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|A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton
by Paul K Lyons
14 - Spring Gardens? No! But a green Earth and Stars; and Seurat across the Channel
It's time for me to leave North Road, which has taken me slightly north of the 450 northing, and turn left into Spring Gardens. Another ugly modern building, part medium-rise, dominates the corner. The ground floor, taken up by LA Fitness, is decorated with red panelling. An advertising board impels me to 'Join now. Pay nothing till June 7th' - which is only a week away. Cool. In the window, these services are offered: pool, gym, LA spin, aerobics, sauna, steam, spa, sunbeds, LA beauty, treatments, LA kids, cafe bar. Cool. Toward the top of North Road, on this side but beyond the point where I am turning left, stood the Grand Theatre, known for a short while in the 1890s as Hippodrome Circus and as Eden Theatre. It had over 1,000 seats. In the 1930s, it was converted into a cinema, but then served as a theatre again in the 1940s and 1950s. The building was destroyed by fire in 1961.
I venture down Spring Gardens, a street with very little colour or interest - it seems to be all concrete and cars. On my left, elements of an electrical substation can be seen rising above the protective fencing with bright yellow 'Danger of Death' notices. On my right, a few small car parks back onto the backs of buildings. On one of these, huge letters advertise 'Patrick Moorehead - antiques trade only', but I can find no trace of the man or his antiques any more. The smaller letters of a 'No Parking' sign have been turned into 'No Barking', and graffiti demands that Brighton residents 'Stop the arms trade'.
Without regrets, I turn out of the grossly mis-named Spring Gardens into Church Street. Opposite is a piece of derelict land, fenced off; but at the corner with Windsor Street is the enterprising Earth and Stars pub, all turquoisey and creamy. In 2001, after being bought by Zelgrain which owns a large number of pubs in Brighton and the Southeast, the Earth and Stars claimed to be world's first pub to have no impact on CO2 levels. A solar panel in the roof provides electricity, the bar serves organic beers, spirits and wines, and the food is cooked using free-range and locally-sourced ingredients. Zelgrain suggests, on its Drink in Brighton website, that 'the atmosphere is usually fairly mellow, although the clientele is by no means exclusively dreadlocked eco-warriors in tie-dye'.
This end of Church Street, before it meets Queen's Road, is a bit of a mess. On the north side a large grey building, four storeys at the lower end and three at the higher end, has net curtains in all the windows, but looks unused. This was (or may still be) owned by the Royal Mail and was used as a sorting office. Next to it are some old white-painted terraced houses, numbers 68-70 face on to Church Street, but numbers 66-67 are behind them, accessed through a black door next to 68. At first storey level on number 68, 'RC 1818, Kew Place' is etched into the brick work. Very close to the black door is an opening to a public garden, where pigeons are feeding, two people are sitting on benches, and the grass needs cutting. The Brighthelm United Reform Church and Community Centre, built in the late 1980s, stands at the other end of the garden. The church incorporates Hanover Chapel which itself dates back to the 1820s. Worshippers at the church consider their local history began in 1689 when an Independent chapel was first founded in Brighton, in Union Street.
Finally in Church Street, on the south side, are two secondhand menswear shops (Ivy's and D&K Rosen, although the latter, established in 1918, has closed down) and Clock Tower Cameras, a specialist in 'used photographic equipment'. The road's end is closed to traffic, but leads me into one of Brighton's main thoroughfares, Queen's Road, connecting the sea with the station, both of which I can see.
Looking left, southish, the sea I can see is part of the English Channel. If I were to proceed directly down Queen's Road, and then its extension West Street, and continue in exactly the same direction, somehow skimming over the water, I would eventually arrive at the Normandy Coast, somewhere near the busy fishing port of Port-en-Bessin, which has D-Day Landing Beaches either side of it. The Impressionist artist, Seurat, painted the place (see the artchive website).
Looking right, northish, Brighton station, designed in the Italianate style by David Mocatta, is not as attractive as it once was, back in the 1840s (see Spartacus schoolnet website). The original facade was cluttered up by the addition of a porte-cochere in the 1880s; and since then, evidently, all kinds of other buildings and structures (lamps, signposts, etc) have only served to further confuse the view. Beyond the facade, though, and within the station itself is the large curved terminus (I can see part of the roof) which is still majestic today. In 1841, the station was described by 'The Brighton Gazette' as follows: 'The Brighton Terminus is a beautiful structure, and with the iron sheds in the rear, will not suffer from comparison with any railway terminus in existence. The offices and waiting rooms are most commodious, and are furnished with every convenience for passengers.'
by Paul K Lyons
A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton - along the 450 northing
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