Alms houses in Brighton

An almshouse is a place where poor people could reside. They were usually paid for out of someone’s will, with a few places reserved for the needy. Here is some history about some almshouses in Brighton.

FALMER
In 1869, Knights Almshouses were built alongside the village pond, erected in memory of Mary Chichester, the wife of Henry Thomas Pelham, third Earl of Chichester. The two cottages, now known as Pelham Cottages, share a porch, above which is a carved stone tablet, bearing the arms of the Pelham family. Over the windows on the front elevation are two more stone tablets, which bear the Countess’s initials ‘MC’ and the date 1869.

HOWELL’S
In George St, off St James St, a three-storey row of houses known as Howells Court was erected in 1987 on the site of Howell’s Almshouses — ten small, stuccoed houses built in 1859 by a Charles Howell ‘for the benefit of the reduced inhabitants of Brighton and Hove’. The almshouses had become derelict by 1965.

PERCY AND WAGNER
The first six of these almshouses — the oldest buildings in Hanover — were built in 1795 at the bottom of Elm Grove, by Mrs Margaret Marriot, to commemorate her friends, the late Dorothea and Philadelphia Percy, daughters of the Duke of Northumberland. She stipulated that the houses had to be occupied by six poor widows who were members of the Church of England. The women were also given £48 per annum and a new gown and cloak every second year; this was later increased to £96 and two gowns and bonnets each year, and a duffel coat every third year. The original houses, nos.4-9, were the first Gothic revival buildings in Brighton. In 1859, another six houses, for six ‘poor maidens’, were added by the Revd Henry Wagner and his sister Mary, in memory of the Marquess of Bristol. By the 1960s, the almshouses were in a dilapidated condition and seemed doomed for demolition but were listed in March 1971 and restored in 1975-6, with financial assistance from Brighton Council. The interiors were redesigned and new kitchen and bathroom extensions were built at the back of the houses.

PILGRIM’S COTTAGES
This row of almshouses were built in 1852 in Spa St by the Soames’ family, for poor widows aged 60 and over; they were occupied until the mid-1960s.

ST BARTHOLOMEW’S
The Church and Priory of St Bartholomew stood on the site of Bartholomew House, just to the south-west of the junction of Market St and Prince Albert St. The chapel was established between 1120 and 1147 by the great Cluniac Priory of St Pancras at Lewes. It was partially destroyed by French raiders in 1514, but the Prior’s Lodge, a residence connected with the chapel, was spared. In 1547, the priory was dissolved under Henry VIII and some almshouses were erected on the land then known as the Bartholomews, which stretched from Little East St to Black Lion St. In 1592, the ruinous chapel and the other buildings of the Bartholomews were purchased on behalf of the town, and the almshouses were sold to the parish in 1733 for £17. The land was acquired by the town commissioners in 1824 for the construction of a new town hall.

STANMER
Numbers 11-12 of the village street were built as almhouses in 1912, in memory of Lilla, Countess of Chichester. Thomas Pelham was the first Earl of Chichester and, until 1947, the Pelham family owned Stanmer village.

Allot meant a lot in bygone days

In its earliest incarnation, Brighton was a town was a quarter of a mile square, comprising North St, West St, East St and South St, with ‘allotments’ of land in the middle of these; ‘The Lanes’ were the pathways between these ‘allotments’.

Prior to WWII, there was one allotment to every 16 households; after the wartime publicity drive to encourage people to ‘Dig for Victory’, this increased to one for every 12 households.

After the end of WWII and food rationing, many allotments in Brighton lay unused and some were sold off in the 1980s.

But the late 20th century’s rise in food prices and an interest in organic, grow-your-own produce in the town saw the demand for plots rocket and the waiting list for a plot on many sites is five years or more, with 1,979 people in the queue — some since January 1998.

There are 37 allotment sites in Brighton and Hove, providing plots for 2,500 tenants. In 2002, Brighton & Hove Allotment Federation launched an £80,000 appeal to convert three plots for disabled users and set up accessible raised box beds.

In 2009, the council announced that 100 new sites would be created to help meet demand: 40 new plots on Whitehawk Hill, and another 60 in neighbouring Craven Vale. Also that year, the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership received £500,000 from the Big Lottery fund for a three-year Harvest Brighton and Hove project, to identify and utilise new green spaces for growing food. The project also promotes food-growing in the city and initiatives, such as scrumping for unharvested apples.

However, on the minus side, in November 2009, a government planning inspector gave the go-ahead for four houses to be built on a narrow strip of former railway land allotments between London Rd station and Springfield Rd, at the back of the Open House pub. Developers Kingsbury Estate Ltd had taken the plans to a public inquiry after they were initially rejected by Brighton and Hove City Council, because of the impact on wildlife.

The group Friends of London Rd Old Railway Allotments was formed to oppose the proposal. Until 1992, the site was allotments cultivated by railway workers but the developers denied there were ever any allotments there. In January 2010, it was announced that a shortlist of proposals for the draft Sustainable Communities Act included one submitted by Brighton & Hove Council, which would enable allotment-holders to sell fruit and vegetables they grow.

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.

Skeletons in the church

The Brighthelm United Reformed Church and Community Centre backs onto North Rd, and is adorned with a sculpture by John Skelton, depicting the loaves and fishes story. Built as a new home for the Central Free Church, it incorporates the former Hanover Chapel, which was built in 1825 as an Independent chapel for the Revd M Edwards, and then used by the Presbyterian Church from 1844 until 1972, when it combined with the Union Church. The chapel was then used as a Greek church until 1978, and the church hall in North Rd became a resource centre; it was gutted by fire in 1980. The southern facade of the Chapel, with twin porches, Tuscan columns and giant pilasters, has been preserved and restored.

In 1845, Queen’s Rd was constructed over the western edge of the Hanover Chapel’s burial ground, but the cemetery’s boundary wall and railing remain on the western side of Queen’s Road as a raised pavement. The churchyard became the corporation’s responsibility following the 1884 Brighton Improvement Act; it was laid out as a public garden, the Queen’s Rd Rest Garden, in 1949 when the gravestones were removed to line the perimeter walls.

In 1989, the churchyard was remodelled with access from Queen’s Rd. An obelisk monument in the garden has a very faint inscription to Dr Struve of the Royal Spa in Queen’s Park.

On August 15 1982, The Argus published a story, ‘Mystery of 500 bodies’, which revealed that a crypt containing hundreds of crumbling coffins and bones had been discovered underneath the remains of the resource centre when the Brighthelm Centre was being built. The chambers were first discovered on December 15 1981, when the roof of one of the chambers fell in. The subsequent excavation revealed many chambers, containing coffins of different types and from different eras – those commemorated with stone plaques were in fairly good condition, due to being lined with lead, and had been placed on separate shelves within chambers or in family groups within the chambers. The earlier, wooden coffins had mostly crumbled to pieces and there were no plaques or other memorials to indicate whose remains they had contained.

The discovery of the remains were kept largely secret from the public – apart from an advert in the local paper, asking for any surviving relatives to come forward and reclaim the remains, which yielded no replies. The excavation of the graves was carried out from April 1 to July 28 1982, and the remains were subsequently re-interred in a mass grave at Lawn Memorial Park, Warren Rd, Woodingdean.

Records were made of all the identified remains and kept on file, along with maps and photographs made by the Brighton Borough Surveyor, by the staff at Woodvale Lodge. It was believed the unidentified remains found amongst the crumbled wooden coffins may have been those of people who died as the result of some common illness, and probably dated back to the late 1700s.

At that time, scarlet fever was a serious health problem for adults and children throughout England. Later burials, from the 1820s onwards, included the family of William Wigney, a linen-draper; Harriet Stevens of North St; Stephen, Ann and Polly Ayling of Sussex St; Charlotte George, 11 Richmond Place; John Samuel Shepheard Spyring, 3 Western Place; Thomas Judson, Craven Cottage, Queens Road and Mary Rogers, 1 Upper Rock Gardens. Designed by John Wells-Thorpe (whose other designs included the new Hove Town Hall and St Patrick’s Church, Woodingdean), the Brighthelm Centre was opened on October 10 1987.

Black Rock Neighbourhood

Probably named after a large rock or cave that once lay at the foot of the cliffs, Black Rock, at Boundary Rd, marked the eastern limit of Brighton until 1928, a boundary which was fixed by an inquiry in 1606 after an argument over wrecker’s rights. Black Rock also marks the point where the white chalk of the South Downs meets the sea, and there are some unusual geological formations in the vicinity. Visible in the fawn-coloured cliffs behind the Asda superstore, about 15 feet above the Undercliff Walk, is a ‘raised beach’ of rounded, flint pebbles and sandy gravels up to 10 feet thick, resting on chalk. This beach was laid down around 100,000 years ago during a warm interval in the Ice Age and has yielded sea-shells and the remains of whales. Above lies a 45-foot-thick layer of ‘Coombe Rock’— chalky rubble eroded by freeze-thaw action during the colder periods and ‘sludged’ down into the valleys by the spring and summer rains. This layer has produced fossil remains of mammoths, woolly rhinos and hippopotamuses. The strata here may be seen to curve upwards where the solid chalk of the South Downs becomes exposed as cliffs; the prehistoric coastline was once at an oblique angle to the present cliffs. This area is protected as a site of special scientific interest. About 350 yards offshore to the west of the Marina breakwater is the site of an historic wreck, protected from interference by statute. On the sea-bed lies a large, timber framework from which a cannon ball, an anchor and other metal objects have been recovered. The origin of the wreck is uncertain but it may be a French ship from one of the 16th-century raids on Brighton, or even a Spanish galleon from the 1588 Armada. The first development at Black Rock was the gas-works, established in 1818-19 by the Brighton Gas Light and Coke Company. This was soon followed by some terraced housing and shops, in Black Rock Cottages, Rifle Butt Rd and Hillside Cottages and, by 1828, the Abergavenny Arms had also opened. A small laundry, employing four women who hand-washed everything, was run in Hillside Cottages; their customers included the Duke of Fife. Black Rock House was two houses knocked into one, consisting of 18 rooms. It ran as a hotel, then a guest house, and was eventually converted into flats. The bakery in Rifle Butt Rd opened in 1856 and was run by the Stevens family from 1926 until its enforced closure in 1972; it was still using the same coal-fired oven installed 116 years earlier.

Constant erosion claimed the Black Rock cliff top 75 feet inland between 1847 and 1897 — a major landslip occurred in 1843 — causing the closure of the road to Rottingdean and the opening of Roedean Rd as an alternative; large landslips continued into the 1920s. In 1824, a tunnel was constructed from the eastern end of the Kemp Town esplanade to the gas-works to facilitate the carting of coal, but it fell into disuse once coal started to be landed at Aldrington Basin, and was blocked at both ends by the town commissioners in 1850, after it had collapsed in the middle. In January 1906, Magnus Volk rented the southern entrance and, describing it falsely as a smugglers’ cave, used it briefly as a tourist attraction for his railway extension to Black Rock. The entrance disappeared completely when the corporation constructed public conveniences in the 1930s. Black Rock Farm survived until 1928, when the corporation bought the land there. On July 22 1932, with the cliffs now protected by the Undercliff Walk, a new 60-foot-wide highway, the Marine Drive, was opened between Black Rock and Rottingdean; the old inn was demolished at this time. The small community at Black Rock, centred on Rifle Butt Rd, was eventually demolished for the construction of the Marina road interchange which opened in 1976. The graves of the Quaker cemetery there were exhumed and the remains were taken to Lawn Memorial cemetery, where they were re-interred in a mass grave.

Black Rock was perhaps best known for its swimming-pool, formally opened on the site of a terrace garden on August 8 1936, and necessitating a slight shortening of Volk’s Railway. The pool, 165 feet by 60 feet, closed in 1978 and the handsome changing room and café building was demolished; in March 1984, demolition of the open air pool itself began. A major cliff collapse in recent times followed a winter of intense rain, and the soft layers of Coombe Deposits in the cliff behind Asda failed and a major fall blocked the Undercliff Walk, almost reaching the store. The walk was closed for some time before extensive work was carried out to sensitively secure the cliff face in what is an important natural site, designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The Black Rock cliffs were closed to the public again in 2001 and 2004, when storms caused parts of them to crumble and fall onto the Undercliff Walk. In 2005, professional abseilers from Uckfield builders CJ Thorne sank bolts into the rocks which were aimed at holding the rocks in place for the next 50 years. In July 2005, a sand sculpture festival was held at Black Rock beach, featuring Egyptian-style dragons, sphinxes, and Tutankhamun’s tomb, made by 60 carvers using 10,000 tonnes of sand.

In recent years, Black Rock has become the focus of several unrealised proposed major developments — some more controversial than others. However, a plan to build 147 homes on the set received a setback when, in March 2010, a High Court decision ruled that property developers would have to pay a substantial share of the costs involved in cleaning up such contaminated sites. In October 2003, RH Partnership and the Brighton International Arena became the two preferred bidders for the former pool site; RH’s proposal featured plans for a 150-bed, 5-star hotel by Forte, complete with health spa, winter garden and biodome. Brighton International Arena’s $50 million proposal was to include an 11,000-seat indoor events arena with two Olympic ice rinks (for skating and ice hockey) plus 109 residential apartments, 40 per cent of these ‘affordable’. Jayne Torvill and Robin Cousins supporting this scheme and proposed that it should be the home of a national ice dance centre. Brighton & Hove Council favoured this scheme, which was opposed by residents and a number of groups, including the Regency Society. However, the scheme — like other major developments in the city — was put on ice when the 2009 recession/credit crunch took its toll and financial backer Erinaceous went bust.

BHASVIC – the Brighton Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College

This originated as the Brighton Proprietary Grammar and Commercial School, founded in July 1859 at Lancaster House, 47 Grand Parade. Pupils were nominated and elected to the proprietary school by shareholders, to be transferred later to the higher school on approval. There, they were instructed in the classics, arithmetic, bookkeeping, accounting, etc, and also received a non-sectarian religious education. Non-proprietary pupils paid an entrance fee of one guinea and a quarterly fee of £2 10 shillings. On May 27 1868, the 180 pupils of the Brighton Grammar School marched in procession to a new, plain, three-storey school building in Buckingham Rd. The headmaster from 1861 until 1899 was EJ Marshall, to whom a plaque has been erected on the adjacent 79 Buckingham Rd. Due to the increasing number of pupils, the Grammar School moved for a second time in September 1913 to a site off Dyke Rd; the Buckingham Rd building at the corner of Upper Gloucester Rd then became the Sussex Maternity Hospital. The new school, designed by SB Russell, was known as the Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School; the playing fields occupy 15 acres. The murals in the school hall were painted by Louis Ginnett, master at Brighton School of Art, between 1913 and 1939, on the theme ‘The History of Man in Sussex’: they were ‘Prehistoric man in Sussex’, ‘The Roman prefect builds at Bignor’, ‘The siege of Pevensey’, ‘After the battle of Hastings’, ‘Rye after the Armada’, ‘The old boys’ war memorial’, ‘Sussex ironworking’, ‘The pavilion, George IV receives a loyal address’ and ‘Hollingbury camp, full circle’. The first three panels were unveiled in October 1913 and another two were unveiled in August 1914, when the school was requisitioned for use as a military hospital. The hall bears the names of those who died during this time, and Ginnett’s fifth panels were dedicated to ex-pupils lost in WWI. Ginnett also designed — with one of his ex-pupils, the painter Charles Knight — the school hall’s stained glass windows. The school continued after the Great War as a grammar school until 1975 when, after a reorganisation of secondary eduction in Brighton, it became a sixth-form college, known as ‘BHASVIC’.

About 60% of its students come from Brighton and Hove, but many come from other state and independent schools throughout Sussex. There are approximately 1740 students, of whom approximately 90% follow GCE or AVCE Advanced courses. The majority of students are in the 16-19 age range, and following full-time courses. About 70% of its advanced level students go on to a degree course at university or a specialist course at a college of further education. The College was last inspected by Ofsted during the Autumn Term 2007. Following the publication of the Ofsted Report, BHASVIC was awarded Beacon Status in July 2008.

A new Sports Centre was opened in April 2003, and planning permission was granted for further development during 2008-2009. Disabled access ramps and steps were built in 2005 by Nick Evans Architects. Well-known former pupils of the Grammar School include the artist Aubrey Beardsley, writer and broadcaster Tony Hawks, composer Howard Blake OBE (best known for The Snowman) and barrister and former Conservative MP Sir Ivan Lawrence. The school celebrated 150 years of its history with a lunch for more than 140 Old Boys and guests, in the school hall on July 4 2009.

Extinct Bears in Brighton

Brighton’s basketball team was formed in 1973 by Dave Goss, with a squad of part-time players; the team’s fixtures were in the County League. The team were known as the Brighton Bears until 1984, when they became the Worthing Bears, before returning to their original name in 1999. They played in the British Basketball League and their home venue was the Brighton Centre.

The Bears started playing in the National League Division Two in the 1977-78 season and signed their first overseas players — Americans Kevin Kallaugher, Fritz Mayer and Pete Durgerian. By the 1981-82 season, they were playing in Division One but finished it bottom of the league.

In 1983-84, a new head coach, Bill Sheridan, improved the team and they finished that season in 8th place. However, financial problems meant they had to leave the Brighton Arena and play home games in arenas all over the south, including Bognor, Eastleigh and Hastings. Eventually, the settled in Worthing, based at the Leisure Centre there, and began the 1984/85 season as the Worthing Bears.

In November 1984, the club secured a sponsorship package with Nissan and became known as Nissan Bears of Worthing. This sponsorship ended at the conclusion of the 1985-86 season and, failing to secure new sponsors, the club did not play for over a year.

Eventually, the Bears were resurrected in time for the National League Division One 1987/88 season; they won the league, with an unbeaten record. The club went on to beat Brixton to become Division One Play-off Champions.

In 1989, they gained another American player, Herman Harried; he top-scored in 21 of his 26 games that season, and his statistics read 31 points, 18 rebounds, 3 assists, 4.5 steals and 3 blocks per game. In 1990/91, the Bears entered the Premiership and won the Club of the Year award.

Despite all their success, the club was always plagued by financial problem and, in 1995, it was put up for sale; Brighton Council saved the day with a £30,000 grant. However, a year later, the council withdrew an agreed £25,000 grant after the club put its franchise up for sale without informing councillors. In August 1997, American multi-millionaire Greg Fullerton bought the franchise; by November, he had pulled out, without explanation. Unsurprisingly, the club finished bottom of the league that year.

The following season came the announcement that the Bears were returning to the Brighton Centre for the 1999/2000 season, in the hope that increased revenue and media exposure would give them a secure financial future. Initially, this proved to be the case, but attendances fell the following year.

In 2002/2003, coach Nick Hurse became sole owner of the club and All Stars Rico Alderson and Ralph Blalock were signed; the Bears won their first 11 games of the season. In 2005/2006, NBA legend Dennis Rodman played for the club for three games, fresh from his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, and he drew huge audiences for the Bears. It later transpired that the Bears had broken player eligibility rules by playing Rodman alongside their three permitted work-permit players. In the summer of 2006, the Bears announced that they would be taking a year off from the BBL ‘in the interests of the long term viability of the franchise’.

Nick Nurse was explored the possibility for club into an NBA Development League or the proposed rival British Basketball Association (BBA), but nothing came of these plans. Nurse moved back to the US, and club was dissolved. The Brighton Bears played their last game in the British Basketball League on April 14 2006.

Fortifications in Brighton

The earliest known fortification of the town was possibly the ‘werke’, probably a bulwark, which was referred to in 1497, together with a ‘sea-gate’. The first major fortification was The Blockhouse, erected in 1559 on the cliff top between Ship St and Black Lion St. It was a circular fort 50 feet in diameter with flint walls 18 feet high and about 7 feet thick; it was financed out of both town and government funds. Inside were arched recesses for storing ammunition with a dungeon below, while a battery of four large cannons from the Tower of London stood on the cliff in front; ten small guns were also provided by the town. A turret on the top housed the town clock.

In 1558, The Blockhouse, a circular fort, was built near the southern end of Middle St. It was 50 feet in diameter, 16 feet in height, with 8 feet thick walls, and had six large guns and 10 small cannons. A wall nearly 16 feet high, with placements for guns, extended 400 feet eastwards to East St and westward to West St. Its four gates were East Gate, Porters Gate, Middle Gate and West Gate. It was maintained from the ‘quarter-share; claimed by the church-wardens from each fishing trip and also by the landsmen’s rates, in accordance with the Book of Ancient Customs. In 1749, residents were able to go to the Blockhouse where ‘Mary Saunders, Widow, sells fine genuine French Brandy, at nine shillings per gallon’. The fort’s foundations were gradually undermined by erosion and it was badly damaged by the great storms of 1703 and 1705. Its clock was taken down in 1726, the walls were partly washed away by another storm in January 1749 and, by 1761, the blockhouse was completely ruined. It was eventually dismantled for an improvement to the cliff-top road in 1775.

The Blockhouse was replaced by The Battery. Built by the Board of Ordnance in 1760 at the bottom of East St, it was equipped with 12 old and dangerous guns; during a salute to Princess Amelia in August 1782, a gunner had both hands blown off, and when the Prince of Wales visited the town for the first time in September 1783 another gunner was killed. Not surprisingly, the guns were not used again. The battery was severely damaged during a storm on August 7 1786 and collapsed completely on November 3 1786. Part of the battery wall was later used in the foundations of Markwell’s Hotel. Two other batteries were built: the East Cliff Battery, built in 1793 on the cliff top opposite Camelford St, was equipped with four 36-pounders, while the West Battery, built in the same year on the cliff top at Artillery Place, was equipped with eight 36-pounders. The West Battery guns were used in royal salutes, which often caused nearby windows to shatter. Only once were its guns fired in anger: a British ship, in pursuit of smugglers and therefore not displaying her colours, fired shots which landed near battery. The gunners retaliated and the ship was forced to break out her colours. The West Battery was removed January 27 1858 for the widening of King’s Road, but Artillery St and Cannon Place were named after it. The East Cliff Battery was dismantled in about 1803, as vibration from the guns and encroachment by the sea had made the walls dangerous.

Meating the town’s needs

Brighton is now regarded by many as the vegetarian capital of the UK, but ’twas not always thus. In 1848, Brighton had a staggering 54 slaughter houses: Animals slaughtered in that year alone numbered 51,623 sheep; 5,720 beasts; 4,160 calves and 3,120 pigs; 1,097,196 stone of meat was consumed in the town annually.

The abattoirs included four in Henry St, two each in Chesterfield, Paradise and Chapel streets and Essex Place; three each in Colebrook Row and Oxford St; six in Air St; four in Church St; four in North Lane and Zion Gardens; seven in Vine St (next to Robert St); and one each in Egremont St, Mount St, Park St, Colebrook Row, Telegraph St, Crescent Cottages, Upper Bedford St, Trafalgar St, Hart St, Little Russell St and Meeting House Lane. One of the biggest was the one in Oxford Court, between Oxford St and Oxford Place; cattle were herded to this site from the station down Trafalgar St, along London Rd. In 1849, the government appointed a commissioner, Edward Cresy, to investigate Brighton’s health. In his subsequent report, Cresy made repeated references to the abattoirs and the problems caused by the animal waste, which usually ended up in cesspools. These then contaminated the wells which provided water for the local population, resulting in epidemics of typhoid, cholera, scarlet fever and tuberculosis. Cresy said, ‘Nothing is more injurious or ought to be deprecated more than that custom of keeping pigs to devour the offal of a butcher’s slaughterhouse’.

In June 1894, all the North Laine abattoirs closed and slaughtering transferred to the Brighton Municipal Abattoir, Hollingdean. This was built so that, post-Cresy, the abattoirs in poor residential areas could be closed. Nearly 7,000 animals were handled in the first year and, by 1928, the figure had risen to some 34,400 animals, with only 11 other slaughterhouses remaining; there have been no independent abattoirs in Brighton since 1936. The Hollingdean site included a special casting pen for slaughter according to Jewish ritual and, by the late 60s, granted a license to a Muslim ritual slaughterer. Business would start at 6am and end at 1pm but, for many years, private butchers and their staff carried out the work, sometimes late into the evening.

In the 1950s, two slaughtering contractors, the Brighton & Hove Meat Traders Ltd and the Fatstock Marketing Corporation Ltd, both meat wholesalers, were based at the abattoir. In 1949, nearly 50,000 cows and sheep were slaughtered there. In the 50s and 60s, the number of cattle decreased but, in 1959 alone, over 80,000 sheep and pigs were killed there. ‘Humane’ slaughtering of animals was adopted by Brighton in 1922, 11 years before it became compulsory throughout the UK. The public abattoir was closed in 1986, after repeatedly failing to meet hygiene standards.

Ghostly Brighton

The city we know today as Brighton was first settled back in Saxon times, with the main industries being farming and fishing. Soon designated streets developed, these being North, South, East and West Streets and all are still in existence today. Also surviving are the smaller passages that sprung up in order to navigate between the main streets. These are now known as Brighton’s famous ‘Lanes’.

Brighton saw its fair share of prosperity as well as despair. When the French attacked in 1514, the town was destroyed as the wooden buildings burned to the ground. The occupants were defiant and soon rebuilt their town and towards the end of the century records show that Brighton was home to over 400 fisherman and their families.

However, further wars with both the French and the Dutch meant that Brighton and its fishing trade suffered. Additionally as the 18th Century arrived, it brought with it powerful storms that battered and brought destruction to the entire South East coast. Brighton’s fishing trade was at an end.

However, the town was about to have a regeneration. In 1750, a Dr Russell wrote a paper enthusing about the many health benefits to both body and mind that were to be obtained from sea air and sea bathing. Soon the rich were flocking to the coast and when the Prince Regent chose Brighton as his favourite coastal retreat in 1783, the town’s status was sealed. Hotels, cafés, and theatres appeared to provide accommodation and entertainment for the new visitors.

During the following century, other iconic landmarks of Brighton were created including the wonderful Pavilion, the once grand and beautiful West Pier and the aquarium, now the Sea Life Centre. In 2010, Brighton played host to the annual World Horror Convention. The organisers chose the city to be their UK host as they believe it to be the most haunted place in the country. Other cities may disagree but with a wide and varied assortment of spirits from monks and nuns to smugglers, sailors, publicans and soldiers, Brighton certainly has a plethora of paranormal activity to offer.

 

 

Fancy going on a walk of haunted Brighton? Begin at the chapel formerly known as Trinity Chapel which stands on the corner of Prince Albert Street and Ship Street. Look to your left and you will see the FRIENDS’ MEETING HOUSE, on Ship Street. Originally built in 1805 for the local Quaker community, it now has a dual purpose as both a place of worship and an education centre.

The Meeting House has been rumoured to have a presence for many years. One of the best known accounts is that of two women who, in April 1997, accidentally got locked in one evening after attending a class there. Using a mobile phone, they were able to get the police to contact a key holder. However whilst waiting for their release, the women heard a key turn in the lock and distinct shuffling type footsteps close to them. However, no being emerged and the building was entirely empty, except for themselves.

Walk south down Ship Street, then turn right onto Union Street and find the FONT & FIRKIN PUB, with a JEWELLERS’ SHOP opposite. This building was originally a Presbyterian church built in 1688 and served this purpose for the following 300 years until the congregation eventually built a new church and moved out in 1988. The building then stood empty until 1994 when a brewery company bought it with plans to turn it into a pub. The Font & Firkin opened its doors a year later.

During the conversion, builders reported that their tools were regularly moved around overnight. At some point during the late 1800s, church authorities had a number of bodies removed from a burial chamber beneath the church which were then buried elsewhere. However it seems some must have remained although whether this was accidentally or intentionally is unknown.

When conversion works in 1994 required the builders to remove part of the ground floor in order to allow for the fitment of brewery vats, more human bones were found. Shortly after the new pub opened, a barmaid apparently saw an ashtray fling itself off a shelf, and another witness saw the face of a young woman wearing a grey shawl peering through the interior front doors. The image vanished as quickly as it had appeared. When a colleague checked the outer doors, they were locked, meaning that no-one could have got in or out during that time.

It seems that the upheaval of the conversion did not confine itself to the walls of the old church. A jeweller’s shop that stood opposite was also witness to several extremely odd occurrences during the time, all of which were destructive to a greater or lesser degree. Two porcelain plates flew out from their mountings on the wall and onto the floor. One remained complete but the other broke into pieces.

A few months later, with construction still taking place across the lane, a very strange Saturday afternoon ensued at the jewellers. In the space of two hours, and with plenty of witnesses, four separate incidents occurred. Firstly, with no-one touching it the glass door of a display cabinet spontaneously shattered. Later it was noticed that the amber part of a necklace had completely disintegrated.

Next a child’s bottle of drink exploded without cause and luckily without injury and finally on this extraordinary day the jeweller’s wife looked at her watch and noticed that the glass was entirely shattered. She was positive that she had not knocked the watch against anything.

The activity seemed to settle down soon after the pub opened. Turn right down MEETING HOUSE LANE. Keep right, then take the first left. Go to 41 Meeting House Lane. Number 41 Meeting House Lane is now a café but the building itself dates back to the 17th Century and has been home to an assortment of businesses. Several years ago an antiques gallery occupied the site. During this time several people witnessed an apparition of a middle aged man with greying hair dressed in grey trousers and a dark coloured, knee length overcoat. In each description he is said to be carrying a canvas or linen bag which looks to be the shape of a doctor’s bag. Unexplained thumps and sudden drops in temperature have also been experienced on the premises.

The lower floor of this building was once home to Brighton’s Museum of Childhood, which no longer exists in the town. One visitor got rather a shock to see a pale faced unkempt toddler sitting on the stairs. When the visitor went to speak to the child, she faded away.

Walk to 4-5 Meeting House Lane to see the BATH ARMS PUB.
When it was first built in 1864, this pub was called the True Briton Inn but the name was changed within three years. Several health spas were being built in the town following Dr Russell’s declaration, so the name change was possibly a bid to cash in on the health resort reputation of the town.

There have been a couple of different apparitions in this pub. One is a man wearing a tri corn hat. Another male has also been seen, this time dressed in a Victorian style with a black overcoat and black brimmed hat. It’s possible that one of these gentlemen is a former landlord. Rumour has it that the man committed suicide by drowning. He calmly walked into the sea and began swimming out to sea and was never seen again.

Glasses, bottles and other items have been witnessed by both staff and customers to move of their own accord. Go back up Meeting House Lane which will bring you to the back of the Friends’ Meeting House. Take the first left at the T junction. Immediately on your right is a BRICKED UP DOORWAY.

During the 2nd World War, coastal areas were acknowledged as being at the highest risk of invasion and often classified as a ‘restricted’ area. This meant that only local residents and essential personnel were allowed to be in the town. Everyone had an identity card and movement at night was limited. It was under such circumstances that one of the best known sightings of the Grey Nun of Meeting House Lane was seen. A woman firewatcher on duty in The Lanes one night was surprised to see a hooded figure in grey moving along the lane towards the Friends’ Meeting House. The firewatcher called out to the figure but received no response. The watcher then ran after the individual and was astonished to see it drift through a blocked up doorway in the wall of the lane. There are those that think this apparition may not be a nun but perhaps a female Quaker. Their traditional clothes are plain in both design and colour, including grey and the women often wore bonnets or shawls to cover their heads. Those that have seen the apparition of a nun in this area (whether this is the same one or another wraith) close up tell that there is no face within the dark hood of her habit.