Buildings of interest

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.

b) PERCY AND WAGNER ALMSHOUSES : The town’s only remaining almshouses stand by the bottom of Elm Grove , but when they were built in 1795 it was in a then quite isolated position. They were erected to the memory of the late Dorothy and Philadelphia Percy, the daughters of the Duke of Northumberland, and were provided for six poor widows of the Church of England who, having received no parish relief, were also given £48 per annum and a new gown and cloak every second year; this was later increased to £96 and two gowns and bonnets each year, and a duffel coat every third year. The original houses, nos.4-9, were the first Gothic revival buildings in Brighton; they were added to in 1859 at the expense of Revd Henry Wagner and his sister Mary in memory of the Marquess of Bristol. The yellow-brick houses, now amongst the oldest in the town, were to be demolished in the 1960s, but happily they were listed in March 1971 and restored in 1975-6. {3,44,65,123}

c) ST.MARTIN’S CHURCH: The congregation of St Martin’s originally used the former school building (now flats) of 1867 in St Martin’s Street, but the permanent church was built in 1872-5 by George Somers Clarke for the three sons of Revd Henry Wagner in memory of their late father. Consecrated on 1 May 1875, the listed building is in Early English style with pinnacled buttresses at both ends and a large pitched roof. The entrance is a large, ribbed Gothic arch with a bas-relief of St Martin and the Beggar, and on the southern exterior wall is a memorial to the men of the parish who fell in the Great War. The interior, also designed by Clarke, is very large and spacious, with a clerestoried nave sixty-nine feet high, aisles, chancel, and an eastern chapel. Its decoration has been called the most beautiful in Brighton; the roof panels are painted with representations of colonial and American sees, while the altar, dating from 1949, is adorned by a large reredos by H.Ellis Wooldridge of twenty pictures and sixty-nine statuettes. The church seats a congregation of 1,500, and due to its proximity to Preston Barracks was Brighton’s ‘military’ church for many years. The adjacent Wagner Memorial Hall was erected in 1905. The parish, which was created in October 1875, has now merged into the parish of the Resurrection. {1,44,45,65}

d) OTHER BUILDINGS to BEAR ROAD : The Trades and Labour Club, 16 Lewes Road, stands on the site of the Arcadia Cinema . In about 1907 Tilleys horse-bus stables, with an entrance in Park Crescent Place, were let to a fairground animated-picture operator as the Arcadia Theatre of Varieties; both film-shows and variety acts were presented, and the famous escapologist Harry Houdini performed on the stage. In 1910 a permanent 478-seat cinema, the People’s PicturePalace, opened on the site, soon changing its name to the Arcadia Cinema, and an entrance was made in Lewes Road. It closed in 1957. On the opposite side of the road is the impressive Gladstone Terrace, erected in the late 1860s and faced in an attractive brick. {68,68a,83,123}

Lewes Road United Reformed Church was built as a Congregational chapel in 1878 by A.Harford in Italian Gothic style, and has an adjacent church hall of 1892 {62}. On the eastern side of the road, the Franklin Tavern was rebuilt after receiving a direct hit during an air-raid in which several people were killed {242}.

At 131 Lewes Road, with another entrance in Melbourne Street, stands the New Life Centre. Formerly the Connaught Institute, the two-storey, red-brick building opened in 1879 as a soldiers’ home and mechanics’ institute. It housed a temperance bar, reading-rooms, lecture-rooms, etc., and also a branch of the Medical Mission which administered to the sick in their own homes. The hall seats 1,000 and is now used by the Connaught Christian Fellowship. {24,83}
Alfred Edgar Coppard (1878-1957), short-story writer and poet, was born just off Lewes Road at the now demolished 28 Melbourne Street, but had moved to 27 Gladstone Place by 1905. {83a,296}

The junction of Lewes, Bear , Hollingdean and Upper Lewes Roads is known as the ‘Vogue gyratory system’ after the former Vogue Cinema. Built as the Gaiety in 1937 in the grounds of the Allen Arms (now the Counting House), the cinema had a fifty-foot high neon-lit façade. In November 1965 it was renamed the Ace, and in January 1968 became a full-time bingo hall, but films were presented again from December 1969 and in 1971 the name was changed to the Vogue. It later became a pornographic film club with regular strip-tease acts, but in 1979 the 1,500-seat Vogue was renamed the Classic after that cinema in Western Road had closed, and it then closed itself in October 1980. The new road layout opened in the summer of 1984. The Sainsburys superstore opened on 23 April 1985 on the site of the railway viaduct and Arthur H.Cox’s pill factory, and won the 1985 Brighton Council design award with its ‘warehouse’ style, the arches of its walls echoing those of the former viaduct. {68,68a,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

  • This was the church my family went to during the late 1960s to 1970s. I went to the St. Martins Sunday School and my older brother George and older sister Bernadette were in the church choir. They also rang the church bells and I also got to ring these chuch bells because my older brother and sister did. Both my boys, Carl and Sean, were christened here in the early 1980s and my younger sister Jen was married here. This to me is a grand church with many memories.

    By Fiona Coleman (nee McKechnie) (25/05/2007)
  • This building was the Arcadia Cinema when I was a wee lad in the 1930s. When it closed down it was taken over by the labour club.

    By Viv Webb (03/06/2007)
  • My great grandather, Jabez Reynolds the Younger, built St Martin’s church. He built extensively in Brighton and Hove, following in his father’s footsteps. His father, Jabez Reynolds Senior, built “something like” 1,000 houses in Brighton and Hove. This is recorded in memoirs written by my grandfather, Arthur James Reynolds, and in a letter signed by Jabez Reynolds senior on 31st August 1886.

    By Joanna Biddolph (09/01/2009)
  • Thank you for the picture of this wonderfull old place.
    I remember this as a hive of activity in my youth. At the age of three (1949) when my parents moved from the town centre to Hollingbury, I became engaged in Gilbert and Sullivan events. On Mondays I was told if I promised to rest for an hour in the afternoon I could go out in the evening with my parents. For a three year old I’m sure that sounded great. And so I did. Monday evenings was the rehearsal night for the ‘Lewes Road Congregational Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society’. My father had joined back in 1931 and then when he and my mother met several years later she also joined. My mother was already on stage at places like the Theatre Royal with other colleagues for some time.
    So my adventures began. Every Monday I sat, quiet as a mouse, listening to the singers being put through their paces by the conductor. Of course, I soon knew a lot of the songs off by heart as the years progressed as well as the libretto. My father was a chorus man but my mum mostly played lead sopprano when voted for and in later years became lead contralto. They practiced once a week through the winter, twice a week for lead players when it got close to opening night, and then the Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas were run for a whole week before closing for the summer break. For a small child it was very interesting, especially as it all came close to dress rehersals with costumes and make-up flying around. My mother was a hairdresser and make-up artist so could help some of the others with wigs and aged wrinkles and frowns etc. The only time I needed baby sitters was on the week of the show. But Saturday was the big night where I was able to watch the show all through and most times take a friend along. That was the night they all shared gifts, bouquets, and ‘thank yous’ for the years work etc. so I got the best of it all. They were very popular as were other groups in the area at that time. I remember we also used to go to visit other Gilbert and Sullivan societies when their shows were on and although we were seeing the same thing all the time it was still of inerest. The famous patter songs, the great Mikado and his empire, (I remember mum playing Katisha), The Pirates, The Yeoman, the love duets and so on. In later years I became assistant in the canteen at the back helping serve teas and sandwiches and ice creams in the breaks.
    These rehersals took place in the first upstairs room over the main hall over-looking the street. Underneath them on a Monday was also the Boys Brigade marching out their stuff. Beyond the main hall was the stage and auditorium with its canteen and beyond that the vestry. In later years I also joined the young dramatics and took part in one or two pantomimes and summer progammes. The poor lady producer at that time suffered from nerves and was frequently being given smelling salts back stage to get her through the events. I’m sure we wern’t that bad. Thursday was the practice night for the Drama Club who also put on a play yearly. And then there were the times when the operatic group became a choir for special events in the church itself for Easter / Christmas and so on. All this culminated in a great Christmas party in the main hall each year with crazy games, dances and food none of which you were allowed to refuse. So the old church was full of sound and excitement when busy and eerily quiet and creepy when not. I am only sorry I no longer have any photos of the Gilbert and Sullivan stage events. Some of the photos dating back to the early years were fascinating and I am sure woud be collectors items now. If anyone does however remember or have any pictures to share I for one would be delighted to see them either on this site or privately. Thank you. Any more memories of this lovely old place?

    By Sandra (09/03/2009)
  • I have just found out I was Baptised here.

    By Kaz (01/05/2009)
  • With respect, this is not the site of the Vogue cinema. This pub was there at the time of the Vogue. In the late 60’s-70’s it was the Allen Arms. The Vogue was immediately to the right of the pub where you can see the metal fencing.

    By Andy Walker (28/06/2009)
  • I was Baptised at this church, it looks so beautiful. When I next visit Brighton I will go and see it – if it is still standing.

    By Kaz (26/10/2009)
  • I well remember the Lewes Road Operatic and Dramatic Society as my dad, Ernest, used to play the lead tenor role (I think, I’m not very good at these terms) and my mum, Nancy, usually played the ‘character role’ (in other words ‘the not very nice person’ which was totally opposite to her real persona and hence why she loved to play them). Dad died in a swimming acident in 1960 but mum carried on there till the end of the 60s at least. Mum remarried and her husband, Harold, used to construct the scenery – even turned his hand to painting it when the usual person couldn’t do it. I often moved the scenery and on a couple of times was ‘promoted’ to being call boy – I was very frightened by the director, Robert Read, who lived along my road and he sometimes took a part. He didn’t used to rush when called and one time didn’t get there at all for his grand arrival as the Mikado resulting in ad libbing that went on for about 10 minutes. I got a right telling off and thereafter became far more frightened of the rest of the cast than of Mr Read and he was never late again. I also helped from time to time taking out the teas at the interval. At the end of the week, after all the gifts on stage, we went home and had a big supper – I never quite knew how it got there since mum always seemed to be busy with something to do with the show, whether in it or helping with anything she could.
    I was in the Boys Brigade – when I was in it we met on a Friday (I remember the hushed evening when we had all just heard of the death of President JFK) evening for the drill with Lieutenant Alf Gee who terrified me (must have spent a lot of time terrified!) and under the leadership of Captain Ted Benham – what a great man. We also set up a youth club on Thursday evenings which Ted said he’d oversee but he actually trusted us to run it ourselves and just popped in from time to time. I became a full-time youth worker in my 20s and always remembered his work and strived to enable young people to manage themselves in a simlar way – sadly youth workers would not be allowed to do this nowadays but we learned so much through doing that about responsibility, caring for others, communication and organisation – what a man! All my friends as I grew up were to do with this place – John, John, Dave, Mick, Sid, Pete, Andy, Janice, Gloria, Sue, their respective boy and girlfriends and many others.

    By John Killick (07/12/2009)
  • Dear John. Thank you so very much for your response to my comment above. And how kind of you to offer to share some of your G&S photos. I am so grateful. In recent years I seem to be on a search path to regain pieces of my past and through people like yourself gradually little miracles are coming together in big ways. I don’t have much idea of specific dates. My involvement went through 1949 till 1965 so I wonder if a very old photo would be nice and then some others spanning through those dates. I would especially favour something from the Mikado please. I will be more than happy to contribute towards your time and effort involved. Do let me know please if I can help.
    I remember Ernie, Nancy and Harold very well. My mum, Sylvia, played lead soprano opposite Ernie, probably several times. We shall be able to see that from the photos when I identify her to you. Later a friend of my mother’s, Doreen Hines, joined the G&S and she also played opposite Ernie and Sylvia took on some of the contralto lead parts, eg Ruth in Pirates of Penzance, Katisha in Mikado. I also remember the swimming accident and can remember my parents talking about it at home quietly. I burst into tears and although they had not mentioned who the person was yet I was convinced it would be someone we knew well. One time Nancy brought me a Welsh doll in all its costume refinement. So if my memory is right Nancy was from Wales and I think she had been back for a holiday at that particular point. My other memory of Nancy was that she had more involvement in the drama sections than the G&S. There she would certainly have come upon some of those meaty roles you spoke of. I well remember her linking up with Harold and how well they were together. Painting scenery was in there too, but I am so sorry I find it hard to remember your face. I am assuming your are quite younger than I but it still seems strange not to recall you.
    There are so many other people I can remember, Marion was daughter of Fred and Peggy Joiner. I joined the pantomime section where I met Marion and Janice. Also a friend of theirs called Anne Attwater who has miraculously just found me on this site and has been sharing stories with me since last winter. And Bob Read, of course, the Mikado. I recall his partner Gracie who had the misfortune to kneel on a tin tac on stage one night and managed to continue through till the end of that scene so as to not disrupt the setting by leaving stage. And her daughter Valerie Moon. By the way, how did you happen to find my section on the web. Are you a regular MyB&H searcher? I look forward to further contact and again thank you for your kind assistance. All best wishes, Sandra.

    By Sandra (08/12/2009)
  • I went to nursery here when I was 3/4 (around 87/88). Also got run over at the bus stop outside it by a junkie in a stolen car when I was 10. At least they kept the front of it when they turned it into flats.

    By Russell Healey (19/03/2010)
  • Looks terribly shabby and rundown now. Next to London Road, this used to be the premier shopping street of Brighton. I remember as a young lad, watching (from about where the row of large grey houses are on the opposite side of the road) the Queen Mother, as she passed by in the royal car on her visit to Brighton. The place had an air of permanence about it then which has sadly, gone. I mostly remember the Arcadia cinema. “Go in itching and come out scratching ” my dad used to say! Devisons greengrocers and fruiterers was always interesting, with the shopkeepers yelling at everybody who passed to come and buy their wares!

    By Roy Davis (23/06/2010)
  • Hmmm; I remember Jo Killick from Lewes Road. I guess that some of those names would be Sid Beal, Mick Benham and Pete Harris? I was in the the 13th, and remember Alf Gee as a fearsome man, Ted Benham was a gent though, he gave up the captaincy the year I came up from the Life Boys.

    By Geoff (22/04/2011)
  • I was born at 2b Gladstone Terrace in 1949, it’s the second grey one. It was a flat on the 1st floor as I remember. I lived there until I was 11 years old then we moved to a new house in Hollingdean.

    By David Hunt (06/02/2012)
  • The little roof over this lovely wooden carving has now gone.I pass this everyday and its just getting worse. It needs some oil otherwise there will be nothing left.

    By gill harvey (16/04/2012)
  • The Labour club moved into these premises in 1965. Prior to this it was the Co-op shoe warehouse. I have been a member of the Brighton Trades & Labour club since 1980.

    By Rich (06/05/2013)
  • My mother, Edna Fowler, played the church organ at the LRCC. My sister Anne was in the Maids Brigade and my brother Tony and I were in the Life boys and Boys Brigade. I remember John Killick, Side Beale was an NCO, Mick and Ted Benham, Alf and Pete Gee. Had some great times at the youth club. Good to see the front of the building is still retained.

    By Allan Fowler (07/08/2013)
  • I was at the ESRO at The Keep the other day and was looking through the Baptismal register from Lewes Road.  It started around 1920, iirc, and made fascinating reading seeing the names of some of my contemporaries and, indeed, some of those who I knew as adults there – the Hussey brothers for example.  It demonstrated just how long some families had been associated with the church and how many families were associated with either (and frequently both) the Maids Brigade or Boys Brigade there.  Brought back some happy memories.

    By Geoff Robbins (03/05/2015)
  • The church actually dates from 1868. Please see:, which I have ordered. This date is confirmed in the Brighton Gazette of 1918. The Jubilee will be mentioned in my forthcoming book on Brighton in the Great War.

    By Douglas d'Enno (07/05/2015)
  • All gone now, I am afraid. Flattened for (much opposed) development.

    By Helen (07/05/2015)
  • You may well be right, Douglas. The memorial (foundation?) stone was apparently laid on 16 October 1878 (see Roughwood British Churches Album), but one of my ancestors was married there on 3 June 1877. Regards

    By Alan Hobden (13/05/2015)
  • Hi Douglas and Alan, the church was built in 1878 (you can see relevant notes about the planning submission at the Keep, DB/D/7/1596, 2 Sep 1878), but you are probably being misled by the earlier erection of a temporary chapel on the site (for example, look at Page’s directory for 1876 and it states “Lewes Road School and Temporary Chapel”). I don’t know when this earlier temporary building was actually erected, but I do know it was solemnised for marriages in 1874.


    By Andy Grant (15/05/2015)
  • Hi Andy. Thanks for the extra information. So planning was submitted on 2 Sep 1878, and the foundation stone was laid on 16 October 1878. I wish present-day planning applications could be dealt with as speedily! The wedding I referred to was stated on the marriage certificate as being held on 3 June 1877 at “the Lewes Road Congregational Church, Brighton”, which is a little misleading in view of your comments. Regards, Alan

    By Alan Hobden (02/06/2015)

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