by Robert Nemeth
Many know the Argus Lofts in the North Laine area of Brighton as a past home of The Argus newspaper but the operation actually started on North Street nearby. It was in 1880 that the first edition was published – at a time when carrier pigeons were used to collect the news from all around Sussex.
The move from North Road into what was then Robinson’s printing works in the North Laine took place in 1926. It was not until 1992 that the newspaper moved into the current premises on Crowhurst Road in Hollingbury. At a glance, the massive yet inconspicuous building appears to be just one storey high but this is an illusion. The building cascades down the hill, away from the road, so most of its great bulk is hidden away. I was lucky enough to be shown around by reporter Tim Ridgway who was unlucky enough to have been reminded that he had agreed ages ago to give me a tour.
Rather than entering the building via the bridge and reception area from road level, we walked straight down the ‘editorial slope’ on the east side of the building. This leads into the massive main work area. On one side of this open plan hive of activity, the ‘Library” is a room that is stuffed with shelves which are, in turn, stuffed with manila envelopes. It is a storeroom for records on subjects and people and is exactly what I imagine the filing system in a 60s police station might look like.
We looked up my own surname and found a story from November 1989 on Kate Nemeth, a horse lover from Shoreham, and another, from July 1998, on Daniel Nemeth, a shoplifter from Third Avenue. These detailed records date back to the 1950s.
The building was actually completed in 1952 for CVA, a large engineering firm, to the designs of Wells Thorpe architects. It adapted well to newspaper use. The assembly area became the print room. The die shop became the car deck.
Now that printing takes place in Southampton, and the printing press itself is in boxes, another move may be on the cards. This might involve Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company moving in so that their Hove Station site can be developed.
A lot of space will be required, perhaps in central Brighton – at least a pigeon loft won’t be needed this time.