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|A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton|
by Paul K Lyons
27 - From an invisible plaque to Old Hooky via a snoopy actress and Neptune in code
King's Gardens brings me to the southern end of Fourth Avenue - the last of the Avenues (no Fifth Avenue for Hove) - for a few metres. At the other end of Fourth Avenue, near the Church Road end, is number 35. There, according to the gay section of the website of the Brighton and Hove City Council, one should imagine the presence of a 'pink plaque'. This is because Oscar Wilde's amour Lord Alfred Douglas lived in the house for a while with his mother - long after Wilde had left the country, and after Douglas had married, had a son, and separated from his wife.
And now I'm in Kingsway, the dual carriageway that runs along the seafront for most of Hove between Brighton and Portslade-by-Sea. Here on the north side, the address is St Catherine's Terrace. There's a real mix of building types, including a thin red brick house with black-painted balconies contrasting strongly with the corner building in yellow brick, characteristic of the Avenues. In fact, there is a very distinct change of feel in the area as I walk west. Opposite, the lawns have given way to a range of large buildings which block the sea views. The first of these (in an east to west sense) is Courtenay Gate, a huge mansion of residential apartments. I count six windows from bottom to top, 10 windows from east to west, and 20 windows from the Kingsway side to the sea side. During the Second World War, between 1942 and 1945, Courtenay Gate was requisitioned by HMS Lizard, a shore-based training establishment (like HMS Vernon which used Roedean School). According to Tony Dury, writing on the BrightonandHove website, HMS Lizard's last major operation was to help prepare for D-Day. It provided a support base for the large numbers of vessels using Shoreham harbour in the run-up to an operation with the code name 'Neptune'.
Next to Courtenay Gate is a more modern L-shaped block of flats - Flag Court. This is a very dull and plain building, yet, by standing at a different angle to all other nearby buildings, it constantly draws attention to itself. Apparently, only nine flats do not have a sea view. And next to Flag Court is a collection of Courtenays - Courtenay Towers, Courtenay Tye, Courtenay House, Courtenay Lodge, Courtenay Beach - all blended together in a complex building (arched porches, flat roofs and balustrades, squat towers) part of which must date from the Regency period. A (real) blue plaque next to Courtenay Tye's front door informs me that Elizabeth Allan (1910-1980) lived here, and that she was a film and stage star. According to the Women of Brighton website, Allan was a well known and well loved British actress in the 1930s and 1940s. One of her most successful roles was in George Formby's 'She Snoops to Conquer'. She also worked in Hollywood where, at one time, she was romantically linked with Clark Gable. Back in the UK, she became a popular TV personality during the 1950s thanks to her appearances on 'What's My Line'.
On this, the north side of Kingsway, where I'm walking to stay as close as I can to the 450 northing, I pass two more blocks of flats The Albany and The Priory between one road called Albany Villas and another called Medina Villas. In front of me is St Catherine's Lodge Hotel, currently covered in scaffolding and wine-coloured netting. A few years ago, the local authorities took it over to help with their housing problems. I turn right, before the hotel, into Medina Villas where a short road, parallel to Kingsway, called Hove Place, will take me a bit closer to the 450 northing for 100 metres. Leicester Lodge, a solid dazzling white cube of a building, dating from the later Victorian period, dominates a corner between Hove Place and Medina Villas. It's divided into flats, one of which serves as an office for The Little Beer Company 'selling great British Beer to you on Spain's Costa del Sol'. It stocks, among other brands, Spitfire, Ruddles County, Bombardier, Hop Back Summer Lightning, Old Hooky and Young's Chocolate Stout. Summer Lightning, the Little Beer Company says, is brewed using a single varietal hop (East Kent Goldings). '[It is] an extremely pleasant, bitter, straw coloured beer with a terrific fresh, hoppy aroma. This, coupled with an intense bitterness, leads to an excellent long, dry finish.' A case of 12 bottles, each half a litre, costs 26 euros. And not to worry if you don't live on the Costa del Sol, the company is soon going to be offering the same deals to beer lovers on the Costa Brava.
by Paul K Lyons
A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton - along the 450 northing
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