Bond Street Laine

The question of lane or laine is a rite of passage for anybody getting to know Brighton. Without local knowledge, a fair assumption would be that ‘laine’ is the Brighton word for ‘lane’. After all, the words sound the same and each is assigned to a quirky shopping area. To understand the difference though is to understand the origins of modern day Brighton.

The truth is that there is a connection but the link is the Old Town. Laines were the fields that once surrounded Brighton and there were five of them – North Laine, West Laine, East Laine, Hilly Laine and Little Laine. We now call the Brighton of that time ‘the Old Town’, the centrepiece of which is now called ‘the Lanes’ on account of the various alleyways that characterise the spot.

When I wrote to the Argus newspaper in August last year about Brighton & Hove City Council itself getting the laine/lane question wrong, I had no idea that it would lead to the mobilisation of the Brighton Society to set the record straight.

Four narrow passageways lead from the west side of Bond Street in the North Laine area. The first and second are called Bond Street Row and Bond Street Cottages respectively; and the third is called, technically anyway, Bond Street Laine. ‘Laine’ should not have been used as the narrow thoroughfare is a ‘lane’, not a field. It should be ‘Bond Street Lane’. I wasn’t the first to spot the error.

Eagle-eyed Brighton Society campaigner Delia Ives approached the council in 2008 and succeeded in getting the physical road sign corrected. As the official name remained the same though, it was only a matter of time before the road sign was changed back to ‘Laine’. This is what I saw.

Following my letter, Delia took up the case again. After winning the battle previously, she set out to win the war by persuading the council to change the alley’s name properly. Whilst a wrong will be righted once Bond Street Laine becomes Bond Street Lane, the council should have known better.

I mentioned earlier four alleys and the names of just three. Just as my letter led to the renaming of the third passageway, I hope that this column will plant an idea for the naming of the forgotten fourth. Bond Street Twitten, to make use of another old Sussex word, would get my vote.