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|A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton
by Paul K Lyons
22 - Drinking freemasons and coppers, department shoppers, plus a nice young man
Two unusual properties in the next block detain me momentarily. Number 37a is i-gigi, which calls itself 'a general store', but the building itself is far from general. Not only does it have a gable front and an Art Nouveau look, but its entire first floor elevation is given over to a wide curved window. The girls, as they call themselves, who own i gigi say 'quality and authenticity is paramount', and that this is 'a store with a difference, where hand made basil and bitter chocolate truffles, French wooden pegs, and natural olive soaps rub shoulders with handblown Belgian glassware and traditional Royal Staffordshire dinner ware'. A little further on are two neighbouring terraced properties now used by the Freemasons Tavern. One of them, though, has an unusual frontage incorporating mosaic lettering with 'Kemp Town Brewery', dolphins and masonic symbols.
Just a few metres away, round the corner in Brunswick Street West, is a small and very traditional-looking pub called the Bow Street Runner. It looks tiny, partly because it is, and partly because it stands hard by a taller building that was once Hove Town Hall. Built in the mid-1850s, it was originally Brunswick Town Hall, when Brunswick had its own separate identity. Most recently, the building was being used as Riley's snooker hall but even Riley has moved on, and it is now closed and boarded up. Maps of the 19th century show both a fire station and a police station next to the Town Hall. The Bow Street Runner occupies the former police station. For a 100 years, the pub was called the Station Inn, but changed its name in the 1960s, and now recalls the first recognised police force in London (launched over 250 years ago).
I cross Lansdowne Place, and the next block on my left is full of yet more modern facades housing a variety of shops: Pronuptia, Leonards Estate Agents, Rume, Fast Signs, Design Interiors, Sevenoaks Sound Vision, Epilight (permanent hair removal system for men and women - now closed), Video Box and a Thai restaurant. But what really interests me is the single block-size building which contains all these stores. It has fluted columns between the first and second floor windows, and a vaguely Art Deco look probably dating from the 1930s. In fact, this was a department store called Hill's. It advertised in a 1950s street directory as follows: 'A shopping expedition to Hill's of Hove is an occasion . . . The wealth of selection and outstanding values in Fashions, Accessories and Furnishings make even a long journey well worth the while.' There was also a restaurant in the building, and 'The Times Library'.
At the very end of the block, by the junction with Holland Road, I find another Victorian pub, with a very un-Victorian name, The Biscuit Factory. Etched in the window glass, however, is the name 'Wick Inn' along with other encouraging words such as 'Music', 'Ruddles', and 'Websters Ale'. High above the corner door there's a sign saying Nan Tuck's Tavern, and below it there's a mural of a scared woman and a black cat - which gives me a great link to a 'Sunday Mirror' story in 2004, with the headline 'My hell with sex strangler love'. It reported that Graham Coutts had been jailed for a minimum of 30 years for strangling a music teacher. Much of the story, which describes some of the murderer's sex habits, is based on an interview with a former girlfriend. He was a 21-year-old guitarist with local bands at the time, and she was a 31-year-old divorced mother of five. They met at the Wick Inn. 'Graham just seemed like a nice young man,' she told the Sunday Mirror, 'he didn't seem remotely strange.'
Opposite, on the north side of Western Road (which I have ignored for a while), between Lansdowne Street and Holland Road, is another grand building, number 82, with a new Tesco Express at ground floor level. Round the corner, on the Holland Road side there is an entrance to Michael Norman Antiques. This is Palmeira House, originally built in the 1860s as a hotel. By 1873, though it had become a huge department store, the Hove Co-operative Supply Association, and by the 1880s it was known as Palmeira Stores. It sold everything, from saddles to stationary and fish to furniture. In the 1960s, it was taken over by Maples, a furniture company, and then by Michael Norman Antiques which claims (on its website, with a picture of Michael Norman Antiques taking up the street level space now occupied by Tesco) to have 'one of the largest antique furniture showrooms in the world' offering 'possibly the most comprehensive collection of 18th and 19th century furniture in the country'. In 1991, the building became Grade II listed. Thereafter, an attempt by the local council to force the owners to include low-cost housing in a conversion plan went to appeal and the owners won. However, in 2005, the local council did manage to oblige Tesco to restore certain historic features of the building during its refurbishment.
by Paul K Lyons
A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton - along the 450 northing
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