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Marlborough House is a grade I listed building facing onto the public open space of the Old Steine within the Valley Gardens conservation area. It is described in the Pevsner Guide to Brighton and Hove as “the finest late C18 house, or rather villa, in Brighton” and is one of the most architecturally significant buildings in Brighton & Hove. Around 1786 it was enlarged and re-modelled by Robert Adam to its present Neo-Classical style.

To the front of the property is a semi-circular carriage drive together with a bottle-balustraded and rendered boundary wall curving outwards in a shallow segmental shape.  The planning application presently being considered proposes a repositioning of the existing front boundary wall enclosure to its historic location clearly dimensioned on deed plans dated to 1890. The evidence demonstrates that the line of the wall was originally set significantly further out on a deeper curve and the rebuilding of the current non-original wall on this line and would reinstate its original form and would enable a larger garden area.

The Regency Society has had a long interest in this precious building. Just last year we published a Journal entirely about Marlborough House, 'Georgian Brighton's Best', recounting it's whole interesting history.  With this keen eye, the Society has submitted the following objection to one key aspect of this application:

The Society welcomes the removal of car-parking from the forecourt, its return to its original size and the restoration of the enclosing wall to its design before the forecourt was reduced.

However, it objects to the proposed treatment of the centre circle of the forecourt with an irregular pattern of paved areas occupied by seating and tables which is inconsistent with the original or the last uses of the house or the permitted change of use.

The Design and Access Statement makes the highly debatable assertion that “the garden (forecourt) is therefore as significant as the façade itself”. If indeed this were true, any benefit to the significance of the facade from the recovery of the of the original size of the forecourt would be even more outweighed by the detrimental effect of its occupation by random areas of seating, particularly as the design of the original railings cannot be reconstructed.

Our second event of the year was almost as different to the norm as the previous one and was certainly as popular. Alison Minns tells the story.

High vis and high standards

Double click on photo to enlarge

It’s hard to look sartorially elegant in a hard hat teamed with a high vis vest and sensible shoes. It’s hardly a Regency dandy look but stalwart members of the Regency Society who dressed appropriately and who had been prudent enough to put their names down early were treated to a behind the scenes tour of the 200 year old grade 1 listed Brighton Corn Exchange as it undergoes major refurbishment. We felt very privileged as we navigated our way round William Porden’s magnificent building – surely far too elegant a space to house the humble horse.

Chief Executive of Brighton Dome and Festival, Andrew Comben admitted there had been many challenges along the way, not least uncovering a Quaker burial ground on the site as well as the original contactors ceasing trading but Andrew was confident another contractor would be appointed within a matter of weeks.

Our tour was led by project architect Peter Clegg of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios. As Peter explained the background and the details, we marvelled at the newly evident beauty of the building – the exposed curved wooden roof beams (it’s the widest span timber framed building in the UK but needed a little TLC – invisible strengthening bolts and treatment for rot), the unique decorative windows (now restored), the splendid view from the balcony down the full length of the glorious internal space, the Prince Regent’s private balcony (few of us knew of this feature) and a newly created bar area (a modest yet masterful reclaiming of open space). Many striking features are now revealed, having been hidden by ugly accretions over the years. The refurbished Corn Exchange will be a flexible, accessible venue fit for purpose with added rehearsal space, better sight lines (there will be no need for a raised stage), more storage areas, as well as extra bars (and toilets!)

After our tour we gathered at our new meeting place (The Friends Meeting House) to hear a fascinating though slightly more formal talk by Peter Clegg. He covered the history of the building (originally a riding school) and showed examples of his practice’s previous work including the South Bank Centre and Alexandra Palace. He went on to outline plans for, and progress on our very own Brighton Corn Exchange – a building that is surely at the very heart of what the Regency Society values and cherishes. Congratulations to all concerned for their wonderful vision and for their splendid work so far.

Chair Mary McKean spoke briefly but passionately about her enthusiasm for the new look Corn Exchange and mentioned that it is still possible to donate to the project. It’s hoped the building will be opened in around a year’s time. I expect to see many of you there (a celebratory pre-performance glass of wine in the stunning new bar area, perhaps – though on such an occasion not sporting a hard hat and high vis vest)

 

Link

The Planning Forum, attended by members of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society hovecivicsociety.org 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.

YMCA seeking to build support housing in Moulescoomb

The proposal is for a three/four storey building for self-contained living spaces as an addition to their 'move on' supported accommodation programme. Thirty dwellings accessed by external galleries and with communal indoor and outdoor amenity space will, if approved, provide affordable housing for up to two-years for each individual to prepare them for independent living.

The Regency Society welcomes this application for much-needed and adequately designed 'move on' housing to encourage eventual independent living.  At the same time, the immediate neighbourhood will benefit from the improved street scene .

Do you know which is East Street Arcade?

Yes, it has an entrance on East Street and also on Market Street and Bartholomews. A visit to Sweaty Betty's or ISC Menswear will land you there.  But soon you may be irresistibly draw in by more contemporary advertising of these entrances with the addition of archways with illuminated canopies and framed light boxes.

 

Information boards to tell the history of Kemptown Estate

Five free-standing boards that explain the history of Kemptown estate will be placed at Upper Sussex Square, the east and west gates and south aspect of Lewes Crescent and on the Esplanade.

Link

The Planning Forum, attended by members of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society hovecivicsociety.org 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.

Brighton Open Air Theatre wants to improve its facilities

The Brighton Open Air Theatre (BOAT) site is located within the heart of Brighton and Hove in Dyke Road Park on the site of the old bowling green where, since opening in May 2015, it has become a well established part of the City’s cultural landscape.

BOAT is seeking permission to add a small one storey building to provide unisex toilets and an accessible WC, plus a booking office and crew room, with storage rooms on the lower ground floor.  This will supplement the only other small building on the site that is primarily a changing room for actors.

The materials will be grey, both walls and roof, with limited timber siding, thus keeping it's profile low and calm so as to enhance the site without detracting from its near natural outdoor setting.

The space created between the new building and the acoustic sound wall can, with the addition of demountable screens, serve as a more private “backstage” space than is currently afforded.

The Regency Society welcomes this application that is designed to respect the surrounding landscape and work with the contours and levels of the existing site, thus improving the experience for visitors, staff and players. 

. . .  there is a masterplan for the western end of the Marina and the Black Rock site.

Already the Marina is a hodgepodge of buildings whose layout and design relate  to nothing of local meaning. Furthermore, pedestrians seem to have been largely left unconsidered, e.g. plenty of obvious places for cars but little to help someone on foot negotiate from, say, the western beach entrance to the 'Laughing Dog'. This view seems uncontroversial.

The present proposed development attempts to nudge potential future developers on the site toward some design logic but this viewpoint isn't nearly broad enough to encompass the practical and environmental impact of what might be a new Brighton Centre on Black Rock with all it's as yet unresolved heritage and transport issues. (There isn't even a design yet.)

The full planning application now with the council proposes phase 2 and outline permission for phase 3 of largely private and some 'affordable' flats with parking, amenities and public walkways and open space - all this immediately south of the shed structures that are presently the David Lloyd Leisure Centre, the bowling alley and the casino. This will be built on reclaimed land and is intended to relate to phase 1 already built to  the east.

We have seen earlier designs for this site that included a slim 40 storey tower on the southwest corner and curvilinear  blocks of various heights. This has been superseded by a 28 storey tower plus eight buildings of eight -19 storeys, some forming a crescent facing the sea with several large blocks beside and behind.

This proposal is the start of intended radical changes to the profile of the city that claim to be inspired by the lovely Regency squares that define us. The Regency Society, while not hostile to change, progress and, in some cases, tall buildings, does not believe this proposal, conceived in isolation of other radical changes brewing, rises to the challenge of our city's social, economic and heritage needs.

Our objection submitted to the council details benefits and dis-benefits of the proposal as we see it.  Please read it here as it provides details about our concerns that outweigh the benefits sought.

 

Visual impressions within the development

Visual impressions from outside the development

Link

The Planning Forum, attended by members of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society hovecivicsociety.org 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.

Circus Street

We frequently see how new developments result in the surrounding environment pulling its socks up whether through planning gain as with the i360 or inspired private opportunity. This application suggests the latter, inspired by the huge Circus Street mixed-use buildings quickly rising to unleash new vistas in a sensitive location.

No. 18 Circus Street is attached to 38 Grand Parade, a grade 2 listed building within the conservation area Valley Gardens. The application is for office space on the ground floor that includes a narrow and dilapidated shed/access on the south side. The first and second floors will be a two bedroom duplex. The intention is to achieve a change of use that will be a comfortable fit on an old street being offered a new life.

What do you think?  The Regency Society neither praises nor objects to this application.  It's a position rather saying 'it's good enough'.

13-22 September

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.

See the event listings here as well as on the national website 

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.

...continue reading "Merseyside Study Tour 2019"

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.