Streams and valleys

The parish of St Bartholomew's

By Christopher Tullett

The parish of St Bartholomew's [of which the original North Laine was part] has a natural axis - the London Road valley. This valley is a dry coombe in what was originally part of the Sussex downlands. Even when Brighton was just an Anglo-Saxon settlement (Beorthelms tun) it probably carried a trackway from the village to the Downs and beyond.

Formation of dry coombes or valleys

The exact method of the formation of such dry coombes has been perplexing geomorphologists for many years. One school of thought is that they were created by ice, by small but effective glaciers which could have existed on the Downs in virtual Tundra-like conditions while most of the rest of Britain - and certainly the area north of the Thames - was covered in a complete ice sheet.

On the less catastrophic side it is believed that the coombes or valleys were caused and created by the effect of rivers running originally on the chalk surface during a highly pluvial period, only to disappear in drier times when the water table was subsequently lowered.

The Winterbourne or Wellsbourne stream

However the London Road valley was formed, it is known to have carried a stream commonly called the Winterbourne, but also known as the Wellsbourne or Whalesbone stream. This has not appeared on the surface since 1876, in fact since the construction of Patcham pumping station at Waterhall. A similar stream exists beneath the Lewes Road, but this reappeared as late as 1913, badly affecting houses in Lewes Road, Hanover Crescent and Richmond Terrace!

[Extract from "A Glimpse into the Past" by Christopher Tullett, published by St Bartholomew's Church (Ann Street) in 1999 as part of their 125th anniversary celebrations. Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 166, January/February 2004]

This page was added on 30/11/2009.

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