Monday, 24 November 2014

A plaque to Sir Charles Barry

Charles Barry was apprenticed to Lambeth architects, Middleton & Bailey at age 15, did the Grand Tour, and set up on his own in the early 1820's when he received several commissions from the Church Building Commissioners. The last of these was St. Peter's, Brighton, in the Gothic Revival style. Concurrently with St. Peter's he was designing St. Andrew's (see above in Waterloo St. Hove) in the Italianate style. 

Unveiled by the City Mayor on 8th November 2014.

Brighton kept Barry very busy in the 1820's, reflecting its growing popularity as a seaside resort. He also designed the Attree Villa in Queen's Park, now demolished, and the Royal Sussex County Hospital, shortly to be demolished. St. Peter's and St. Andrew's, both grade I listed, will soon therefore be the only remaining examples of Barry's work in Brighton. He is said to have eventually taken a dislike to these early works.

Friday, 14 November 2014

The Stanmer Water Catcher

View looking west showing the section added in the 1890s

High in the woods to the north-west of Stanmer village are the grade II listed remains of a rare victorian water-catcher.  About 70 metres long and 12 metres wide it was built in 1870-5 to the design of Thomas Jones, estate foreman, to supply water for Stanmer House and the estate buildings. 

It is constructed of brick, cement and a mixture of tar and sand and was enlarged to the west in the 1890s. The brick divider between the sections can be seen above. The surface was coated with tar and sand in the 1930s. It was originally surrounded with timber walls carrying a slate roof from which rainwater was channeled down on to the surface of the catcher. Below the surface are three 1 metre deep tanks said to contain 40,000 gallons each. There is a gully along one side, an overflow at the north-east corner, and the remains of a filter system to the south end.

It was first listed in 1999. OS map ref. TQ 3335 0978.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Free WiFi coming to public buildings

From next March visitors to more than 50 public buildings and offices across the city will be able to access free WiFi. Sites will include the Brighton Centre, Portslade Village Centre, Hove Town Hall, King Alfred Leisure Centre, Foredown Countryside Centre, St Luke's swimming pool, youth centres and the seafront office.

The City Council won government investment to provide improved digital connections and Brighton & Hove are one of only 17 places across the UK to be selected for the super connected cities programme which complements the innovation and energy of the growing digital economy.

Funding has been provided by Broadband DeliveryUK through the government’s super-connected cities programme. Other projects in the city include a broadband voucher scheme where businesses can apply for a grant to improve their broadband connection, and a 'digital exchange' to offer ultrafast low-cost broadband for local creative and digital companies, based in New England House.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Funding bid for Stanmer

B&H City Council and the South Downs National Park Authority, have submitted a bid for £5.9 million to the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore Stanmer’s historic farm buildings and bring them back into use.

The council is leading on plans for the Stanmer Park and Estate Restoration Project which has the aim is to restore the park’s landscape and buildings, protect natural features and encourage wildlife. A separate bid of £6 million was submitted to the 'Parks for People' fund in the summer to carry out improvements and restorations in the rest of the park.

There are 27 listed buildings in this park, from the big house to the village cottages. At the heart of the estate lie 18 agricultural buildings dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. These are in urgent need of restoration and currently closed to the public. They include include cattle shelters, a dovecote dating back to 1615, a dairy, an 18th century walled garden and a Grade 2 Sussex Long Barn. Together they tell the story of farming in this part of the South Downs over the past 250 years.

Inside the barn
Plans include a new visitor centre and a base for the South Downs National Park Authority’s local ranger team.

If approved, the funding would be spent in a five year investment programme estimated at £11.9 million, starting with drawing up detailed designs with the help of the public and partners. Development work would begin in February which is when the outcome of the bid is expected.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

St. Luke's Pool opens again

Following last year’s storm damage to the polycarbonate roof and subsequent closure of St Luke’s Pool, Brighton & Hove City Council decided to turn tragedy into triumph by seizing the opportunity to re-glaze the entire roof and remove the suspended ceiling that was above the pool and blocking the view.  A total of £190k council funding was allocated to to restore the facility to its former Victorian glory.

Now this stunning Grade II Listed building’s architecture, which includes a vaulted glass ceiling - and the sky - can be admired while doing laps of the pool. The self-cleaning glass selected for the roof not only enhances the building’s beauty, it has also improved the building’s efficiency by minimising heat loss in winter and reducing solar gain in summer.

To celebrate Freedom Leisure, who operate the pool in partnership with the City Council, has laid on a weekend of activities for the whole family to enjoy.

On Friday November 7 there will be a disco swim session from 18:00-19:00 with music. Entrance costs £3.50 per person. On Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th November from 09:00-18:00 families are invited to swim for just 10p the kind of price likely to have been charged when the building opened in 1903.

Monday, 3 November 2014

"Keep the Brighton Hippodrome"

Brighton Bits was originally rather sceptical about the last ditch campaign to save the Hippodrome as a live performance space. We were concerned at the parlous state of the interior and conscious of the 7 years that had passed since it was closed as a Bingo Hall.  7-years that had produced no realistic proposals for restoration of the building and its return to viable use. Under those circumstances the cinemas/restaurant plans seemed the only possible chance of avoiding the complete loss of the building through disuse and neglect in the same way that the Astoria has been lost. The conversion proposals also essayed to preserving the important historical features of the building and making all alterations reversible. Theoretically therefore, the building would be returnable to theatre use if the demand ever arose, but many, having regard to the likely costs of this, were sceptical whether this could ever be a realistic possibility after the building had been converted.

However a last-ditch campaign "Our Brighton Hippodrome" (OBH) was mounted and against the odds seems to have gained an influential foothold in the debate. OBH have submitted a viability study and a business plan for returning the Hippodrome to live theatre use, particularly for the large West End shows which no other theatre in Brighton is large enough to handle. The OBH submissions claim to show that restoration of the Hippodrome as a theatre is not only viable but fundable and sustainable.

The latest news is that the retail/cinema application is still under consideration by the City Planning Department while they study the OBH submissions. No target date has been announced for release of the formal determination.

A Save Our Hippodrome rally will be held near the Max Miller statue in New Road, Brighton at 2:00pm on Saturday 8 November.  A chance for all supporters to demonstrate the overwhelming strength of public feeling for theatre restoration.

An online petition to Keep Brighton Hippodrome  has now passed the 10,200 mark.