Thursday, 30 September 2010

Dolphin Lamp Standards

Brighton's cast-iron dolphin lamp standards are somewhat reminiscent of those to be seen along the Thames which were designed by George Vuillamy and are still in resplendent working order. Although Brighton's are smaller, they have three entwined dolphins compared with London's two, which face opposite ways along the Embankment. Brighton's are more designed to be viewed through 360 degrees and seem equally deserving of admiration as works of Victorian art.

There comparisons end. In their decapitated state Brighton's standards look sad and neglected and have done for decades. It is probably too much to expect them ever to be restored to full working order, but surely the City could afford to fit them with some kind of finial, which would at least restore something of their aesthetic integrity. A simple globe, about 7" in diameter would be OK, certainly better than nothing; but to go one step better, Brighton is full of artistic talent both student and professional, could not the Council, or perhaps the Regency Society, sponsor a competition for a specially designed finial.

The photo above left is at Preston Park where there are six standards in all.
Above right is on the Embankment, London.
The photo to the left  is at the Level where there are two standards at the south end. I do not know the significance of the numbering. 

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Hove vicar criticises clergy over church schools

From a Brighton & Hove News report:- Hove vicar criticises clergy over church schools

"Mr Terry, who has been a parish priest for 35 years and chairman of the governors at church and council-run schools, added: “The current legal position, which allows faith schools cynically to work the system, is a nonsense both ethically and morally, and urgently needs reform.""

Albion Hill revisited

This is a recap on the earlier post Albion Hill, September 1940.
September 1940:-

September 2010, looking towards the corner of Belgrave Street:-

The church is now in the same alignment relative to the distant skyline. The nearest house to the corner is no.16. It appears house numbers 17, 18, 19 Albion Hill were never rebuilt; part of the space being taken up with a planted area. There has been redevelopment across the bottom of the hill and the lower part of St. Bartholomews is obscured by the Phoenix building in Richmond Place. 

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

St. Nicholas Churchyard

 70 years ago St.Nicholas churchyard was  crammed with a century's worth of stone memorials of every shape and size, which must have made maintenance difficult, and certainly, during the war years, it became completely overgrown. At least it was enjoyed by the neighbourhood children for whom it became a jungle paradise  in which paths could be blazed and camps made.

Then in 1951 Brighton Council cleared most of the memorials away, stacking tombstones against the churchyard walls and retaining in position only those deemed of special local interest. This resulted in the garden space we enjoy now. The research into the tombs was, however, probably fairly cursory at the time.

There had also been an earlier clearance in the 1870's, so with the passage of time the details and stories of many of those interred at the site had been lost. In recent years work has been undertaken to rediscover information about those commemorated and the tales which accompany them. Gratifyingly the results of this work can now be followed in a new online gazetteer, The Brighton Mortiquarian.

Monday, 27 September 2010

The Pepperpot

The remaining survivor from the Attree Villa grounds is the grade II listed Pepperpot, also designed by Charles Barry, most likely as a water tower in the days before main supply. It has 4 internal floors some of which are unsafe. It is currently unused but has its own website, 'The Pepperpot'; and Facebook group, 'Friends of the Pepperpot', dedicated to securing its maintenance and long term future.

Also shown in the photo, taken from Queens Park Road, is one of the two grade II listed tram shelters in Brighton.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Brighton Society website

The excellent Brighton Society website has been nominated in the competition for the Civic Voice Awards for the best "Civic Society Website".  Click here to view the shortlist of competing websites and vote for your favourite.

New Memorial at Chattri

At midday today a new war memorial, built by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, will be unveiled,  which bears the names of 53 Indian soldiers who died during the Great War.

The Chattri, completed in 1921 was largely the work of the then Mayor of Brighton, Sir John Otter, who had intended that the names of all who had been cremated there should be engraved on the monument. However with records dispersed after the Great War this was not found possible at the time and has only now been implemented thanks to the dedication of the CWGC.

The unveiling of the new memorial is being filmed as part of a new education resource being prepared by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which examines the often overlooked contribution of servicemen and women from India during the two world wars.  This education pack will be released in October 2010.

Friday, 24 September 2010

The Attree Villa Temple

The Italianate villa temple is of rectangular elevation on a square base with Ionic columns and is variously described as once housing a statue of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius and that of a seated dog. Judging by the proportions of the temple, the Emperor seems more likely to have been the original occupant;  and this especially as Marcus Aurelius, a leading Stoic, wrote much about government of service and duty. This made him very popular in the Victorian era, and these subjects would have been particularly dear to Thomas Attree judging by his record of life-long civic service to Brighton.

Both statues have, of course, long since disappeared in common with others in Brighton. I feel a new theme coming on  . . .

The NEB, in its article on the Attree Villa,  seems to have confused the Garden Temple with the Royal (German) Spa at the south end of Queen's Park. On the other hand Timothy Carder in the original version had it right.

*The New Encylopaedia of Brighton.

Nice view: shame about the house . . . .

Without the Clock Tower and the housing clutter beyond, this, no doubt, is still substantially the view that Thomas Attree will have beheld when he (or his servant) drew back his bedroom curtains of a morning.

Despite a huge public protest, and the fact that the then Historic Buildings Council classed the Attree Villa, designed by Sir Charles Barry, as an 'outstanding' Grade 2 listed building, it was demolished in 1972 by its owners, the Council, to escape the cost of maintenance. All that survives today is the classical Garden Temple and the Pepperbox.

Also designed by Barry elsewhere in the City: the Royal Sussex County Hospital also seems doomed to be demolished; this will leave only St.Peters, whose condition is still a cause for concern, and St. Andrews in Waterloo Street.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Winter Ice Skating

At first mention the Council's proposed temporary ice rink on the eastern lawn of the Royal Pavilion Estate conjures up a delightful image of a sheet of ice, dotted with skaters gliding and twirling against the backdrop of the floodlit Pavilion; something like a cross between a Dutch winter scene and a setting from the Arabian Nights. 

Unfortunately the proposals also include ancillary structures to house a restaurant, crèche, café, toilet facilities and skate hire, and require a marquee with transparent walls and roof to be erected all along the eastern side of the lawn, especially placed to shelter  the ice from wind. The effect as viewed by a person 5ft.11in tall standing in the Old Steine is  as shown in the mock-up photo below. 
In fact, it seems that the only place the skating will be clearly visible is from a small area at the southern end and from within the venue itself.

Including set-up and break-down time the lawn will be occupied from 26th October to 23rd January 2011, and the grass will be severely damaged over this period. Resurfacing is to be completed by 23rd February but it is doubtful that even after this time the grass will be fully restored. However it is not the temporary loss of the lawn which is the greater concern, as it is not intensively used, especially in winter,  but rather the loss of the iconic, most photographed, view of the Royal Pavilion.

On the plus side the rink will provide an important source of income which will help to fund repair and maintenance of the cash-strapped Pavilion. It will provide a leisure/sporting activity which will encourage tourists and engage with local communities. It will increase the capacity of the historic site temporarily, bring a wider range of visitors and go some way to provide for the aims of the "Keep Sussex Skating Association". Although footfall in the area will be greatly increased by this event  the provision of 24-hour security should reduce graffiti and vandalism on the east elevation. 

It seems that Pavilion and Council staff have put a lot of effort, planning and preparation into this project, and approval must be a foregone conclusion. We should perhaps give a guarded welcome to a first trial.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Albion Hill, September 1940

Terraced houses such as these, with gardens too small to accomodate Anderson shelters would still have been awaiting the alternative Morrisons when, inconsiderately, as the Blitz intensified, the bombs began to fall. The only protection was to be found in the cupboard under the stairs, the staircase being reckoned the strongest part of the house. Although Lord HawHaw threatened Brighton on a least one occasion it was probably never a prime target, more the recipient of left-over bombs from enemy aircraft  returning from London; or bombs jettisoned at the first sight of land by over-eager pilots anxious to get home to tea, or whatever the German equivalent was in those days.

I have spent some time trying to decide if the modern photo is of exactly the same spot. Different cameras yield different perspectives which can be misleading, and there has been much rebuilding, thankfully in sympathetic styles. I think it is clinched by what appears to be identical chimney stacks near the centre of both pictures: and the house numbering; the second house from the corner being no. 48 and the digit  "8" being also discernible in the 1940 photo.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Plans for the Royal Sussex Hospital

Designs for the £400m redevelopment of the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Eastern Road Brighton have been unveiled.

Although The Brighton Society regrets the loss of the Charles Barry building and the listed chapel designed by William Hallett it accepts that it is not possible to retain them as part of a new scheme. Memorials from the hospital and the chapel would be placed in a chapel at the new hospital, but it is not practical to retain the existing chapel in its present form.

The Brighton Society has decided that it will concentrate on trying to achieve an improvement to the view of the new hospital from Paston Place. The architect has not yet recognised the importance of this view in terms of townscape by reflecting the vertical character, so typical of Brighton, of the houses in Paston Place.

The new film of "Brighton Rock".

Director: Rowan Joffe

Cast: Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Andy Serkis, Helen Mirren, John Hurt, Nonso Anozie

Read TimeOut's glowing review here.

Seafront maintenance

I have posted on this subject before, here & here.  Also written to the Council. But every visit to the seafront seems to reveal a new area of neglect and reawaken concern. This photo was taken at the head of steps from the Madeira Terraces, I dread to think what the seaward side looks like; and I publish it party to relieve my feelings, but also with the slight hope that it might go viral and eventually pop-up on a few councillors' desktops. 

It is easy, I know, to blame the Council for this situation: and the railings do pose especially expensive problems, being of cast-iron and with only one side easily accessible; but it is uniquely their problem and one wonders if they are really facing up to it. 

I know they will talk about "demands on budget",  "prioritising expenditure", etc.  But do they have a long term plan for the railings they are slowly working towards? Or are they "Micawber-like" hoping that something will "turn-up"on the financial front to save them? If they intend the railings to be saved it is surely never too soon to make a start however small; and then proceed steadily in increments tailored to the available budget. Maybe I am speaking out of turn; work has started and the increments are simply too small to be readily observed. It would be reassuring to be told I think. . . . 

Saturday, 18 September 2010

"Protest the Pope" march

The "Protest the Pope" march in London this afternoon (saturday) was supported by a contingent from the Brighton & Hove Humanist Society

The event was extremely well-attended by representatives of all generations and walks of life and stretched from Hyde Park Corner to Piccadilly Circus, a distance of nearly a mile. The weather was fine and, in spite of long delays in starting, the humour was good. There was much applause from bystanders and at one point a figure emerged on a balcony, wearing a white robe and vaguely episcopal headgear, and to great applause and laughter, bestowed a blessing on the procession below.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Castle Square. Then & Now

Two views, separated in time by well over 100 years, looking west into Castle Square from Old Steine. Why it was called a "square" is a puzzle but "Castle" comes from the old Castle Tavern established here in 1755 and demolished in 1823. This was replaced by the building seen on the right hand side of the top photo, presumably on the original building line and this was later occupied by the gentlemen's outfitters Needhams and the Sussex Hotel. Needhams closed down in January 1929 and that building was then demolished and the road widened.  The present building (now a bank) was erected in 1930 onwards for the showrooms of the muncipal electricity board: hence the Brighton shields with which it is adorned. 

On the left hand side and in the distance the buildings seem largely unchanged. By a lucky chance  the modern photo has caught a modern bus in exactly the same position as the horse-bus after rounding the corner from the Old Steine. In the old photo, near the edge of the pavement on the right-hand corner of Castle Square, is an intriguing object which I am unable to identify. It looks rather like an old style (1980's) parking meter!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Good bit of walling . . .

It is good to see some new walling in traditional style executed with top craftsmanship. It demonstrates that the old skills have not been altogether lost even if they are not often seen in modern developments. This is the new patio behind the Old Music Library.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Saltdean Lido latest

The Save Saltdean Lido Campaign will be putting on an exhibition with Conran & Partners to enable the public to view plans and future vision for the site and to leave feedback and suggestions.  

The exhibition will be held in the Community Centre to the rear of the Lido and will be open on Sunday 26th September and Monday 27th September from 4pm until 7pm.  They are both drop-in sessions. 

Members of Friends of Saltdean Lido are invited at 3pm on Sunday 26th September for an exclusive preview.  Please make sure you bring your membership card with you.

The Tarner Tower

Probably not many people are aware of this relic of Victorian Brighton which is off the beaten track and involves a 1/4 mile steep climb up Sussex Street from Grand Parade. This neat little tower is situated in Tarner Park at the north end of the small Carlton Hill Conservation Area. This CA was formed mainly from the garden of St. John's Lodge in Tilbury Place but with a southerly extension to include the Mighell Street farmhouse.  

The NEB* states that the Lodge was occupied by merchant Edwin Tarner and his wife Laetitia (nee Tilbury) and then inherited by his son Edwin Tilbury Tarner. In 1933 the property was left to Brighton Corporation by another member of the family a Miss Laetitia Tilbury Tarner. The top of the tower must have commanded an excellent view over the fast developing town and the Bay of Sussex.  The NEB suggests it was built by Edward Tarner in the mid-1800's so that he could spot his homeward bound ships coming up the channel and be in London in time to meet them. 

The information provided at the site seems inconsistent. A damaged plaque states that the tower was built in 1832 by Edwin Tilbury.

*The New Encyclopaedia of Brighton.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Varley Halls of Residence to be demolished

"News From Brighton"reports that Brighton University's plans to nearly double the student accommodation at Varley Halls have won the approval of  the City's planning committee. It will involve the demolition of the four existing accommodation blocks and their replacement by ten low rise buildings.

70 years ago today

Just a couple of months into the Blitz, on 14th September 1940 at 3.30 pm, a lone German plane dropped a bomb in Kemptown which killed 4 adults and 2 children in the Odeon cinema and 49 people in the surrounding area. This turned out to be the worst single attack throughout the war which finally cost the lives of 198 residents. 

The cinema was rebuilt but, after periods of use as a bingo hall and then a social centre, was finally demolished in 1986 and replaced with the present block of flats.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Brighton Rock
A clip from the new film of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock.
Looks good. . . . 

Another motorcycle fatality

The Argus has a further report on a second motorcycle accident yesterday afternoon. This time at Junction 10 of the M23. Although there is no suggestion it is connected with the Brighton rally, it does make one wonder.

A still later Argus report confirms that the rider was on his way home from the Brighton Rally.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Motorcycle Sunday

No doubt a lot of real pleasure is to be had from motorcycling to the extent that enthusiasts are prepared to accept the risks involved, but it is not clear what additional enjoyment springs from the lemming-like gatherings we experience in Brighton from time to time. What is more, riders en masse do not behave with the same caution as solitary ones and, hearing some of them screaming north down the London Road this afternoon, it was no surprise when shortly afterwards they were followed by wailing police cars, then an ambulance and then a fire engine. 

The day had evidently ended in tragedy for someone somewhere near the bottom of Varndean Road; and all traffic along the A23 was blocked in both directions. Later on, the sedate pace of those diverted riders passing through Patcham showed that events had not left them untouched, but who knows how long the effect will last.

A Day in Brighton

This is the most watched "Brighton" video on YouTube.

Difficult to believe, in the present cool conditions, that 4 years ago we had the hottest September day on record.

"The Podule" is the name Geraint Hughes; composer, sound designer, videographer, gives to his Brighton Studio.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

The Great Eastern

This fine old pub at the bottom of Trafalgar Street always seems to be popular but, as far as the outside is concerned, rather in need of some tlc. One fears it will go the way of so many of Brighton's old pubs and suffer "modernisation",  so losing a fine pub sign and all its historical associations. 

Brunel's "Great Eastern" was launched in 1858, but ended her career on her maiden voyage, on 9th September 1859, due to an on-board explosion. At that time the pub was called "Maud of the Mill" but took the name "Great Eastern" and presumably its still-surviving appearance c.1862.

Although some of the buildings near the bottom of Trafalgar Street date from earlier in the 1800's, they will over the years have been subject to much alteration: whereas everything about the Great Eastern, although a few decades later, seems to suggest we are still seeing it as it was c.1862. It should surely be valued and protected for this alone.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Save Brighton's Astoria

A new Facebook Group has been formed to campaign to save the old Art Deco Cinema in Gloucester Place.

"Too many of Brighton's Art Deco buildings have been demolished, and there are several under threat. The latest is the Astoria in the centre of town, on Gloucester Place. Opening in 1933 as a 1800-seat cinema, it became a Bingo hall in 1977 and closed in 1997. In 2000 November it was granted Grade II listed building status. It was bought by Stomp who had plans to turn it into a venue, then sold to Mike Holland, who also owns the Engineerium and Stanmer House. The Argus of 26 August 2010 reported that he is planning to demolish it and replace it with a six-storey 'business centre'. Plans will be presented to the local authority’s planning committee in October."

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Chain Pier remains

A photo taken on 11th August, at one of this year's extra low tides, shows rock-like objects but no wooden stumps. This can be compared with last year's photos which can be seen here. The absence of stumps may mean they have finally succumbed to the sea, or that the level of the mud has shifted, or that the tide is not low enough.

Early photographs of the Chain Pier at low tide show the second cluster of piles out from the shore surrounded by some kind of artificial platform. It seems likely that this was intended to protect the relatively soft piles, or the foundations, from scouring action by the sea and that what we can still see today is the remains of this platform. One can speculate that there may be quite extensive remains of the first set of piles (out of shot in the picture below) deeply buried in, and protected by, the shingle beach which has built up by about 15 feet over the past 100 years.

It is disappointing that the plaque on the Madeira Terraces which once recorded the position of the Chain Pier has now disappeared.  However the plaque to its designer and engineer, Sir Samuel Brown,  can still be seen on Chain Pier House in Marine Parade.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Subtle Graffiti

"Subtle" is not a word with which one would normally expect to qualify"graffiti" but these ghostly faces on a rusty wall-plate seem to warrant the conjunction. 

It is difficult to see how the images have been executed or to guess how permanent they are.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Cheltenham Place

This attractive terrace of small cottages is distinguished, like others in North Laine, by small front gardens and near continuous variation in frontages; bows, bays, canted bays, single & double height. Those of the cottages that have retained some greenery in their gardens are particularly attractive. It dates from 1840's and, being in a conservation area, any proposals for repairs or alterations are carefully scrutinised by the planning department. This is slightly ironic when one considers that, back in the 60's,  the whole area was under threat from proposals for an elevated roadway from Preston Circus to North Street; but I suppose one must let bygones be bygones.

One of the homeowners in Cheltenham Place, who, without planning permission,  recently replaced full height curved bays with plastic canted ones has now been served with a Council enforcement notice requiring him to :-

1. Remove the angle canted bay window from the front elevation.
2. Remove the uPVC windows from front elevation.
3. Reinstate round bay as original.
4. Reinstate paired curved single glazed painted timber sash windows, to match exactly the original.

A full report can be read on the Council's website here.

Thankfully, the need for  enforcement action such as this does seem fairly rare. Indeed one often sees planning applications where the proposal is to replace uPVC windows with those of the orignal design. 

Saturday, 4 September 2010

The Station Site update

Since the Brighton Bits post on 20th July there has been some action on the yet unopened "Greenway" on the Station Site. A Council spokesman says:-

"It is disappointing for residents that the opening of the Greenway has been delayed. This is because Network Rail, a key landowner, has formally to agree access across part of its land, including the Grade II listed bridge crossing New England Road, for the public to use the Greenway. The council is involved in ongoing negotiations with Network Rail in order to obtain the necessary licence and we are hopeful that it will be achieved in the next few weeks without the need to take legal action.”

A full report can be read on the Prestonville Postblog. More photos can be seen on the Prestonville Postblog facebook page.

It seems there is room for cautious optimism.

The changing face of Kingsway update

Councillor Lynda Hyde, Chair of the Planning Committee, has written to the Argus concerning three of the properties mentioned in the earlier Brighton Bits post "The changing face of Kingsway". She says:-

"Regarding Lawnscroft, the former nursing home, Brighton and Hove City Council’s officers have been in contact with the owners of the property who have agreed to demolish the building by the end of this month and begin implementing their approved planning permission.

Enforcement officers have also been in touch with the owners of the properties at 149-151 Kingsway. Following a recent refusal for planning permission, we are asking the owners to improve the appearance and condition of these properties.

If improvements are not made to the appearance of these sites, the council may take formal action."

The A27

Modern roads come in for a lot of opposition and criticism, notwithstanding that our lives are very dependent on them, and the Brighton bypass, when first built, was like a raw wound on the Downs. It has now been largely assimilated by them and some sections even provide a measure of aesthetic satisfaction. It is interesting to contrast roads with Victorian railway lines which strived to follow the straightest, most level route between two points. We now regard some of these as real assets to the landscape. In 100 years time or so, and assuming the triumph of carbon-free motoring, will our descendants look with equal regard at the free-flowing swoops & curves of some of our major roads and motorways?

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The Daddy Longlegs Railway

During a recent low tide the remains of the track bed of the Rottingdean Railway were revealed; curving in to the Banjo Groyne, where it used to terminate.

 This photo was probably taken with the Pioneer, as the car was called, travelling away from the Banjo Groyne with a following wind. Top speed was 8mph but it was dependent on the tide and more often hardly walking pace was achieved. 

It ceased operation in 1900 due, it seems, to the non-cooperative attitude of the Corporation who wanted the line diverted further out to sea in order to build new groynes.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Chinese Flame Tree

A spectacularly fruiting Koelreuteria bipinnata in the Pavilion Gardens this week. Deciduous tree, native to China (as the name suggests, but it doesn't always follow). Said to like hot summers. Sign of the times maybe? Click on picture for an enlarged view and the 3-lobed paper lantern-like fruit can be distinguished. Each contains a seed 5 - 10mm long which will gradually harden.