Wednesday, 31 August 2011

"The Court of Death"

This painting by the victorian symbolist G F Watts took him over 30 years to complete, and because, at 14 foot high, it was too large for his studio at Compton, Surrey he rented larger premises in Brighton. Over the period 1870 to completion of the painting in 1902 he must therefore have been a frequent visitor. He also employed the services of famous Brighton photographer Thomas Donovan who had a studio in St. James's Street..

The painting is to be seen in Tate Britain. The display caption reads:-
"This painting was intended for the chapel of a paupers’ cemetery. Death is shown as an enthroned angel, holding a baby which shows, according to Watts, that ‘even the germ of life is in the lap of Death’. Flanking Death are allegorical figures of Silence and Mystery, guarding what lies beyond the veil: sunrise and the star of hope.

In the foreground a warrior surrenders his sword and a duke his coronet, showing that worldly status offers no protection. But Death also offers refuge: a man with crutches finds relief from pain, while a pale, sick woman rests her head."

G F Watts lived from 1817 to 1904.

The curator's talk can be found here:-

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Is the Big Lemon facing unfair competition?

The Big Lemon says:-

"Some would say it’s poor taste to pass judgment on competitors’ services and pricing plans but we cannot sit idly by and watch our competitors flood our route with cheap buses whilst putting prices up everywhere else to pay for it all. Yesterday afternoon our competitors announced bus fare increases on all services… except the ones that compete with ours. And this is after prices on competing service were reduced substantially in January to match our cheap fares.

From 18th September a CitySaver bought on the bus on most city routes will be £4. However on the 23 and 25 services that compete with ours along the Lewes Road it’s just £2.50.  Brighton & Hove Bus Company’s website blames the rise on the price of diesel and the expiry of their fixed-price fuel deal. But is diesel cheaper on the Lewes Road than everywhere else? Of course not." . . . . . Read on.

The Brighton Society & The Level Enhancement Project

The Brighton Society has written to the Heritage Lottery Fund supporting the City Council's application for funding:-

25th August 2011

"The Brighton Society wish to support Brighton and Hove City Council’s application to the HLF for funding to restore and enhance The Level.

The formal gardens at The Level were designed and implemented by Captain Maclaren who was Superintendent of Brighton’s Parks and Garden’s in the 1920’s. He was an extremely dynamic character who designed and created a series of innovative gardens at many locations in the town. He was responsible for the Sunken Gardens that ran along the seafront either side of the West Pier. Images of these gardens were used extensively at the time to publicise the town as a holiday resort and they can be seen in the iconic 1930’s posters of Brighton’s sea front.

Other Maclaren projects were the Rockery opposite Preston Park; remodelling of Preston Park by the removal of boundary railings and the creation of a rose garden with fountains; the Peace Garden at Patcham. He prepared visionary designs for a lake with terraces along the London Road and a major new design for the Aquarium Terraces. The Sunken Gardens have now gone and other gardens have been altered over the years. To some extent, the legacy and importance of Captain Maclaren’s work has been forgotten.

The formal gardens at the Level were one his best designs. His use of pergolas covered in roses, surrounding the intricate bridges and ponds, created a very restful and atmospheric park. The photographs of the gardens in their heyday between the wars are stunning and the council again used these images to publicise the town as a holiday resort. Sadly the gardens have declined in recent years and many of the stone columns were toppled during repeated acts of vandalism.

Restoration of the gardens would provide a much needed public space in this area of the town and would highlight the importance of Captain Maclaren’s contribution to the development of the Parks and Gardens in Brighton.

The Level is adjacent to the London Road shopping area which has also suffered a decline with shop closures and major problems with the Open Market. The proposed redevelopment of The Level with the restored gardens and lighting, new catering and related facilities, new sunken skatepark and rearranged access paths would provide a high quality public space which would help to regenerate the area – perhaps the trigger to turn around the problems of the area.

We are very supportive of the proposal to surround the formal gardens with improved seating, a café and children’s play areas which will be of a scale to not detract from the appearance of the gardens. The provision of the children’s play areas will of course reflect the original aim of Captain Maclaren to include children’s play areas adjacent to the gardens. Moving the skatepark to the other side of the east-west rose walk removes the problem of accommodating the much larger scale of skatepark equipment next to the delicate scale of the formal park. Well designed skateparks built below ground level have been successfully created at many locations and they have the great advantage of being less obtrusive and with lower noise levels. The space allocated in the northern section of the level has the potential of providing a greatly enhanced facility and careful design and landscaping should minimize its visual impact.

The consultation process carried out by the council over the last year has been impressive. A considerable number of households in the immediate vicinity were provided with detailed information on alternative options. The project also received city-wide publicity and comments were welcomed from interested amenity societies, community groups and individuals. The resulting 2:1 ratio in support of the proposed scheme to move the skatepark into the northern section of The Level shows a significant level of support for this option. The Brighton Society is gratified with this outcome as we have always felt that the restored gardens needed to be surrounded by facilities sympathetic to the appearance and scale of the gardens.

The Brighton Society has been concerned for many years about the decline of The Level and the great need to bring the area back into use as a pleasant and well used public space. There is an obvious need to enhance the whole of The Level. In so doing the restoration of the formal gardens would also acknowledge the historic importance of the works of Captain Maclaren. We therefore fully endorse the application of Brighton and Hove City Council and would encourage the HLF to support this proposal that could be so vital to regenerating this area of the city."

Malcolm Dawes
Chair, Brighton Society

Previous post on the Level:- View of the Level

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Brighton & Hove bits at Amberley

Hove Station ticket office
Tram shelter
These two relics of Brighton & Hove's transport history have found a new lease of life, splendidly refurbished, in the Amberley Chalkpits Museum.

The ticket office on its original site
See also:-

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Church St./Portland St. development site

This site, below the Earth & Stars pub on Church St. and stretching along Portland St., must be the only remaining vacant plot in the City centre. It has been like this for at least 18 years, and during that period, through times of both boom and bust, the developers have had numerous attempts at producing a viable scheme.

A planning application for demolition of existing buildings and construction of a four storey building was approved in 1993 and some foundation work was started in 94.  Over the following years several amendments to the original plans were submitted and withdrawn until in 2006 plans for a seven floor development were rejected by the council. In 2007 plans for  six floors  were also rejected and an appeal was refused. 

The latest application BH2011/02401 by local architects Morgan Carn is for a development on four floors comprising two retail units and three floors of office space on Church Street, a terrace of six 3 bedroom houses on Portland Street, and a terrace of three 2 bedroom houses in the southwest corner of the site which will not have road frontage. The buildings form a U-shape around a central landscaped courtyard with parking for 25 cars in a basement level. The parking will be accessed via the existing private gated car-park on Portland Street.

Portland Street
Part of the west side of Portland Street was rebuilt in the 20th.C with terraced cottages in traditional style. The style of the proposed new terrace is modern-vernacular so, although harmonising materials and finishes are specified, the contrast with the rest of the street will be quite striking.

Proposed development - Portland St. elevation
See also:- Housing land in Brighton

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Sewing machines & Winter ice-skating

Brighton Bits post "The Sewing Machine Shop", with 543 views has just pipped "Winter Ice-Skating" with 540. With autumn/winter coming the positions may yet be reversed. I suspect the popularity of the former is just due to googlers looking for somewhere to buy machine parts or accessories, in which case they will have been sadly disappointed. But I cannot see any ambiguity in the popularity of "Winter ice-skating". 

The attraction of skating outdoors in the winter seem to have really caught the public's imagination and the City Council would surely be backing a winner if a permanent site could be made available. One wonders if Bartholomew Square has ever been considered? Sheltered on all 4 sides, an important practical consideration, it is very similar to the Somerset House courtyard in London where ice-skating has been a highly popular feature of the winter season for many years. Bartholomew Square has from its creation been something of a failure as a public venue. To find a use such as this for it would inject some life into the area, boosting the hotel, the restaurant and maybe even stimulating new commercial activities.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Blue Plaques for St. Aubyn's Mansions

On Friday 19th August, in brilliant sunshine, the Deputy Mayor, Cr. Geoff Wells unveiled plaques to St. Aubyn's two famous residents; the contralto Dame Clara Butt and music hall entertainer Vesta Tilley. The unveiling was attended by Nigel Divers of the Southwick Society, and Chris Jaegar of the Vesta Tilley Society who provided some fascinating insights into the lives of these performers. 

Dame Clara Butt was born in Southwick and there was once a plaque to her there, but it disappeared when properties were demolished some years ago to widen the A259. That particular area is such an industrial no-go area now that there would have been little point in replacing the plaque there.  St. Aubyn's is an ideal substitute.

Vesta Tilley, first appeared on stage aged 3, and later often appeared at the Brighton Hippodrome. She is the performer most credited with cementing the role of pantomime "Principal Boy" in the public's affection.

The plaques were financed by contributions from the residents of St. Aubyns and certainly enhance and add extra interest to this elegant late victorian building.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Rottingdean High Street - then & now

It is somewhat surprising when, comparing two scenes separated in time by over 100 years, you have to look quite hard to see the differences.

The main change is the replacement of the old cottage, or it may be 2 cottages, with an extension of the victorian revival-style terrace. There is also now street-lighting, but using antique-style lampposts which look as if they might have been there for 100 years. The pavement on which the lamppost stands has been cut back and, of course, tv aerials are now sprouting from the rooftops.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Five Senses

A serendipitous arrangement of paintings in Hove Museum.  It forms part of the current Fine Art exhibition "The Five Senses" in which all the paintings are chosen to demonstrate the different ways artists through the ages have chosen to suggest touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight. 

Some of the paintings in this exhibition are rarely seen. Brighton & Hove has a collection of about 1500 oil paintings and of course numerous water-colours, etchings, drawings, sculptures etc. Yet gallery space is only available for a few percentage of these. Even if displays were changed every 6 months or so it would take several decades before we could have seen the whole collection. It is true of course that any item would be made available to view on request, yet this hardly compares with the pleasures of casual viewing and the concomitant anticipation of new discoveries. 

There seems no prospect of a significant increase in gallery space in the forseeable future. An extra room in the Brighton Museum might become available when/if, in a few years time, the Local History Centre moves to the Keep in Falmer but, even if the space freed is used for an art gallery, it will not make a significant contribution in comparison with the size of the collection.

Brighton has been called "London-by-the-sea", but unlike London we lack a prestigious Art Gallery and apparently, any philanthropists, sugar or grocery barons for example,  to build us one. 

This free exhibition continues until 1st March next year.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

View of the Level

Looking south-east from the north-west corner shows the view which will be most affected by the proposed relocation of the skate-park. It will occupy the green triangular area in the middle distance but is intended to be at least partly sunken and screened either by grassy mounds or shrubs. A much greater loss of scenic amenity is surely caused by the much larger, sterile, 'gravelled' area in the foreground. It is surprising there was no opposing petition organised (as far as I can remember) when this was installed. As part of the proposed restoration project this gravelled area will be returned to grass leading to a significant net gain in the total area under grass.

As an older member of the community I would prefer that the skate-park was not located here at all, but recognise that the needs of the young must be catered for today just as we expected for our children & grandchildren.  Skating in its various spectacular forms is the choice of modern youth; a skate-park has been long established in the Level, and we must accept it. The compensations for accepting its relocation are in fact by no means negligible as it will allow for the creation of pleasanter, more spacious gardens in the southern section. 

The Council is surely duty bound, by normal democratic standards, to either ignore the petitioners, or to find reasons for declaring its public consultation invalid, and then re-running it.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Imperial Arcade

The Western Road and Dyke Road entrances to the 1930's Imperial Arcade once had elegant canopies with wrought-metal lettering incorporated into their fabric. The present tawdry painted signs, in a cramped modern, almost graffiti-like, style make no reference to the Art Deco period: indeed, seem to devalue the elegant facade while serving little practical purpose.

See also:- Please can we have the flagpole back?

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Pride 2011

Waiting . . . 

Balloon willies for sale . . . 

Here it comes . . . 

My vote for 1st prize (if there were any prizes)

Some of the costumes were Rio standard.

Caroline Lucas enjoying the day

York Place

Rather dodgy vantage point

London Road

The party begins

Peaceful pow-wow.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Station site block J - planning application returns

Square Bay Properties have resubmitted their proposals for block J of the station site and they include this visualisation of the new public square looking west from Fleet Street. On the left of the square are a new hotel and offices which front on to Mangalore Way: on the right are residential blocks. At the far, narrow, end of the square (it is actually trapezoidal in plan) is a wide flight of steps leading up to the station. The steps are joined from the right by the final section of the landscaped Greenway.

Below is a further drawing looking north up Fleet Street. Mangalore Way is the first on the left, the public square the second.
Note to the Council - I hope we can eventually get some tree-planting along these roads.
Earlier posts:-

Thursday, 11 August 2011

North Street Quadrant

The original designs for the North Street Quadrant redevelopment in 2003 showed a cladding of several light-blue horizontal strips separated with white panels, a kind of modernist-whimsy. It might have harmonised vaguely with the Boots building, but as far as I know, that itself is not held in great esteem. It would certainly have 'fought' with the victorian Clock Tower and the yellow brick of Queen Square House.

The £4M redevelopment involved the demolition of all properties of North Street Quadrant apart from the listed Quadrant Public House on the north-east corner, and the excavation of an 8 metre deep basement. The final result is not unattractive. At one stage it reached 90% occupancy but Asda's 'George' vacated the landmark apex section in 2008 and it has not been occupied since, nor apparently on the market. This is puzzling. Stocked with clothing it certainly seemed somewhat cramped and uncomfortable; but it is such a conspicuous, busy spot one would imagine a profitable use would not be difficult to find, even in the present climate. Even another coffee shop would be better than nothing!

Brighton Parking

NCP has announced it is to reduce weekend parking charges at its multi-storey car parks, North Road, Russell Road, Church Street. in Brighton. The charge for up to 2 hours parking will now be halved to £2.50.

High charges have been much criticised over the past few years and seemed especially perverse when accompanied by low occupancy rates, as was certainly evident. NCP seem to have belatedly recognised the situation and perhaps are taking into account the gloomy economic prospects. Whether the reductions have gone far enough seem open to debate . . . .

Earlier post: The North Road Car Park Trap.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

New England Road

There is so much of interest in this photo that it is difficult to know where to begin. But to start with the date, the detached villa in the foreground, 74 London Road, was demolished in 1935. I suspect this photo, described as an "aeroplane" view, was not much earlier than that. 74 London Road, on the corner with New England Road, had earlier been the home of Henry Longhurst, the owner of the large Amber Brewery which once occupied the site on the opposite side of Preston Circus between Viaduct Road and Stanley/Clyde Roads. 

The shops in the right foreground date from the 1860's and replaced New England Farm after which the road is named. Farther up New England Road can be seen the old goods railway bridge which is now used as a footbridge for the Greenway which runs behind the row of pillars on the left. These are still standing. Behind the pillars is a brick wall with arched recesses supporting the extensive sheds of the locomotive works. The wall now supports the modern apartments blocks of the New England Quarter development.

Lastly, seen hazily above the locomotive works on the left is the Belle Vue Inn on the junction of Buckingham and Howard Places. Below is a view from the Bell Vue Inn in roughly the opposite direction and probably dating from the 1950s.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

View of the Marina

If you choose your viewpoint carefully you can make the Marina look almost attractive . . . . 

Fly-tipper caught in act by helicopter

From a City Council press release:-

Brighton fly-tipper comes a cropper.

The Environment Agency, in partnership with Brighton & Hove City Council, has  prosecuted a fly-tipper who was spotted by a police helicopter crew whilst he dumped waste out the back of his vehicle in Brighton.

Mr Billy Tom Fury of Horton Rd, Colnbrook, Slough, Buckinghamshire, appeared before Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Friday 5 August 2011 and pleaded guilty to illegally depositing waste. Mr Fury was fined £5,000, ordered to pay costs of £1,285 and £15 victim surcharge.

The Court heard that at lunchtime on Saturday 7 August 2010, a Sussex Police helicopter was returning back from Brighton towards Shoreham airport. The crew spotted fly-tipping taking place on land to the east of Devils Dyke Road as they saw a man emptying waste from the back of a tipper truck. Read on.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Brighton in the Dark Ages

Extract from RP&M Collections blog:-

In 1884, during the building of St Luke’s Church hall in Exeter Street, two adult male burials were uncovered with grave goods including shield bosses and spear heads. Later, in 1893, three shield bosses and a sword unearthed in Stafford Road were presented to Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. These discoveries suggested the existence of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in the area.

In 1985, building works at a house off Stafford Road triggered an archaeological rescue operation when workmen uncovered more Anglo-Saxon burials. Over a Bank Holiday weekend, the remains of three skeletons were uncovered, two male and one female, all dating from around the 6th Century AD.

Read on, and view pictures: "Brighton in the Dark Ages".

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Royal York Hotel

The Royal York Hotel was built in 1819 by combining three houses occupying part of the site of Steine House, the old Manor of Brighthelmstone. It was given various embellishments in the French Empire style and in 1851 became the home of the town's first telegraph office. However it had become derelict by the end of the 19th century and in 1901 was bought and restored by Harry Preston (later Sir Harry), an early motoring and flying enthusiast. He also promoted the surfacing of Madeira Drive as a  motor-racing track. After Sir Harry's death in 1829 the hotel was bought by the Council, converted to offices and renamed Royal York Buildings.  In 2007/8 it was converted back to a hotel.

Today it has retained its early 20th.C cast-iron porte-cochère but lost the first-floor balconies.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Tower cranes

Four 'luffing jib' cranes at work on the new Amex building situated just behind the 'old' one. The choice of this type of crane must be due to the size of the site. A single horizontal jib could not cover the area and four would interfere with each other. By choosing luffing jibs four cranes can work simultaneously and thus shorten construction times.

(I am not a civil engineer. I wait to be 'shot down' by those who know about these things.)

Monday, 1 August 2011

A grisly tale . . .

On the churchyard wall, St.Peter's, Preston Manor
(Click on photo to read)
. . . often told but, as the events it relates occurred 180 years ago this month, here is a reminder:-
John Holloway, a painter employed on the Chain Pier, was living with his mistress who he had bigamously married, in Margaret Street, Kemp Town. When his legal wife Celia, who was destitute, applied to the Poor Law authorities for relief, they ordered John Holloway to pay her 2 shillings a week.

This he was unwilling or unable to do. To solve his problem he strangled Celia and with the help of his mistress dismembered the body. They hid the head and limbs in the privy at Margaret Street and put the torso in a wheelbarrow which John trundled along the London/Preston Roads to Lovers Walk where he concealed the remains.

Engraving by J Parez, 1831. Shows John Holloway and his lover, Anne Kennett, outside of the Hare and Hounds pub at Preston Circus. They are on the way to Lover's Walk to dispose of Holloway's wife, Celia. The crime is popularly known as Brighton's first trunk murder.
Only a small stub of Lovers Walk at Preston Park remains today but before the coming of the railway it will have been a country track through fields and woods linking Preston with the Seven Dials area. The Seven Dials end has now become Prestonville Road.

Celia's remains came to light a few days later, after a shower of rain, and John Holloway was hanged at Lewes in 1832, but not before he had written and published his memoirs. An original copy is currently on offer for £175. An Authentic and Faithful History of the Atrocious Murder of Celia Holloway . . .