Bygone days: Albion Hill

The steep slopes rising eastward from Grand Parade and Richmond Place reach 230 feet above sea-level near Windmill Terrace and make up the area known as Albion Hill. Developed with dense, poor quality housing as the town’s population soared in the first 30 years of the 19th century, much of the district degenerated into appalling slums and the many back streets, such as Nelson Row and Carlton Row where herrings were smoked on ‘dees’ by the fishermen, were notorious for the deprivation of their inhabitants. In 1868, the Brighton Home for Female Penitents was opened on the eastern side of Finsbury Rd, where it became known as the Albion Hill Home. In 1918, it closed but re-opened as the Albion Church Army Home for Girls. By the late 1940s, it was the Church Army Maternity and Child Welfare Home. It was demolished in 1958 and The Crown Hill and Westmount flats were built on the site in about 1961. The area’s worst slums persisted until the 1930s, when the corporation embarked upon a large-scale redevelopment scheme in the Morley St (formerly Sussex St) area, which resulted in the removal of many small houses and the opening of the Chest Clinic in 1936 (closed 1989), the Municipal Market, and the School Clinic and Infant Welfare Centre in 1938. Many residents were rehoused in the corporation’s first block of flats, the four-storey Milner Flats which was erected on the site of Woburn Place in 1934 and named after Alderman Hugh Milner Black, a champion of corporation housing. The adjacent Kingswood Flats, named for Minister of Health Sir Kingsley Wood, were built in 1938 on the sites of Nelson Place and a Primitive Methodist chapel of 1856 in Sussex St. The nearby Tarnerland council estate was developed on vacant land in 1931.

Clearances on the slopes to the north of Morley St commenced in 1959, the narrow streets and courtyards being replaced by flats and grassed open spaces. The town’s first ‘tower-block’ flats were erected on Albion Hill in 1961 and the area is now dominated by seven 11-storey blocks; Highleigh was the first, opened by Mayor Alan Johnson, on May 16 1961. One of the principal thoroughfares of Albion Hill was Richmond St, once the steepest road in the town (gradient 1:5) with a wall across its width at Dinapore St to stop runaway carts. Formerly lined with shops and public houses, it is now restricted to its upper reaches only, the lowest part having been rebuilt as Richmond Parade.

The Obed Arms was at number 126, on the corner of Dinapore St; built in 1860, both pub and street name had their origins in India — Dinapore being the name of a town involved in the Indian mutiny of 1857. Chate’s Farm Court, opened on February 26 1980, was built on the site of the Chate family’s dairy farm, Richmond Farm Dairy, which stood on the northern side of Richmond St from 1858 to 1934; no.34a appears to have been connected with it.

Lower down at the corner with Cambridge St, where the bottom of the zig-zag path now lies, stood the Ebenezer Baptist Chapel, a Renaissance-style building opened on April 13 1825. It was demolished in 1966 and the replacement, by CJ Wood, now stands in Richmond Parade. This is being redeveloped to provide a six-storey building with basement, comprising a new church and 49 self-contained flat, of which 26 are for affordable housing. Nearby, on the site of the Albion Brewery in Albion St, is the Elim Church of the Four Square Tabernacle, opened in September 1988 when the congregation moved from Union Street. The Albion/Stable Inn — was originally a drayman’s store opposite Tamplins stables — was at 7-8 Albion St, built in the 1860s and rebuilt in 1961. In the 1980s, it was run by Roy and Pam Pockney; he was the former chief conductor on the Brighton Belle, and chair of the Sussex Licensed Victuallers’ Association. The Free Butt, a tiny but popular live music venue in Albion St was built in 1821, and was originally part of the Phoenix Brewery; one of its regular customers was Harry Cowley.