A potted history
West Hill is the name given to the eastern part of Church Hill rising westwards from Brighton Station, Queen’s Road and the central valley. It was developed in the 1840s and ’50s with ‘working-class’ and ‘middle-class’ terraced housing near the station, and in the 1870s with large villa residences in the grounds of the former workhouse. Designated a conservation area in 1977.
The Prestonville area, part of the former Preston parish, was developed by Daniel Friend as a middle-class housing estate in the mid 1860s, and originally included Brigden Street, Hamilton Road, Hamilton Terrace, Prestonville Road, Prestonville Terrace and Stanford Road; the land had originally been intended for a public abattoir. In the 1880s the Port Hall area was developed to the north, while the houses of Buxton Road, Lancaster Road and Stafford Road were added in the 1890s.
On 22 February 1882 Eric Gill, the stone carver and engraver, was born at 32 Hamilton Road; he later moved as a boy to 53 Highcroft Villas. The Prestonville Arms, Hamilton Road, is said to be haunted. The parish church of Prestonville is St Luke’s in Old Shoreham Road. Built in 1875 in Early English style by John Hill, it has a pleasant red-brick exterior, with a small tower and clock surmounted by a short spire at the south-east corner; it became a parish church in 1878 and the interior was enlarged in 1882 by J.G.Gibbins. St Luke’s Church Hall in Exeter Street is a red-brick Gothic building of 1884, with the separate boys’ and girls’ entrances to the Sunday school still apparent.
The land to the south of Old Shoreham Road, developed contemporaneously with Prestonville, belonged to New England Farm and lay within the parish of Brighton. The farm buildings stood on the site of York Grove and York Villas from the 1810s until the 1860s, but the farmhouse, with its four-column Doric doorway, attractive garden and an outbuilding, remains at 26 York Villas. The age of this house is somewhat uncertain but it is believed to date from the early nineteenth century; certainly buildings are shown on the site in maps of around 1820. In 1990 it was being converted to flats. Theatrical impresario Sir Charles Blake Cochran was born nearby at 15 Prestonville Road in 1872.