The Road to Round Hill
from The Round Hill Reporter June 2001
Documents owned by, and lent to, the Society's history group give fascinating glimpses of the very earliest days of Round Hill as a built up area. Andrew Partington, the group's co-ordinator, reports.
Our story begins way back in August 1826 with a tantalising reference. In that month Thomas Read Kemp, the man who created Kemp Town and one of the joint Lords of the Manor of Brighton, made an agreement with three other men over land in what was to become Round Hill.
No details yet
We do not yet have the details of that agreement, but it must have covered most of our area, because we have found references to it in documents from both the Upper Lewes Road and the top of Ashdown Road.
Thomas Kemp drops back out of our records in December 1842, before any houses were built here. What was his involvement? Why was he making deals in Round Hill at the same time as he was launching his huge development at Kemp Town on the other side of the city?
Dog Kennel Road?
By 1867, building plans for Round Hill - then part of a larger area known as the Tenantry Down or Brighton Estate - were well underway. The land was parcelled up into lots and Round Hill Crescent, Richmond and Crescent Roads, Princes Crescent, Princes Road and Mayo Road are all listed. There is also mention of a Dog Kennel Road - does anyone know where that is or was?
The developers planned Round Hill to the smallest detail. Every building plot was measured and staked out. Anyone buying a plot had to put up a boundary fence, no higher than five feet at the front and six and a half feet at the back. No temporary buildings were allowed, except for sheds and workshops to store construction materials.
Upmarket use only
The streets were for upmarket residential use only. Unless by special agreement, it was strictly one house per plot. Hotels, taverns and beer-houses were banned, nor could any house be used as one. Only on the Ditchling Road and Dog Kennel Road could shops be built. Anyone wanting to use the house as a workshop had to get permission from the developers first.
Houses from £150
Even the prices were set down in legal agreements. Excluding stables, the minimum costs per house were:- Round Hill Crescent £400; Ditchling and Dog Kennel Roads £150; Richmond and Crescent Roads and Princes Crescent, detached, £250 each, or semi-detached £450 per pair; Princes Road and Mayo Roads, detached, £150 each, or semi-detached £250 per pair.
But Round Hill was not built up overnight. In September 1890, local builder Thomas Miles bought up several plots in Richmond Road to put in a new road, Ashdown Road. This is the first appearance of Ashdown Road we have found so far - it was not on the original plan for the area (by this date called the Round Hill Park Estate).
Too steep for carriages
And one road that was on the first plans did not last long. This was Lennox Road, planned to run down the hill from Princes Crescent to Round Hill Crescent. The boundary walls were put in - and one still survives along the whole length of the road - but the street is no longer there. We think it is because the hillside is so steep just here that carts and carriages would have found it hard to get up and down safely. If you want proof, take a look at the Cat's Creep (the steps between Princes and Round Hill Crescents) for that is where the lost road used to go. For whatever reason, houses were built across the top and bottom of Lennox Road. Look at the buildings and it is possible to work out where the infills are, especially at the Round Hill Crescent end.
Upper Lewes Road
While all this was going on, the Upper Lewes Rd was also being built up as other parts of the Tenantry Down estate were sold for building land. In 1850, there was only one house recorded. This was Rose-hill Cottage, occupied by a Thomas Turpin. The information comes from Folthorps Brighton street directory of 1850, which calls the road Gypsey Lane. By the 1856 edition there are 3 new properties: Sylvan Lodge, Verbena Cottage and Round Hill Villa, while the road has become Upper Lewes Road.
A final question...
And one last question: why do our documents call the same road Upper Lewes Road formerly called the Old Shoreham Road'? Maybe that is something for further research.