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Clarence House: numbers 20-31

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New Inn Hotel 1818

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 Clarence Hotel, numbers 30-31, which was built in 1785 as the New 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.

The Clarence Hotel, photographed c1870. Note the extremely dirty condition of the roads and the cobbled crossing, kerbs and gutter channels.

The old Hotel, empty with its future in doubt, photographed on 10 July 1977. The fears that this eighteenth century building might be demolished were allayed when a Building Society bought the building for offices.

In 1808 the magistrates’ court was established here, and it returned in 1821-3. In 1830 the name was changed from the New Inn to the Clarence Inn, in honour of William IV, formerly the Duke of Clarence. The building continued as a hotel until September 1972. 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, part of the Portman Building Society. In the renovation the bow windows which were obviously added in the mid 19th century were removed and the frontage reverted to its original design. 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.

The former Clarence Hotel, now Clarence House, photographed in 2012

Comments about this page

  • Jennifer, I have an etched drawing of New Inn Hotel from 1818, obviously prior to cameras, it would go well with this page! It seems that from comparison to the 1870 and 1977 photos, that the bay windows shown at ground level, were added after 1818, and then removed after 1977, to put it back more like it was originally built (however still the shop front to the left is not original). I will scan and email it to you shortly. The drawing is taken from “Brighton Ambulator 1818”, it states that at this time “its a good hotel for families and gentlemen, conducted by Mrs Gilburd”, (relict?? of Mr Charles Gilburd)

    By Peter Groves (30/12/2012)
  • The Clarence was a great town centre meeting place before a ‘night on the town’. It had an open fire in one of the bars with a large fender rail guarding the fire. I am sure the top rail was padded, meaning you could perch there on a cold night toasting by the coals. Personally I have a great memory of the Clarence as that was the starting point for my stag-night in 1972…I can only remember the Clarence…!

    By Geoffrey Mead (09/01/2013)

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