The threat to North Laine - 1876

Photo:Church Street sign

Church Street sign

Photo by Peter Crowhurst

Trains to Church Street

By Maureen Brand, North Laine resident

The arrival of the railway in Brighton brought many benefits, amongst them an increase in visitors, heavy industry, trade, transport improvement and employment. Local population figures rose. The first station on the present site, a building of a much simpler style, opened in 1840 and The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company opened its commuting line to London in 1841.

Commendable decision

Other companies began to show an interest and drafted proposals necessitating an enabling Bill, investment, and the agreement of the town. However, the Brighton Gazette of Thursday 13th January 1876 happily recorded the withdrawal of one such proposal by the Metropolitan and Brighton Railway which would have carved through what we know as our North Laine area. "For once, declared the Gazette, "the Brighton Town Council have acted with commendable decision."

The proposal

The proposal was for the railway to pass through the town to a new terminus at the Regent Street end of Church Street (extending from the south end of Gardner Street to the County Court, with a frontage also towards Marlborough Place, perhaps for the goods yard.). In the event, the General Purposes Committee in Brighton recommended the Council vigorously oppose it, the public did not respond to the prospectus sufficiently, and the necessary Bill was withdrawn. "This gigantic bubble has burst" said the Gazette.

The impact

To give an idea of the impact on the area, the Gazette explains: "From the Surveyor's report it appears that in order to bring a station into that most undesirable position, the bottom of Church Street, as much as 87 acres of the most thickly populated part of Brighton was to have been depopulated and the houses and shops demolished. The nuisance inseparable from a terminus was to be brought to the door of the Pavilion, and the still greater nuisance of a goods yard into Marlborough Place, thus disturbing the repose of the most picturesque part of the town. No less than 35 streets were in whole or in part marked for destruction, and of them 14 were to be closed altogether."

Thoroughfares affected

"The leading thoroughfares, North Road, Gloucester Road, Trafalgar Street and Cheapside were to be ruined by being for a length of from 130 to over 400 feet covered in, thus changing thriving healthy thoroughfares into low-pitched, damp and dirty tunnels; five other main streets were to be bridged, the beauty of the London Road Viaduct destroyed; the most picturesque spot in Brighton - the approach from Preston - defaced by an awkward skew-bridge crossing the road at an acute angle; the Park and polo grounds at Preston were also to be cut up."

Public buildings demolished

"Further numerous public buildings would have been demolished and the trains would pass close to the windows of St Bartholomew's Church. The number of properties scheduled for destruction amounted to 935! More wanton destruction could scarcely be imagined and the Council were wise in stepping forward to preserve the town from such destruction."

The streets affected

The streets particularly affected, some in part, and some entirely, were: Church Street (part of), Gardner Street, Regent Street, Jubilee Street, Preece's Buildings, Jubilee Court, North Place, North Road (part of), Upper Gardner Street, Kensington Gardens, Kensington Street, Robert Street, Vine Street, Gloucester Road (part of), Tidy Street, Sidney Street, Gloucester Street (part of), Pelham Square (west side), Trafalgar Street (part of), Red Cross Street, Pelham Street, Cheapside (part of), Belmont Street, St. Peter's Street, Ann Street (part of), London Street, Providence Place, York Road (part of), Red Cross Street, Elder Place, New England Road (part of), Campbell Road, Argyle Road (part of), Preston Road (part of), Preston Drive (part of).

Shut or taken entirely

The Gazette goes on to specify: "Of the streets above mentioned, power is taken either to shut up altogether or to take the property on both sides of the following, viz: Gardner Street, Regent Street, Preece's Buildings, Jubilee Street, Jubilee Court, North Place, Kensington Gardens, Kensington Street, Robert Street, Vine Street, Tidy Street, Sydney Street, Gloucester Street and Campbell Road."

This page was added on 25/06/2008.

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