Saturday, March 11th 2017
According to the weather app on our iPhones, the weather would be warmer in Brighton today than in London. As we had not been to Brighton or any sea coast for a while, this seemed to be a hint worth taking. We hied ourselves down to St Pancras International Station and while I bought coffee and croissants for breakfast, Tigger engaged in a tète à tète with a ticket machine. We reached the Thameslink platform just as the Brighton train hauled in.
The ride to Brighton was was without incident if you don’t count the train being diverted because of rail works, adding somewhat to the length of the journey. We disembarked at Brighton’s railway station amid a large crowd of passengers. Happily, they all dispersed to various destinations and the town was not as crowded as I feared it might be.
Following our usual habit, we went first across the road to Divall’s Cafe for refreshments and a toilet break. It’s a small but well-run establishment and even has a miniature live train departures board so that customer’s can relax knowing they won’t miss their train.
We then went off down Trafalgar Street, a steep thoroughfare that passes under the station through a tunnel. This is the quick route from the station to the heart of Brighton, with its ‘alternative’ stores and street stalls, the Lanes and the Royal Pavilion.
On emerging from the tunnel, you come to a Victorian (c.1845) pub called The Prince Albert. It is Grade II listed but what is noticeable at first glance is that one façade has been transformed into a gallery of portraits of famous, mostly dead, rock stars. I have never been inside the pub but it seems to be a popular venue.
Brighton is known for its street art. In the past we have been impressed with both the paintings themselves and the liveliness of the street art scene but recently we have noticed a slowing of the rhythm. I do not know why this is but I notice that some of the areas where painters were active in the past have been fenced off. We ‘collected’ the above painting in the yard of a business in Trafalgar Lane. It is a collaborative piece and you might be able to read the artists’ names in the top left corner. If not, then they are as follows: Dahkoh, The Real Dill, Tony Boy, Captain Kris and Obit (so far, I have no information on the latter artist).
Until now, it had seemed a normal day as far as the light was concerned but on looking along Kensington Place, I realized that there was fog about. In this case, it seemed to be shrouding the taller buildings but it was localized and was thicker in some areas than in others.
At its junction with Kensington Place, Gloucester Road contains a pedestrian area and here, at weekends, local shops display their wares. In this case, these consist of an impressive array of antique fireplaces and accompanying fire irons.
Here we are looking up Trafalgar Street from the corner of St George’s Mews, near the lower end. The mist or fog is only barley detectable by looking at the buildings in the far background but compare that with later photos. The Great Eastern is a Victorian pub dating from at least the 1870s though whether it has been rebuilt or remodelled in the meantime, I do not know. It takes its name from SS Great Eastern, the iron steamship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and launched in 1858. Able to carry 4,000 passengers, she was in her day the biggest ship of her kind. The inn sign features a portrait of the great engineer, possibly copied from the photo by Robert Howlett currently in the National Portrait Gallery though modified to show Brunel, with his inevitable cigar stuck in the corner of his mouth, holding a model of his ship.
We walked north up York Place (I will explain later where we were going) and passed this bubble-painted pub on the corner of York Place and Cheapside. It has for some years been known as the Hobgoblin, offering the services of both a pub and a music venue, but it was originally called the Northern Hotel. It is not listed by Historic England but does enjoy the protection of a local listing (NB pdf file). Though the pub dates from the 1860s, the listing correctly describes it as ‘likely early 20th century in date’ because it was rebuilt around 1905. I don’t know who painted the pub’s present blue costume or what the letters on the chimney stand for.
We continued along the street which by now had changed its name to London Road. Glancing off to the right along Francis Street, we spotted this portrait on a wall. It is unmistakeably by Mr Cenz.
We now arrived at our intended destination, an establishment called Brighton Open Market. The market’s history goes back 140 years or so but is not now so much as a shadow of its original glory. Even the name has become a misnomer because, as you can see from the photo, it is no longer an open market at all but has been converted into a covered one. I remember it as a bustling, rambling place of stalls selling everything imaginable and with a blacksmith shoeing horses at the London Road end. I cannot but feel melancholy when I contemplate the dull and anaemic state it has fallen into. I think it would have been better to put it quietly to sleep.
We had come because there is a secondhand book stall here where, on our last visit, I had found a good selection of books in French and had bought a few. Since then, I have been saving up my French language books with a view to making a return visit and trading old for new. At the last minute before leaving home, however, I decided I didn’t want to carry a bag of books everywhere with me and so left them at home. Just as well: when we reached the market, we found the book stall was closed.
We turned south again, intending at least to visit the seaside before returning home.We passed by St Bartholomew’s Church (for some pictures of this interesting church see Brighton – scooters, street art and a church) and went along what I think is called Providence Place where I photographed the above mural.
Here we encountered the fog once more, as you can see in the above photo. It seemed to vary in thickness within a short distance, here dense, there barely noticeable.
That effect can be seen here where the fog is hardly noticeable at the pier’s land end but becomes denser along the pier’s length until the end of the pier is almost completely hidden. (Click to see a larger version.)
It was quite a strange scene. In one’s immediate surroundings it looked like a normal sunny day with the waves breaking on the shingle beach and people sitting or strolling and enjoying the view but, looking further, the masking of the fog became apparent and, as in the above photo, beyond a certain distance, everything was blotted out completely.
If Brighton provided a slight disappointment in a wasted trip to the market book stall, it more than compensated by providing interesting sights and a relaxed atmosphere. We shall of course return again to this place of happy memories and –who knows? – we may even find the book stall open next time!