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|A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton
by Paul K Lyons
16 - St Nicholas survives despite the devil's work, as does a most immodest epitaph
The wide red brick path winds lazily through the garden, round the south side of the church. There's a myth or two connected with the place worth the retelling. Sussex Archaeology & Folklore, for example, note that the devil doesn't like churches and does his best to interfere with their building, or to damage them when built. In the case of St. Nicholas, one myth goes, the devil disguised himself as a pious woman who gave pilgrims a vase of oil with which to anoint the church. But the vases contained a liquid that could burn stone walls. Another story, apparently told to visiting schoolchildren (BrightonandHove website), tells of a lass that climbed the spire (? didn't have far to go on this church) to search the horizon for the ship bringing her lover home. She did spy the vessel but when she saw that it was on fire in Shoreham harbour, she fainted and fell to her death. Ever since then, on the anniversary of her death - said to be 7 May - her ghost is supposed to haunt the church and graveyard.
I exit the church yard back to Church Road, more or less opposite St Nicholas Road which has a pleasant set of bay-fronted terraces mostly painted in pastel colours. Because there are no houses on the other side of the road (but for the low buildings of St Paul's Church of England School and Nursery), they have a great view across to the east of Brighton. Where Church Road meets Dyke Road, there are two more separate garden areas, both created out of the old cemetery. They look like restful places. One, on the other side of Dyke Road, has a memorial to Richard Phillips, just inside the arched entrance. The epitaph, which he wrote himself, is quite extraordinarily immodest and worth quoting in full. It reads: 'He lived though an age of remarkable events and changes, and was an active and anxious contemporary. He was Sheriff of London and Middlesex in 1807-8, and an effective ameliorator of a stern and uncharitable criminal code. He was, in 1798, the inventor and promulgator of the interrogative system of education, by which new impulses were given to the intelligence of society. He also placed natural philosophy on the basis of common sense, and developed the laws of nature on immutable principles, which will always be co-extensive with the respect of mankind for truth: in the promotion of these objects, and a multitude of others, he wrote and published more original works than any of his contemporaries, and in all of them advocated civil liberty, general benevolence, ascendancy of justice, and the improvement of the human race. As a son, husband, father and friend, he was also an example for imitation, and left a mourning family little to inherit besides a good name. He died in the enjoyment of that peace which is the sweet fruit of the Christian religion and which the world can neither give nor take away.'
I walk down Dyke Road (the B2121), but the other way, up Dyke Road, leads to the long Dyke Road Avenue, and, beyond the Brighton bypass, to Devil's Dyke Road, and ultimately to Devil's Dyke itself - a deep valley cut into the South Downs. Yes, the dyke was more of the devil's work against churches. Legend has it that he dug the dyke in an attempt to bring the sea inland and flood god's buildings in the area.
On this, the lower side of the church yard, the containing wall is more attractive, all red brick and flints, with regular pillars. The weirdest looking building sits even lower than the low end of the church yard. It is grey and white and gothic with crenellated parapets, and dozens of chimneys. This is Wykeham Terrace and it has a history of colourful inhabitants, not least the fallen women for whom it was first built by nuns. Much more recently, it was occupied by the Territorial Army and squatters (not at the same time), as well as the occasional celebrity such as Dame Flora Robson, Leo Sayer and Adam Faith. Apparently, also, there is a song named after the place.
On the right hand side of Dyke Road is Ame's Salon, a hair extension specialists. For £19.99 I can buy 18 inches of deep brown 100% human hair, a Yaki Natural Premium Quality product made in China. One end of number 37 Dyke Road has an acute angle, maybe as little as 30 degrees, which must make for strange rooms inside with unusually pointed corners. Somewhere on this bit of Dyke Road, in the 19th century, there used to be a pub - The Buckingham. Not any longer.
by Paul K Lyons
A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton - along the 450 northing
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