Lennox Road:The Cats' Creep

The Cats' Creep
Photo by Len Liechti

The Cats’ Creep is the steep stairway connecting the western end of Roundhill Crescent to the end-on junction of Wakefield Road and Richmond Road, in the district nowadays commonly referred to as Roundhill.  I believe it’s the steepest public thoroughfare in Brighton, and that its official name is Lennox Place, although this name doesn’t appear on any signs or on any street maps. I’m sure I read this somewhere, but can’t remember where or when.

Variants of the name
Alternative variants of its name are Cat’s Creep (singular cat), Cat Creep and Catcreep. Take your choice. However I remember it being used by various cats when I used it regularly, back in the days when I lived in Prince’s Crescent (1949-1968), so Cats’ Creep (plural cats) seems the most appropriate and grammatically correct to me. The Cats’ Creep has 116 steps. Somehow I never got round to counting them when I lived locally. However, on a recent day visit to Brighton from my home in Bath on 30th January 2010, one of my objectives was to do just that! (Don’t ask.) So I did, and that’s how many there are.

Route to Lewes Road
In my younger days the Cats’ Creep was my primary route to and from Lewes Road, via St Paul’s Street. Lewes Road in those days was a thriving general shopping centre and provided, inter alia, my source of bicycle spares from Bradshaw’s and of model aircraft kits from the model shop which used to be approximately opposite St Martin’s Street. The Cats’ Creep also provided my route to Mr Iri Greenwood’s excellent fish and chip shop in Upper Lewes Road, when chips were sixpence and cod one-and-nine; that certainly dates me.

Carrying my bicycle
On occasion I would carry my heavy old BSA Star Rider touring bicycle up the 116 steps rather than pedal or push it up Wakefield Road. Can’t think why: just for a change, perhaps? Never tried riding down them, though: I wonder if anybody ever has?

Hidden open spaces
On either side of the Cats’ Creep are green open spaces, hidden tantalisingly from view by high walls and cut off by sturdily impenetrable locked doors. According to QueenSpark’s excellent “Rose Hill To Roundhill”, these were originally an orchard. Despite harbouring a great desire to, I never managed to see these spaces.

Recent plans
There were recently plans to develop one of the spaces for three houses and two flats. This seems more than a little strange to me, as there is no obvious access to the space for cars, or by foot other than from the Cats’ Creep itself, because of the surrounding terraced housing. Anyway, the plans have, quite sensibly, been refused. There was a protest movement against the development, whose website can be found at www.catscreep.org.uk. They certainly have my support.

Comments about this page

  • I enjoyed your article very much. It gives a wealth of information and makes very interesting reading. Thank you. I didn’t know it was called Cats’ Creep I was told it was Jacobs Ladder, no wonder nobody has ever known where I meant!

    By Joan (21/02/2010)
  • Great to see a photo of the Cats’ Creep, Len! When we lived in Richmond Road, my brother and I devised a fast route down to where my grandmother lived in Park Crescent. I know it started with the Cats’ Creep and I think we got into Park Crescent by the bombed out gap at the back.

    By Honor Wimlett (21/02/2010)
  • I lived in Upper Lewes Road and used this Cats’ Creep, every day on the way to the then Ditchling Road School from 1938 to 1941. On the way home during the war an enemy plane came over low down over the race course and was heading for the steps. I was down from the top about 20 steps and he was machine gunning. I was the fastest person to run back up the steps .

    By Cyril Pelham (22/02/2010)
  • Great story, Cyril. ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ is a nickname popularly applied to any public thoroughfare comprising a long flight of steps. (There’s one in Cheddar Gorge.) Elsewhere in MyB&H are mentions of various other stairways in the Brighton area known locally by that name, but the consensus is that *the* Jacob’s Ladder is that which led from Jevington Drive near Bevendean Hospital down to The Avenue, Bevendean – one I’m not familiar with. (Must go and have a look on my next visit.) I have to say that I never ever heard the Cats’ Creep called by this alternative name during my nineteen years in the immediate neighbourhood. Everybody called it the Cats’ Creep, and it was certainly crept by a lot of cats. I wonder who coined the name, and when?

    By Len Liechti (22/02/2010)
  • Len: The ‘Cats’ Creep’ is marked as ‘Lennox Road’ on my old Brighton Street plan c1956.

    By Tim Sargeant (23/02/2010)
  • Thanks for that, Tim – official confirmation at last. I seem to remember my father telling me when I was very young that originally Lennox Road wasn’t a stairway but a really steep, narrow hill. Of course, he might have been having me on – it would have been pretty damn steep. Can anyone confirm?

    By Len Liechti (24/02/2010)
  • Looking at the old flint wall on the left and the angle the flints are laid, it could have very easily followed an original old pathway up that kind of slope. It does look like the upper steps were added at a later date and the lower steps are original when the walls were built. There again I could be completely wrong, but that’s the beauty of looking and trying to work out architectural history of roads and buildings.

    By Michael Brittain (26/02/2010)
  • There is also a ‘Cat’s Creep’ between Mafeking Road and Kimberly Road.

    By Viv Webb (23/07/2010)
  • The land behind Wakefield and Richmond Roads was once used as market gardens I was told, and when the area got too built up for that to be practical it was sold off piecemeal to anyone in the area who wanted a chunk. I heard about it because I bought 6 Richmond Road in 1979, mainly because it had an enormous “second garden” about 25 yards down the road, behind one of those Cat’s Creep doors. It was the first door on the right as you went down the steps of Cat’s Creep from Richmond Road. It was a massive space where we had a shed and grew veg. We eventually sold it to the owners of a house down the hill in Wakefield Road which backed directly onto it – our house was on the opposite side of the steps, and actually backed onto an even bigger plot of land which ran along the backs of about 10 houses and was owned by an eccentric gent called Mr West. I think that is now a community nature reserve. As for our old allotment, last time I peeked over the wall it had turned into a young forest with amazingly tall trees. I don’t know who enjoys the use of it now.

    By Shan Lancaster (01/09/2010)
  • I bought No.10 Richmond Road as a family house in February 2010, the main reason for wanting this house was because it came with the large plot on the north side of Cats’ Creep. It’s an interesting site with much history. It was owned for many years by a very eccentric (not in a nice way) chap who would have considered Thatcher a bit of a lefty, apparently he painted a large swastika on the back of the house at one point. He seems to have grubbed up what was left of the orchard, divided the plot into three terraces and planted an enormous number of sycamores. He also erected many sheds and walls made of whatever happened to be on hand; concrete, brick, breeze block, glazed tiles, butlers sinks, old doors, you name it. I’m not sure when he died but the house and land were sold at auction around 1998 (he had pretty much ruined the house too). The next owner of the house cleared out all the sheds and cut down a fair number of sycamores (judging by the stumps) but ran out of steam until the ill-conceived development proposal that has been mentioned elsewhere. We are now in the process of restoring the land into more of a “wild” family garden. With the approval of the tree officer we’ve taken out most of the smaller and diseased sycamores and also a row that were dangerously over-leaning the houses below. Now we are starting replanting with a good variety of indigenous trees and bushes. The terrace walls all need rebuilding so we will also do some re-landscaping / removal of most visible brickwork. It has always been a private plot of land and we have raised a wooden fence along the wall of Cats’ Creep to provide more privacy and to stem the flow of rubbish that was sadly being dumped from the alley. I’m very pleased to say that so far we have received nothing but support and encouragement from the many neighbours.

    By Xavier Young (11/02/2011)
  • My father lived in Richmond Road near to the Cat Creep and his parents were there until the 1990s.  I visited many times and remember the signs in the garden next to the Cat Creep posted by the eccentric;  ‘Hang all drug dealers’ was one of the least offensive. I lived in the area for a couple of years in the mid-1980s and used to use the path to get to and from the Martha Gunn pub.  It was never worth the effort as the pub was dreadful in those days.

    By Kevin Wilsher (23/07/2014)
  • Just for a bit of extra info: 1-3 Lennox Place are now 1-3 Richmond Terrace. They were built by William Anderson (living at No.2), the famous (at the time) Piccadilly society horsedealer. His eldest daughter Hannah married Henry Pagden Tamplin (of the Brighton brewery fame) living at No.1.

    By Colin Perry (05/04/2016)
  • I was born at 5a Richmond Road in 1936 and lived with my grandmother at no:11 in 1938. There were allotments down the Cats Creep as my grandmother grew all our veges etc, there. Does anyone remember the Calderwoods Bakery van that was pulled by a horse that was frightened and took off down the steep hill off Richmond Road. Bread littered the road and was quickly picked up by local residents. My Aunt had a Canadian boyfriend (later husband) and he knocked one of the gas lit street lights over with his army vehicle. Do you remember the old man coming around morning and night in Richmond Road to light the street lights up till world war 2? Remember coming home from Ditchling Road School to find our lovely wrought iron gates gone for the war effort.

    By Jennifer Goddard (nee Norrell) (04/12/2017)

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