by Robert Nemeth
Vast cellars that may be accessed from Moss Bros on Church Road in Hove serve as a reminder of a most obtrusive brewery that once occupied the site.
The imposing Brighton Steam Brewery was built in 1852 by George Gallard, one of the four men who developed the Cliftonville district of Hove. The brick-built structure consisted of three bays that faced Church Road and eight that faced Osborne Villas (or Osborne Street as that portion of the road was then called). A huge chimney dominated Osborne and a low protrusion, known as ‘The Bunion’ obstructed Church Road.
The brewery was demolished in 1902 after extensive efforts by the Hove Commissioners. No doubt there were other reasons for the demolition other than the desire to remove the obstructive section that hindered users of Church Road.
Two handsome four-storey red-brick Edwardian buildings replaced the brewery – commercial premises called Kingsway House (numbered today as 134-140 Church Road) and a residential block called Grosvenor Mansions (on Osborne Villas). Kingsway House has been vastly modified at street level (that’s all that most people look at anyway) by the addition of a canopy. Grosvenor Mansions is fortunately unchanged.
Many different shops have occupied Kingsway House over the years. In 1904-10, the corner unit was occupied by a stationery firm called Carter Bros. Many remember Cobleys, the tailors that occupied all four of the shop units until Moss Bros took over in 1981. It was Kevin Baldock, the enterprising store manager of Moss Bros, who got in touch about the extensive remain of the brewery’s cellars.
These dark vaulted rooms are reached via five steps that lead down from the very end of the Moss Bros basement. The derelict area is actually below Grosvenor Mansions and the Osborne Villas pavement. There are several sections and the best bit, which is pitch black, consists of six vaulted chambers where perhaps barrels were once stored. Each offers a different clue, such as bricked-up coal holes, as to what exists above. The biggest giveaway is the loud footsteps of pedestrians.
My friend Patsy Perrousset, who lived above Cobleys during the 1940s and 50s, recalls the cellars well. Although they were used as an air raid shelter during the Second World War, Patsy remembers being instructed to shelter beneath the stairs in Kingsway House, rather than the cellars. This makes sense. I would not wish to get trapped down there either.