South of Seven Dials

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.

a) SOUTH of SEVEN DIALS : Climbing up Dyke Road from Western Road , the first building of note is no.11, Fozzies club. Now a listed building and adorned with an oriel window and foliated capitals, it was built in German Gothic style by George Somers Clarke in 1867 as the Swan Downer School, a charitable school for the education of twenty poor girls founded in 1816 from the bequest of a Brighton merchant. Originally at 12 Gardner Street, the school moved to Windsor Street in 1859 and then to Dyke Road, but closed in 1939. The building has had a variety of uses since, including a chapel and Sloopys discotheque. {44,209}
The lie of the land around no.11 and Regent Row gives a clue to the existence of a large chalk pit from which building materials were extracted in the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The pit, which was partially filled when Upper North Street was constructed in the 1820s, used to have a forge at its entrance and a cave in the chalk face where once lived the eccentric Corporal Staines. To the north is the DykeRoadRestGarden, the 1841 extension to St Nicholas’s churchyard ; the adjacent K6-style telephone kiosk is a listed building. See also ” St Nicholas’s Church “. {18,44}
On the opposite side of Dyke Road is Wykeham Terrace , an attractive, listed terrace completed between 1827 and 1830 {108} in Regency Gothic style with dormer windows, projecting bays and unusual diagonal glazing bars. Nos.1-5 and 8-11 formed part of St Mary’s Home for prostitutes (see “Queen Square”) from the 1850s. The whole block was restored in 1970 having been occupied for some time by squatters, and an excellent model of it may be found in Brighton Museum . No.7 was the home of actress Dame Flora Robson until her death in July 1984. {44,83a,123}
Development along Dyke Road took place throughout the Victorian era, including the large, semi-detached villas erected above Buckingham Road in about 1870 in the grounds of the former workhouse . On the western side the large St George’s House, an Italianate villa at the corner of Clifton Terrace , was built in about 1840 as the Norman Villa and was later known as Clifton Lodge. Used as a secretarial college after the Second World War until 1974, it is now used by the county council. The most prominent building was the Dials Congregational Church at the corner of Clifton Road, a Romanesque building of 1871 by Thomas Simpson with a horseshoe-shaped auditorium and a 150-foot Rhenish clock tower which was a considerable landmark across the town. The church was demolished in April 1972 and Homelees House was erected on the vacant site in 1985-6. {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 recall that the bookshop was still there in the 1960s.

    By Edward (29/10/2007)
  • I have some strange memories of this church. As a child I used to look at it in terror as it always seemed to be about to fall over.

    By Benedict Moll (09/02/2008)
  • Seeing the shot of ‘The Church’ nightclub reminded me of some photos I have of my dad when he ran a used car showroom from the site. I was born in 1956, so cannot remember exactly when it was but it must have been in the mid late 50s.  Will try and dig the snaps out! They show a row of cars for sale in front of this building. Dad had one or two other garages in Brighton at this time.  Anyone remember the Appleyard name?

    By Barrie Appleyard (19/06/2008)
  • It’s a pity that the original plan of this rest gardens is lost. I am still trying to identify which tomb is my great great grandfathers/family. Local historians don’t know either. Someone somewhere has the map of the 1950s when it was levelled into gardens. It’s hard to imagine this place when there was no traffic and no roads..nice place though.

    By Wendy Mortimer (08/06/2009)
  • I remember the church as I went to school next door at Clifton College. Run by a Mrs Stanley the school catered for those who were destined to do nothing with their lives other than to skate by. At Christmas the school had a concert each year in the church hall. Not very happy days.

    By Bob Munro (23/01/2011)
  • My grandparents owned and ran Willamy’s Guest House at 33 Dyke Road, opposite St Nicholas churchyard and just before the bend where Upper North Street starts. Unfortunately, the entire row of houses was bought out and knocked down, I think by Marks and Spencer in the 60s. A couple of doors down from there was Fileman’s, a business specialising in crystal chandeliers, making, repairing and cleaning etc. My father worked there for a number of years, also repairing and “dipping” musical instruments.

    By Patricia Silsby (05/09/2011)
  • I too went to Clifton College, from 1957 until 1966. I haven’t skated by, however, but became a teacher and have just retired after 35 years of Drama teaching. My memories of the school, then run by Mrs. Cronin, and the church are more positive. It was a great landmark and could be seen all around Brighton. I was dismayed when it was demolished and it was a truly memorable building. I loved wandering around in it. The site remained empty for years and was home to families of foxes. Just before the tower was demolished, a cat got stuck up the top and fell just before being rescued. It was caught and saved by one of the on-lookers, but died of a heart attack later. The Argus were calling the cat “Lucky” until he died days later.

    By Simon Heath (30/07/2013)
  • I was at Clifton College from 1949 until 1956 and recorded some of the memories of my time spent there – and also of the people who I can remember – on the page Clifton Hill Shops; for what they are worth and for anyone else who might be interested. As with Simon Heath above, I also became a teacher and have many positive recollections of my time at this fee-paying private preparatory school The fees were five guineas for a whole term.  It was run by Mrs. E.V. Stanley in my day and, I think, the school did a good job. Many pupils were entered successfully for the 11+ exam – which in those days, was an important means of moving on to the next stage. Returning to Brighton in 1973, it was a shock to find the large hole in the ground – where both the Congregational church and the adjacent school rooms had been located. It had been a rather gaunt building but, for me at least, it had considerable meaning. It was indeed a passing feature of the Brighton landscape; but one that lasted for one hundred years.

    By Stuart Leggett (19/04/2014)
  • My only memory of this church is that sometime in the 1950s I went to a friend’s birthday party that was held in the church hall; I must have been about 8 yrs old.

    By Dennis Fielder (19/04/2014)
  • I was at Clifton college 1957-1965, and it was very happy memories for me. Mrs. Stanley went shortly after I went there and I remember Mrs. Cronin very well. The educational standards were not the best but we were all taught excellent manners and it was a very happy time for me. I can remember the whole building well, and on a Monday they had a health and beauty class. In the great hall. No regrets for going to such a happy school. Great memories.

    By Marilyn Jones (20/04/2014)

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