A potted history
Now one of the principal shopping streets of the town, London Road was a comparatively recent trackway through the North Laine when it was first developed in the 1810s and ’20s as a middle-class residential area known as Queen’s Road until about 1826. The first shops had appeared on both sides of the road to the south of Francis Street by 1840, and the conversion to shops was virtually complete when the road was widened in 1903.
Not architecturally interesting
Although not particularly impressive from an architectural point of view, London Road has not been redeveloped as much as some streets and retains a number of original buildings on the western side. Several bow-fronted buildings still stand between Ann Street and York Hill, while a number of other grand residences may be seen above the projecting shop-fronts which were built on their front gardens. Nos.9-17, 32-37, 54, 56-57 and 68-72 are all decorated with pilasters, nos.56-57 have petal and wreath decorations as well. The eastern side of London Road retains only two early buildings, no.87 (see below), and one at the Open Market corner, no.109.
Large stores opened in 1930s
In the 1930s several large stores were opened, in 1931 for the Brighton Equitable Co-operative Society, in 1935 for Marks and Spencer (now Peacocks, etc.), and in about 1936 for Roslings drapers (now Woolworths). The other large stores, Sainsburys, Gateway (as Bellmans) and Boots, adopted their present form in the early ’70s.
The only remaining residential house
The finest building, and the only remaining residential house in the road, is no.87, an elegant, listed house of about 1825 with fluted Ionic pilasters and an ironwork porch, which was probably designed by Charles Busby. In 1882 it became St Bartholomew’s vicarage, but it has recently become the home of the vicar of Brighton (St Peter’s). The adjacent Methodist church was built in 1894 for the Viaduct Road congregation, by James Weir in red brick with terracotta dressings; it was extended forward to the present line in 1910 in Renaissance style, but was remodelled in 1938 with the present rendered facade. No.36a on the opposite side of London Road was once the Gem Electric Cinema, opened in 1910 by a Mr Thompson and operated with sixty seats until 1914. The Hare and Hounds at Preston Circus dates originally from about the 1820s, but was rebuilt in 1905; in the early nineteenth century the annual Brewsters’ Sessions were held on the upper floor.
Preston Circus junction
Preston Circus itself was once dominated by the Amber Ale Brewery, but today’s wide junction was created in 1901 when the large brewery building was demolished to allow tram lines to be laid on a curve between Beaconsfield Road and Viaduct Road. The south-western range of buildings were erected in the 1930s along with the fire-station which dates from 1938.