183 King’s Road Arches

My first memory of the arches beneath King’s Road on the Brighton seafront was as a student. The principal nightclubs that were there back then were the Zap, the Beach and the Honey Club. I was more interested though in how these different subterranean spaces linked together rather than in all that weird dancing stuff.

I’m obviously too old now to go clubbing but I do regularly visit Brighton Fishing Museum. When I walk along the promenade, I can’t help but glance at the various entrances – some large, some tiny – that lead to all sorts of weird and wonderful spaces beneath the seafront road. I was delighted, therefore, to be offered a tour of 183 King’s Road Arches, currently Katz, by Mike and Diana Palmer who leased it from Brighton & Hove City Council just before Christmas.

I know the interior of the Fishing Museum fairly well as my godfather used to work there. But there is no rule on arch layouts. They are pretty much all different. This is linked to the fact that the arches were actually built to hold the road up above – and the road was built in several stages.

King’s Road was first laid out in 1822. Arches were added each time that it was widened until the project was completed in 1886. This is evidenced by four distinct sections within the Palmers’ arch, and backed up by a carving of the number 44 – presumably an old door number – on the wall of the second section from the front.

The back of this particularly long arch features a door-sized alcove. I was so curious about its purpose that I returned with my 30m tape measure to see exactly where it was in relation to the road above. Diana and I measured the arch internally as 26.69m. We went straight up to the road above and waited for a gap in the traffic to measure the distance from the railings on the promenade to the buildings opposite. The reading was 26.80m. It is fascinating to think that the building in question, now home to The Ocean, was once directly connected to the beach through its basement. I wonder why the hole was filled in.

Mike and Diana are currently working like crazy to complete the refurbishment of their cavernous arch. If all goes to plan, Lucky Beach will be opening there at the end of February.