Lewes Road Viaduct

Process of demolition in 1976

By Tony Monk

These pictures were taken in February 1976 & May 1976 and show the viaduct at Lewes Road in the process of being demolished.

Photo:Lewes Road viaduct

Lewes Road viaduct

From the private collection of Tony Monk

Photo:Lewes Road viaduct

Lewes Road viaduct

From the private collection of Tony Monk

Photo:Lewes Road viaduct

Lewes Road viaduct

From the private collection of Tony Monk

This page was added on 25/05/2007.
Comments about this page

I never knew about a viaduct running through Lewes Road. This is fascinating. Do you know what destinations it would have been linked to?

By Ricky (27/05/2007)

I was away from Brighton when the Lewes Road viaduct was demolished, and didn't know it had gone until seeing the photos on the website. Progress is progress, but it is still sad to see beautiful Victorian history being pulled down. The craftsmanship was truly amazing. Just think of the many people that have looked from train windows in the past as they travelled over the viaduct, I wonder how many? To them the viaduct would have lasted forever.

By Mick Peirson (27/05/2007)

It crossed Lewes Road at the junction with Upper Lewes Road, at the southern end of what is now the Vogue Gyratory system. The destination was Kemp Town. Quite a piece of work for a mere branch line that carried 13 return journeys a day in its early years!

By David Fisher (28/05/2007)

The Kemp Town branch was built speculatively at considerable cost as it was felt that Mr Kemp's town would be a valuable source of revenue. However, since the junction with the Lewes - Brighton line at Lewes Road Junction (just the Lewes side of the tunnel near London Road station) faced Brighton, everyone using the branch to go anywhere would have to change at Brighton. The civil engineering involved in this line was out of all proportion to its traffic, which, once the passenger service was discontinued, was limited to the occasional coal train to the coal merchant who had taken over the yard at Kemp Town. The line included a long viaduct (demolished in 1976) and a tunnel. Because the site at the foot of Freshfield road was of limited area from the point at which the line emerged from the tunnel, a 5-way point was installed to give access to the platform and goods yard. This 5-way point was very unusual and in itself was quite an engineering marvel!

By Tony Hagon (29/05/2007)

My parents worked at Cox's Pharmaceuticals, which you can see in these pictures. It's where Sainsbury's is now. The staff used to go up onto the viaduct (or rather the stump, as the part over the road and the Kemptown side was demolished first) to sit and eat their lunch. My mother still has a brick from the viaduct in her garden rockery!

By Andy Hain (06/08/2007)

I was told by a construction teacher at the SecondaryTechnicalSchool that the brickwork of the bridge across Hartington Road, just a little to the east and on the same line to KempTown, was even more amazing and a testament to Victorian engineering skills.  The bridge not only crossed the road at a skew angle but the road itself slopes uphill while the line was on a gradient too. "If you want to see how bricklaying is done, go and see that" he said.

By Adrian Baron (25/08/2007)

I recall the viaduct clearly from my formative years, jutting out massively across Lewes Road from between AH Cox's pill factory (clearly visible in the above photos) and the Gaiety cinema. It was built on an elegant and quite sharp curve to direct the Kemp Town branch southwards, and towered over two of the three arms of Melbourne Street. In fact it's relation to the surrounding buildings, very close on all sides, made it appear taller than it actually was, but it was an impressive structure nonetheless.

I passed beneath the viaduct on many occasions on my way to play in Saunders Park. By the time I knew it, only infrequent goods services used it, but I can recall once seeing a Bulleid Q1 "Coffee Pot" locomotive crossing it Kemp Town-wards, running light, a rare steam working in the very early sixties.

The viaduct was known locally as The Arches, and is mentioned in Graham Greene's "Brighton Rock", in the episode in which Pinkie and his gang go to extort money from the hapless Brewer who "had a house near the tram lines on the Lewes road almost under the railway viaduct". In Melbourne Street, perhaps?

Another sadly departed Brighton landmark, both it and the Gaiety now replaced by the formless Sainsbury's development and gyratory system. Thank goodness it's memory at least has been preserved in Tony Monk's splendid pictures.

By Len Liechti (08/11/2008)

The viaduct crossed over Hartington Road where the property called Viaduct Court now stands, then the train line ran along the area which is now William Clarke Park (known locally as The Patch) and then into a tunnel under Elm Grove school. It then re-appeared at Kemptown station which is now the Freshfield Industrial estate. The only reference to the station is the steam train that emerges Harry Potter-like from the Gala Bingo Hall!

By Helen Mitchell (07/08/2009)

Does anyone know if the tunnel was filled in? Or was it just blocked off at each end?

By C.N. (21/11/2009)

I have a great nostalgic interest in this area of Brighton. I was born and raised in Riley Road, off Bear Road, and later worked in the laboratory of Arthur Cox in the 1960s. I well remember the huge Tamplins brewery signs which dominated the bridge,with an elephant portrayed [elephant ale/IPA?]. I once sheltered under the viaduct in a very heavy thunderstorm and watched lightning skitter down a nearby tree...quite frightening. The arches under the viaduct were utiised by Arthur Cox as storage areas for the various basics of the tablets that were made. Incidentally, my Aunt told me that as an ARP warden she used to go 'firewatching' on the roof of the Arthur Cox building, during WW2. For anyone interested in the viaduct and the line and tunnels,log on to www.dumpmanfilms.co.uk. There is a DVD available on the Kemp Town Branch line, which is very enlightening .

By Maureen Sweet (10/06/2010)

I remember the Cox's pill factory. From roughly where that picture was taken the viaduct continued. Under one of the arches was a 'rag & bone' man. I remember the journeys I made by bus from Moulsecoombe to there with sacks of rags to exchange for money. The 'Good Old Days'.

By Ivor Williams (13/11/2010)

Fascinating to read about the viaduct. However, I am saddened to see so much of Brighton's architecture and industrial herritage now lost. C.N. The tunnel seems to come out from behind the Simple Storage Solutions building on Stevenson Road, some of the masonry is still present so I guess it has been blocked off / filled in.

By Anneke (07/12/2010)

The tunnel was not filled in. The Elm Grove end entrance was blocked off but the Freshfield Road end is still open. Large metal doors cover it but it is at the back of the car park of the storage company at the back of the Freshfield industrial estate. The line was only built by the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway company to prevent a second railway line from London to Brighton being built by rival companies and never made a profit. It used to have two small stations, Lewes Road Station, where the Centenary Industrial Estate is now, and Hartington Road Halt. I remember the viaduct from my youth, when it was simply called "The Arches"

By Paul Fellingham (22/02/2011)

I remember both the Hartington Rd bridge and the viaduct well. I grew up in Hartington Rd and passed under the bridge every day on my way to school, first at Fairlight and then, later, to get the bus to Varndean. I too was told as a child that the bridge was a masterpiece of brickwork and, I understand, there were attempts made before demolition to have it listed. I still have my piece of brick from it! As a rail enthusiast, I made sure I was on one of the special trains to mark the line's final closure. Prior to that I nearly got hit by a train one day - on my way home fom school I climbed up through the turf merchant's yard into the cutting to explore. Unexpectedly there was a train coming so I had to scoot off pdq!

By Geoff (22/04/2011)

One of the comments about Fairlight School mentions someone who grew up in Hartington Road. I am looking for a student that went to Fairlight School and also lived in Hartington Road. Her name (then) was Jennifer Chapman and we were best friends until I went to Australia with my parents. Does anyone know Jennifer? I would love to get in touch with her. Carol.

By Carol Spicer (29/06/2011)

Sorry Carol, Jennifer's name doesn't ring any bells with me - when was she born (ish)? I am '59 vintage.

By Geoff (30/06/2011)

Hi Geoff, thanks for the response. I left Fairlight School in 1958 to emigrate to Australia. I attended both the infants and junior school. Everything about Brighton seemed to change in the 10 years I was abroad, but perhaps that has more to do with me growing up rather than Brighton changing. I must try and find some photos to put on this site. Bye for now.

By Carol Spicer (10/07/2011)

My grandparents lived at 90 Lewes almost in the shadow of the arches. I remember long freight trains passing over the bridge. If anyone has photos of this area at that time please post them. Before Cox's took over the site was it a factory/ company called Alan West?

By Frances Kazan (16/09/2012)

Alan West was further along the Lewes Road opposite what was then the Barracks. It made electrical things. I well remember having a flat in Kingston Jamaica and there was a fuse box with the words 'Alan West' Brighton cast into the metal cover.

By Maureen Sweet (13/11/2012)

Does anyone have any information re the closing and demolition of Gala Bingo in KempTown? I'm thinking it was closed in Jan 81 to make way for a preaching society, then was knocked down at some point after that. Can anyone help me?

By Louise (03/08/2013)

The "rag and bone man" in Melborne street was, I believe, Denyer brothers. The older one, always smartly, dressed smoked cigars. I used to sell them rag and non ferrous metals in the '70s and early '80s - so did all the dustmen, in those days. The bin men totted metals and rags, and the Corporation also collected newsprint for recycling. Brighton was 'green' long before political parties ruined things. Not far away at the bottom of Bear road was 'Bunnies' cafe, haunt of the guys (brylcreme boys) from the bus depot who fed the one arm bandits compliments of some ticket machines that could be 'fixed' -but that's a different story

By Mick Symes (19/09/2013)

Louise: do you mean the Gala Bingo Hall on the Kemptown railway site? If so, it's definitely not demolished but fully operational; I walked past it this evening. 

Mick: what was the name of the Cafe at the bottom of Newmarket Road? Was that not Bunnies?

By Helen (19/09/2013)

Just before it closed, around 1980 I was called in as they had suffered a break in through the roof. As only one office was in use the managers we moved all the furniture out of the others and changed all the locks around, the very next day a burglar was caught in a locked room as he could not climb back out. Following this there was a problem with drink going missing from the secure store, again changing the lock stopped the leakage. We also put padlocks on the small doors to access under the stairs but did not put the padlocks on until last thing at night - again potential burglars were banging to get out the following day. The place suffered appalling losses due to pilfering which probably contributed to it's failure.

By Mick Symes (11/10/2016)

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