A brief history

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

Castle Square became the commercial hub of the town in the late eighteenth century when the Castle Inn (q.v.), after which the square is named, became established. When the inn was demolished in October 1823 the square was opened up into a broad thoroughfare which became the main coaching centre of the town and later the terminus of the many horse-bus routes. A number of early banks were also established in the square and its immediate vicinity. {14}

Nos.1-8 on the south side are all listed buildings. No.1a faces the Steine and was probably designed by Wilds and Busby in the 1820s, as was no.4, a narrow four-storey building with balcony and pilasters; nos.2-3, with bows, date from slightly earlier, while nos.5-6 were probably erected in the late eighteenth century. At the corner with East Street is Castle Square House, a five-storey development completed in 1985 in an interesting style by Fitzroy Robinson Miller Bourne. {44}

The Royal Pavilion Tavern, nos.7-8, was established in about 1816, but was altered somewhat in 1820 by A.H.Wilds; it has a shallow bow-front and an ironwork balcony adorned with dolphins. In Steine Lane at the rear of the tavern are the Pavilion Vaults Wine Bar and the Shades Bar. It was upon the latter that former proprietor Edmund Savage erected a sign referring to a ‘Gin Palace’. Mrs Fitzherbert, residing opposite in Steine House, objected to this and so Savage substituted the word ‘shades’ which subsequently became a local word for a bar. Whether it was used because it was in the shade of Steine House, or because of the shady nature of the business is not clear! No.1 Steine Lane, also part of the tavern, is a four-storey listed building with a good doorway of the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. {15,18,44}

Standing on the northern side of the square is the Royal Bank of Scotland, an elegant Art Deco building decorated with the borough arms. Originally known as Electric House, it was opened on 20 January 1933 as offices and showrooms for the corporation’s electricity department (see “Electricity Supply”). It was built on the site of Needham’s Stores and some four-storey houses which were themselves erected on the site of the Castle Inn. {26}

To the west of Palace Place are the Pavilion Buildings, erected in 1852-3 on the site of some four-storey offices of the Royal Pavilion. Nos.4-7, which are listed, and nos.12-14 are decorated with urns, lions and other figureheads; interrupting these two ranges is the National Westminster Bank of 1911. On the western side of Pavilion Buildings are the elegant neo-Georgian offices of the Royal Insurance Company. Formerly the offices of the Brighton and Hove Herald, the building was designed in 1934 by John Denman and is decorated with the arms of the two boroughs. At the rear are vestiges of the cobble and brick walls of the guest dormitories of the Royal Pavilion, built westwards to Prince’s Place at the southern end of the Royal Pavilion estate in 1831 for William IV. {26,194}

Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.

Comments about this page

  • A postcard I purchased today states the address of the store as 13, 14, 15, 17 and 18 Castle Square. The number 16 has for some reason been omitted. Other addresses stated on the same card, below the picture of the store, are 57 Old Steine and 1 Palace Place.

    By Douglas d'Enno (10/02/2014)

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