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|A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton|
by Paul K Lyons
13 - Too much to dream, or perhaps of, in football scores, Rin Tin Tin, and the YMCA
Between Upper Gardner Street and the next road to the right, Queen's Gardens, is another odd collection of businesses. The Heart and Hand public house, with its green tiling and red woodwork, has a pub sign with an image of a red disc, by Borderline Music, and the song title 'I had too much to dream last night'. Next door is a third North Road tattoo and piercing studio, called The Wizard and Ink. A hairdressers run by John Edwards, Tilescape which sells unusual wall tiles, and Leoframes completes the shop set.
If I'd been walking up the north side of North Road from Kensington Gardens to Queen's Gardens a 100 years ago, I'd have passed the following shops in order: a grocer, a bootmaker, a confectioner, a hairdresser, a butcher, a fishmonger, a stationer, another confectioner, the Heart and Hand, a gas and hot water fitter, a plumber, a wardrobe dealer, some dining rooms, and the Southern Incandescent Company. About 50 years ago, many of these shops were trading similar goods, but a couple had been replaced by antique shops, and there was also a book store and a 'truck proprietress' according to street directories of the time.
Across the road, where the terraced buildings are generally taller the shops start to thin out a bit after The Dorset. There's a t-shirt printing outfit at 28a. A red t-shirt in the window has the following written on: England 5 Germany 1. The Grapevine Hotel, with flesh coloured facing and turquoise woodwork, offers budget beds (from £15 a night). Search for 'stag and hen night accommodation' in Brighton on Google, and, for some reason, The Grapevine Hotel comes up tops.
In the block between Tichborne Street and Bread Street, Glazed Expressions (paint your own pottery) is next to Mace Express (grocer), which is next to Daisy Daisy (children's things), which is next to Rin Tin Tin ('old advertising material and 20th century collectables'). The latter is the place to go if you want any of the following: Beatles playing cards, a 'New Green Shield Stamps' badge, an Old London Fudge tin, an HMS Victory Portsmouth keyring, or an old postcard of Butlin's Ocean Hotel at Saltdean.
There's not too much else to detain me on the south side of North Road. A small shop at number 35 sells what it calls 'Art Works', and at number 36 there used to be (well a long time ago in the late 19th century) a 'dealer in birds'. And there's the ugly five storey William Collier House, home to Brighton YMCA, built in the 1980s on a site where an electricity plant had stood for the best part of a century. The foundation stone was laid by the Marquess of Abergavenny KG OBE JP, and Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex on 24 June 1987. A year later, a young man was found dead in his room. According to the 'Brighton Argus', he was one of several heroin addicts who died around the same time. The main cause, the police said, was a flood of cheap heroin in Brighton. A crackdown on suppliers followed - a bit late for some. Good news can stem from William Collier House too. Last year, the 'Argus' reported on a one-time resident who had been homeless, but who turned his life around (thanks, in part, to a community scheme run by Marks & Spencer).
There are three more shops on the north side of the road, between Queen's Gardens and Foundry street. On the corner is Samurai, where you can buy a Tai Chi sword and rest for £18.99. Next door is Steele's selling sewing and knitting machines, and then - all yellow and red again - another bit of Drum Cavern, this time selling drums. For the record (as I seem to be compiling some kind of now-and-then list for North Road), a 100 years ago, this block was taken up by a decorator's merchant and The Dolphin Inn. In fact, above the first floor windows of Drum Cavern, one can still the word 'Dolphin' in large capital letters. Going back only 50 years, the Dolphin was still serving beer, but a basket maker and a magic shop traded from the other two properties.
Foundry Street was named after a foundry that operated here, and many of the terraced cottages along the street were occupied by foundry workers. Now, on the corner of North Road and Foundry Street, there is a modern yellow-brick building, the corner of which serves as a Parking Information Centre. Double yellow lines follow the gutter up and down both sides of North Road, but just here, by the Parking Information Centre, several cars are parked illegally while their owners nip into the centre, presumably for some information. Much of the rest of the north side of North Road is taken up with a Royal Mail sorting office.
One hundred and fifty years ago (in the years after the railway opened), North Lane (as it was) had around 50 businesses, as follows: six grocers, pubs; five shops connected with furniture; four greengrocers; three bakers, butchers, corn chandlers; two coach builders, newsagents; and one coal merchant, fishmonger, tobacco seller, timber merchant, school, lodging home, dairy merchant, builder, foundry, eating house, bootmaker, chimneysweep and plumber. And 200 years ago, there was no road, just strip fields - see BrightonandHove website.
by Paul K Lyons
A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton - along the 450 northing
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