Pool Valley

Pool Valley, or ‘the Poole’ as it was known as far back as 1296, is known well as the rather embarrassing rain-swept coach hub of Brighton.

As its name suggests, Pool Valley was once a lot wetter than it is today though try telling that to a National Express customer waiting for a coach on a wind-swept night. Being the natural drainage point of a stream that appeared after heavy rain known as the ‘Wellesbourne’, it was often full of water. In 1792-3, the Wellesbourne was diverted when a sewer to drain the Steine was constructed and Pool Valley was bricked over. However, it continued to flood long after that time.

A great variety of building styles can be found around Pool Valley including Georgian, Regency and Art Deco spread around the five blocks. Correspondingly, there are five points of access – one road in, one road out and three footpaths. On the north-west side is a delightful Grade II* Listed Georgian building of 1794 that today goes by he name of “Havvanuggie’s Café and Traditional Fish & Chips”. It is faced with black mathematical tiles like the stunning Royal Crescent of 1798 on the Kemp Town seafront. Pool Valley though is dominated by the comparatively massive Grade II Listed Royal York Buildings and Grade II* Listed Royal Albion Hotel, both from the Regency period, and the Art Deco 1930s former 2,600 seat Savoy Cinema-Theatre.

The construction of Awsiter’s Baths, the first baths in Brighton, commenced in 1769 to the west of Pool Valley. It was destroyed when Brill’s Baths on East Street was extended in 1861. In turn, Brill’s Baths was demolished in 1929. I knew the Savoy as the ABC Cinema before it was converted into several new venues. One of the bars, Toad, closed and is now being converted into a Rocco Mana lapdancing club. In fact, Rocco Mana was the first to be granted a fully nude licence in Brighton & Hove. A recent proposal to install blue and pink neon lights on the Pool Valley side of the building was met with anger as they were seen as a seedy play on the lapdancing theme. But, I was more concerned about the damage that their installation could do to the faience tile wall behind.

Solving Brighton’s transport problems will not be easy but the Poole certainly should be central to the solution – just bring an umbrella!