First shop opened on 25 July 1808

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) STORES: North Street also has three of the largest stores in Brighton. The Vokins family firm was founded as Leeson and Vokins in 1882, but the present department store in North Street was built in 1935. The Boots store is one of their largest in the country; it was built in 1979 on the site of the Regent Cinema to the modernistic design of Derek Sharp, contrasting sharply with the other corners at the Clock Tower. {123,124}

Hanningtons Ltd has premises in North Street, East Street  and Market Street , and is surpassed in size only by the Brighton Co-operative Society’s store in London Road . The first shop was opened at 2 North Street by Smith Hannington on 25 July 1808, selling linen, drapery, mercery, haberdashery and hosiery. Six years later the shop was extended along North Street, and it received a royal warrant from Queen Victoria. Smith Hannington died in 1855, but by 1885 several other premises had been purchased and 300 persons were employed. ‘Hanningtons Corner’ at East Street and North Street was acquired in 1924, but was damaged by a bomb in the last war. Property purchases in 1960 and 1976 now give the store a continuous frontage along North Street from East Street to Huntingdon House; this main facade is rather attractive in its pale blue colours, and has many small decorative details. Nos.6-9, with decorated angular bays, were originally the Brighton Union Bank, later Barclays, and were taken over in about 1959. A bridge over Market Street linking the North Street and East Street  (1883) premises was added in 1989. The last family owner of the business, Dorothy Hannington, died in 1969 and the shares, which were bequeathed to the Royal Sussex and LondonHospitals, were then acquired by a commercial organisation with the store valued at over £1 million. {15,123,258,263a}

Burtons , at the corner of West Street , has pilasters, unusual capitals, and the name of the store emblazoned in the stonework; it was built in the 1930s in conjunction with the widening of West Street. Another interesting store is Dunns, 63-66 North Street, which overlooks Churchill Square and Western Road. It was built in 1858 as the Brighton Drapery Establishment of Joseph Smith, and is adorned with cupolas and the arms of other towns in stained glass. {83}

c) INNS: As the principal route into the town from London was via Dyke Road  until the early nineteenth century, North Street naturally had a number of important coaching inns. The only one remaining is the former ClarenceHotel, nos.30-31, which was built in 1785 as theNew Inn and run by a brewer, Mr Whichelo. By 1812 it had a large coffee room, billiards room, ten sitting rooms, twenty-six bedrooms and two kitchens. There were also two stable yards added by William Henwood with room for nearly fifty horses and six coaches, but the music room at the rear was demolished in the 1850s for the erection of Model Dwellings. In 1808 the magistrates’ court was established here, and it returned in 1821-3. In 1830 the name was changed to the Clarence in honour of William IV, formerly the Duke of Clarence, and it continued as a hotel until September 1972. Although initially occupied by squatters, the building remained empty until it was reopened on 25 June 1979 by Lord Rupert Nevill as Clarence House, the head office of the Citizens Regency (now part of the Portman) Building Society. Clarence House is now a listed building, and is faced with cream-coloured mathematical tiles with a Doric porch and elegant lamp. In May 1990 North Street was closed to traffic as Clarence House was in danger of collapse during its conversion to offices. {15,123}

The Unicorn Inn stood on the western corner with Windsor Street and bore the date 1597, but it did not open as an inn until the mid eighteenth century. When it was rebuilt in red brick in 1892, the old town well was discovered, but the inn was again demolished in 1919 to make way for the Regent Cinema. The White Lion stood opposite West Street (before Queen’s Road  was constructed), and also dated from at least the sixteenth century. In 1757 it became the property of brewer Richard Tidy who probably turned it into an inn soon after, but the first definite record was in 1790, and it was referred to by name in 1798. It was a notable centre for cock-fighting at one time. The White Lion was rebuilt in 1821-2, but was acquired by the corporation in July 1872 and demolished in May 1874 for road widening. A new hotel was then erected, but it was again demolished in 1900 and replaced by a bank. A smaller public house was built at the corner of Queen’s Road, now replaced by the Boots store. {15,83}

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

  • If you look up Queen’s Road you will see between the Virgin record store and the portico entrance to the Regent Cinema a pub facade with a Bass red triangle lamp outside – it’s immediately above the head of the be-flared young man crossing the road. This was the “White Lion”, a rudimentary drinker of a kind no longer found. Its facilities did not include ladies’ or gents’ toilets – if you had a call of nature you had to go outside, cross the road and use the Clock Tower lavatories, which are now, of course, bricked over. If you wanted better, then the Galleon Bar in the Regent Cinema basement was a fine place to have a drink and just up the road on the other side of the cinema entrance.

    By Chris Taylor (13/04/2008)
  • I have read the article on North Street with some interest. Being an old Brighton boy it brought back a lot of memories, however the one place that seems to be missing is a small department store that was at the top of North Street by the name of Leesons. I don’t know when and if this store opened and closed as I have been out of Brighton for over 50 years but I remember it had a model railway in the basement which was like a magnet to all kids, for teh princely sum of one old penny. It would run around the tracks for about three times. There were several other exhibits in this area so around the busy times it was very popular. If any fellow Brightonians remember this it would be nice to hear their comments.

    By John Wignall (21/10/2008)
  • What a wonderful photo and commentary. Thank you so much. This is all before my time but I love reading memories like this. I do recall the smaller branch of Virgin further up Queen’s Road in the 1980s.

    By Nigel B (24/05/2011)
  • The caption says North Road. It is of course North Street as per the heading. [Editor: Now corrected – thank you for spotting the error!]
    There were two Joe Lyons in North Street, this one was at the lower end virtually opposite New Road. When I was 15, one of my jobs was to buy bath buns here for some of the staff at Brighton & Hove Herald. The other one was further up on the same side close to the Princes News Theatre. Just shows how popular they once were, to have two very large premises in one road!

    By Brian Hatley (26/02/2013)

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