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|A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton
by Paul K Lyons
17 - A colourful Urban story and the PV's Rizla offer, while C-side man goes digital
Dyke Road has brought me a little south of the 450 northing, so I turn right into Upper North Street. On the corner is a large modern block which advertises the Brighton Medical Examination Centre in ground floor windows and Easynet in first floor windows. This is Lees House. Previously, though, the Lees Nursing Home existed here. And this is where Charles Urban, one of the most influential figures in early British cinema, died in 1942. An American of German parentage, he started out selling books, then phonographs, before becoming, in the mid-1890s, the manager of a Kinetoscope and phonograph parlour in Detroit. Subsequently, he developed his own type of projector, the Bioscope, and moved to England where he worked as an agent for Edison films. The Charles Urban website says the man's 'powerful, ebullient personality and drive lay at the heart of what was soon to become the most prominent British film company of the period, with its reputation firmly based on documentary and news film'. In this period, Urban was also very involved in the development of Kinemacolor, the first successful natural motion picture colour system. In 1903, he set up his own company, Charles Urban Trading Company, which, among other things, maintained and developed his strong reputation for supplying quality documentary film. The colour film record of the Delhi Durbar of 1911, a spectacular ceremony held in India for the coronation of King George V, is considered his greatest achievement. Following a legal challenge, however, the Kinemacolor patent in Britain was lost and with it Urban's commercial advantage. Although Urban continued working with documentary film in Britain, and then, after the First World War, in the US, his influence and commercial success declined sharply in the 1920s.
Although Upper North Street is largely residential, made up of elegant terraced houses, there are a number of shops and businesses dotted along the south and cheaper-looking side. The first block is taken up by the dull grey Crown House, a relatively-modern Inland Revenue building - and it looks like it. But in the next block, after Regent Hill, the 19th century buildings begin and remain for the length of the road. The first of them is the colourful, and gay, Princess Victoria, or PV. Hanging baskets and a pub sign with cartoon figure give the place some character. A long time ago it was called Victoria Inn. On Wednesdays, a sign tells me, there's a free quiz and I could win a bottle of vodka or fizz or 'the infamous packet of Rizla'. The PV advertises itself as 'a pub for everyone, with a fantastic mix of the old and young, gay and straight, the beautiful and the not quite so lovely'. Next door is the Hair Emporium and the Rupali Curry and Tandoori Takeaway, and further along there's a framing studio, a restaurant called Barry, a grocer and a trade only antique store. The block ends at Marlborough Street.
At this point, on the opposite side of the road, the terrace becomes taller and grander. Starting at 89 and continuing through to 77 (going west) these are listed buildings, all three storeys with Ionic pilasters and little window balconies, dating approximately from the 1830s. The terraces before and after this group, also have three storeys, but the lower storey is a basement and the houses are shorter, and seem less majestic.
Beyond Marlborough Street on the south side, the block starts with Codgers, a traditional tailor. A notice in the window says: 'Owing to a vast amount of garments not being collected, I am afraid I've got to change company practice. For all garments, a deposit will have to be paid in advance, or at least a 50% deposit.' Here, at this spot at number 39, in the 19th century, there used to be a pub called The Fox. And at number 44, there used to be another pub, the Blacksmith's Arms. Today E&B White Antiques has a shop front in this block, as does Dekorart. The latter was launched in 2005 by Martin Webb, who's a bit of a local celebrity. As a young graduate in the early 1990s, he co-founded C-Side, a Brighton-based leisure company, which grew rapidly and included The Zap and The Beach clubs. By 2001, when he sold out, it was making annual profits of over £2m. He also founded Brighton radio station Surf 107 (now Juice 107) and opened the Robin Hood in Norfolk Place, the UK's first charity pub. Dekorart, a web-based fine art digital printing company, is a more recent venture.
by Paul K Lyons
A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton - along the 450 northing
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