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Many members will have noticed the Astoria Cinema building in Gloucester Place in the course of its demolition. Our June 2018 update included a photo taken of glimpses of the interior. Other pictures of this disappearing Brighton icon, soon to be replaced by a block of flats, have featured in the press and social media in May and June 2018.

James Gray obtained images of the building going up in 1932 (vol 30 nos 85- 89):

 

 

 

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Edward Street is not one of the city’s most attractive thoroughfares. The western section, between Grand Parade and Upper Rock Gardens, is a wide, pedestrian-unfriendly dual carriageway. Its north side presents a depressing series of unattractive, buildings, constructed right up to the pavement edge.

Amex House, previously amongst them, offered a “breath of fresh air” in this unrelenting gloom. Set back from the pavement, its frontage provided an attractive, sunlit public space. It was one of Brighton’s best pieces of late 20th century architecture. The design was distinctive, and the materials were sympathetic to its coastal location.

A proposed new scheme places tall buildings right up to the pavement, closing up this one gap in the street-scene. There are open spaces further back in the development, but their position is unlikely to be as successful as that in front of Amex House. Surrounding buildings will block out the sun for much of the time.

Cafés are included at ground floor level. The plans show open air tables and chairs, creating an inviting impression of vibrant communal spaces. But we do not believe that cafés would flourish in these spaces, starved of sunlight probably subject to wind tunnel effects. They would have a much better chance of commercial success located in a larger, sunnier piazza, open to Edward Street, where they could also enliven that street’s dreary north side.

A tall, dense development is not unreasonable on this city-centre site. The proposed south-west building (block F) could be moved 15-20m. back from the pavement edge to re-create the piazza on Edward Street. The floor space lost could be re-located further back in the site, by increasing the height of the rear-centre block. This would have the extra advantage of adding variety and articulation to the profile of the development.

The designs proposed for the new buildings themselves are boring and bland. They show no sympathy for their location in one of England’s most significant seaside towns. No attempt has been made to use the roofs to create additional green space.

This site offers an opportunity to create a striking architectural statement to match that of the former Amex House. That opportunity will be lost if the current plans are approved.

Read the planning application here

Read our submission to the council

 

David Robson considers the current plans to remodel Valley Gardens and is disappointed.

Valley Gardens is a precious green lung that barely survives between two arteries of thundering traffic at the heart of our City. Framed by a theatrical backdrop of buildings of different styles and periods, it has the potential to act as an exciting urban promenade, as an event space, as a place of repose. However, plans currently being advanced by the Council fail to exploit this potential and promise little more than clipped grass, trampled flowerbeds and bonded gravel.

...continue reading "How grey is our valley – we object to proposals for Valley Gardens"

The Brighton Unitarian Church in New Road is a striking building. It stands on what was originally part of the Royal Pavilion gardens. The Prince Regent sold it to the Unitarian congregation in 1819 for £650, allegedly to help stave off bankruptcy.

Just over a year later the church was finished. The architect, Amon Henry Wilds drew inspiration from the temple of Theseus in Athens, giving the building an immense pediment and columns which still dominate the east end of new Road.

The story today

Sadly, these features of the building are now decaying. As a result, it has been added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register. Attempts are being made to obtain a restoration grant.

Read more about the Portico Repair Project here.

Meanwhile the church’s activities continue, including an impressive series of weekly lunchtime concerts. The November programme starts on Friday 3rd (12:30 – 1:15 pm; coffee from 12 noon). Pianist An-Ting Chan will play music inspired by animals. See the full programme here.

Our protests, along with those of other groups, about the latest damage to Marlborough House, one of our most important heritage assets have been heard. The Council has decided to refuse the retrospective application for permission to paint the exterior of the building. We await developments with interest.

As members know, Marlborough House is the second most important building in Brighton and Hove. The current Pevsner guide calls it Brighton’s 'finest late C18 house'.  Its construction, formed from a previous red-bricked house owned Thomas Shergold,  in 1786 to a design by Robert Adam predates all of Brighton's Regency Squares, Crescents and Terraces. Adam intended the original to look as if it were faced with Portland Stone. This was to achieve a classical effect and is typical of Adam. Adam's style has had huge influence on building design throughout Europe and beyond ever since. It must have been a magnificent and striking sight at a time when central Brighton had few distinctive buildings. ...continue reading "Marlborough House – the Council refuses the restrospective planning application"

(The image above, prepared by David Fisher, shows the 1973 OS map (black) overlaid on an 1877 map (sepia).This shows the earlier square on the site, and access from twittens to North-West, South and South-East which still exist.)

April 2017

The Regency Society is critical of current proposals to alter Brighton Square as outlined in planning applications BH2017/00762, 00768 & 00797, namely to reclad the facades of the existing shops and associated housing, to amalgamate nos 12-16 Brighton Square to form a single restaurant space, to install an enclosed dining area in the square under a canopy and to raise and thus obscure the existing fountain sculpture.

...continue reading "Brighton Square"

Nick Tyson explains why we should all be worried at the scandalous state of this unique heritage asset, and why the Council and Historic England must intervene

April 2017

Marlborough House in the Old Steine in Brighton is often referred to as the second most important historic property in the city, after the Royal Pavilion. Built in the 1760s for Sam Shergold, the keeper of the local 'Castle Inn', the House was purchased in the 1780s by William Gerard Hamilton MP and shortly after this became the subject of architectural improvements by the renowned Scottish architect, Robert Adam.

...continue reading "More damage to Marlborough House"

April 2017

We’ve written before about the Council’s plan to create a new conference and events centre at Black Rock. They intend it to replace the Brighton Centre. We are aware that this has the potential to make major changes in our city and we are keen to know how this is progressing.

...continue reading "The latest (or lack of it) on the Waterfront Project"

reflections on a 70 year relationship between the Royal Pavilion and the Regency Society

Brighton and Hove City Council has decided to set up a new Cultural Trust to run the Brighton Pavilion and Museums. The Council will continue to own the Pavilion and Museums but is setting up the Trust to manage it.

February 2017

The main reason is to create new funding avenues: a trust will be able to raise money in ways the Council cannot. Work on setting up the Trust is starting now with the appointment of a temporary board which will include councillors. A transition year to the permanent new Trust will begin in April next year. In April 2019 the transition will be complete and a new board will take over. All existing staff will be transferred in on their current terms and conditions. ...continue reading "A new future for the Royal Pavilion"