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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):




Kate Ormond reflects on an interesting day out led by David Robson with occasional delights 'off-piste'. 

You may have heard Nicola Westbury’s interesting lecture about her conservation work as architect to the Churches Conservation Trust on St Botolph’s in Steyning and Holy Sepulchre in Warminghurst. To accompany the lecture RS members and friends joined a study day to visit these and other ancient West Sussex churches, many created for communities dependent on the navigability of the River Adur. As the river silted up and livelihoods were lost, people moved on, congregations dwindled, and Downland churches fell into disrepair.

While not quite Downland, we began at St Mary de Haura in Shoreham, a Grade 1 listed building of 11th century Norman origin built for a once thriving city whose history has been determined by river and sea. It is unusual among English parish churches in having a stone vault soaring above the three tiers of arcade that transition from Norman to Gothic and supported by flying buttresses. Perhaps more unusual are the columns of the arcade that are different on each side – those to the north alternately round and octagonal, to the south more complex and uniform.

As the day was led by David Robson it was not surprising to find ourselves off-piste for a few extra delights. The first was to view the grave of Amon Henry Wilds in the cemetery of St Nicholas’s church in Shoreham. Iron railings surround the tombstone now nestled beneath a spreading laurel tree and looking comfortably shabby chic.

The four Downland churches we visited had in common their Saxon or Norman origins, picturesque settings (often just a chancel and nave with limited changes dependent on population variation) and varying degrees of restored wall paintings. Yet each has its own character, best experienced by being there to sense the calm rural simplicity which evokes a sense of early Christianity.

Coombes Church, named for its siting as its dedication is unknown, contains wall paintings re-discovered in 1949 depicting the gospel through pictures for those who couldn’t read. Having served its community for a thousand years it continues to be used and maintained by a small hard-working congregation.

St Botolph’s in Steyning is a Saxon church recently restored by the CCT. The Adur runs along the east of the site. Its silting up in the 14th century brought down the only bridge across the river that had been used for what is thought to be a thousand years, leading to the demise of the village.

We were treated to a personal tour by Nicola of the restoration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Warminghurst. It was thrilling to hear and see for ourselves the nature and extent of the work undertaken: timber repairs to the rafters and braces of the vaulted ceiling, sourcing Horsham stone for re-roofing, even policy clashes in restoration work generally - all managed with expertise and dedication to its Grade 1 listing.

Image by Sue Wagstaff

St Botolph’s, Hardham has an extensive set of frescoes that, unusually, cover the whole church interior. Monks from St Pancras’ Priory in Lewes are said to have supervised the decoration of the church interior as well as those of Coombes Church.

Our final church was St Nicholas in Arundel but not before another off-piste view of the adjacent Arundel Cathedral, built to elaborate Gothic heights and thrill in the 19th century, confirming the continuing passion and dedication of the Roman Catholic Church.

We had a guided tour of about half of what had been a homogenous 14th century building now bizarrely divided with the chancel (Fitzalan Chapel) Roman Catholic and the nave and transepts Church of England. Grade1 listed, this may be the only surviving example of the mediaeval practice of two ecclesiastical foundations under one roof. In 1879 the then vicar, unhappy at what he saw as Roman Catholic triumphalism, fought a lawsuit, claiming the chapel for the parish church, but lost. As a consequence, a crude brick wall separated the two for 90 years until replaced by the present glazed partition. However it is not so sweet a compromise as a tall iron gate full of highly gouging spikes also guards the divide, leaving a clear message.

Thank you for contributing. Thank you for coming along.

Images, unless indicated otherwise, are by David Sears, including the gallery below of memorable sights

The Planning Forum, attended by members of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society committees, meets monthly to discuss planning applications which the Forum considers significant.

Each society forms its own view on the applications and decides what action, if any, to take. 

In our latest meeting we considered the following issues: 

Monsieur Poirot would not approve

Number 4 Grand Avenue is one of Hove’s finest 20th century buildings. It is also one of the best preserved.

It was built in 1939 to a design by Murrell and Pigott. It’s 1930s look is striking and, in the words of Regency Society member Robert Nemeth, “it would make an ideal home for a certain Monsieur Poirot”.

It is important that its distinctive appearance should be preserved. That is why the Regency Society has objected to a planning application to install a glass balustrade behind the balcony railing on the eighth floor.

The reason for the plan is perfectly understandable, to reduce the risk children falling through the existing railings. So why are we objecting?

The balcony is on the top floor and is clearly visible against the sky. Glass is a far from an invisible material and, in this position, it will act as a reflector. We are also worried that the proposed fixing into the stone parapet will not be strong enough to resist high winds.

We believe that there are alternative solutions. For example, an additional metal railing composed of fine horizontal bars set back behind the existing railing would be almost invisible. See the planning application here

The society has welcomed a plan to install a new sign near the landward end of the pier. The sign will read “Brighton Palace Pier” thus restoring its previous, but not quite its original name. Back in 1899 when the pier was opened, it was named the ”Brighton Marine Palace and Pier” and the initial BMPP can still be seen in places as you stroll along it.

However, we are less impressed by a new structure which has appeared directly outside the pier entrance. It is a large, windowless, wooden shed housing a gift shop and it looks quite out of place. No planning application has been made as far as we know. We have asked the Council to take enforcement action.

See the planning application here

Proposal for King’s House in Hove

We’re not at all happy with the proposal for the King’s House on Grand Avenue – read about our concerns here.

Would you like to comment on this article? The committee, RS members and other site users would be interested to hear your views so we are inviting you to share your thoughts online. If you would like to do so you will need to register first – it only takes a moment and once registered you can log in and comment on other articles on this site in the future. Click here to register. If you have already registered, simply click on ‘you must be logged in’ at the bottom of the page.

We're very disappointed with plans for the King's House building (formerly council offices) on the corner of Grand Avenue and Kingsway.

Our concern covers more or less every aspect of the proposal currently under consideration.

It's too massive

The new structure will not only replace the building which faces Grand Avenue. It will also include a new block where the car park is now. These three structures, including the original Grade II building which faces Kingsway, will have very little space between them.

It would be an oppressive place to live

Almost half the apartments will face into sunless internal spaces and have no views. The new block which will face onto Grand Avenue includes single-aspect flats with  dining areas 7 metres from any window. The inhabitants will need the light on all day.

You will be no better off if you opt for a flat in the North facing blocks of the main building. These flats will have no sunlight all day either.  Its structure consists of  'outriggers' (blocks which jut out from the main building). These are only 8 metres apart so will get very little, if any, direct light and very poor privacy. The Western aspect faces a blank wall. And this is one of the most desirable sea-side spots on Brighton and Hove!

There is very little open space - all of the available land has been crammed with buildings. This is a worrying trend (see our comments last month on proposals for the Amex site).

It will look a mess

We don't like the design, which feels to us as if it is an attempt to make the ungainly whole look smaller than it actually is. So it won't even be a pleasure to walk past, if you are lucky enough to live in the much superior 1930s 4 Grand Avenue, just up the road.

What about affordable housing?

This proposal is coy about affordable housing. We don't know how much is proposed nor where it would be but we fear that this is the intention for the worst of the depressing, dark apartments.

Future generations deserve better

We find this proposal unacceptable in every way. It is very sad that a prime spot on our sea front attracts so little ambition for the future of our city. It condemns future generations to a substandard home if you live there, and a depressing view if you merely have to look at it. Alas this sort of development seems to be a growing trend.  We call on the council to raise everybody's aspirations by declaring this sort of proposal unacceptable.

Read our objections

See the full planning application


The Planning Forum, attended by members of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society committees, meets monthly to discuss planning applications which the Forum considers significant.

Each society forms its own view on the applications and decides what action, if any, to take. 

In our latest meeting we considered the following issues: 

Opening up the backlands

Most people agree that our city needs more homes. Once the discussion turns to where to put them that agreement is likely to evaporate.

There will be no single answer to this question. We must “look down every rabbit hole” as the planning inspector said when commenting on the City Plan. Hopefully she was arguing for a range of solutions, rather than suggesting that green-fields would be the only answer.

The Society has recently looked at two planning applications which both illustrate one such “rabbit hole”, namely backland development. The outer suburbs of Brighton and Hove were originally developed at low densities. Now that we are struggling to find places for new homes, is it perhaps time to use suburban space more intensively?

The first scheme is in Downs Valley Road, Woodingdean. The proposal is to build four new, two-storey houses behind two existing bungalows, literally at the bottom of the gardens. A vehicle entrance will be created between the bungalows so that on-site parking can be provided. Read the planning application here

The second is slightly different: the backland in question already has a building on it. It is a plan for the former Dairy Crest site in the Droveway. The site was first used as a farm around 1800. In the early 20th century it became a dairy, operated latterly by Unigate until it closed a few years ago. It is not nationally listed, but it is included in the Council’s list buildings of local interest. It is surrounded by suburban residential properties.

The current proposal is for a mixed-use development and aims to “retain the character of the existing agricultural buildings. Some employment space will be provided towards the front of the site, with 14 new housing units mainly towards the rear, replacing part of the existing building. Read the planning application here.

What do you think of these attempts to use the suburbs to help solve the housing crisis?

Proposal for Amex house site

We’re not happy with the proposal for the Amex house site – read about our concerns here.

Would you like to comment on this article? The committee, RS members and other site users would be interested to hear your views so we are inviting you to share your thoughts online. If you would like to do so you will need to register first – it only takes a moment and once registered you can log in and comment on other articles on this site in the future. Click here to register. If you have already registered, simply click on ‘you must be logged in’ at the bottom of the page.

Last month, following our cabbage awards evening, we asked you to let us know if you have any favourite buildings of the last 118 years to redress the balance. It's nice to know we can praise as well as criticise!

Jane Carver nominates Brighton and Hove's tram (now bus) shelters because 'some have a delightful rustic charm and the one in Pavilion Parade (designed by Borough Engineer David Edwards) is thoroughly modern with straight lines and curves. Simple, elegant and fit for purpose'.

Elaine Evans nominates Friese Greene House on Portland Road, which won Development of the Year at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s South East Awards in 2016.

Alison Minns nominates John Howard Cottages in Roedean Road because: 'I like the Arts and Crafts feel about the group of buildings and the fact that the cottages are not visible from the road. It is a peaceful and little-known set of buildings with a homely feel. I have a personal affection for the cottages (a sort of philanthropic almshouse development by Sir John Howard) because my late husband's aunt - a retired nurse - lived happily there for many years.'

Mary McKean nominates 'Gossip in the Steine Cafe' because it is 'quintessentially Brighton....' and the matching bus shelters already nominated by Jane Carver an elegant but modest example of 1930s stylishness.

Roger Hinton nominates the now disappeared Amex building on Edward Street 'because unlike other office buildings in Edward Street it stood back from the roadside, providing a pleasant public space and a good view of its distinctive facade.'

Kevin Wilsher nominates Saltdean Lido because 'it is one of the finest examples of modernist lidos in the UK.  It's also a great example of the restoration of an important building driven by the energy and determination of a local community group'.

John McKean nominates the temporary installations at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, and has submitted a whole gallery of images to prove it (see below), because 'it is wonderful, thrilling, an extraordinary gigantic metallic ballet, and at night a firework display high above the city - especially exciting seen from high up Wilson Avenue or from A259 at Roedean... and then there's that amazing open-air roof-top race-track... Catch it before it vanishes! By far the outstanding sight of Brighton 2017-18'

An anonymous nomination selects the Jubilee Library because 'it shows what one truly excellent building can do to lift a previously dead space - empty for far too long.'

Photo credits: Frieze Green House: Jim Stephenson. Saltdean Lido: Simon Carey, Brighton tram shelter by Catchesthelight (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0),




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


We are grateful to member David Robson for reminding us of a twentieth century building designed by our Vice President, John Wells Thorpe, which was not included in the RIBA map shown at the 'Mapping the best of Brighton Modern' event on 21 February.

...continue reading "Church of the Ascension in Westdene"

Several members enjoyed the presentation at the social event on 21 February by Paul Zara and Richard Wolfeströme about the new RIBA map of the best twentieth century buildings in Brighton. 

The map has sparked considerable controversy as some feel important buildings have been left out, or challenge the right of others to be included. This is perhaps inevitable with any undertaking of this sort which is bound to reflect personal preferences.

So, to allow members to redress the balance we've decided to create our own Regency Society gallery of members' favourite twentieth century buildings in and around Brighton and Hove. Do you have a favourite, completed between 1900 and 2018, which you would wish to include? It does not matter whether or not it was included in the RIBA map.

If so, complete the form below by April 1 and we will publish the results in a gallery with the April update. If you have a picture you can attach it - but don't be deterred if you don't - we'll find one.

Please note that the gallery is only open to submissions from RS members.

If you are a member you can complete as many submissions as you like!

Regency Society Members' Gallery of favourite 20th century buildings in Brighton and Hove: submission form