Two storeys at street level

Two storey Brighton terraced house
From the private collection of Barrie Searle

Outside toilet

For a time I lived in a terraced house which consisted of two storeys at street level. There were two rooms on ground level and three rooms on first floor level. As the ground sloped front to back there were four stairs leading down to the scullery.The toilet was outside the rear of the house and it had no bathroom.

Built on solid chalk

The houses had very little in the way of foundations as they were built on solid chalk. The walls were built in a form of rubble i.e. lumps of flint, stones etc bound together with a lime cement mix. The outside of the house was rendered in a hard cement finish, which in fact, helped to hold the walls together. Of course the walls were solid not cavity as we have today.

Originally gas lit

The inside walls were mainly stud construction, finished, as were the ceilings, in laths and plaster. The plaster was lime based mixed with horsehair to bind it together. The internal wall plastering was so soft you could push your finger through it, therefore I ended up stripping the old laths and plaster from the walls and ceilings (a filthy job) and replacing them with plasterboard. Originally the houses were lit by gas but by the time I bought the house electric lighting was the norm.

Draughty windows

Inside the houses were some original plaster features such as coving and corbels. The windows were timber, vertical sash, counterbalanced by iron weights. If you were unfortunate enough to have your head out of the window when a sash cord snapped (usually through the cord ageing) then the sash would descend like a guillotine…not much fun! The windows were draughty and rattled a lot when the wind was high. Rubber wedges were plentiful in hardware shops to wedge the windows to stop them rattling.

Problems with woodworm

The timber basement floors, due to lack of damp course and poor under-floor ventilation, rotted. These were usually stripped out and replaced by concrete. Because of the absence of damp proof course (DPC) the lower walls were often damp. The other problem was woodworm in the roof timbers and flooring, although this did not appear to cause any significant weakening to the structure. You may be surprised to learn that these these houses are still standing!


Comments about this page

  • I would appreciate knowing the location  address of this house please.

    Editor’s note: This house was in Luther Street.

    By John Wall VK2 (02/04/2011)
  • None standard construction–they may be still standing, but you would be lucky to get a mortgage on them in that condition!

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (02/04/2011)
  • Note the bricked up windows, avoiding the tax known as daylight robbery!

    By John Cording (02/04/2011)
  • Surely most of the houses in what we now call Hanover were built like this? And likewise all the area between Lewes Road and Upper Lewes Road? This wasn’t considered “non-standard” construction at the time; my current home in Bath is a reasonably salubrious late Victorian end-of-terrace on three floors, but most of the walls are still lath-and-plaster and all the windows used to be sliding-sash (and the toilet used to be outside). I gather properties like these in Hanover are nowadays considered desirable city centre pieds-a-terre and fetch considerable prices, and that mortgages aren’t (or weren’t, before the credit crunch) that hard to come by!

    By Len Liechti (02/04/2011)
  • I did not live in the the actual house shown in the picture but lived for a while in a similar rented house in a different street. The house I later owned, although similar, was at an end of terrace and had the accommodation located on three floors. There must be thousands of this type of house in the Sussex area, although the method of construction seems bizare in modern times, the houses have survived for an estimated 150 to 250 years. Not sure about the mortgageability.

    By Barrie Searle (03/04/2011)
  • No doubt many houses of this period and design have undergone extensive renovations that have brought them up to modern day standards. They can obviously then be reclassified from their previous non-standard build rating. I merely make the point that they would probably be unmortgageable today in the conditions originally described by Mr Searle, without those updates. There are thousands of non-standard construction houses in perfectly good order all over the country – it’s just that mortgage companies don’t generally like to take them on!

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (04/04/2011)
  • John makes an interesting comment about the bricked up windows in the picture, albeit factually wrong on a number of accounts. The window tax was introduced in 1796 and comprised a lower band of houses with up to 10 windows, with increasing charge bands for those with more. Most houses of this size and type had under 10 widows and hence blocking them off made no difference to the tax payable. If the house shown was indeed in Luther Road, it was built a considerable time after the tax was repealed in 1851 – in most cases it was the houses built before 1796 that were the ones that subsequently had their windows blocked up afterwards. So why, one might ask, were blocked up windows featured on whole streets of later houses? It is purely speculative, but it would appear that many new houses were built with blocked up windows as a design feature, perhaps alluding to the fact that the house was bigger than it really was (it would have been the larger houses that had 10 windows)… maybe a sort of fashion statement?

    By Andy Grant (04/04/2011)
  • Note also, bay windows – posher than others in Hanover or Queens Park. The outside loo was a feature. Now many get tarted-up with a dormer in the roof, the roof by the way is slate, lighter than later roofing materials and often bows with the weight. At least the door does not open into the street: the porch creates a semi-private space. Note also the gutter and rain pipe serves several houses, in the back too. Note next door seems to be original rendering ie not painted. And I always wondered what those wedges were for: I have lived in a house with rattling sash cords.

    By Son of Chompski (09/04/2011)
  • I lived in George street, Brighton when I was growing up from about 1945. I remember the house = no electric sockets, only the ceiling lights, we only had cold water;  only way to get hot water was to boil a kettle/ saucepan of water on the gas cooker. Also we didn’t have a bathroom  - we used a tin bath to have our bath in, but my father went to the public baths in Park street for his. Our toilet was outside in the yard; no lights and no luxuries such as soft toilet paper, we had to cut up newspaper and put it on a piece of string. That was in the the good old days! Oh, what memoirs.

    By kathleen catt (05/11/2011)
  • I own an ex-corner shop property in Payne Avenue, Hove. Andy Grant is correct about the “bricked-up” windows. Mine has a panel that resembles the one in the picture, but the brickwork (9 inch solid but one brick at this point) internally shows no sign at all of ever being intended as a window. Purely a design feature. The building dates from 1906 and only one room (over the shop) has elaborate fibrous plaster cornice. Obviously built down to a price a vulgar tradesman could afford! (£60 freehold?).

    By Brian Hatley (06/11/2011)

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