Gardner Street lies between Church Street to the south and North Road
to the north and is the second of the four shopping streets that make up the North Laine
area. The street was developed from 1805 onwards by John Furner on the site of his market garden, hence the name. The garden had been located on what was the First Furlong of the former field known as the North Laine
. All the houses were built as three stories which assisted in the street adapting to retail fairly early on and by the 1880s century all of the ground floors had been converted.
As Brighton expanded northwards during the 19th century the street, along with neighbouring North Road, became the major shopping street for the local community in the tightly packed terraces that sprang up during that period. Slightly more upmarket than Kensington Gardens
and Sydney Street to the north, it would eventually attract the first retail chains, Home & Colonial Stores, Pearks, Maypole Diaries, Freeman, Hardy & Willis, and Marks & Spencer on the corner of North Road. Another, Tesco, would later see off many of these as well as change part of the street architecturally. Despite this a number of small businesses from the Victorian era survived into the 1980s; Terry's the jeweller, traded for 118 years before closing in 1986, Bolton the Egg Merchant until 1984, and most famously, Bealls & Co, the cork merchants closed in 1983 after 100 years and being the last of its kind in the country.
Changes in retail began around the 1960s, particularly the arrival of Tesco, who knocked down four houses to build a new superstore and began to drive the local food stores out of business which would eventually be replaced by fashion and clothing stores, particularly from the 1980s once the threat of demolition of the previous decade had been averted. These have been joined by a proliferation of cafes in the last decade helped by the pedestrianisation of the street at weekends allowing the eateries to place seats and tables in the street.
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