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In your street: A street graced by Leech and Dickens
Charles Dickens once graced this historical Hove street with a visit more than 150 years ago.
The lauded author was in town to see his good friend and popular illustrator John Leech, who lived at Lansdowne Place in 1849.
Leech, who spent a year at the house before leaving for ventures new, was best known for his work as one of the leading artists of Punch magazine and for illustrating A Christmas Carol – penned by his good friend Dickens.
Such was the quality of his work, there’s now an online archive containing more than 600 chosen cartoons from his Punch period, which started from the magazine’s early days in 1841 until his death in 1864.
As a pair, Dickens and Leech were an unrivalled creative combination – as seen in the magnificent A Christmas Carol works.
Today, to mark Leech’s short but celebrated time in this street, a blue plaque sits proudly on the wall outside his former home at number 16.
On first inspection, the road is impeccably clean and green.
It boasts around 400 grand Regency-era homes with mostly gleaming exteriors and bold features that stay true to their period character.
South and South East in Bloom is looming, meaning various front gardens are thriving with pretty flowers and shrubbery as part of a joint entry to the competition as Brunswick Town in Bloom.
But a lot of the credit for the street’s striking appearance goes to the dedicated members of the Lansdowne Area Residents’ Association, or LARA.
Trisha Gaskell-Watkins is chairwoman of the association and has lived in the street for 33 years.
She said: “We all work very hard to keep it looking nice. LARA was founded about 14 years ago with just a handful of neighbours and we now have over 70.
“We got together to improve the place because it was very run down and disjointed before we formed. People weren’t working together.
“Now though residents know each other through regular meetings and people have a forum to air any issues or problems.
“We have been told by estate agents that people are now asking for places to rent and buy here, as opposed to say ten years ago when people weren’t too keen to come.”
To say they’ve done a good job would be an understatement.
When LARA decided the street needed a splash of green, its members obtained funding from the council to plant 18 glorious elm trees.
In addition, customers leaving the nearby Starbucks coffee shop are greeted with three olive trees – more familiarly seen in the Mediterranean than little old Hove.
Ms Gaskell-Watkins added: “Our trees and plants make the area look so much better and this has been reflected in the way people treat the place. We have less litter, graffiti and anti-social behaviour.”
Aside from looking pretty, Lansdowne Place has its quirks.
For the past 18 months the street has been home to Brighton and Hove’s only cream-coloured bin.
Residents say the normal black bins aren’t fitting with the street’s appealing aesthetics and cream bins are clearer and more striking at night time, which is useful for reversing drivers.
The bin has taken pride of place in the street for 18 months and now LARA is pushing the council for a full collection of cream bins once the existing black ones need replacing.
Arguably more impressively, Lansdowne Place had the privilege of starring – albeit momentarily – in a 2011 British film.Crew from Elstree Studios loved the street’s image so much they filmed some parts of the Now is Good film there, starring Dakota Fanning – best known for appearing in the Twilight Saga films.
Juliette Hunting, who has lived in the street for more than 40 years, said the road’s film debut was testament to the hard work of LARA.
She said: “There’s a shot of the bottom half of Lansdowne Place which looks really great, it’s about five to ten minutes in.
“Elstree Studios said they chose the street because they thought it was outstanding, which is rewarding for us residents after the work we’ve put into it.
“The production company brought their own mobile canteen down to the street with chairs outside so we were all treated to lunch.“The director also gave LARA £100, which was lovely.
”From cream bins and big screen credits to the more recent news of a sad business closure – the street waved goodbye to an iconic city hotel just earlier this year.
The Lansdowne Place Hotel collapsed into administration in January after the 150-year-old business succumbed to its £9 million debts.
But its final days shouldn’t be marred by memories of owed money and boarded up windows.
Built in 1854, the hotel’s glory days welcomed the likes of Winston Churchill and Her Majesty the Queen.
“I've been here for 42 years. I lived in London but came down here for the sea if I’m honest. I had lived in Brighton before but returned because I love it.
“There used to be bedsits and it lacked a bit of substance around here, but now over the space of about ten years, everyone’s done their houses up to a high standard and it looks really good.
“Instead of moving away when they have children, people are now staying here because it’s so ideal. You have St Ann’s Well, the beach, schools and lots of committed, independent local shops.
“I’m passionate about the environment and keeping our city, not just the street, clean and respectable.”
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