In 1997 I moved into a small terraced house in an alleyway in a part of Brighton called the North Laine. This is not an archaic spelling of North Lane, but refers to a large field, divided up into strips in the medieval manner.
The North Laine was one of five such fields which survived right up to the nineteenth century, the others being the West Laine, the East Laine, Hilly Laine and Little Laine. In view of this history, we locals are liable to become apoplectic if anyone puts an ‘s’ on the end of North Laine, or, as happened recently, erects a street sign such as Bond Street Laine. This attitude has so far successfully kept the distinction between ‘lane’ and ‘laine’ alive.
When the North Laine came to be developed in the first half of the nineteenth century, the old pattern of strips was followed when building houses and streets, hence the matrix pattern of the quarter. Alleyways here, and in Sussex and Kent generally, as called ‘twittens’, which I reckon is related, via Anglo-Saxon, to the German word ‘zwischen’, meaning ‘between’.
The North Laine might have been demolished in the 1970s in order to build a new road into Brighton and to clear what were considered slums. In 1976, however, the North Laine Community Association (NLCA) was set up to oppose this plan, with the result that we are now quite an up-market quarter of Brighton & Hove City.
As soon as I moved into the North Laine I became involved with the NLCA, in particular with the now defunct Garden Group. In 1998 I took over as NLCA Street Representative on the death of the previous occupier of this position.
An account of how I came to live in the North Laine can be found on the Autobiography page.
In 2002 the NLCA ran a limerick competition. Here are my entries. I won a prize, though I can’t remember for which one: North Laine Limericks. 23rd October 2002.
Here is a poem I wrote on 6th August 2011 for one of our annual Trafalgar Terrace parties: Welcome all ye Twits.