The longest road in Brighton
An old fish route
With a length of 3.46 miles from Waterloo Place to the Falmer boundary, Lewes Road is the longest continuously-named road in Brighton, and replaced the downland Drove Road and Juggs Road over Newmarket Hill in medieval times. (A ‘jug’ was a Brighton fisherman; their wives took the catch along this route by donkey for sale at Lewes.)
Lewes Castle and Priory
Lewes, the county town of Sussex, lies seven-and-a-half miles to the north-east of Brighton, and has always been important to the town. Lewes Castle was built by the Norman son-in-law of William the Conqueror, William de Warrenne, who was Lord of the Rape of Lewes and thereby lord of the manors of Brighton. De Warrenne also founded the great Cluniac Priory of St Pancras at Southover in 1077, the mother church of the medieval Priory of St Bartholomew at Brighton. The ruins of both the castle and the priory may be visited.
From fishing town to fashionable resort
It was probably the proximity of the markets at Lewes and their easy access via the Downs that helped to establish the medieval fishing town of Brighton, and in the mid eighteenth century it was once again the proximity of the county town that helped to transform Brighton from an economically depressed fishing town into a fashionable resort.
Lewes Road wins a Civic Design Award
From 1770 the road to Lewes was maintained by a turnpike trust, with a tollgate to the north of the Bear Inn and a toll-house at Kingston which still survives. The modern road was ‘dualled’ to the south of The Avenue and alongside Stanmer Park in 1963-4, and the length in between in 1967-8, a project that won a Civic Trust design award in 1970. The dual carriageway from Brighton to Lewes was completed at Falmer in 1981, while the Brighton bypass, scheduled for completion in 1995, will leave the Lewes Road at the Southern Water offices.
The first developments along Lewes Road, both in 1795, were the almshouses and the barracks. The Level was laid out in 1822, and in the 1820s Richmond Terrace and Hanover Crescent were developed. The road north from the Level to the borough boundary at Bear Road was developed from the 1860s, and then northwards in Preston parish to Natal Road in the 1890s and 1900s.
Factories and estates arrive
During the 1910s a small industrial area of diamond and engineering factories was established on the eastern side of Lewes Road around Coombe Road, and further development came in the 1920s with the Moulsecoomb estates. The section from Elm Grove to Upper Lewes Road is now a shopping area of considerable importance to the surrounding area, augmented by the Sainsbury store.