The laines of Brighthelmston

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An open field system

By Ken Fines

In the mid 18th century the old town of Brighthelmston was still largely confined to the coastal area between East Street, West Street, North Street and the sea (South Street, which was under the low cliffs, had been destroyed by storms together with the lower town). It was surrounded by open field systems known as 'Laines'. To the west was the West Laine;  to the east Hilly Laine, Little Laine and the East Laine; to the north was - North Laine.

These laines were divided geometrically into 'furlongs' (separated by narrow roads called 'leakways'). In turn these were sub-divided into thin 'paul-pieces'. These divisions had a considerable effect on the subsequent street layout.  Beyond the Laines was Tenantry sheep down.

The term 'laine' is of ancient origin but seems to have been confined to Sussex.  The open field system actually dates back to Norman times, but in essence (although I am not sure of the practice in Brighthelmston) there were no hedgerow divisions and there was a rotation of crops on a three-year basis between 'bread crops', 'drink crops' and fallow.

[Previously published in the 'North Laine Runner', No 185, March/April 2007]

EDITOR'S NOTE: It was Ken Fines who revived the name 'North Laine' for our area when it was first designated as a Conservation Area. At that time he was Brighton Borough Planning Officer. Ken died in March 2008.

This page was added on 17/06/2008.

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