Old print of North Laine circa 1850

Gloucester Hotel, railway terminus and St Peter's Church

By Geoffrey Mead

Northern suburbs

The old print at the bottom of this page shows a spectacular view of the town's northern suburbs, one of an industrial community. It is pictured from the slopes of Hilly Laine, now Hanover. It presents a very different scene from the usual image of the resort.

A social mixture

The foreground shows the genteel world of grassed enclosures, strolling gentry and smart carriages, backed by tall bow-fronted dwellings, the society church of St Peter's soaring over all. But the area behind contains packed terraced housing for the workers, intermixed with smoking factories, workshops, stabling, cowsheds, slaughter-yards, and the railway terminus, a social mixture noted in many 19th century cities.

A large urban manufacturing centre

The smoking chimneys of Evershed's soap works, the Regent iron and brass foundry, Eede Butts & Sons' sawmills, were turning out the goods that Brighton needed as a large urban manufacturing centre. Yet only 20 years earlier the local press could say "Brighton is a town of few manufactures".

Items brought in by train

North Laine, with its lack of access to the fashionable Steine and promenade, and its gently sloping hillsides, acted as a manufacturing and warehousing buffer-zone between the rural hinterland and the urban centre, where timber, stone, animals, malt and grain were brought in by train to be processed into furniture and metal components, foodstuffs, bacon and beer.

Prevailing southwest wind

The prevailing southwest wind, as seen in this print, blew the pollution away from the seaside terraces and crescents.

A growing suburban component

The third element of this scene is the semi-rural fringe of windmills, open land and detached housing along the Dyke Road ridge, showing the town as having a growing suburban component.

Layout of the streets

Hudson's Mill and Dyke Road, then known as Church Hill, are on the skyline in this print. In the centre Trafalgar Street runs up to the station under the iron bridge at the top. The area between Church Street and Cheapside already includes the layout of the streets in North Laine.

[The above text and related print were originally published in The Landscape Book of Brighton Prints, Brighton Books Publishing, 2005 (www.brightonbooks.org.uk) . They were also previously printed in the North Laine Runner, No 178, Jan/Feb 2006, with the kind permission of both the author and publisher.]

Photo:Gloucester Hotel, Railway Terminus and St Peter's Church

Gloucester Hotel, Railway Terminus and St Peter's Church

G Ruff, copper engraving by W J Alias ca 1850

This page was added on 21/06/2008.

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