Originally known as 'North Back Side'

The National School, Church Road, date unknown
Image reproduced with kind permission from Brighton and Hove in Pictures by Brighton and Hove City Council
Shopfront of S. Shaffran, hair merchant at No. 36 Church Street, offering services including hair-dyeing, chiropody and wig-making. "Noted for the best hair only". Two men stand at the doorway, probably including Mr. Shaffran c1895.
Image reproduced with kind permission from Brighton and Hove in Pictures by Brighton and Hove City Council
View up Church Street past New Road and the Central National School on the right, demolished in 1971 before the protection order was received during a postal strike.
Image reproduced with kind permission from Brighton and Hove in Pictures by Brighton and Hove City Council
The old Music Library
Photo by Chris Webb
111 Church Street, cobble fronted cottage restored in 1986
Photo by Chris Webb
Wagon and Horses pub, built in 1848.
Photo by Chris Webb
Number 2 Church Street, a listed cobbled front building of about 1807
Photo by Chris Webb
21-22 Church Street late 18th century
Photo by Chris Webb
3-4 Portland Street, on the council's list of buildings of special interest
Photo by Chris Webb
Jew Street, former 'Model Dwellings'
Photo by Chris Webb
Former drill hall of the Royal Sussex regiment, built c1889
Photo by Chris Webb
Tichbourne Street, mid nineteenth century haunt of beggars and prostitutes
Photo by Chris Webb
Brighthelm Centre.
Photo by Chris Webb
Mount Zion Place, listed building c1821
Photo by Chris Webb

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.

Originally known as North Back Side and then as Spring Walk, Church Street was a track at the rear of the crofts and gardens stretching northwards from North Street. This area began to be developed in the 1780s and ’90s, and buildings then started to appear in Church Street itself, which was given its new name by the town commissioners in 1792; several side streets and small courtyards leading off the main street have since been removed in slum clearance programmes. The roadway was extended through to Grand Parade in about 1816 when a road just to the north of the Pavilion was stopped up. Church Street was made one-way to traffic in June 1976.
See also “Dome and Corn Exchange”, “Library”, “Museum and Art Gallery“, “Royal Pavilion” and “St Nicholas’s Church“.

a) NORTH-WESTERN END: At the end of the eighteenth century, at a time of great unrest across the Channel, infantry barracks were established at the bottom of Church Street backing onto the rear of the King and Queen Inn in Marlborough Place. They eventually became the headquarters of the 1st Sussex Rifles and the 1st Sussex Artillery Volunteers, commemorated by the Volunteer public house at the corner of New Road and by Barrack Yard off North Road, but they finally closed in 1870 when the volunteers moved to large drill halls in Gloucester Road, and at the corner of Church Street and Spring Gardens (see below). The barrack site was then acquired by the corporation for the erection of the North Road Slipper Baths, and for a new county court building in Church Street which opened in 1869; the court remained in use until 1967, but the red-brick building, adorned by a lion and unicorn, is now a library store. The large range of buildings to Marlborough Place was also erected at about this time and later became the Blenheim Hotel.

A pathway leads north from Church Street to the Prince Regent Swimming Complex, opened on 22 April 1981 at a cost of £2.5 million. Its main 33-metre pool replaced the former North Road pool on the same site, and the building also houses diving and learning pools, a solarium and a cafeteria. {123}

The building now in use as the Music Library was erected in about 1925 as an office and showroom for the Brighton and Hove General Gas Company, on the site of the Pavilion Baptist Chapel. This chapel was designed by Thomas Cooper in Ionic style and opened as the Trinity Independent Presbyterian Chapel in about 1825, but in about 1896 it was converted into a bazaar and then a warehouse.
No.111 is a small cobble-fronted cottage restored in 1986 as the Brighton Arts Information Centre. The Waggon and Horses was built in 1848 by Frederick Mahomed as a gymnasium, but became a public house in 1852 when the gymnasium was removed to Paston Place. {24,62,83,115,268}

b) CENTRAL SCHOOL and JUBILEE STREET: The vacant site opposite New Road was occupied from 1829 until 1971 by the prominent Central National School, one of the town’s earliest schools, which was designed in a Regency Gothic style with oriel windows and pinnacles by Stroud and Mew. The three-storey building had two shops on the ground floor and the master’s residence on the second. Later the Central Church of England School and eventually the Central Voluntary Primary School, it closed in March 1967 and was shamefully demolished by the corporation in 1971 before a protection order was received during a postal dispute. To quote from the Department of the Environment’s Statutory List: ‘The building forms the terminal feature of the view down New Road and forms an important group with Christ Church and 23-24 New Road’. See also “Schools”.
The adjacent nos.107-108 at the corner of Jubilee Street, also listed and decorated with oriel windows, were demolished the following year. The large Jubilee Street site itself has been empty since the mid 1970s, an eyesore in the centre of the town. Demolition of the small houses, shops and workshops of the area, which is now scheduled for an ice-rink and office development, originally commenced as long ago as the mid 1950s.

c) BUILDINGS FROM NEW ROAD TO QUEEN’S ROAD: Several interesting buildings remain on the south side of Church Street and the roads leading thereof.
No.2 Church Street is a listed, cobble-fronted building of about 1807, forming part of no.24 New Road which was originally the Regent Hotel {44}. At the corner of Jew Street are the Model Dwellings, a five-storey block of flats originally built as housing for the poor of the town in about 1852 by a charitable trust under Dr William Kebbell. Another block was erected in Clarence Yard in 1854, but was removed when the Head Post Office was extended in 1892 {15,83}. Jew Street itself is named from Brighton’s first synagogue which was probably sited at the southern end from about 1792 and is said to have also had a school. The synagogue had moved to Poune’s Court off West Street by 1808 before finding a permanent home in Devonshire Place {66}. The adjacent multi-storey car-park has 600 spaces and opened in 1984 {123}.
Some late-eighteenth- or early-nineteenth-century cobble-fronted houses may still be found at 21-22 Church Street, also in the remaining length of King Street (no.27), and at Portland Street where nos.3-4 are included on the council’s local list of buildings of special interest {306}; no.10 also has a cobbled fa..cs.ade. Windsor Street was developed from the 1780s, but only a few houses now remain. In the mid nineteenth century this small street had three chapels. Adullam Chapel was built in 1836 and stood on the south side of Windsor Buildings, now Windsor Court; in about 1840 the notorious sect of Revd Henry Prince, who declared himself to be immortal and preached ‘free love’, took the chapel. Known also as Windsor Street Chapel, it became a furniture store in the 1870s but was destroyed by fire in 1880. On the east side were the Bethsaida Hall Chapel, and the barn-like Zoar Chapel which was rented by independent ministers but converted into a provision store in 1853 {3,62,62a}.
On the northern side of Church Street, at the corner of Spring Gardens, stands a large Seeboard building; the land at the rear to North Road was formerly occupied by a power station (see “Electricity Supply”). The former drill hall of the Royal Sussex Regiment, built in 1889-90 by Edmund Scott, stands on the opposite corner but has been used since 1967 as the Royal Mail’s parcel-sorting office {45,123}.

d) TICHBORNE STREET and BREAD STREET: Mid-nineteenth-century Church Street was the haunt of beggars, brawlers, drunkards, prostitutes and thieves, the Canterbury music hall being particularly notorious. Some of the worst housing in the town lay to the north between Gardner Street and Bread Street, in the alleys and courtyards of Pimlico, Orange Row, and Pym’s Gardens where the thousand or so inhabitants, mainly fishermen and labourers together with their pigs and other livestock, lived in appalling conditions in 175 dwellings. In the 1870s this area was the subject of the corporation’s first slum clearance scheme, resulting in the construction of Tichborne Street. The notorious slum tenements were swept away and replaced by new artisan houses which have now been demolished for further redevelopment, although nos.1-10 remain an attractive terrace on the eastern side of Tichborne Street. {2,23,76,114,275a}
The most famous son of the area was the famous prize-fighter Tom Sayers. Born in Pimlico, Sayers was a bricklayer by trade and worked on the London Road Viaduct, but he became champion of All-England, the last before the introduction of the Queensberry Rules. In 1860 Sayers contested the first international bout with American John Heenan; it was declared a draw after thirty-seven rounds! He often used the Plough Inn at Rottingdean as his training headquarters in the 1850s, and was presented with a dog by the Earl of Derby, the three-times prime minister. His burial at Highgate Cemetery, Middlesex, in 1865 was attended by ten thousand people. {17,24,26,28,296}
A large headquarters designed by APP for International Factors, Sovreign House, was opened in 1989 on the site of Bread Street between Tichborne Street and Spring Gardens. At the corner of Church Street and the former Bread Street once stood the Providence Chapel, built in 1805 by the Calvinistic followers of William Huntingdon. A plain building in chequered brick with a vestigial pediment, it was considerably altered over the years and was demolished in 1965 when the congregation moved to West Hill Road. On the eastern side of Bread Street itself was the Church of St Mary and St Mary Magdalene, opened in 1862, the first church built for Revd Arthur Wagner (q.v.). A simple building by George Bodley, it was built in brick with a timber roof on wooden pillars, while the simple interior had a sanctuary at the southern end. The church was never consecrated and closed in about 1922 except for services for the deaf and dumb. It reopened in November 1928, but it closed again in 1948 and was then used by the electricity board until it was demolished in 1965. The northern end of Bread Street now leads to the flats of Belbourne Court. {62,65}

e) BRIGHTHELM CENTRE: The Brighthelm United Reformed Church and Community Centre is approached from Church Street through the Queen’s Road Rest Garden, and backs onto North Road where there is 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, built in 1825 as an Independent chapel for the Revd M.Edwards and then used by the Presbyterian Church from 1844 until 1972 when the congregation combined with that of the Union Church. The chapel was then used as a Greek church until 1978, but the church hall in North Road was gutted by fire in 1980 when in use as a resource centre. The southern fascade of the listed building, with twin porches, Tuscan columns and giant pilasters, has been preserved and restored, however. Designed by Wells-Thorpe and Suppel Ltd, the Brighthelm Centre has a stage and several halls for community use, and was opened on 10 October 1987.
In 1845 Queen’s Road 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 {140}. The churchyard became the corporation’s responsibility following the 1884 Brighton Improvement Act and was laid out as a public garden, the Queen’s Road 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 Road. An obelisk monument in the garden has a very faint inscription to Dr Struve of the Royal Spa in Queen’s Park {312}.

f) WEST of QUEEN’S ROAD: Church Street crosses over Queen’s Road towards the former Brighton parish church of St Nicholas. The flats of St Nicholas Court, inaugurated in July 1990 by Princess Helen of Romania, stand on the site of the Sussex Throat and Ear Hospital, closed in 1986; see “Hospitals and Dispensaries”. Higher up on the northern side, at 2 Mount Zion Place, is Shelleys, a listed yellow-brick house of 1821 with a small front garden and a cobbled garden wall. It was once the home of William Shelley, parish beadle and for more than fifty years the parish sexton; there is a now blocked-up tunnel connecting it with the church. {15,24,44,83,123}

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

  • I lived at 29 Church Street with my nan and grandad most of my life. My grandad ran a tailors shop FD Browns for fifty years opposite the old barracks, which changed to the GPO. Formally known as The Lamb pub, with Cliffords in the back, who occupied the old stables, used by the Prince Regent. Also Portland Foundry had a large space there.

    By Paul Payne (20/11/2009)
  • I lived as a child of 5 years old with my grandparents, I think it looks like 3-4 Portland Street. Then it was an antique shop owned by my grandparents i.e. Mr Smith. Also my aunts Christine and June and Uncle Donald were also resident there. This would have been around 1947. As all of these persons are no longer here, if anybody has any pictures or info I would be grateful. If it is of help, in Church Street there was a double gate within an arch, behind which lay a cobbled yard connecting the shop.

    By Diana Penfold (nee Smith) (05/06/2011)
  • FD Brown was my Uncle Frank, who ran a tailors shop next to my Grandad – William Brown- I wonder if we are talking about the same people. His wife, my Aunty, was named Aunty Lil. 

    By Christine Creal (23/11/2016)

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