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|A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton
by Paul K Lyons
12 - From gents by angelic hell to infinity, and from red blob records to drum's guitars
There's a tiny cul-de-sac here, Marlborough Place, one side of which is pretty with two and three storey cottages, but it's completely cut off by modern developments and is within touching distance of the busy traffic junction. Next to Marlborough Place is Amon Wilds House, a curious looking building with a fish weather vane, cluttered with building work at present. Amon and his son Amon Henry were leading Regency architects and builders in the early 19th century. Some of their buildings have columns with ammonite-shaped capitals, a kind of architectural pun with their surname.
Reeling forwards again to the mid-20th century, there was another cinema in this block - the Coronation - but the Astoria round the corner must have done for it. The Coronation took over a former shop, and opened before the First World War with 350 seats. In 1928, it was renamed the New Coronation, but, despite the modernised name, it was the last cinema in Brighton to install sound, and was still showing silent movies in 1932. After the Astoria opened, the New Coronation went through various transformations - a renaming to Troxy Cinema, a remodelling in the Art Deco style, and a change to Rex News Theatre - before closing in 1939. Again, many thanks to the Directory of Cinemas in Brighton & Hove.
Still on the north side of North Road, there's a Mojos and then Cheltenham Place, a sweet street with terraced cottages of varying shapes and characters, and a line of old-fashioned street lamps. In the next block, I find Rare Kind Records in a building of bricks painted white with red blobs. Next door is the more traditional looking Bill's Produce Store (full of wholesome-looking fruit and veg and groceries) which has taken over a building - once a bus depot - with huge dark green doors. And, next door to Bill's, is Brighton Foam. Unsurprisingly, this shop sells foam and fibre filled products, but it also promises to cut 'luxury foam' to size and that 'beanbags are in stock'. Huge brightly-coloured plastic letters, along the building's side in Vine Street, spell out the name. Blinded by these garish colours I almost miss some other large letters, higher up in the facade, but painted over - The Red Lion.
On the south side of North Road, starting at the corner by the traffic lights, I can see Grave Jenkins who are, and I quote exactly, 'Est t gents'. I wonder if these 'gents' get on with their neighbours at Angelic Hell Tattoo World. Through an arch, there's a cul-de-sac, called Barrack Yard. An etched stone on the arch says, 'former gateway to public baths'. Beyond the arch is, indeed, The Old Slipper Baths, now housing a nursery. Another cul-de-sac, this one called North Place, with three storey terraces, is dominated by a high red brick wall at the end, part of the 1970s-built Prince Regent Swimming Complex.
Back on the north side (my right as I walk) I find another tattoo parlour, this one called Blue Dragon, next to Noir Caribbean Takeaway. Noir does specials each day, including Oxtail and Butterbeans on Tuesday, and Curry Goat on Wednesday. Jerk Chicken (hot and spicy with ginger) for £3.50 and Jamaican Patties for £1.50 are available every day. The next block, between Robert Street and Kensington Street, is taken up with modern buildings, a Wagamama and New Heights (furniture). Around 100 years ago, this same block boasted a bookbinder, a draper, a greengrocer, an eating house, and the Robinson Printing Company.
Opposite (on my left), in one block, there's a new grey building with boardings at street level. A single small white poster, presumably for the initiated, says only this: 'Thursday. 25th. At the Arc. Jamieson Jason Kaye Old Skool. Soulful Garage'. There's a Starbucks (where isn't there?), and then a terrace of three/four storey houses with Tiffany's, Infinity Foods, and Sussex Fitted Homes at street level. Tiffany's offers all-day breakfasts. Infinity Foods is a worker's co-operative selling a wide range of Fair Trade and organic foods. There's a large crowded noticeboard in the window with postcard-sized pieces of paper advertising flats, things for sale, and various alternative lifestyle options (Chen Style Taijiquan, Japanese Reiki, Food of Life Festy, Holistic Network). Sussex Fitted Homes says it is a kitchen specialist. A century ago this block held a confectioner, a furniture dealer, an upholsterer, an auctioneer and a clothes shop. But, the Dorset pub, which occupies the small space between Gardner Street and Orange Row, was also there a 100 years ago, having opened much earlier in the 19th century.
Back on the north side, the block between between Kensington Street and Kensington Gardens is taken up mostly by North Road Timber, with its grey facade and black hoardings. The windows are full of wood furniture trimmings, and several wooden fireplaces stand on the pavement. For much of the 19th century, this place was occupied by a wholesale grocer, but, by the middle of the 20th century it had become a house furnishings shop. On the corner with Kensington Gardens, part of the same building, but painted in cream, is Sweetime Flower Shop.
Kensington Gardens is car-free, and one of the liveliest, trendiest shopping streets in Brighton, and the heart of the area known as North Laine. Unfortunately, my route lies west not north, and there's enough to detain me on North Road without being diverted down Kensington Gardens. Up from Kensington Gardens, the next block on the north side (to Upper Gardner Street) provides still more contrasts. Two small boutique-style shops on the corner (Deja and Fetique) are overwhelmed by the horribly bright red and yellow facade of GAK Audio and Drum Cavern. Drum Cavern's windows are full of electric guitars, the cheapest being around £180. Fetique is cute, for it has painted itself in black and white, presumably in a determined attempt to disassociate itself from Drum Cavern's garishness.
by Paul K Lyons
A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton - along the 450 northing
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