Seven Dials

A potted history

The background information about the two areas in the Seven Dials ward is reproduced with permission from the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder

West Hill
West Hill is the name given to the eastern part of Church Hill rising westwards from Brighton Station, Queen's Road and the central valley. It was developed in the 1840s and '50s with 'working-class' and 'middle-class' terraced housing near the station, and in the 1870s with large villa residences in the grounds of the former workhouse. Designated a conservation area in 1977.

The Prestonville area, part of the former Preston parish, was developed by Daniel Friend as a middle-class housing estate in the mid 1860s, and originally included Brigden Street, Hamilton Road, Hamilton Terrace, Prestonville Road, Prestonville Terrace and Stanford Road; the land had originally been intended for a public abattoir. In the 1880s the Port Hall area was developed to the north, while the houses of Buxton Road, Lancaster Road and Stafford Road were added in the 1890s.

On 22 February 1882 Eric Gill, the stone carver and engraver, was born at 32 Hamilton Road; he later moved as a boy to 53 Highcroft Villas. The Prestonville Arms, Hamilton Road, is said to be haunted. The parish church of Prestonville is St Luke's in Old Shoreham Road. Built in 1875 in Early English style by John Hill, it has a pleasant red-brick exterior, with a small tower and clock surmounted by a short spire at the south-east corner; it became a parish church in 1878 and the interior was enlarged in 1882 by J.G.Gibbins. St Luke's Church Hall in Exeter Street is a red-brick Gothic building of 1884, with the separate boys' and girls' entrances to the Sunday school still apparent.

The land to the south of Old Shoreham Road, developed contemporaneously with Prestonville, belonged to New England Farm and lay within the parish of Brighton. The farm buildings stood on the site of York Grove and York Villas from the 1810s until the 1860s, but the farmhouse, with its four-column Doric doorway, attractive garden and an outbuilding, remains at 26 York Villas. The age of this house is somewhat uncertain but it is believed to date from the early nineteenth century; certainly buildings are shown on the site in maps of around 1820. In 1990 it was being converted to flats. Theatrical impresario Sir Charles Blake Cochran was born nearby at 15 Prestonville Road in 1872.

This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
I live in one of the 4 block of flats at the bottom of Brigden Street (next to the Prestonville Arms). These are not at all in keeping with all the terrace houses in the street. I am interested to know if these are converted flats and, if so, what the building used to be? I am grateful for any information you have.
By Vikki Bullock (08/03/2006)
I have recently moved into the Seven Dials area at Port Hall Road. Does anybody have any information about Port Hall? What was it and are the remains at the end of the road? If anybody has any old photos of how Port Hall Road looked in its hay-day that would be great.
By Steve Shaw (08/04/2006)
My great aunt lived in Port Hall Road with her two children who became my god-parents. We used to visit at least monthly and see the couple next door who had a huge old gramaphone complete with a huge round speaker coming up off the needle. They had a lodger who was a magician, and so many magical tricks he knew. My godmother now lives in Kent, I will contact her for some history of Port Hall. I recall walking up a huge flight of steps from London Road, and being told that at one time a woman had been found murdered on those steps. The houses were old and huge, and the back gardens small....usually terraced. I believe my mother's grandparents owned a grocery store at the end of Port Hall Road, name of Smith. Will confirm that information.
By Bonny Cother - Veronica Bentley (30/04/2006)
Been living in Seven Dials for a year now and would also like to know where I can get some old photos of the area 'back in the day'. Lancaster Road in particular. Thanks
By Katie Nuttall (14/06/2006)
Opposite the Good Companions pub used to be a really old house where the land girls used to go. Now they are flats. Does anyone have any photos please?
By Bridget (25/06/2006)
Brigden Street - my grandfather ,his four brothers, a sister and great-grandparents all lived at 6 Brigden Street from about 1910 to around 1939. One of the brothers, Arthur Jefferies, one of my great-uncles, bought a bootmaking business at 28a Brigden Street, moving it to 39a later and was still there in 1951. Anyone out there who remembers a bootmakers/shoe repairers in Brigden Street? It was almost certainly a business-at-home.
By David Jefferies (03/08/2006)

My parents, us kids and even our grandparents have lived in our family house in New England Road from the late sixties up until now as my mother has just sold the house. We all have very fond memories of this area, including Stanit's sweet shop on the corner of Old Shoreham Road, opposite Hamilton Road - he was a real character and I remember the shop being really tatty and very dark. I also remember the rag and bone man (probably in the 70's) parading up & down New England Road. Does anyone have any history of the houses in New England Road, as we were led to believe that ours was a small school at one stage?

By Sam Holland (Reynolds) (20/02/2007)

We have been living in New England Road for a year and at first I couldn't stand the parking, or no garden, or lack of fresh air - moving from Patcham these were all things I missed. But the people of the Dials are lovely and I am a huge fan of old Brighton, and finding out all about the area has been good fun. With regards to the New England house that used to be a school, I have not found a house big enough yet unless its at the bottom - I live just by the bridge. Thanks for all info!

By Tasha Humphrey (29/03/2007)

Hi - I'm originally from Brighton and always lived in Hove but my husband and i are returning from living in Melbourne for 2 years and are wondering about Seven Dials as a place to live with a toddler. Can anyone give me any advice as to amenities, shops, local parks, transport, schools and quality of life in the area? I would be most grateful!

By C Spiers (30/12/2009)

I have been living in Brigden Street next to the Prestonville Arms. I was looking in an old book of Brighton I found at my mum's house and there was an old map in the back. The Prestonville area shows a mysterious road that I can't seem to find any other information or maps about: Prestonville Terrace. According to this map, Prestonville Terrace is what we now know as Brigden Street and had the Prestonville Arms on the corner of Hamilton Road and Prestonville Terrace. According to this map Brigden Street ran parallel to Prestonville Terrace and joined back up with Stanford Road further up. Does anyone know anything about this? There doesn't seem to be anything on the internet? Was it just that this map that was produced in the 30's is just wrong. Prestonville Terrace appears on a Google search but then no real info about it.

By Greg Wight (12/03/2011)

The answer to the question posed by Greg Wight is that when the area was first built on, in the late 19th century, the very last section of what is now Old Shoreham Road and that runs parallel to Brigden Street was Prestonville Terrace. However I am not sure if this name applied to both sides of the road or just the north side which now has the even house numbers. My Great Grandfather brought what is now 50 Old Shoreham Road when it was a new build at which time I think that it was 17 Prestonville Terrace. I was the fourth generation of the same family to live in that house until we moved out in the mid 1960s. I hope that this answers the question posed.

By Derek Lake (31/03/2011)

I live in 26 York Villas. I suspected it was older than the other buildings on our street but I had no idea it was the old farm house.

By Sarah FitzGerald (14/08/2016)

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