MyHouseMyStreet project takes off in Brighton for Heritage Open Days Weekend

By Alice Burton | 10 September 2009
People gathered in a street

(Above) Last year's exhibition in Foundry Road. Regency Town House

More than 150 free activities are taking place in Brighton and Hove as part of Heritage Open Days this weekend.

One of the activities is the innovative MyHouseMyStreet exhibitions, allowing residents to peek into the past of many of the city's 19th century houses.

MyHouseMyStreet uses information from censuses and other documents to provide information on particular houses' former residents, as well as their ages and occupations.

A man standing outside a house holding a piece of paper

The exhibition reveals the previous occupants of the house. Regency Town House

The project took off last year after an exhibition in Foundry Road, a typical 19th century street with a rich history. Subsequent public demand has encouraged staff and volunteers to expand the project to other locations, including Gloucester Road, Kensington Place and Pelham Square, which are all situated in the iconic North Laine area of the city.

"We decided to do this because usually the Heritage Open Days national event represents churches, museums and public places," says Nick Tyson, of Brighton's Regency Town House team, who are organising the event.

"Following the success of last year's event, we thought we would create a local history of particular streets' occupancy. People kept asking if we could look at their streets, too."

An open front door

Courtesy Regency Town House

The North Laine area was chosen as it represents typical early 19th century Georgian houses.

"Many people think the North Laine area is not particularly special compared to some of Brighton's other architecture – it doesn't have grand buildings and isn't particularly famous," says Tyson. "But it provides an interesting insight into the lives and homes of ordinary people."

During the four days, posters will be on display in the streets so the public can look at the previous occupants of each individual house.

"These posters give a really intimate insight and you can discover what conditions were like at this time," adds Tyson. "The houses are not particularly big but some had 17 people living in them – four different families would share these three-bedroom homes with one kitchen and bathroom.

"We also discovered many other interesting facts – William Moon, the famous scholar who developed a reading system for blind people, lived on Kensington Place."

Children sitting outside on a windowsill

(Above) Family activities feature. Regency Town House

The MyHouseMyStreet project will continue after the exhibitions, and the information will soon be uploaded to a website where it will be available to the public.

"We hope to have the whole North Laine area in the comprehensive database. We then want to expand to most of Brighton, in particular the industrial Georgian areas," explains Tyson.

"The objective is to eventually have a social networking site for houses. Volunteers will be able create an account and submit details for their own location. We hope it be of use not just to local residents, but historians as well."

MyHouseMyStreet is part of the National Heritage Open Days project. All activities are free but some require pre-booking. To find out more about the Open Door events, check The Regency Town House website.

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