A revival of the area

Evening Argus building, Robert Street, Brighton, July 2002
Photo by David Gray at www.imagesbrighton.com
Robert Street, Brighton, October 2004
Photo by David Gray at www.imagesbrighton.com

I moved to Robert Street, North Laine in 1997.

How things were
The huge, empty, old Argus printing works ran the whole length of the street. Where Robert Street joins North Road, was a ramshackle selection of near derelict houses, some used as squats and some full of pigeons! Opposite Robert Street was the entrance to the Prince Regent swimming pool car park. (When closed, it was the perfect space to learn to ride a bike, as my daughter did here!) You could look right across this scruffy car park, and see past Pinocchio’s and Pavilion Gardens to North Street. In the middle of Robert Street, sandwiched between the terraced houses, was an empty building that had been used as a furniture warehouse.

How things have changed over the past 8 years!

How things are now
The North Laine itself has become increasingly prosperous and busy and our quiet street has become a busy thoroughfare for everyone visiting the popular pubs, bars and restaurants. When we first arrived you were far more likely to hear the odd window being smashed than a rowdy group of revellers staggering and singing along the road.

Fire at the Argus buildings
The Old Argus buildings suffered a massive fire and was reduced to a mere shell. The fire is still talked about by residents, as the whole street was evacuated in the middle of the night and the sheer scale and heat from that fire was terrifying. The Argus building seemed to change hands a number of times after the fire, before being finally developed into loft apartments. It is now known as the Argus Lofts and seems to have become a local North Laine landmark.

The development of the area
The empty furniture warehouse was converted into housing association flats. The car park has disappeared under the vast Jubilee Street development. The houses were demolished in 2002 (see photos) and that area now houses more apartments and the amazing new Jubilee Library. Currently the retail area of the site is still under construction, but I anticipate when it is completed, the personality of Robert Street and the North Laine will change again.

Comments about this page

  • My husband’s family lived 20 Robert Street We have a photo from the Evening Argus of my sister-in-law as a baby in her pram outside the house, with a message which read ” If the baby cries, please ring the bell at No. 20 ” Does anyone remember the Guile/Luke family?

    By Lorraine Luke (14/09/2008)
  • My grandmother lived at no.12 and I was a regular visitor there all my early years. My parents actually lived at no.11 when I was tiny, so don’t remember it, but no. 12 – I can picture it all; the outside loo, at the end of the yard. The front kitchen with the blackleaded range and her ottoman where I always lay when poorly! The scullery with the old copper boiler, coal cupboard and larder under the stairs which went up to two bedrooms, (the one at the front being the one I always slept in when staying overnight) then a further staircase to the upper floor with two more bedrooms.

    By Helen Abigail (20/05/2011)
  • I used to visit 20 Robert Street with my grandmother during World War 2. The Guile family lived there, my grandmother’s brother was Uncle Ginger, his wife Ada, and daughters. Cissie, Ginny, Polly, Dorrie (who died young,) Georgina, and Patsy. All my mother’s cousins.

    By Alma Moore (28/06/2011)
  • At the end of Robert Street,past Argus offices towards North Street, was a shoe shop. Now this was no ordinary shoe shop, you had to hunt for the other shoe! It was probably, on reflection, rejected shoes from a factory. Seem to recall it suited us though! This was mid 50s I think. Anyone remember it?

    By Jennifer Tonks (29/06/2011)
  • Wasn’t there a fishing tackle shop known as ‘Sid & Don’ in Robert Street? My late father was a keen angler and used the shop in the forties and fifties. I believe ‘Don’ was the son of Sid. He was a former Fawcett school boy who tragically died in a motor cycle accident.

    By Richard J. Szypulski (20/07/2011)
  • The owner of Sid & Dons was a Mr Jones. His son Leslie was a school friend of mine, they lived at Luther St. and then moved to Elm Grove opposite the shool. Leslie died in a motor cycle accident at Telscoombe in 1961. His photo is on Fawcett School, class 2b,on friends reunited. He was 18 when he died, he was an only child & his parents were devastated, they had relations in Swansea & used to visit them often. Leslie was a Swansea Town football fan.

    By Terry Hyde (20/07/2011)
  • Ah, now there’s a name from the past. “Sid & Don” who we always referred to as ‘Squid & Don. How many times we went there to buy our few pence worth of Lug worms, or if we could afford it, a few coppers more for Red Rag. How we admired the split cane rods that were way out of our pockets. It was a lovely shop with everything for the fisherman. Mind you that was before the war 39 – 45. But I don’t remember Robert Street.

    By John Wall VK2 (21/07/2011)
  • I’ve just received some info about my great grandmother from one of your readers. It’s her great grandmother as well. She lived at 20 Robert St. in 1924 in the basement and she set herself alight with a candle by accident. She was helped by three men from number 27 and number 22 and number 9 Pelham St. She died the next day, her name was Lucy Newman.

    By Anne Newman (25/07/2011)
  • I am currently doing some research for a street history of Robert street which is part of the My House My Street project(http://www.myhousemystreet.org.uk/).I I came across the coroner’s report for Lucy Newman as well.The three men were called Alfred Lambert,Thomas Avey and Alfred Thompson.They were each rewarded £4 from the Brighton Borough Coroner’s Testimonial Fund which was a public subscription fund set up after the incident. I would be grateful for any memories of working in the Argus building in the street or of Price and Company, bedding manufacturers who were in the old Baptist Chapel at numbers 16 and 17.

    By Chris Nichols (30/07/2011)
  • I would like to find out more about the workers who worked in the Argus building. Does anyone know of a history of this building, is there anyone who would like to tell their story about working in the Argus building from the 1950s? Thanks.

    By Chris Nichols (03/08/2011)
  • I wonder if the moderators / admin could share my e-mail with Anne Newman and Alma Moore as it appears that we share ancestors and it would be nice to make contact. Thank you

    You need to give your e mail as part of the comment if you wish to share it.It is then though available to anyone going onto the site.


    By Lorraine Luke (17/10/2011)
  • I have ancestors at Robert Street back in the 1841 census. The name was Stace. I did a study of Robert Street as opposed to the much more middle class Hanover Crescent as part of my degree course. Most of my ancestors were porters or ostlers. Some of them ended up moving to Regency Street and then into the Hanover district. The name changed to Stacey and then my great great grandmother married a John Edward Fowler, who fought in the Boer War and also in the troubles in Ireland as a Black and Tan. I’d love to know more about the Robert Street area back in the 1840s if anyone else has done any family history.

    By Anne Edwards (09/11/2011)
  • Hi Lorraine, I think we are related, you were in contact with my sister-in law a while back, Linda Pay.

    By Alma Moore (13/11/2011)
  • Hi Alma. I don’t think it was me who contacted her previously ? I am intrigued by your relationship to the Guile family. Can you drop me a line so that I can get in touch please ? Thank you. l.luke at btopenworld.com

    By Lorraine Luke (01/12/2011)
  • This is, in particular, a response to Ann Edwards but may be of interest to anyone who would like to know more about Robert Street. A street history has been completed recently as a part of the MyHouseMyStreet project based at the Regency Town House. This is a direct link to the article which can be downloaded as a pdf document: http://www.mhms.org.uk/content/street-history-robert-street. I am the main author of the history and can be cotacted at chrisnichols@operamail.com

    By Chris Nichols (10/01/2012)
  • I walked around this area recently. The ‘Sid and Don’ fishing tackle shop was actually in Kensington Street at the back of the old Argus building. It is now part of the Bathroom store.

    By Richard J. Szypulski (30/03/2013)
  • My Nan used to work for Patching Bros Upholsterers in Robert Street, I think in the ’50s/’60s. My Nan was good friends with Doris Patching. The premises are clearly visible in the photo (higher than all the rest). My brother coincidentally had a basement flat in the ’90s next door, which also used to be part of the Patching premises at one time.

    By Elizabeth Henty (01/06/2013)
  • 20 Robert Street: My Nan and Granddad lived there, Arthur and Ada Guile. It’s a long time since I looked at this page. I don’t know if Lorraine Luke will see this but Bob Luke is my cousin and we haven’t seen any of you since Aunt Pat’s funeral. We moved to New Zealand in 2009, followed our kids here. I was the one who contacted Linda Pay when I was researching my family history. Hope you’re all good in the Luke family.

    By Jennifer Capper (06/07/2017)
  • I was with Les who’s father was one of the owners of Sid & Dons on the night he died. A group of us were in the Little Chef cafe and someone suggested we all go to the Seaford Cafe. Les had a Norton 88 Dominator, his father had a Norton 99 Dominator but not with us on that night. I had a BSA 500 Star Twin, my brother had a BSA Rocket, there was some other powerful bikes in the gang ie Matchless, Dragonflies, Velocettes etc. Of course the inevitable challenge was who would get there first! Les roared off and disappeared almost immediately. When we reached the right hand corner coming out of Peacehaven there was a scene of carnage, a small van was almost cut in half and Les’s bike was unrecognisable. Les was nowhere to be seen. Eventually the body of Les was found in the gorse undergrowth yards from the road. Unfortunately this was the first of a few of my mates to become victims of crashes that led to me selling my bike and taking up cars.

    By Colin Wares (19/03/2021)

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