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|A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton|
by Paul K Lyons
10 - A modern mish-mash in Morley Street; and an early Hindoostanee entrepreneur
I cut down via steps to Morley Street (once part of Sussex Street), past more graffiti, this time with cartoon-like pictures. Amidst the jumble, I spot a giant chicken, an old gramophone player, a spaceman and flying traffic lights. Away to my right are the high rise blocks (dating from the early 1960s), and to my left are the low rise ones, with balconies. Carder, in his 'Encyclopaedia of Brighton', explains how some of Brighton's worst slums persisted in this area until the 1930s. When the slums were cleared, many of the residents were rehoused in these flats, the town's first such blocks. Milner Flats (named after Alderman Hugh Milner Black, a council housing enthusiast) and Kingswood Flats (named after a health minister, Sir Kingsley Wood) run along the characterless Nelson Row. In slum times past, herrings were smoked in Nelson Row.
A Chest Clinic, an Infant Welfare Centre, and a new municipal market were all part of the 1930s redevelopment here. The Infant Welfare Centre was badly hit in an air raid during the war, and three children died. But it was rebuilt and the stone plaque still exists. The buildings today, though, are taken up by the Morley Street Family Planning Clinic and the Tarner Sure Start Children's Centre. The warehouse-like structure of the municipal market, along Circus Street, is still here but is outdated and a little dilapidated. The fruit, vegetable and flower market itself recently moved, after 70 years of trading, to Crowhurst Corner in Hollingbury, and other retailers - such as Pavilion Pine - have moved in temporarily. The Council is currently planning to redevelop the area again, for homes, businesses and shops.
A strange flat building sits on the north side of Morley Side, opposite the market. The street level facade is all black matt, fronted by squat pillars which hold a first floor elevation, also black, on which there is a dense large writing in white. 'The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is she, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.' This is a quotation from Ezekiel in the Old Testament. Above the writing, there's a large loud bright cartoon of a snazzy girl, with golden hair, walking a dog. She is on roller skates with violet wheels. Above and behind her shines a green sun with green rays. In fact, this is a night club called The Ocean Rooms, and the mural is by an artist known as Speto. In October 2005, a spokesman for the nightclub gave the 'Brighton Argus' an explanation: 'We wanted to provide a bright, sunny image to lighten the mood around Morley Street. The look reflects the style of the venue - a mish-mash of nostalgia, style and modern design.' And, although the quote is originally from the bible, it was used by Samuel L Jackson in the film 'Pulp Fiction'. The spokesman added: 'We could be arty-farty about the underlying meaning behind the look but we don't want to. We would rather let people decide what they think and just enjoy the art as they pass down Grand Parade.'
From Morley Street, I emerge into Grand Parade, which is the name given to the road that runs down on the east side of the narrow Victoria Gardens. I cross the busy road, a bus lane, a pavement, a bicycle lane and some low railings to pause a while on the narrow strip of grass. Behind me, along Grand Parade, I can see a series of buildings, mostly with curved fronts and black-painted flint-peppered elevations. They are too ornate for this urban throughway. A century ago, where number 31 is today, there was a Congregational Church (with seats for 320), just as, round the corner, in Morley Street, not 100 metres away, there used to be a Baptist Church (with seats for 400). More interesting perhaps is the story of Dean Mahomed who was living at number 32 when he died in 1851. Mahomed was born in India, but, after working for the East India Company Army, emigrated to Ireland and then to England. In 1810, he was the first Asian to establish an Indian restaurant in London, the Hindoostanee Coffee House at 34 George Street, Portman Square. Subsequently, he moved to Brighton where he became manager of the Devonshire Place bath-house and went on to claim he had invented 'Indian Medicated Vapour Baths'. He became a prominent citizen in the town, illuminating the baths with gaslights to mark royal occasions, and supporting local institutions such as the General Sea-Bathing Infirmary. The Moving Here website has much more detail about Dr Brighton, as he became known.
by Paul K Lyons
A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton - along the 450 northing
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