London Road

An unpleasant obstacle course

By Sean Clark

London Road is pretty bad, full of drug addicts and their dealers and beggars. Should you manage to get past this lot then you get collared by the small army of charity collectors flanking each side of the street. Easy to avoid if it was not for the obstacle course of rubbish bags outside KFC and bus stop lines spilling over the pavement. Generally not very pleasant when walking to and from work every day.

Photo:London Road, Brighton

London Road, Brighton

From a private collection

Contributed to website by email on 27th November 2002
This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
London Road is, admittedly, decidedly blotchy and neglected. But there is something about it that feels to me like the high street of a smaller town. For this reason, it feels like home and I do as much of my shopping there, away from the Babylon of Churchill Square, as I possibly can. It is high time the council undertook a serious renovation of the Open Market. This alone could bring the buzz back to London Road.
By Emily Humphreys (07/04/2003)
London Road may not be, as Sean suggests, very prepossessing - but - as Emily points out it does have its good points. I shop there a couple of times a week and am greeted by shopkeepers as a 'regular'. I chat and ask about their families etc etc. These days, when one is only a face in a crowd in centres like Churchill Square, it is nice to feel part of a community - even if it does seem rather messy and neglected to those who only pass through.
By Jennifer Drury (13/07/2003)
On the subject of London Road, I shop there on a regular basis and find that it is far friendlier and more economical than shopping in the tourist trap that is central Brighton. The other bonus is that you only have to deal with genuine Brighton shoppers and not hundreds of holiday makers and students who will insist on blocking shop entrances and walkways by sitting right in the centre holding some kind of European Forum Debate. No, for friendly reasonable shopping give me London Road every time.
By Tony Mould (28/07/2003)
I live on London Road. I have lived here for the last 3 years and cannot imagine moving to another part of Brighton. It feels like we (me and the others in my flat) are the only people who live on this road. During the day it is hellishly noisy with the squeal of bus brakes. But at night there are only the far-away cries and shouts of drunk people to be heard. I look out of my window and there is often no one there - just their voices. It has a ghostly quality. When everyone is gone, only the debris remains. The garbage trucks come by each night and throw beautiful amber projections across our living room wall. Pigeons lovingly watch over us. Living on London Road, you never tire of Brighton. It's like a different town.
By Iain Paxon (03/10/2003)
I use London road shops regularly and find the area has a real community feel to it as does St James' street. What I think is difficult about it is the level of traffic and the time it takes to get from one side of the road to the other! I really dislike York Place on the way up. It's filthy and feels like an assault course, dodging the alcoholics, beggars, rubbish and now fencing that encroaches onto the pavement.
By Karen Archer (31/08/2004)
Has anyone any info on Francis Street, which is situated on the western side of London Road close to the market? My father was born there in 1920 and I would be interested to know when the original houses were built and demolished.
By Jimbo (01/07/2005)
I've been in Brighton for about three years. I left a lot of friends and friendly faces in Plymouth, and it's not nice to not recognise or know anyone. However, I've found my new home in and around the London Road area. I walk up and down it almost every day, where you see the same faces, smile and nod, shop in the butchers and fruit and veg shops where you are treated as a regular. It has a great community feel to it. Admittedy it could do with a bit of a clean up, but of all the places in Brighton, I would prefer to be here.
By Daniel Trembath (07/02/2006)

London Road is a horrible place to be - grim and vile. I dread waking down the road. Redevelop the whole place and sod the heritage experts. Now Sainsburys and the Co-op are gone, what's there to look forward to?!

By Darren Holes (27/02/2007)

My great, great, great grandfather Thomas Roberts lived at number 19 Viaduct Terrace on the London Road in Brighton in 1863 when his wife died. On a 1859 directory, it is said to be near Rose Hill Street. Is it still there today at all?

By Benjamin Caine (10/06/2007)

Jimbo, Go onto the Brighton Regency society website and follow the link to the James Gray collection, then to London Road and the rest is self explanatory.

By Neil (11/06/2007)

London road is Brighton, Brighton People! not Churchill Square or the Lanes. The local Council should improve this area for local people instead of catering for just the tourist trade!

By Sheila Jones (02/09/2007)

I personally find this guy's description and opinion of London Road to be way way off the mark; "full of drug dealers, addicts and beggars"! - a few beggars tops, I have never seen addicts hanging around, or open drug dealing.

By Jamie (13/10/2007)

The London Road is the dump of Brighton but both of the shopping centres are rubbish and you have to leave Brighton to get good shopping with fair parking prices.

By Simone (30/11/2007)

Me, I rather like the cheap friendly sleaze of London Road. I feel more at home there than in the carbon copy consumer zones.

By Tony Ling (05/01/2008)

When I first moved to Brighton (1974) I lived just off the London Road (Kingsbury Street) and it was a vibrant shopping area catering for all needs: walking down from Brighton Station to home I would often pop into Marks & Spencer to purchase a little luxury food item or buy the everyday groceries from Sainsbury on the corner of Cheapside. On Saturdays I would buy my vegetables at the Open Market and fish from Sid's stall (the friendliest fishmonger in Sussex) or go to Corbins (now MacDonalds) or Mitchells (now a mobile phone retailer) for paint and materials to "do our house up". I still have a dress I purchased in the late 1960s from Bellmans (now a supermarket). Woolworths had a basement then where I used to purchase seeds for my allotment in Roedale Valley and there were so many shoe shops to choose from you were spoilt for choice.

Today with the departure of the 'anchor' stores (Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury and now the huge Co-operative store (corner of Baker Street and London Road) and the demise or relocation of stores like Corbins, Sankeys Builders Merchants, Elliotts Tools, Mitchells to name but a few, and their replacement with charity shops and stores selling cheap lines, £1 shops etc. the road is in urgent need of revitalization. There is a chance to try and stop the rot by careful redevelopment of the redundant Co-op building - (saving the 1930s front fascade and using the upper storeys for residential to bring new people in to the area) and the creation of a covered Shopping Mall from the old main entrance through to the side entrance by the food hall in Baker Street, which is also dying, but for the moment London Road remains in limbo, by passed by the visitor to Brighton as their cars are channelled away from the shops up Viaduct Road (not much quality of life for the people living here) into the traffic jam at the bottom of Ditchling Road and the Level.

Not all is lost however, as the opening of the new Sainsbury supermarket at the top of Ann Street means that you might just walk up from the London Road and pass by the Grade 1 listed St. Bartholomew's church (known locally as Noah's Ark because of its massive size). From the outside it looks abit austere and daunting but take 5 minutes out of your busy schedule and pop inside - it's certainly worthwhile - the feeling of peace and tranquility and its strange beauty I am sure will make an impression on you.

By Gillian Taylor (15/02/2008)

Yes, London Road needs saving, it's the only real part of Brighton that remains, but don't look to Brighton and Hove Council.... they either pretend it doesn't exist - West Pier, The Bandstand - or green light completely inappropriate plans for development, ie: Royal Alexandra hospital development.  Need I say more?  The Cheapside development has regenerated a brown-field sight but it's hardly architecturally significant and have you seen the 'railing art'?  I really don't see how characters out of Enid Blyton (well that's what they remind me of) have relevance to our 'city'.  Want a city that is driven and progressive? I do.  Brighton and Hove City Council isn't.

By Simon Eaton (24/02/2008)

Being on a low income as a single parent with two voraciously hungry kids, the Open Market is a lifeline for me. I have got to know most of the stallholders and they are brilliant, very friendly and encouraging with always just the right connection with their customers. Some fantastic new shops have opened recently, including a gourmet French cheese shop and I always go into Pulse to see what new foods they have in. The bread is fantastic and if you like your eggs the Open Market has the cheapest free-range eggs in Brighton on a number of stalls. Look on the two second-hand stalls before the Market Cafe - if you still watch videos, great bargains to be had for just 50p most days. The 2nd hand stalls are also great for china and bric-a- brac - sort of a mini station market during the week run by friendly stall holders. I would highly recommend all those on a low income to continue to support the Open Market. The fresh fruit and vegetables are fantastic and the tomatoes I always buy to create wonderful pasta sauces. You can create gourmet dishes of the highest order by shopping at the last bit of authentic Brighton still in existence. Please don't change too much, Open Market.

By Emma Sweeney (28/02/2008)

In the early 1990s, I lived at 35 Baker Street - the only house in the road, I believe, nestling in between Melinda the hairdresser and other small independent businesses. It was a typical student house - cramped, damp and with no heating with the garden (small concrete yard) butting up against the open market. The smell from the fish stall in the summer was quite something! We couldn't afford a telephone so had an incoming-calls-only arrangement whereby people could call us but we had to walk to the phonebox by the market entrance if we wanted to phone anyone. The Mitre pub was immediately across the road and we soon realised that the street was quiet enough in the evenings to stretch a 20 metre extension cable across the road from the house to the pub so that we could nurse a pint and still be 'in' for when our mothers called to check we were eating properly.

Still living in Brighton 16 years later, if I walk into town or down to the seafront, the most direct route takes me via London Road. I now find that it's the city's ash-tray; people standing waiting for buses puffing on their cigarettes whilst invariably talking loudly into their mobiles. Old ladies with shopping trollies being tutted at by young mums with pushchairs. Kids in baseball caps hanging around outside KFC or MacDonalds. It sounds so sterotypical but this is what it's like. The gems can still be found - I make a regular trip to the charity shops for books and bargains - but London Road is now mostly just the part of town I have to endure, trying not to inhale other people's smoke, to get from one point to another.

By Jo (10/08/2008)

Look up when you're walking along London Road. The age and style of the buildings are so diverse. I love looking at the old pics of London Road on this website where it was lined with trees. London Road feels real, the traders are real too. Yes, there are some real issues too and it does need some care and attention. Question is, is St. James Investments, knocking half the character out of the street and a massive Tesco with a 1,000 space car park what London Road/Preston Circus needs? I remain wholly unconvinced.

By Fran (19/08/2008)

Far more than any area in Brighton, London Road has a real character. Yes, it is grimy and yes it does have a slightly depressing feel so it at times, but at the end of the day it is real. Unlike a lot of the tacky, consumerist masquerade that is some parts of the centre of Brighton (think West Street on a weekend night or the tourist traps and greedy chains dominating the streets).  The Open Market is by far one of my favourite places to spend a lunch time. There are the wonderful clothes stalls selling unique and quirky second hand and hand sewn items.  The bike stalls: several secondhand mountain bike stalls and a stall selling old fashioned style gorgeous bikes.  The Thai shop which sells delicious noodle soups to take away. Haberdashery and the fruit and veg stall very good prices. All the traders are friendly and helpful and there is a real community feel.  There's really something to London Road when you get to know it and can see past the social epression.  I think London Road does need a clean up but not at the expense of it's integrity and charm. Please don't build yet another supermarket.

By Becci (05/04/2009)
I think you are all correct. I'd like them to bring the history back in to London Road. I'd like to see inside of the manor house, Stanmer Park as, when the old house was demolished, there was quite a lot of history behind the hauntings that went on. I can feel hot and cold bits in the old well house. It's a nice feeling. I would love to go on a hunt in Brighton if any one is interested in paranormal sights.
By Michelle Watson (13/07/2009)

I think you are all right in what you are saying about London Road - its changed. It used to attract so many visitors, but I think they should make new attractions for us adults. Open the old Co-op back up as the builders seem to be taking so long - it gets boring looking at the same shops and the same rubbish that people put out.

By Michelle (27/09/2009)

Does anyone remember the name of the nice little cookshop that used to be on the London Road, probably late 70s and 80s? It was just next to, or nearby, what used to be the old Marks and Spencer, which was next to Sainsburys. It was a great little shop that sold lots of kitchen gadgets, cookware, aprons and soda stream refills! If anyone remembers it please tell me the name - it is driving me crazy! Thanks.

By Jane (24/01/2010)

Pretty certain it would have been Timothy White's

By neil underhill (26/01/2010)

My father had a butchers shop in the 60s, 70s and 80s called Longs. Don't know if anyone remembers it. My brother also worked in the shop with my dad. Sadly John (my dad) died in 1993 but we had many happy days in the shop selling his notoriously well known pork sausages. Would be delighted to hear from anyone who remembers Longs the butchers.

By Tracey Stanton (24/02/2010)

Yes I remember Longs the Butchers - it was a proper old butcher's shop with sawdust on the floor and pigs hanging up etc. I do remember them being well know for their sausages. We lived in Kingsbury Road until I was about 4 years old, and I can remember how nice the London Road was and all the old fashioned shops like the chemist, Sainsburys with the staff wearing white overalls and white hairnets, Clarks the bakers, International Stores, Rosylns Dept Store etc. etc. Much nicer than it is now, and always really busy with shoppers.

By Irene Dobson (10/03/2010)

You described Longs well, Irene, and thanks for taking the time to reply. You have just made my night!  Dad actually won lots of first class cups for his famous sausages in various competitions around the county and country. Wish I could taste them again. Nice to know that they are remembered though.

By Tracey Stanton (16/03/2010)

I worked at Bellmans in London Road from 1958 - 1962

By John Dine (22/03/2010)

I lived above Timpsons Shoe Shop at 106 London Road from c1955 - 1961. I remember the road with affection watching the London to Brighton car run, people scattering when the fire engines were on a shout. When I returned to see it in c2006 much remained of what I knew - I saw no problems with the area so I am sad to read some of these comments.

By Sue Loveridge (30/11/2010)

I visited the Open Market the other day,it's  very run down but love it to bits and my partner and I are thinking of re-locating and opening a new market stall there. I hear it's ripe for re-development though so maybe in June we'll meet up? I've got stall in Bath at mo. Bath is just like a mini Brighton but without the sea - full of contrasts - come and visit. Think of the future of markets 'ethical friendly' - these people have the money to invest - very socially aware.

By Ness (23/01/2011)

London Road has massive potential, but seriously, it needs to smarten itself up a bit. The Open Market is a gem, and it's sad to see how empty a lot of it is these days. It may be a bit shabby, but it's got character.

By Jack B. Nimble (03/11/2011)

Does anyone remember a pub called the City of London behind London Road?  I used to go there in the 1960s. All that area was demolished not long after. Cannot recall the landlord's name, but would like to!

By Ean (10/02/2012)

Half way along London Street (Not there now I think). My brother-in-law thinks it was a Watney pub.

By Chris Reed (15/08/2012)

Hi Ean and Chris. The City of London was indeed in London Street at number 41 and demolished around 1967. Regards

By Andy Grant (17/08/2012)

London Road and the Level are the alcoholics' and heroine addicts' day centre. I have witnessed drugs exchanging hands openly, the fights, openly using the Level as a toilet and the shouting and swearing many times - all whilst walking my daughter home from school and seeing other children making their way home from school on their own. The lack of control over the "vulnerable" people in this area using any of the 3 rehab/drug handout centres in the area has taken the freedom and innocence away from the children who live in this area. The priorities for who is vulnerable panders only to the charities operating for the homeless and addicted, not for the youth or the elderly. The charities give to one small part of society and take from everyone else in that area.

By K Holden (28/12/2012)

London Road area, where I lived for nearly twenty years, has been allowed to 'deteriorate' to the point where it is attractive mainly to the most vulnerable and deprived in society. These people, because of their social inadequacies, find solace in drugs. They are no more capable of changing their lives without help than those with serious learning disabilities.

By Joe Reid (29/12/2012)

I've lived down on the London Rd for 15 years now; I first moved here in 1981. If I could be really positive about London Rd, if you want it you'll find it.

By Philip Hart (05/03/2013)

It is so sad and a sign of the apathetic times that London Road is as bad as the folk say. London Road featured in my young life in the late 40s and the 50s so much. My dad had a stall in the Open Market for 20 years or so. I spent many happy hours wandering around London Road, it was a splendid place to be hanging around, especially so at Christmas. So if it as bad as people say it is with druggies and the like why are the police being paid? Surely the job of the police is to enforce law and order, so why is there one drug addict on the scene, why are they not removed. Put London Road back to where the people want it to be and get rid of the scum that seem to rule these days. Trouble is today there is far too much carrot and nowhere near enough stick. It is about time that the majority ruled this land and not the minority. I get fed up of hearing about addicts.There is an old saying in the military that I believe in -self inflicted wound. The druggies took the drugs for the highs so feel lousy when the lows come to you and stop relying on other good people. Get a grip, there is so much help out there if you have the courage to get it.

By Mick Peirson (06/03/2013)

Ean, the landlord of the City of London was Ray Bishop. My mum used to live at 34 London Street.

By John Merrington (19/01/2014)

This is for Ean. The last landlords of the City of London, London St were Vicki and Bert Gray. They moved out for the pub to be pulled down. I should know, I lived there as well as a teenager. Charlie Tucknott lived next door. I hope this helps.

By S Stanley (21/02/2014)

To S.Stanley - Hi. I take your word for it. I knew Charlie and Ivy. They had the greengrocers around the corner on York Hill. Vicki and Bert Gray must have taken over after we left. My mum (Vi Parsons) went to live in Kemp Town; I went up north in 1962. Ray Bishop had it for a few years from the 50s on. So Queeny (across the street) must have gone with him?

By John Merrington (02/04/2014)

CORRECTION for S.Stanley. Sorry! After 50 years some things tend to cloud over a little. Yes, of course we knew Charlie Tucknott but the greengrocers was Charlie and Ivy Ansell. The newsagent on the other side of York Hill was Mr. Croyden. I went to school (St.Bart's) with his daughter Valery. I think Queeny's surname was Rogers. Her daughter Jean was a good friend.

By John Merrington (02/04/2014)

I have to agree with the majority of the comments here. London Road has got loads of character. I love the charity shops, and the Open Market. London Road has so much going for it, especially when you compare it with the city centre. 

By Annette (01/09/2014)

To S.S., thanks for reply. I went to the City of London a few times because I  worked with a girl who lived there, her name was Christine. We worked at a store on the Western Road. Do you remember her?

By Ean (11/09/2014)

Hi Ean. Yes, I do know Christine - she's my estranged sister.

By S.S. (18/09/2014)

Sorry, have not been to site for some time. Sad to hear you and your sister do not communicate. If by chance you should contact her, please pass on my greetings. I still live in Brighton. Thanks again, Ean.

By Ean Ross (29/08/2015)

I am an ex-Brightonian now living in Calgary, Canada. I remember going to the Open Market on a Saturday morning and would stand in awe watching the Horse Shoesmith tending the horses for new shoes for hours on end. Does anyone remember the old Horse Shoeing chap? He used to walk with quite a limp; don't know if it happened from a kick from one of the horses. Delightful place the Old Market was, way back when.

By Sylvia Stickel (30/08/2015)

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