Developed rapidly in the 18th century

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) HISTORY and BUILDINGS: North Street has always been one of the town’s main commercial thoroughfares, and is lined with many shops, banks and offices. It represents the northern limit of the medieval town, and was probably developed in the fourteenth century by the landsmen whose barns stood on the northern side of the street with fields and crofts stretching northwards to Church Street . With most coaches from London entering the town via Dyke Road as Brighton first grew as a resort, North Street developed rapidly in the eighteenth century, and by 1770 there were eighty-eight buildings in the street. From about 1780 shops also began to spread up North Street from Castle Square , and it gradually became the principal commercial street of the town. A number of squalid courtyards were built off North Street in the early nineteenth century, and by the 1840s names such as Durham, Petty France and Air Street were counted amongst the worst slums in the town; most were cleared for the construction of Queen’s Road in 1845.  Until the 1950s North Street extended up what is now Dyke Road as far as Upper North Street. {10,15,18,76,83}
Development of North Street itself was haphazard and the buildings projected into the narrow roadway somewhat, but it was widened in 1874-9 below Windsor Street, again in 1927-36, and finally in the early 1960s . Only a few buildings therefore survive from before the mid nineteenth century, mainly to the west of Ship Street and to the west of New Road. Large-scale redevelopment of the northern side has resulted in many large bank and office buildings, the most impressive of which is the pink-granite Leeds Permanent on the corner of New Road. Built in 1904 by Clayton and Black for the Royal Insurance Company, it was designed in Edwardian baroque style with Ionic columns on the first and second floors, and has a large clock, a cupola and a weather-vane on the roof. {114,116,123,311}
Norwich Union House was built in 1935-6 by H.S.Goodhart-Rendel, originally as a head office (Prince’s House) for the Brighton and Sussex Equitable Permanent Benefit Building Society. This society, which was founded in 1863, became the Alliance in 1945 and the Alliance and Leicester in 1985, now the fifth largest in the country with assets of some £13,552 million {19,45,303}. The adjacent Prince’s Place once formed the approach to the Promenade Grove (see ” Royal Pavilion (Pavilion Grounds)”), and had a colonnade along both sides with a shrubbery in the centre; the latter was removed in about 1834. A volunteer soldiers’ headquarters was later erected on the site of the grove entrance, but was itself removed in 1891 to provide access to the Pavilion grounds {15,115}. Regent House, on the western side of Prince’s Place, was built in about 1934 on the site of the BrightonHerald offices {83}.
Higher up North Street , at the corner of King Street, once stood the Prudential Buildings, a red-brick block of 1906 by Alfred Waterhouse. It was demolished in 1967 and replaced by the second stage of the present Prudential House, which also stands on the site of the Cinema-de-Luxe and Athenaeum Hall (see below). {45,123}
Other important buildings include the 1920s National Westminster and Midland Banks, and the 1959 Barclays Bank.

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 remember this building very well. My grandfather was once the Manager of this bank. I think he may have been the first manager of the building after the site was redeveloped in the 1950/60s. I remember him taking me down to see the massive vault in the basement. What huge safe doors it had. I wonder if that vault is still there?

    By Dave Crockatt (25/01/2015)

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