North Laine bookshelf

Photo:The bookshelf

The bookshelf

Photo by Maureen Brand

Fact and fiction

By Maureen Brand, Associate Member of NLCA

Welcome to the North Laine ‘Bookshelf’. Here we hope to build a list of all those books which have relevance to North Laine, either its history or references in literature - fact and fiction, local history and modern writing. We intend a reference list, and will not be promoting or advertising.

Not picturesque

One of the problems in delving into the history of the area we call North Laine is that for many years it could not be called picturesque. There were slum courtyards and slum clearance. There were calls as late as the 1960s and 1970s to demolish and rebuild. “Tatty” was one description of the area at the time. This was not an area of elegant Regency style squares and architecture. Books were not devoted to a chronicle of the area.


The same is true of illustrations, although there is one drawing circa 1840 of ‘Gloster Passage’ [sic] which can be viewed in the book Brighton Revealed Through Artists’ Eyes. (A copy of this publication, and many others, may be found in the excellent Brighton History Centre accessible within Brighton Museum.)

The Encylopaedia

When thinking about Brighton history, and particularly about the North Laine, perhaps the first port of call for those who research the subject might be The New Encyclopaedia of Brighton, originally produced by Tim Carder but recently revised and updated by Rose Collis.

NLCA publications

A recent publication is the leaflet Discover the North Laine on foot, produced by the North Laine Community Association and now available within the North Laine and from the Library.

In 1997 North Laine resident Sarah Wright compiled and edited a booklet called North Laine Life Lines, in celebration of 21 years of the North Laine Community Association and the NLCA's community newsletter, the North Laine Runner. A copy of the booklet is held in the Brighton History Centre and they also have an archive of issues of the North Laine Runner.  (Selected articles from the Runner for the last few years are also on this website.)

Historic references

Within various books a short reference can be found on the origin of the Laines, and the poverty of the housing. In Brighton, Old Ocean’s Bauble Edmund M Gilbert records the original tenantry laines and an 1849 report of Edward Cresy into “the wretched state of Brighton’s housing”. In a list of streets in which diseases prevailed, Church Street gets special mention.

Trade directories

Trade Directories such as Kelly’s, Page’s, Pike’s, Folthorp etc are good sources of information road by road. The advertisements within them can also provide good source material.

North Laine publisher and bookshop

In 1967 the Unicorn Press was set up in Gloucester Road by Bill Butler, poet and publisher, and copies of their publications may be found from time to time. The bookshop was closed in 1973 following a prosecution for possession of obscene articles for publication for gain.

Please add to our bookshelf

Thinking of Brighton authors today, there may well be works of fiction set in and around North Laine. To add to our bookshelf, please send in your nominations, preferably with a line of explanation to support why you say it is for the North Laine bookshelf.

On the shelf so far

Brighton Revealed Through Artists’ Eyes

The New Encyclopaedia of Brighton

Discover the North Laine on foot

Brighton, Old Ocean’s Bauble

Trade Directories

North Laine Life Lines

Unicorn Press - various publications

This page was added on 02/09/2010.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.