This page is updated regularly with news of our latest activities and concerns. Articles are in chronological order (latest first). To find articles on particular topics go to 'Browse news' (right).
Heritage Open Days is England's biggest heritage festival bringing together over 2,000 organisations, 5,000 events and 40,000 volunteers. It celebrates our fantastic history, architecture and culture; offering people the chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences - all of which are FREE to explore.
Every year in September, the bunting is unfurled and buildings of every age, style and function throw open their doors. It is a once-a-year chance to discover the often hidden or forgotten gems on our doorsteps and enjoy a wide range of tours, events and activities that bring local history and culture to life.
Free of charge and right on people’s doorstep, Heritage Open Days is an event for everyone, whatever their background, age or ability. From castles to city halls, tunnels to tower tops, police cells to private homes, workshops to woodland walks, the variety of places and ways to discover them are endless.
Locally, Brighton & Hove’s contribution to the festival is organised by the Regency Town House which has been involved for nearly 30 years. Often, Brighton & Hove are in the top five cities in the country for the number of events organised. It’s yet another area where we ‘punch above our weight’.
Previous openings during the festival have included the Sussex Masonic Centre, Embassy Court, Duke of York’s cinema, Shoreham Lifeboat and behind the scenes at the Theatre Royal.
It is hoped to showcase the restoration of a Brighton tram, the WW2 air raid shelters under a school playground, the heritage of the Palace Pier as well as an exhibition and tour of the architecture of John Leopold Denman. If none of that appeals, there should be up to 100 other events to pick from. Also, for the first time, there will be a guided walk of the ‘Old Village of Hove’ by a Regency Society member.
Some events must be booked but a large number will be ‘open door’ and you can just turn up.
"I'm not an architect, I'm a scouser of a certain age with too much time on his hands. Like most volunteers." So said Brian, our excellent RIBA guide to commercial Liverpool. In the space of an hour he steered us around the monuments to 19th Century trade and showed us how deeply Liverpool had been involved in the American Civil War as well as WW2, where the Blitz went on for weeks. We saw the beautiful bombed out but restored Oriel Chambers, as well as Shrapnel wounds to handsome stone buildings.
Our week in Liverpool was characterised by friendly, excellent guides who clearly love their city. James O'Keefe took us expertly round the spectacular (local authority owned) St Georges Hall. A lady called Helen enthusiastically and expertly introduced us to the nostalgically beautiful Port Sunlight.
We visited the lovely Lady Lever's Art Gallery, containing an eclectic and beautiful collection of paintings, sculpture, ceramic and furniture, all collected for Lady Lever by her husband Lord Leverhulme.
We were guided round the huge George Gilbert Scott's Anglican Cathedral, and Frederick Gibbard's Catholic Cathedral (known affectionately as "Paddy's Wigwam", or the "Mersey Funnel"), and were able to visit the Lutyens Crypt.
Dodging the rain, we took the Ferry 'cross the Mersey, visited Hamilton Square and Birkenhead Park. And travelled the Mersey Tunnel back.
We walked through the World Heritage site of Albert Dock.
We went by coach to view Antony Gormley's iconic installation "Another Place" at Crosby Beach.
Some of us found time to go to concerts, cinema, theatre, shopping, and galleries, including the Tate and the Walker Art Gallery.
Our last evening was spent having dinner at "Bistro Pierre", where we encountered proper Scouse exuberance. Six Liverpool ladies were celebrating a birthday, and before long we were enthusiastically led in renditions of "Happy Birthday", "In my Liverpool Home" and "Ferry 'cross the Mersey". The magic had happened.
The journey to Merseyside on a coach is a long one, so we stopped both ways for lunch. Upton House, our NT stop on the way North had been a pleasant surprise, offering a lovely stately home, gorgeous gardens, and a very intriguing exhibition of Heals' posters. We broke the journey on our way home, at the splendid Coventry Cathedral.
Our thanks to Richard Robinson for the hugely time-consuming effort of arranging the visit and making sure everyone's needs were catered for. To Roger Hinton for sharing his knowledge especially of the Wirrall. To our Driver, Andrew for his patience, promptness and careful driving.
Thanks to Delia Forester for the review and to Alison Minns and David Fisher for photos. Photo of inside the Catholic Cathedral from Wikipedia.
Some things we do so well - with the help of fine weather and a lovely garden. Our guests and members, including some stalwart trustees, mingled, laughed and had a few serious words, no doubt, while enjoying too the added attractions this year of William Pye's garden water sculptures, the entrance to the secret tunnel and the practicality and perhaps the ultimate essence of a garden party, the marquee.
Our vice-president Gavin Henderson welcomed everyone on behalf of the Antony Dale Trust. We were honoured to entertain for the first time a member of the European Parliament who is also the city's new mayor, Green Councillor Alex Phillips. She spoke knowledgeably about the work we have done and are doing, leaving us with a sense of a sincere interest in our pursuit of our objectives. Mary McKean, our chair, encouraged us to have a look at next years' lecture series with its particular emphasis on the local area including a rather special event in the newly restored Corn Exchange.
Wine, raffle prizes and Martin Auton-Lloyd's delicious hors d'oeuvres seemed to please. Thank you for coming to the Regency Society summer party in the lovely Secret Garden. We look forward to seeing all of you and others next year.
with thanks to David Sears for the photos
Lovely lighting to Shelter Hall rotunda
As the new Shelter Hall at beach level comes more into public view, the lighting suggested for the rotunda that will appear at street level offers a stunning welcome to Brighton seafront.
Street communication hubs to replace phone kiosks - in some places
A new piece of community infrastructure will likely adorn some of the central streets in Brighton and Hove. This is offered by a partnership between BT and InLink to deliver a suite of urban tools to help connect and improve local streets at no cost to the taxpayer. Tools include free ultrafast Wi-Fi, touchscreen tablets to access council services, BT phone book, maps and directions; induction loops and braille with TalkBack functionality, free phone calls, direct 999 button and more.
If approved, London Road will be the first to have two phone kiosks removed and the hub installed. Other locations have been identified, most along the central route to the seafront and around the cultural quarter.
As well, it will be possible to integrate environmental sensors to monitor air quality (in trial), noise and other environmental factors.
Over the years, the Regency Society has acquired a collection of books that have been kept in store. We have been clearing out the store, which was not really a suitable place to keep anything. The books have been offered to The Keep and to Brighton and Hove Libraries. We are now offering the following remaining titles to members in return for a donation to the society. A ‘guide price’ is provided, based on the lowest recent cost of acquiring the book from Amazon or Abebooks, where available. Any suitable donation is, of course, welcome.
Please send your title request and proposed donation to firstname.lastname@example.org with your email address. Books will be collected from the store in batches. We will propose a suitable delivery arrangement.
In the event that more than one person requests a title, the higher offer will secure the title.
See book list here.
Members will be saddened to hear of the death of our Vice President and former Chair, John Wells-Thorpe, on Easter Sunday 2019.
John made a unique contribution to the Regency Society over the years. Many will remember his towering but quiet presence at Society events, whether he was introducing a visiting speaker or making a thoughtful contribution to a discussion. Perhaps some of his most significant moments were when he provided wisdom to anyone in the Society who sought him out, those to whom he would listen carefully and to whom he always gave his measured and considered advice.
John was dedicated to public service far beyond the Regency Society. He was a member of the BBC Advisory Board and a Justice of the Peace. He found time for these interests in a long and distinguished international career in architecture during which he was a Council member and Vice President of the RIBA. As President for the Commonwealth Association of Architects he travelled extensively.
A personal reflection by his friend , architect and academic Stephen Adutt, follows:
John Arthur Wells-Thorpe, OBE, Architect. 1928- 2019.
An extended Wikipedia on John would give us all the facts. We would read about John's career in architecture. How he worked in two practices: first with Gotch and Partners (1953-1971), where he started as a trainee and in time became a partner; then within his own practice of Wells-Thorpe and Suppel (1971--1991). We would learn how, over some forty years of architectural activity, John and his colleagues carried out building commissions primarily in England but also in other parts of the world, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Malta and Tanzania. As many as fifty projects covered a wide range of building types, civic, commercial, educational, ecclesiastical, medical, residential and the workplace.
From time to time, over and beyond these working years, the Wikipedia would list some dozens of John's parallel activities and responsibilities, sometimes to architecture, sometimes to the church or to education or to society. Such key roles and duties extended beyond the remits of the OBE which he was awarded by the Queen in 1995 'for Services to Architecture'. In my view he deserved more.
Yet when reading such an extensive Wikipedia our underlying sense of John would be lost. Instead, we would gain a greater insight by reading his book 'Behind the Facade, An Architect at Large’.(Book Guild 2009). There we would find revealed a man with a rich sense of humour, a man keen to understand all aspects of the times and situations in which he lived, knowledge which enabled him to develop appropriate management skills, which in turn increasingly allowed him to become a sound administrator and leader. So he nurtured his own ability to walk with all walks of life, from his 1947 Singapore national service gunnery squad personnel to his later spread of contacts, to the Governor Generals, High Commissioners, Bishops, Archbishops, Heads of Industry and even Royals.
In his book John shows how critical it was for the head of a 'private sector’ practice to react sensibly to the inevitable rises and falls of the national economy. So he surrounded himself with a good team of design and technical collaborators, who he was then ever concerned to hold together, to whom he was prepared to delegate and for whom he knew that it was his responsibility to find work. He also knew that some of his practice’s much needed clients wanted buildings primarily to 'improve business’, upon which he later reflected "never talk to shopkeepers about aesthetics or the greater public good".
It was left to the range of the practice’s completed projects to demonstrate not only functionality but also creativity, whether they showed sympathy for the scale of their surroundings like Hove Town Hall (1970-74) or whether they showed care for building detail. The latter is exemplified over many times, such as at Brighton’s Brighthelm Centre (1987) fronted by John Skelton’s sculptured ‘Loaves and Fishes’; or at Dulwich College where John the architect designed the Shackelton Science Block (opened by Lord Shackelton, the explorer’s son, in 1989), the new work with its red and buff brick livery matching the neighbouring buildings by Charles Barry ; or at the College’s War Memorials to which John had earlier added two standing stones with his own sensitively designed name- inscribed tablets. All such detail, whether self -generated or whether inspired by work from chosen artists and sculptors, known or unknown, would have been familiar to John. After all, he was himself educated at Brighton’s famous College of Art.
In 1991, having ended a forty year period of architectural endeavour, John embarked on a last and different lease of working life. Although already the responsible Chairman of Hove’s Martlets Hospice, he was also now made Chairman of the NHS South Downs Health Trust. Over a six year period of tenure he was able to enjoy just being a Client who commissioned other architects to design buildings. A series of neighbourhood medical facilities were planned. These would address local needs such as the care of the mentally ill or of the frail elderly or of injured children. Here John’s management talents flourished as always, while he was again also able to contribute to national medical publications which dealt with the nature of healing through thoughtfully designed environments.
In 'Behind the Facade' John no doubt deliberately chooses to leave out his more personal life. We might glean that he was religious. From his earliest student written thesis on Modern Church Architecture, checked by his diocesan bishop George Bell of Chichester, John clearly remained a loyal member of the established Anglican church. This in spite of the church's harsh ruling that John's father, having committed suicide, was allowed only to be buried in an unmarked grave. Undeterred, perhaps forgiving, perhaps strengthened by regular visits to a retreat, John's involvement in the design and repair of places of worship lasted a lifetime.
Nor does John the author choose to tell us about himself as husband and family man. His first wife, Ann (married 1954) is mentioned only once by name, as are their two children, Frances (born 1956) and Peter (born 1957). We learn of his second wife, Meta (married 1989-2019) because ‘Behind the Facade' is dedicated to her:
“For Meta, without whose encouragement and persistence this book would not have been written“
20 04 2019
Photograph of Hove Town Hall by David Sears
Photograph of John Wells-Thorpe by David Robson
Audrey, a long-time member, trustee, officer and supporter of the Regency Society, died on 31 March 2019, aged 83
Audrey was a trustee of the Society, on and off, for 13 years during the period 1988-2011.She was very supportive of the Society. In particular she worked closely with chairs John Wells-Thorpe, Gavin Henderson and Stephen Nieman. One of the many events she organised was the 60th Anniversary Dinner in the Music Room of The Royal Pavilion, which was held in December 2005.
When she left the Regency Society committee, she established the 21st Century Society and Politico, both wide-discussion groups.
Wise, hospitable, sociable, innovative, stylish and elegant, resembling an Erté model, Audrey always championed Brighton and Hove.
Audrey was appreciative of our history and architectural heritage but occasionally she didn't agree with the ‘conservationists’. She often spoke up for modern development, prosperity and business. She always spoke against the banal and substandard, promoted good design and wise development. Audrey once said, ‘If a fearless Council had not built the Conference Centre, Brighton would have suffered the same fate as Bognor.’
Audrey was a successful business woman and hotelier, developing Brighton's first ‘boutique hotel’, the Granville, which she bought in 1978 when it was just a guest house.
Her energy was boundless. She travelled widely, often representing VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), offering training in hotel skills in the Third World. She served as a magistrate for 28 years.
She worked with many local organisations including City College, the Beacon Trust, the Chamber of Commerce and the Gardner Arts Centre. She was a major supporter of the Martlets Hospice and other charities. For many years she had a leading role in the Mayor's Charity fund raising events.
Audrey was also an active member of theOne of her major achievements was supporting the She stuck with the project to renovate this dilapidated area of Brighton for over 20 years. She ‘deferred’ her 80th birthday party until she was 81 in September 2016, so that she could have the celebrations on the i360.
Audrey is irreplaceable—not, as many thought, indestructible—and will be sadly missed by her family, friends and colleagues.
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.
PLANNING FORUM APRIL 2019
If it must be Tudorbethan please understand when and how do apply it
If you take a walk around Rottingdean, you will probably not even notice Coppers, an uninspiring 1950’s building. It is a brick-built bungalow with rooms added in the roof, surrounded by trees and not visible form the road. So why has the Regency Society taken an interest in it?
Firstly, it is in the Rottingdean Conservation Area. Secondly it is only about 50 metres away from Challoners, a grade II listed farmhouse.
The plan (BH2019/00809) is to turn Coppers into a substantial two storey house in the so called “Tudorbethan” style found in other buildings nearby, particularly in Dean Court Road. We do not believe that the resulting building will do any serios damage to the conservation area or the setting of Challoners.
However, we do regret that choice of the mock tudor style. Coppers is not part of Dean Court Road, so the design should be related to the rest of the conservation area, rather than add another layer to the history of the Tudorbethan style.
The proposed design is totally lacking in the sophistication and wit of Tudor Close or the charm of Tudor Cottages, both nearby. It employs the stylistic grammar in a random manner with every part of the repertoire of details used. On the front, the large gable has less timbering than the smaller ones.
In relation to the restrained design of Challoners, the proposal can only be described as a "noisy neighbour".
The Society's annual general meeting took place on 3 April 2019 at 7 pm at the Metropolitan College in Pelham Street, Brighton.
Mary McKean stood as Chair, Roger Hinton as Honorary Secretary, and Jamie Wright and Helen Walker as committee members. All were approved with well over a third of voters supporting their nominations. With 55 votes cast, approvals were 52, 55, 54 and 54 respectively.
The annual report and accounts for 2018 are available here.
Candidates nomination statements are available here.
Alasdair Glass explains
As part of the First World War centenary commemorations, English Heritage began a programme, continued by Historic England, to list 2,500 war memorials as buildings of special interest, more than doubling the number already listed. They also recognised that a relatively low proportion of memorials were listed at the higher grades of Grade II*- particularly important buildings of more than special interest - and Grade I - of exceptional interest. Lewes War Memorial was upgraded to II* in October 2014, at the instigation of the War Memorials Trust, the national charity that works to protect and conserve war memorials in the UK.
With all but the most modest or damaged memorials listable for their historic interest, special criteria were needed to determine their appropriate grading. In March 2015, the month before they split with Historic England, English Heritage convened a meeting including the War Memorials Trust to review the grading of all 44 memorials in England designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the architect of the Cenotaph in Whitehall. Hove War Memorial was considered not to justify upgrading.
Historic England issued guidance in June 2015 that “Grade II* will be warranted for those memorials with an above-average level of interest: they may be highly unusual in form or symbolism or of a high level of artistic accomplishment.” Comparing the Lewes and Hove memorials against this makes it clear why the former warranted upgrading and the latter did not. More intriguing perhaps is why Lewes, with a third of the population of Hove, has such a splendid memorial and Hove such a mediocre one.
Lewes War Memorial is of exceptional sculptural interest as the work of Vernon March (1891-1930). Untutored, he became the youngest exhibitor at the Royal Academy in 1907, at the age of 16. Having learnt to fly before the war, he joined the Royal Flying Corps, but his poor eyesight prevented him from serving as a pilot. He was noted for the vigour of his figures, three of which, Victory, Peace and Liberty adorn the memorial. His early death at the age of 38 makes his war memorials his main legacy. In the UK, his memorial at Lewes is only matched by that in Londonderry, but the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa is by far his most impressive work.
Sited in the middle of the junction of Lewes High Street and Market Street, the tight composition and the verticality of the design gains stature from its constricted position. The figure of Victory gestures east towards the dawn and some corner of a foreign field that is forever Sussex.
By contrast, Hove War Memorial is of architectural interest as the work of Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944), the “go-to” architect for war memorials. Lutyens had ambitions for an obelisk or a cenotaph, a wooden mock-up of which was set up on Hove Lawns. The columnar form is unusual for him, but duplicated the same year at Fordham, Cambridgeshire. The unimpressive column is further diminished by its setting in the yawning void of Grand Avenue.
The sculptor was Sir George Frampton (1860-1928), who had achieved eminence and was a member of the Royal Academy’s Executive Committee on War Memorials. His most important memorial is that to Edith Cavell in London. He had first used a figure of St George at the Radley College Boer War Memorial in 1903. Now in his 60s, his statues at Hove and at Fordham are formulaic and lacking originality. St George turns his back on the sea, beyond which so many sons of Hove had died.
Lewes benefited from holding a competition and recognising an outstandingly good entry, unlike Hove which took the easy way out of making the obvious choice. The Lewes memorial committee was over-ambitious, naming all 25I of the fallen on the actual monument. Embarrassingly, the final cost of £2,645 was not paid off for several years afterwards. The Hove memorial cost just £1,537, with the names of the 631 fallen engraved on brass plaques in the entrance to Hove Library, leaving some residual funds for war charities. With Hove Library reprieved from closure, it is to be hoped that these memorial plaques can remain indefinitely in their original location, together with the rare collection of war records, photographs and ephemera which make up the Hove Roll of Honour.
Hove: By Hassocks5489 - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72636454
Lewes: By Poliphilo - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50201379