North Laine in the 'Brighton Herald'

Photo:The five Tenantry Laines of Brighthelmston

The five Tenantry Laines of Brighthelmston

Article on 4th June 1921

By Jackie Fuller, North Laine resident

'Laine' is an old word once used in Brighton to denote a large tract of agricultural land. North Laine was just one of such areas into which Brighton was divided in the 18th century (see map).

As long ago as 1921 the Brighton Herald demonstrated that it understood the meaning of the word 'laine' when on 4th June of that year it carried the following article by W Clarkson Wallis JP entitled 'The Tenantry Laines of Brighthelmston'.

'The Tenantry Laines of Brighthelmston'

[The use of three dots in this extract shows places where some of the original text has been omitted.]

"Some correspondence recently appeared in the 'Herald' referring to the nomenclature of North Road and its identity with North Lane. This question was fully disposed of in a reply, but your correspondent raised a matter of topographical significance in quoting an extract from a title deed and upon this some observations may be of general local interest... The writer apparently assumes that 'North Laine'... refers to the street North Lane... The fact is, however, that the one has nothing to do with the other: the word 'laine' has a totally different meaning and derivation from 'lane'.

The terms 'laine', 'furlong' and 'pauls' relate to an ancient system of land division and specially apply to arable to cultivated land. The 'Laine' was a large area of irregular size and was divided usually into long and somewhat narrow portions called 'furlongs', also not conforming to any particular measurement.

The 'furlong' was again subdivided into transverse strips called 'pauls' or 'paulpieces', eight of which were held to be equivalent to an acre. This singular system of land division is of great antiquity and dates back certainly to times previous to the Domesday Book and possibly even earlier than King Alfred...

Our present knowledge of the several areas constituting the Brighthelmston Tenantry Laines is based upon an actual survey made in 1792, by which time... we learn that there were then 5 'laines', 3 on the hill east of the Steine valley and 2 on the western hill.

The 3 on the eastern hill were 'Little Laine' (lying between the lower part of Marine Parade and Edward street); 'Hilly Laine' (which occupied the remainder of the hillside as far as Islingword Road and practically including the St John's and Hanover wards); 'East Laine' and 'Tenantry Down' (which included what is now Queen's Park, King's Cliff and the Race Hill. It will of course be understood that these street and ward names are modern.

On the western side of the Steine were 'North Laine' (extending from Church Street to the Preston Parish boundary - approximately St Nicholas and St Peter's wards) and 'West Laine' (between West Street and the Hove boundary).

Space will not admit of giving a detailed delineation of the position of the 'furlongs' beyond a few observations which will suggest the important bearing they have had in determining the situation and direction of many of the principal streets of the town. Between each 'furlong' there was a narrow path or road called a 'leakway' and these have survived in streets which run from the valley to the summit of the hills.

The case of 'North Laine' may be taken as typical of the others. In this area 'first furlong' lies between Church Street and North Road; 'second furlong' to Gloucester Road; 'third furlong' to Trafalgar Street; 'fourth furlong' to Cheapside; 'fifth furlong' to Ann Street'; 'crooked furlong' to York Hill; 'Rottingdean hedge furlong' to New England Road'; 'Church Hill' occupied the whole of the summit, with Mount Zion Place and continuing streets as the 'leakway'..."

The full article from which the above extracts are taken can be consulted at the Brighton History Centre at Brighton Museum. Let's try to keep the correct name for our wonderful area: NORTH LAINE!

[Previously published in the 'North Laine Runner', No 62, July/August 1986]

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