Tuesday, 30 March 2010

A London to Brighton record

A model of the coach "Old Times" owned by Henry Wyndham, 2nd Lord Leconfield. In this coach on July 14th 1888 James Selby drove from Piccadilly London to the Old Ship  in Brighton and back in 7 hours 50 minutes and so won a £1000 wager*. His average speed  including changing horses must have been about 12 mph. Presumably between stops he was bowling along at about 15. The turnaround at the Old Ship must have been particularly dramatic. 

The all-time record for a single journey had been set 65 years earlier when the "Criterion" drove from London to Brighton in 3 hours 40 minutes. Those were the days . . . 

James died the same year aged 44.

*From "The Brighton Road" by Charles Harper.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

16 Ship Street

In the heart of the old town this rather neglected looking property was once the home and offices of distinguished Victorian architect Thomas Simpson. He is shown to be in occupation in the 1871 census and died there in 1908. His name has come to the fore due to the recent listing, by English Heritage, of the Connaught Road School in Hove for which he was the architect.  The application for listing was made by the Brighton Society based on the extensive research work of member Ninka Wilcox.

Thomas Simpson was appointed Surveyor and Architect to the Brighton & Preston School Board in 1871. He went on to design - later in collaboration with his sons - all the Brighton Board Schools except Richmond Street, He designed many in Hove and Portslade too. Downs Primary and St. Luke's, both listed, are particularly fine examples of his work. Connaught Road School is the only example of his Queen Anne style in Hove. It is fair to say that nearly everyone who has been to school in Brighton has to some extent been touched by Thomas Simpson's work.

Thomas Simpson seems to have founded something of a family dynasty. His younger son Gilbert Murray carried on as Surveyor and Architect to Brighton Education Committee until his retirement in 1945. His eldest son John became president of the RIBA in 1919, was knighted in 1924, and, among many other prestigious assignments, designed Roedean School.

Friday, 26 March 2010

The Royal Alexandra saved

After years of struggle by local concerned residents this landmark building has been finally saved. The Council's Planning Brief for the development of this site, which requires retention of the main block shown above and possible retention of the Victorian villa on Dyke Road, has today been signed off by Cllr. Theobald, Cabinet Member for Environment.

Please can we have the flagpole back?

Imperial Arcade was originally built in 1923 on the site of the North Street Brewery, but was rebuilt in 1934 with the adjoining Arcade Buildings added in the style of the day, resembling the prow of a ship*. It has mounting brackets for 4 flagpoles, 3 on the Western Road side and another at this visually important elevation. The brackets appear to be made of bronze and in good condition except the upper mounts are missing the clamping piece. I wonder if they were safely stored or sold for scrap?

To my eye the whole design ethos of the building appears to have been woefully frustrated by the loss of its poles, with or without flags.

*From "the Encyclopaedia of Brighton" by Timothy Carder.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

City loos

Someone has just written to the Argus complaining about lack of public toilets in Brighton and Hove. This may have been a justified criticism several decades ago but is surely not the case now.

According to the Council's website here there are 48 public toilets in the City plus 20 in public libraries & museums and 16 in buildings open to the public under the "You're welcome" scheme making a total of 84 in all, which seems adequate.

If the difficulty is knowing where they are you can see a location map here or get a hard copy from the Council by emailing cityclean@brightonandhove.org.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

'About Hove - Name the Place' Quiz

The answers and outcome of the quiz held at the Connaught 125 Day on March the 20th. can be found on this Page

Railway Lines

A view from Burton Walk. The bridge carries the Old Shoreham Road: further on the entrance to the tunnel under Dyke Road can be seen.

Railway lines introduce fingers of green into the urban environment and provide havens and corridors for wildlife. Their demand for  level tracks following smooth curves yields tunnels, bridges, cuttings and level crossings. These all serendipitously interject into the otherwise unbroken pattern of streets and rooftops providing relief, variety and a sense of place to the eye of the passerby.

Monday, 22 March 2010

What a lot of balls! . . .

A recent materialisation on the seafront, these stand sentinel on the expanse of new pavement that has been created outside the Old Ship Hotel. Not unattractive, useful for perching on and they make a change from the usual iron bollards. But isn't there some law that says: "Anything that can be tripped over will be tripped over"? 

Saturday, 20 March 2010

St. Pauls from Boyces Street

Wandering around Brighton it is still possible to frame an image in which the 20th.Century is not too obtrusive.

St. Pauls is Grade II* listed. Although originally intended to have a stone spire, the tower was finished 1873-75 with a timber octagonal belfry and low spire to keep the weight on the foundations down. In the early 1990's it was found to be infested with pigeons and in a perilous state. The Council was very nervous about it. It was finally restored in 1996 at a cost of £562,000. 70% of this was met by a grant from English Heritage and the rest from the sale of the church's High Altar tryptych 'the Adoration of the Magi' by Edward Burne-Jones. A one-third size reproduction of the painting was specially commissioned and is now on display in the church.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Patcham Pete . .

Patcham Pete (on the left) has been keeping a lonely vigil at the Jubilee Fountain for many years, during which time he has displayed an astonishing versatility in his sartorial tastes. This seems to have done the trick and we are pleased to report that he has recently been joined by a lady-friend. When interviewed he denied that this would mean he would be giving up his normal duties (deterring speeding motorists). "We are just good friends" he said.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Anyone for tea?

The Tea Cosy, George Street, Kemptown, Brighton. 
Click on photo for enlarged view.

Monday, 15 March 2010

The "Save Saltdean Lido" Campaign

On the evening of the 11th March the prospective developer of the Saltdean Lido site held a public exhibition and consultation on its proposals. It was reported in the Argus here. This event seemed to be very poorly advertised. Saltdean, although outlying, is part of the City and many residents, still mourning the loss of the Blackrock and Rottingdean pools, would I am sure have liked the opportunity to attend. But no matter, Saltdean alone seemed well equal to the challenge. A Facebook group was immediately formed and the number of members has already reached the staggering total of 2327. This Campaign really has legs!

Such progress has been made that it already seems as if the developer will have to think again. Much more of the building and its anciliary features have been listed than appears to be the case from the City Council's 'Summary List of Historic Buildings'. One wonders if the architect was relying on this rather than checking with English Heritage for the full details.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Connaught 125 Day

On Saturday March 20th from 11am to 3pm the Connaught Centre will be celebrating its 125th year as an educational institution with a full programme of events which can be viewed at the City College website here
Brighton Society, which was recently successful in getting listed building grade II status for the building, will be exhibiting  a collection of photographs which highlight why the building is special. Victorian buildings like this were very well built and with good maintenance and modernisation can be expected to give good service indefinitely; certainly for  much longer than many modern replacements. Because of this there is a growing campaign throughout the country to get distinguished old school buildings renovated rather than demolished and the Society will be exhibiting photographs and press-cuttings to illustrate this campaign.

A further display entitled "About Hove - Name this Place" invites visitors to name the locations of 24 photos taken in Hove streets, some easy, some difficult. This is a joint event by Brighton Society & Hove Civic Society. Entry is free and the entrant identifying the greatest number of locations will win copies of  "Hove & Portslade through Time" and "Britain in Old Photographs, Hove", both by Judy Middleton. Prize sponsored by Hove Civic Society.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Dodgy crossing update

Following my last but one article "Is this crossing dangerous?" I also emailed the Traffic Signal Department.  I have had a quick response and more importantly the light has already been swung round to point towards Castle Square. As the photo shows the pedestrian can no longer be misled by the light intended for traffic. Apparently it was never intended for the traffic in East Street.

Problem solved.

Monday, 8 March 2010


From this:-

To this (March 2010):-

The twentieth century was not kind to Rottingdean. A downland village which, because of its geographical location was unique in Sussex, possibly along the entire South Coast, in enjoying an economy based on farming, fishing & smuggling.  It  was inevitably visited by the developers, and perhaps some change was inevitable, but one wonders if the results needed to be quite so uncompromisingly bad.

In 1904 the cafe shown in the top picture was known as 'the Geisha', probably following the craze at that time for all things Japanese. It was owned then by an A.J.Crouch. It continued to exist well into the 20th century.  Many will still remember it as the favourite destination of a Sunday afternoon walk along the Undercliff. Later, after a cliff fall obliterated the path along cliff edge, patrons were allowed, if they so wished, to exit by the back door to continue their walk up the cliff. The right-of-way was never re-established, yet it was presumably open to the Council's Planning Department to insist on it as a condition of development.

Rottingdean is honeycombed with now bricked-up smugglers' tunnels. One of them leads to the Grange. The Vicar, Dr.Thomas Hooker who ran a famous school there, is said to be the model for the parson in Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Smuggler's Song":-

"Five and twenty ponies. Trotting through the dark - 
Brandy for the Parson, Baccy for the Clerk 
Laces for a lady; letters for a spy,
And watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!"

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Is this crossing dangerous?

The new pelican crossing at the bottom of North Street is very usefully sited but open to dire misinterpretation by an unthinking pedestrian. The green light seen in the photo is not intended for pedestrians but for emerging East Street traffic.

A pedestrian coming from East Street sees  the self-same green light just where he is aiming to get to, so with his eye on this and mind elsewhere, he is tempted to just keep walking even though the pedestrian "stop-go" indicator mounted on the near post (the middle yellow box) will still be showing red.

It is true that the pedestrian has a clear view of traffic approaching from the left but this is not the case for traffic from the right which, because of the built-out kerb and the bend in the road, is approaching from behind the pedestrian's right shoulder. Buses clip this bend very closely and one incautious step could spell disaster.

Even those cautious types who pause at the kerb will be confused if they have approached the crossing from East Street.  With the light showing across the road, be it red or green, there is no visual incentive to seek a signal elsewhere and when standing at the kerb the pedestrian signal is behind one's right shoulder. Even glancing right towards Castle Square it is easily missed.

I know I am not the first person to mention this. I hope the Council's Traffic Control Department aren't waiting for us to be proved right.