Street history - Orange Row

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Lead Researcher: David Jackson

Architecture & Buildings Researcher: Geoffrey Kavanagh


Narrow, inconspicuous Orange Row has had a chequered history although it is a street that the casual visitor could walk past and be utterly unaware of its existence.

Located between Gardner Street - its more prosperous neighbour – and modern Tichborne Street, none of Orange Row’s original pre-Victorian buildings remain. What we see now is the site of the original Orange Row, a narrow L shaped alley that stretches southwards from North Road and - via a sharp right-angled bend - enters what is now Tichborne Street. Tichborne Street itself was built in mid Victorian times intended as the respectable replacement for the demolished slums of Pimlico and Thomas Street.

There have been three distinct phases in Orange Row’s 200 year history. The first stretched from its beginnings in the late Regency period until its total demolition in the 1860’s. The second from its rebuild in the early 1870’s until the major refurbishment of 2006 and the third rather gentrified phase from 2006 until the present.


Orange Row’s history began in the very early years of the 19th century. It was built on a narrow strip of agricultural land in the North Laine. The North Laine at that time was a huge open field divided into four large chunks known as “Furlongs”.

Late 18th Century Map Showing the then undeveloped North Laine

1) Late 18th Century Map Showing the then undeveloped North Laine


Orange Row is sited in what was referred to as the “First” or “Home Furlong” being the one that was closest to old Brighton and therefore the first to be developed. Each furlong was subdivided into narrow strips of land based on the old mediaeval field pattern and these were again subdivided into “paul pieces”. There were 255 paul pieces in the First Furlong arranged into 55 strips of land that were owned unequally by 12 land owners and one of those strips of land was owned by a “Mr John Smith”.

Home Furlong – late 18th Century Land Ownership Map,  Strips 25 & 26 – owned by “Mr Smith”- were to become Orange Row. NB The pointed top of this drawing should face West!.

2) Home Furlong - late 18th Century Land Ownership Map
Strips 25 & 26 - owned by "Mr Smith" - were to become Orange Row
NB The pointed top of this drawing should face West!


For much of the 18th century (and before) land ownership in the North Laine passed fairly routinely from father to son but by the beginning of the 19th century the smarter businessmen and “speculators” had realised that Brighton was ripe and ready for expansion. Accommodation and workshops were required for the army of servants and trades people that serviced the needs of the increasing number of wealthy visitors staying on the seafront or the Steine. This created the economic impetus behind the development of Orange Row - and indeed all the other “first furlong” streets.

The story of Orange Row began in 1806. A Mr William Walker of The Minories, a “London Tea Dealer”, bought 4 paul pieces of land from the estate of the recently deceased John Smith.1 The transfer of the Deeds of Property was completed on the 26th April in “the 46th year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord, George the Third”. The deal appears to have been a transaction involving Walker, John Gray (a “gentleman of Colnbrook Row, Islington in the county of Middlesex”) and Margaret, John and William, the three grown up children of the late John Smith. For the first time in over a century this narrow strip of land was sold rather than inherited. Shortly after this, William Walker leased the land to John Russell, a “bricklayer” and it seems reasonable to assume that Russell was the man who actually built at least some of the houses that were to constitute Orange Row.

The whole street was not developed immediately as indicated by an advertisement that appeared some 13 years later. It announced that: “A piece of leasehold BUILDING GROUND containing in front 26 feet, or thereabouts, situate in Orange Row in Brighton. Apply to the Auctioneer, Mr Claydon of Shoreham or Mr Cooper, solicitor, Worthing.” 2 This seems to suggest that the rest of the street was built some time after this in the early 1820’s.

What is certain is that the building of the “first” Orange Row was complete by 1824. The famous Pigott Smith Map of Brighton marks Orange Row as a narrow terrace running due south from the leakway North Lane (subsequently renamed North Road) towards Church Street, sandwiched between Gardner Street and Pimlico. This map of the town of Brighton was published in 1826 but “delineated from actual surveys made in the years 1824-25”. These are the surveys that indicate a completed Orange Row.

Orange Row as it was in 1825 (detail from Pigott Smith map)

3) Orange Row as it was in 1825 (detail from Pigott Smith map)


What was the original Orange Row like by the 1840’s and 1850’s?

That question can be answered with some clarity thanks to two wonderfully revealing documents published in the 1840’s. The first, the Jenks report or to give it its formal Victorian title: the “Report on the Residences of the Labouring Classes in the Town of Brighton” was submitted by Dr. GS Jenks to the Poor Law Commissioners of Brighton in April 1840.3 The other was the famous “Cresy Report” of 1848.4 Like Jenks, Edward Cresy was commissioned to investigate the sanitary conditions experienced by the inhabitants of Brighton. Although one report was produced at the beginning of the 1840’s and the other towards the end both reports are very much in agreement on that.  Orange Row (along with Pimlico East and West, Pimm’s Gardens and Thomas Street) was one of the worst streets in Brighton.

Jenks described the area as “the most incommodious, worst built and disagreeable part of the town” As a doctor he was particularly concerned with public health and describes Orange Row as being in “the least healthy district in the town.” Measles, Hooping Cough (sic) Scarlatina and “inflammatory affections of the respiratory organs” were more severe amongst the children of this area than elsewhere. This he attributed to the fact that these streets were “less ventilated” and “worse drained” than elsewhere.

Nothing much had changed 8 years later when Edward Cresy was commissioned to write his report. This report gives us a graphic, specific and detailed eye-witness account of the “worst conditioned” houses in Brighton. Deprived Victorian Brighton was put under the microscope. The commissioned survey was Brighton wide but much of it focussed on what Cresy referred to as the “area of a parallelogram” that contained Thomas Street, Pimlico and Orange Row”.

1848 The “Cresy Parallelogram” –Thomas Street, Pimlico, & Orange Row -  the “Worst” Streets in Brighton

4) 1848 The “Cresy Parallelogram” – Thomas Street, Pimlico, & Orange Row - the “Worst” Streets in Brighton


He measured the “parallelogram” to be about 480 feet by 200 feet containing 175 dwellings, a chapel and a school all “packed within the area amidst dung holes, pig styes, open pools and privies. No drainage but on the surface, there are several beer shops which are much resorted to by the population of the area which is assumed to be at least 1000 people”. He comments on the poor quality of the bricks and mortar used in the construction of these tenements. He also highlights the extremely poor health of the people in the area as indicated by the contemporary sick lists and attendance at the dispensary from those seeking relief from the Poor Law Guardians. This must have been an embarrassment to the authorities in a town whose trade and reputation was based on the alleged health-giving benefits of its seawater. Cresy theorised that the high levels of sickness were attributable to one principal cause and that was: “sulphuretted hydrogen” which he argued arose “from the excrementitious matters retained in the several cess pools”. This was the general condition of life within the “parallelogram”.

No picture of original Orange Row seems to exist but the sketch (below) of Pimlico  indicates the passageway that led into Orange Row and, in all probability, gives some idea of  what the Orange Row tenements might have looked like.

Pimlico Drawing showing passageway to Orange Row

5) Pimlico Drawing – showing passageway through to Orange Row, highlighted in yellow
(Smith’s Cuttings, Volume 9).
Thanks to Kate Elms at The Keep and Royal Pavilion & Museums for permission to use this drawing.


 Orange Row itself he described as “19 houses in a court 12 feet wide”. Cresy’s map is drawn to a scale of 60 feet to an inch and is very detailed. It indicated that the 18 houses (one of the buildings was a coalshed) between them had six privies and two wells. So the 140 residents of the street (in 1851) were served by just 6 privies. By contrast every house on the west side of Gardner Street – the side that backed on to Orange Row – had its own privy. We also get some idea of the size of these houses. They were numbered 1 (in the south) up to 18 at the North Lane end. The smaller tenements (for example 1,2,3,5 & 6) were at the south end and were approximately 8 feet by 8 feet (frontage and depth). The largest house (Number 18) opposite The Dorset Arms pub had a frontage of 30 feet but was just 8 feet deep. The conditions in these tiny houses must have been intolerable: filthy, unsanitary and overcrowded although, perhaps surprisingly, Orange Row did have two street lamps: one at the south end and one about half way down between 12 and 13.

The implications of the Cresy Report were quite clear although it was over a decade before the recommendations were acted upon by Brighton Corporation. Eventually - by the 1870’s - all the housing in Orange Row (and Thomas Street & Pimlico) had been pulled down as part of the town’s first slum clearance scheme and the first phase in Orange Row’s history was over.

Orange Row was rebuilt in the early 1870’s on the same L shaped site although most of the houses were subsequently used as workshops or storage facilities. These buildings survived for over a century until 2006 when numbers 1 to 13 were bought up by a property development company.

Orange Row just before its 21st century Makeover. Workshops & Storage

6) Orange Row just before its 21st century Makeover. Workshops & Storage

The Company’s plan was to raise the status of the street. The 13 buildings were extensively redeveloped. The original bungaroosh walls were retained but all the buildings were re-roofed and re-fronted (number 13 was re-numbered “12 and a bit”) and sold as “pods” - “small self-contained units for young professionals.” The concept was to create a “stylish Londonesque mews” at the heart of Brighton’s “bustling, bohemian cultural soul”. These pods now house a range of high-tech and modern businesses.

Architecture and Materials

Orange Row – west side

Behind the modern frontages of 1 – 13 Orange Row it is likely that much late Victorian fabric remains although there is little visual evidence for previous building phases. An exception is No. 14 which appears to have been excluded from the 2006 refurbishments and retains its early 20th century `stable` appearance. At this property a decision was clearly made to preserve the existing sliding door, sliding mechanism and its raised stone guide kerb.

14 Orange Row. Note unmodernised sliding door mechanism and original raised kerb      14 Orange Row. Note unmodernised sliding door mechanism and original raised kerb

14 Orange Row. Note unmodernised sliding door mechanism and original raised kerb

Nos. 15-16 appear to have been constructed as  higher status buildings relative to numbers 1 to 14 and particularly bearing in mind the slum dwellings they replaced. They were clearly intended to raise the status of the area.  They were built in the 1870s but in terms of appearance these buildings could have been from an earlier part of the 19th century. Closer inspection reveals a clue to their late Victorian construction. The brickwork is totally in `header bond` (every course consists of header bricks and no stretcher bricks are incorporated). It was most unusual to find such extensive use of `header bond` until the second half of the 19th century when due to advances in production technology, the price of bricks fell. `Header bond` required the use of very large quantities of bricks, or at the least of countless stretcher bricks broken in half with numerous unbroken `bonding` bricks through the wall thickness. Bricks had simply been too expensive to allow the use of such large quantities. For these reasons the use of `header` bond in the earlier part of the 19th century had normally been restricted to the curved areas of walls where courses of full stretcher bricks would be difficult to lay. The Victorian builders of 15 and 16 were making a statement.

Note use of expensive header bricks

15 Orange Row: Note use of expensive "header" bricks

Orange Row - East side

The east side of Orange Row - essentially the rear of  Gardner Street buildings – is entirely different. It displays an organic mixture of rear extensions in all shapes and sizes.  They would have been built or adapted during the 19th and 20th centuries to meet the ever changing needs of the various trades being carried out in Gardner Street. In some cases they extended residential accommodation. Rear extensions would initially have been simple constructions – in effect just single storey timber or flint sheds spanning the property boundary with pitched roofs.  At No.16 on the east side some idea of such constructions can still be seen.

Built in the early to mid 1820s the original buildings which back onto Orange Row are interesting insofar as they preceded the main `boom` in speculative building in the North Laine and as such are of relatively good construction and materials.  As speculative building progressed from the 1820s onwards the quality of building materials decreased and far more use was made of `bungarooch` - a cheap but unstable mixture of broken bricks, flints, lumps of chalk and stone, and mortar.

At the time of their construction good quality flints would have been brought to site from the open cast lime workings of the Downs. On several buildings the rear elevations have not been covered in render and the original roughly coursed flint which is of relatively high quality are visible. Where used structurally such as for walls, flint work is unstable and the loading distributions down through the wall are unpredictable.  In order to help `regularise` the vertical loadings of flint walls the edges to flint work such as at window and door openings had to be finished with bricks or stone. Such use of brick work to the edges of flint work can be seen clearly around the window openings of these buildings. Note the single vertical lines of bricks leading down from the lower corners of each window.

An original “unrendered” rear elevation.

East side of Orange Row: an original “unrendered” rear elevation.

Once built, the areas of wall directly below each window would be virtually non-load bearing. It was common practice therefore to leave the infill of such areas below the windows until the main load bearing part of the wall had been built. In the meantime the vertical row of bricks to the edge of the flint work ensured stability and the downward spread of loadings.  The areas under the windows could be left until last and then infilled sometimes using a cheaper and less carefully laid mix of broken flints or broken bricks. 

Ownership Patterns

Perhaps the most significant aspect of ownership is that, for its first 60 years, Orange Row was owned by people who did not live in the locality. William Walker, a City of London Tea Dealer, bought the real estate as an investment in 1806 and his family retained ownership of most of the street right up to the time of demolition. A letter written in 1866 by a firm of solicitors to William Walker’s daughter – living in Stoke Newington, North London - indicated this.5 The letter from Messrs Wilkinson & Sons advised her that she was only collecting £14 ground rent on the 17 houses and pointed out that they could be sold for as much as £560. This seems to have been a rather optimistic figure as the houses were actually sold to Brighton Corporation in August 1867 for £94=10 shillings. The original Orange Row’s rapid descent into becoming  Brighton’s worst slum seems to illustrate the inherent risk in property being owned by absentee or geographically remote landlords. 

Once sold to the Corporation, the  houses were demolished as part of Brighton’s first slum clearance scheme and Brighton Corporation seems to have retained ownership of  most of the property in Orange Row until the early 21st century.


No-one of real fame or notoriety seems to have lived in Orange Row although Tom Sayers - the World Champion Boxer in the bare knuckle, pre-Queensbury Rules era – was born and raised just a few yards away in Pimlico.

One notable and intensely melancholy event did take place that was recorded in the proceedings of a Coroner’s Court in September 1916.6 The Court was presided over by the Coroner, Joseph Bush Esq. on the 18th September. He heard evidence first from Albert Gillam, an errand boy who worked for a Gardner Street Pork Butcher’s. At 8am the previous Saturday he went round the back of the butcher’s shop and there - in Orange Row - he “saw a parcel tied up with string”. He ignored it at first but after returning from an errand saw “ the paper had been torn and I could see the head of a child. A lot of children were about”. He reported it at the Central Police Station.

Next to give evidence was Sergeant David Morgan who examined the body. He confirmed that no identification was possible but that inside the brown paper, two newspapers had been used for wrapping: the Brighton Herald of 22nd April, 1916 and the Sunday Pictorial of 30th January, 1916. The medical evidence was provided by Dr. Ernest Maguire who made only “a superficial” examination and reported that it was a newly born male child that “was not viable”.

The Court did not pursue the matter further and we shall never know the identity of the mother or the father or the human misery of the events that led up to the abandonment of this child in a Brighton back street. Was Orange Row chosen for a reason or merely because it was a quiet street where a guilty act could be accomplished unobserved? We shall never know.


What sort of people lived in the original Orange Row before its demolition? The censuses of 1841, 1851 and 1861 give us some clear answers.7

In 1841 there were 119 people registered as living in the 19 tenements that constituted Orange Row. Of those 119 there were 33 working adults. There was a plasterer, a shoemaker, a bricklayer, two carpenters and, rather anomalously, a coal merchant  (the 70 year old Thomas Balcombe) but the remaining 26 describe their occupation as “Labourer”. Amongst the working poor, the unskilled labourer was at the bottom of the heap, and this was the typical occupation of someone living in Orange Row. The lowest paid would gravitate towards the areas with the lowest rents - and the worst quality housing. These were the people that Jenks described as “the most truly necessitous part of the population”.  The rent in nearby (and very similar) Pimlico was 1s/6d per week (Cresy). It is revealing to contrast the occupations of those living in Orange Row with those living in, for example, the nearest section of the adjacent Church Street. They include a grocer, a coach maker, a tailor, a draper and a shoemaker, that is people with a craft or trade and the economic potential that went with that. It would be quite inaccurate, therefore, to characterise the whole North Laine district or even the “First Furlong” as homogeneously working class – there was very clear social and economic stratification within the district and Orange Row was right at the poorest end of the spectrum.

In one house there lived: John Aldridge, a 25 year old labourer, his wife Frances and their two young children, John Bowell, a 30 year old labourer and (probably) his common law wife Sarah and Richard Charman, a 37 year old labourer, his wife Anne and their four children: George, 13, Charles, 10, William, 6 and Anne, 1. Six adults and six children living in one tiny house of, perhaps, just six rooms with no running water and a shared privy.

Ten years later in 1851 the population of the street had increased to 140 – the official number recorded in the census of that year. Roughly half of those were in employment of some sort but the occupational pattern of those residents had changed somewhat – perhaps the enumerators were asking more searching questions. There was a wider range of occupations: three bricklayers, several shoemakers, a master sweep, errand boys, seamen and so on. There were 10 men who described their job as general labourer including 72 year old John Lee who also admitted to being in receipt of Parish Relief but men involved with the fishing industry formed the largest occupational group. Twelve men described their job as “fish hawker” and six more as fishermen. In earlier times these are the people and families who would have lived in the streets of the old town closer to the seafront in the area we now think of as “The Lanes”. Amongst the women fourteen describe themselves as “washerwoman” or “laundress”, seven as charwomen, three as needlewomen and two as ironers.

Overcrowding – what we would regard as chronic overcrowding – was the norm. In Number 9 Orange Row, for example, lived Nathaniel Harman a 29 year old fish hawker, his wife Elizabeth who worked as a laundress, and their three children, Elizabeth, 5, John 3, and William, 2.  Also in the house lived James Poplett a 20 year old fish hawker and his wife, Mary a 19 year old laundress. In addition lived Edward Dale a 23 year old labourer and 23 year old Barbara Halman also a laundress – the enumerator has written next to her name words that are difficult to read but probably say “lives with him”. This added up to 9 people from three separate families compelled to live in a tiny house with a ground area of something like 20 feet by 8 feet with no running water and a shared privy.

Ten years later in 1861 little had changed  in Orange Row. Over 130 people lived in this narrow street. Most of the men were employed in the fishing business as fishermen, fishgutters, or fishhawkers. Most of the women eked a living as “washerwoman”, “charwoman” or “laundress” – an occupation that could be rather less respectable than it sounded. Chronic overcrowding was as bad as ever. Number 16 Orange Row held the unenviable record of having the highest number of residents in one house. Here lived Benjamin Banks, a sawyer, his wife Elizabeth and their two year old son. A family of six also lived under the same roof: Adam Taylor a 54 year old fisherman, his wife Ellen, a charwoman and their four children, the eldest of whom, 17 year old William worked as a brickmaker. James Poplett, a labourer (he seems to have moved from 9 Orange Row), his wife and their two young children also lived in the house and finally there was Annie Wiltshire an unmarried mother who lived there with two year old Joseph and three month old Annie. Somehow she found the time to work as a “charwoman”. 8 For more information about Joseph Wiltshire’s later life and a truly remarkable photograph please see this endnote . Number 16 was one of the slightly larger tenements in Orange Row but still there were 16 people crammed into at the most six rooms.

Amongst all this evidence of Victorian urban poverty and deprivation, the occupations of the residents of number 3 Orange Row strike a rather different note. There lived Henry Float and his wife and lodger. Henry’s occupation of “drover” seems like an echo from the North Laine’s - by this time - all but vanished agricultural past. A past when sheep were driven from the Downs into the area for final pasture or slaughter. Their lodger, Hannah Dean was a “bather” presumably one of those famous Brightonians who operated the bathing machines and assisted visitors whilst they took their allegedly beneficial dip in the sea.

These are some of the names of some of the people that lay behind the conditions - the terrible conditions, described generically by Edward Cresy in his report of the late 1840’s. These conditions probably existed for 20 years before the publication of the report and continued for another twenty years after it. However by the late 1860’s much of the original street had been pulled down or emptied prior to demolition. The census of 1871 is revealing. Only 26 people were living in the street in four houses. The rest: - numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 16, & 17 have either gone or are standing empty.

A new phase in the life of Orange Row was about to begin.

Life and Work

How did the pattern of life and work change in the new Orange Row that emerged in the 1870’s?

The answer is considerably. The headline figure of 1881 is revealing: the census of that year showed that there were just 23 people living in the new street.9 The occupants included a bottle merchant, a bricklayer, a naturalist and an army pensioner. This plus the fact that all of the fishing-related occupations have disappeared indicates how the social composition of the street had altered and the chronic overcrowding that characterised the street had gone. In fact from the 1880’s onwards Orange Row could hardly be described as a residential street at all for something else had changed. From the 1880’s onwards there may have been fewer residents but there was more work-related activity in the street.

The Brighton Directories provide a rich source of information on the town’s business, trades and professions. It is revealing that between the 1840’s and the1870’s there is no mention in any Brighton Directory of any business venture taking place in Orange Row. Orange Row’s existence is either ignored altogether or dismissed with the somewhat condescending tag: “small tenements”10 or “small houses”11. Probably the only work that took place in the street was fish related (18 fish hawkers/gutters lived in the street in 1851) and given the absence of adequate drainage and water supply, the resultant stench and slime can be well imagined.

However in the new Orange Row from the mid 80’s onwards there is evidence of growing economic activity (see “Trade” section).

Map of the “new” Orange Row”  (Ordinance Survey 1876) NB Slums of Pimlico have been replaced by respectable Tichborne St.

7) Map of the “new” Orange Row”  (Ordinance Survey 1876)
NB Slums of Pimlico have been replaced by respectable Tichborne St.


During the first phase of Orange Row’s life the only mention of any trade was a coal merchant’s business run by Albert Balcombe back in the early 1840’s. After this there was nothing until the street had been demolished and rebuilt in the 1880’s. By the mid 80’s the directories start to indicate a new pattern of economic activity. In 1885 a Directory refers to Orange Row consisting of “small tenements and workshops” – a significant addition. Waldrom’s  Bicycle Works is mentioned and a crockery store, an upholsterer and a “whitening dealer”. By the end of the 19th century almost the whole of  Orange Row was used either for stabling (numbers 8, 9, & 11) or storage for nearby businesses, for example Boucher’s Furniture Dealer’s at 7 and Peters & Son’s China Stores at 4.12

This trend continued into the 20th century so that the General Rate Book of 1935, for example, indicated that every building in Orange Row had a commercial usage of some sort apart from 15, 17, and 18.13 The premises were almost all linked to retail businesses in adjacent Gardner Street so that there were workshops related to Terry’s watch & clock business and East’s radio repair shop and storage facilities related to Chatfield’s furniture shop and the South of England Dairies. The reason is not hard to find. The rateable value of the small properties in Orange Row was between £4 and £5 pa. In Gardner Street, the rateable value of a typical shop was between £50 and £80 pa. Orange Row had found its niche – providing cheap reserve accommodation for the businesses that flourished in neighbouring Gardner Street. So Orange Row’s rather unglamorous function for most of the 20th century seems to have been providing low rent support accommodation in the form of storage, stabling, garages and workshops for nearby businesses.

Orange Row in the 1970’s – mainly low rent lock-ups- viewed from south

8) Orange Row in the 1970’s – mainly low rent lock-ups- viewed from south

This was to continue until 2006 when Copse Mill – a Brighton property development company – set about converting these, by now, rather run down lock-ups into something more appealingly modern.


Modern Orange Row – viewed from the south (Copse Mill)

9) Modern Orange Row – viewed from the south (Thanks to Joe McNulty of CopseMill Properties Ltd. for permission to use this photo)

Modern Orange Row - viewed from the north (Copse Mill)

10) Modern Orange Row - viewed from the north (Thanks to Joe McNulty of CopseMill Properties Ltd. for permission to use this photo.)

These properties were re-roofed with Welsh slate and the walls were clad with superinsulated render and now house a range of modern businesses including web design, media recruitment, IT and Start-Up consultancy companies. One recent commentator in an article on what he dubbed “Silicon Beach” enthusiastically urged his readers to “take a stroll along Orange Row…and see studio after studio buzzing with activity…Brighton tech companies are quietly doing shedloads of business.”14


There is a sense of history repeating itself in Orange Row. What the Brighton Corporation accomplished back in the 1870’s has echoes in what the property development company achieved in this century. The 19th century reformers replaced a slum with functional buildings. The 21st century makeover of Orange Row has replaced a dreary backstreet with something economically regenerative and more attractively stylish - on the west side, at least. Evidence of Orange Row’s improved architectural reputation is shown by the Sussex Heritage Trust award of  “highly commended” status on the CopseMill development.15 Also Number 17, a residential property at the north end of the street  (not part of the Copsemill development) has become a Grade 2 Listed Building.16 It must, however, be mentioned that the east side continues to be an unlovely mixture of Gardner Street backyards, dustbins and graffiti. Although in the interest of fairness and balance, it should be noted that some of the Orange Row graffiti has been considered worthy of description and comment.17

Finally is it fair to conclude that Orange Row’s dark history has been entirely expunged?

The answer would appear to be yes… but …there is an alleyway - a twitten - at the back of Orange Row. The curious visitor can find it and its entranceway half way down the Row. It is a dark and dank and vaguely eerie place and with a little knowledge of history and a little imagination that curious visitor will realise that he or she is standing right at the epicentre of what was once the most deprived, the most noxious, the most miserable slum in Brighton.


1) ESRO ACC 3402/1/14/2

2) This advert appeared in the Sussex Advertiser on the 20th December, 1819.

3) This report and many other reports written for the Poor Law Commissioners have been digitised by Google and are available free to view.

4) ESRO HOW/35/1 The Cresy report or to give it its full and rather bureaucratic title: “Report to the General Board of Health on a preliminary inquiry into the sewerage, drainage and supply of water and the sanitary condition of the inhabitants of the town of Brighton”” will be found here. A full copy and related correspondence will be found in the archive of Brighton Solicitors, Howlett & Clark. This and many other similar reports were researched and written in response to the Public Health Act of 1848.


6) ESRO COR/3/2/1916 This reports on the proceedings at the Coroner’s Court on 18/9/1916.

7) The Census information for 1841, 1851, 1861 & 1871 was retrieved from

8) Joseph was to spend all his life living in Brighton, working as a labourer in the building trade. In October 1881at St. Peter’s he married Mary Page (Burcher) and together they brought up ten children. For much of  their married life they lived in Edwin Place, one of Brighton’s vanished streets that once ran parallel with Eastern Road  near to the then Kemptown Station (now Gala Bingo). I am most grateful to Margaret Sinden – Joseph’s granddaughter – and Alan Cooke for this information and the wonderful photograph below. It is the wedding photograph of one of Joseph’s daughters. It was taken outside the family home in Edwin Place in 1923. Joseph who was then 65 years old is second from the left in the back row.

Joseph Wiltshire wearing his wedding best is second from left in the back row. This photo provides a truly remarkable link with a resident of Orange Row from over 150 years ago.

Joseph Wiltshire wearing his wedding best is second from left in the back row. This photo provides a truly remarkable link with a resident of Orange Row from over 150 years ago.


9)1881 Census

10) Folthorpe Directory 1850

11) Taylor’s Directory 1854

12) Pike’s Directory 1899

13) ESRO

14) Jon Morris Web Editor of Online Accountants: Crunch.

15) Sussex Heritage Trust 2007 awards

16) English Heritage ID 477292 (listed 1971)

17) See This website is a little temperamental but persevere with four-textures-orange-row and a comprehensive pictorial list of Orange Row graffiti will emerge.