Clifton Terrace and Upper North Street

History

By Steve Myall

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Clifton Terrace and Upper North Street' page

The above lithograph, published by William Grant of 5 Castle Square c1850, is looking west-south-west over the same landscape that Constable, looking to the north east, painted in 1824. It is remarkable that all the development illustrated by Grant’s print was built in just 25 years. This view illustrates Clifton Terrace on the right (just four to five years old at this time), Dyke Road (then called Church Hill) in the foreground as it rises beside St. Nicholas’ Church, and Upper North Street on the left, as it travels towards Montpelier Terrace and Montpelier Road. Notice the pretty bow-fronted terrace homes at the far left end of Upper North Street, now replaced by an office block.  The spire of Christ Church, Montpelier Road can be seen in the distance; the scene pre-dates the building of St. Mary Magdalen church. Grant’s print is entitled ‘West View of Brighton from the top of the Old Church’ and with its companion print, which takes the south-east view looking over Wykeham Terrace, is one of a pair of very rare early Victorian Brighton lithographs. From the print it looks as if Clifton Terrace might be painted white, as it is today, but in fact the early image of all these terraces was of unpainted rendering. This is one of only two Victorian prints which shows Clifton Terrace, the other being a small book plate, and there are no other C19trh prints of Upper North Street.

Norman Villa, built c1850, is in the foreground on the corner of Clifton Terrace, and in the middle distance is that part of Clifton Terrace which leads down the hill into Clifton Place.  The gap in the terrace is shown, just before the final house, and the original intention was that Clifton Terrace would continue westwards. This explains the strange position of the house on the east side mid-way down Victoria Street.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Clifton Terrace and Upper North Street' page

During the mid C19th there was an inn, the Buckingham Arms, at the bottom of Church Hill, which was probably the building on the far left of Grant’s lithograph, with the tall white side wall. The deeds to numbers 1 and 2 Clifton Terrace confirm those houses were built in 1846 by two local builders, G.W. Sawyer and Richard Edwards. Edwards then lived in number 1 for several years, while he was building other homes in the terrace, and the development was financed by Kemp’s widow together with members of the Barings Bank family.  The taller facades in the centre of the terrace were probably the first to be constructed and in the 1846 street directory number 14 is Miss Wakefield’s Ladies School.

In the same street directory Upper North Street had 25 listed occupants, mostly traders and shops, but the house numbers ranged from 4 up to 109, so many of the undeveloped plots had been assigned a number.

The Windmill Inn was the first building on the un-named track that became Upper North Street, it was certainly trading in the early 1820s, and in 1828 it received its full licence to trade.  H.E.S.Simmonds, the unpublished Sussex windmill historian, wrote that Clifton Place was established as the direct route from Vine’s Mill and Clifton Gardens Mill down to the inn. He then goes on ‘This public house in days gone by stood in open fields on the old track from St. Nicholas’ Church to Hove village’.

Further development of the street started with the sale by Kemp in 1830 of a tract of land on the north side of what was then called North Street Road. It was purchased by Francis and William Hallett, the father and son of one of Brighton’s very successful early Victorian building firms, who went on to build many of the houses along this road. Hallett was the half-share owner of the Steam Brewery in Lewes, he owned or leased a number of inns in Sussex, and he built the Windmill Inn. It is fairly certain that he also built Hampton Villa, on the corner of Upper North Street and Montpelier Street, because of the similarity of design and date of these two houses

 

This page was added on 17/04/2011.

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