provided the first permanent electricity supply in Europe, and is believed to have the longest supply record in the world having had a continuous existence to the present day". In December 1881 a 1¾ mile circuit was laid of 16 arc lamps in the yard of Reed's Iron Foundry in Gloucester Road (approximately No 45) and in February 1882 the Hammond Electric Light & Power Company inaugurated a permanent supply system.

North Laine, a survivor of town planning proposals

In 1875 the Brighton Gazette reported the plans of the proposed Metropolitan and Brighton Railway for a terminus on the north side of Church Street. It would require "stopping up certain streets and bridging over others" as its line wound down to Church Street. The Gazette reported: "For once the Brighton Town Council have acted with commendable decision" in opposing the bill and seeing it withdrawn.

In 1973 Brighton Council rejected a proposal in the Wilson report which had recommended a spine road from Preston Circus down to a car park in Church Street. Many North Laine streets would have been affected - destroyed or overshadowed.

Body Shop

Anita Roddick opened her first Body Shop in North Laine at No 22 Kensington Gardens in 1976.

This page was added on 27/03/2008.

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