Notes and Queries: origins of the name?

Please could anyone there tell me the origin of “The Old Steine”? Is it something to do with a ‘stone’? From Brighthelmstone?”

Jeff Lyons (e-mail query sent to My Brighton and Hove website)

Response 1
The word Steine comes from Old English ‘stoene’ – a stony place (see A. Mower & F.N. Stenton: “The Place Names of Sussex” Vol VII part II p292, published 1930). The fisherman dried their nets on the huge stones which abounded in the area and some of which now form the base of the fountain in the Steine Gardens. The stone in “Brighthelmstone”; the old name for Brighton, has nothing to do with stones. It is a derivation from the AngloSaxon name for the village – Bristelmestune. This is mentioned in the Domesday Book.

Bob Allen (researcher, My Brighton and Hove project)

Response 2
In about 1957/58, I got to know John Foster Forbes, an antiquarian researcher then living in Norfolk Terrace. He was insistent that the stones implied in the Steyne name were saracen stones set up in that place originally for religious or ritual purposes. The idea is not too far-fetched. There was a 19th century book on old Brighton by Harrison and North which stated that a stone circle once existed at the site of St Nicholas Church. There was a lone stone from this circle, or from an avenue leading to it, stationed half buried in the ground on the corner of a building in Air Street, the pedestrian way just behind the Clock Tower. I remember this stone into the 1960s but am dismayed to find it is no longer there. I recall it was significant enough to merit an article in The Argus back in those days.

Pat Benham (e-mail sent to site, 22 May 2001)

Comments about this page

  • There was, just after the war, a megalithic stone circle in a Brighton park.

    By Stickems (16/02/2004)
  • Does anyone have any information about this antiquarian researcher who used to live in Brighton. Please contact me at if you do. Thanks

    By Andy Roberts (26/06/2005)
  • For a fuller account of Foster Forbes I have now contributed a page to this website. Put John Foster Forbes in the search box to get there.

    By Pat Benham (07/06/2006)
  • I am just about to begin research for a fictional thriller set in Brighton and I am really keen to include the alleged stone circle. What evidence is there to suggest the Steine or St. Nicholas’s? I thought there might be lots of information about this.

    By C.L.Buchanan (31/12/2009)

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