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).
The society's annual general meeting will be held at 7:00pm on Wednesday 10 March 2024 at the Hove Club, 28 Fourth Avenue, Hove BN3 2PJ.
Download the AGM notice, which includes the nomination form for the election of trustees, including two vacancies for officers. The deadline for nominations is 5:00pm on Friday 8 March 2024.
Download the minutes of the 2023 AGM here.
The AGM wll be followed by the John Small lecture, which this year will be a talk by Kelvin MacDonald about Utopias: the search for the ideal city.
The Regency Society and Hove Civic Society discussed current proposals for the Royal Pavilion Gardens in their Joint Planning Forum and broadly support the proposals to improve the Royal Pavilion Gardens, but they object to the specific proposal to create a high metal fenced enclosure around the gardens and they object to plans to reduce drastically the provision of public toilets. The following is a summary of their comments.
The Royal Pavilion Gardens are heavily used during much of the year. They form the setting for the Royal Pavilion itself as well as the Museum, the Dome and the Corn Exchange. They also provide a welcome public green open space in the heart of the city centre and an important pedestrian route between North Street and Church Street.
We fully support the proposals to improve the general condition of the gardens. It has to be said that they are looking down at heel and suffering from the consequences of over-use and under-maintenance. There is a lack of consistency in the detailing of the garden infrastructure and many features are clearly past their sell-by date. There is poor signage and a hotch-potch of inappropriate garden furniture. We therefore support plans to improve the footpaths, refresh the planting, improve vistas, instal new lighting, rationalise the furniture, etc.
However, we oppose the plans to enclose the gardens with high metal fencing and lockable gates and thus transform what has been a public garden for 170 years into a stockaded enclave. We understand that although the aim is to create a lockable perimeter, the current plan is that the gates should always remain open. This being the case, why create the barrier in the first place?
In this regard, we support the objections recorded by Living Streets and The North Laine Community Association. The design of the proposed fencing is both ugly and oppressive, particularly when it is applied clumsily to the two historic gateways. We deplore the deliberate sleight of hand in the application where the impact of 2.1m-high fencing is minimised by adding figures that are two metres tall.
We are aware that there is a problem of anti-social behaviour in the gardens, particularly at night. However, we believe that this problem would be better addressed by making the gardens more open, improving lighting and increasing supervision and policing.
We do accept, however, that there is a case for enclosing the eastern garden that lies between the Pavilion and the Steine. That garden is not a thoroughfare and is used for special events. The current faux-Indian wall and bow-topped fencing could be replaced by a single 1.5m fenced enclosure with lockable gates (with a design based on the existing fencing in the south-east corner of the garden)
We believe that any changes to vistas should take into account the current situation rather than trying to recreate views from the time of Nash. In particular attempts should be made to improve views of the Dome, while screening the service area and views of the two historic gateways. We also feel strongly that the views from New Road towards the Pavilion should be opened up in order to create improved links between the gardens and New Road. To this end we support the removal of the long bench than runs along the east side of New Road. But we would go further and replace the narrow, dark, chicaned entrance pathways in the north-west and south west-corners with a much wider and open access via the café and the café terrace. The existing café and terrace should be given a face-lift and extra seating should be added.
We also oppose plans to alter the public toilets which lie on the southern edge of the gardens and are currently accessed from Princes Place. They are the only public toilets in the central area of the city and serve the North Street area as well as the gardens. The changes reduce the toilet provision by two-thirds and insert a wholly inappropriate food vending kiosk. Again, we acknowledge that the toilets currently are beset with behavioural problems, but suggest that these could be solved with improved design and better supervision.
Images are from the planning application, which is available online.
Posted 6 January 2024
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 may form its own view on the applications and decides what action, if any, to take, although we generally try to respond jointly.
These are the applications we have commented =on following the December 2023 meeting.
Mucking about with a mews
BH2023/02607 4 Kemp Town Place
The Regency Society and the Hove Civic Society object to this application for ‘alterations to front elevation incorporating double doors to replace sash window, access ramp and replacement front door. Internal alterations to ground floor layout’.
No 4 is one of a group of similar but not identical Grade II listed properties forming both sides of the former mews within the Kemp Town Conservation Area. The proposed external alterations and the intrusive access ramp would adversely affect the significance not just of No 4 but of the whole group. They would be detrimental to the setting of the other buildings in the group, as well as to the character of the Conservation Area.
There would be no public benefit commensurate to the substantial harm done to this listed building. The claimed benefit that the proposal would 'improve wheelchair access to and circulation within the property' is negated by the absence of a wheelchair-accessible WC within the property, now or proposed.
Not glad about the cladding
BH2023/02027 64 Edward Street
The Regency Society and the Hove Civic Society object to this application for the ‘Redevelopment of Youth Centre to provide shared exhibition, performance and workshop spaces, along with a skate park, climbing wall and sports hall’.
It is our view that the choice of external cladding is inappropriate. The description of the primary wall cladding on the drawings is ‘fluted gold perforated panels’. This is a totally unacceptable choice for a building on the edge of the East Cliff Conservation Area and which terminates the view up Devonshire Place.
Not quite to the point
BH2023/02349 Enterprise Point and Melbourne Street
The Regency Society and the Hove Civic Society object to this application for the ‘demolition of the existing buildings and erection of a new development of four to seven storey buildings’.
It is our view that the following issues need to be addressed:
- there is not enough soft landscape
- the buildings are too close together
- there are minimal open spaces
- some of the accommodation units will have low levels of sunlight
At least two floors too much
BH2023/02311 145-151 Kingsway, Hove BN3 4GR
Hove Civic Society and Regency Society jointly object to this proposal.
• The height and bulk of the design are excessive in the context of the streetscape. The effect of the development would be an overwhelming presence in the streetscape between Hove Street to the east and Princes Crescent to the west.
• The height would dominate the neighbouring buildings on either side of the site: an appropriate maximum height should be lower than the height of Viceroy Lodge to the east.
• The heaviness of the proposed front elevation would also dominate the whole frontage between Hove Street and Princes Crescent: a more sympathetic design approach is needed.
• These shortcomings are particularly important given that the site sits within a conservation area. Whatever the criticisms about some of the existing buildings in this particular section of Kingsway, it cannot credibly be argued that the development (as now proposed) would improve the conservation area (compared with the present buildings). The scheme would actually harm the character and appearance of the conservation area. And there is of course a statutory presumption against granting permission for a development in these circumstances.
We are very disappointed that the proposed scheme falls short of attention to the quality landscaping that might be expected, and to improvement of the public realm. This is all the more disappointing given the major efforts currently being made by the Council to improve the landscaping and amenity of the ‘Kingsway to the Sea’ linear park, to the south of Kingsway.
See also our comments on the Royal Pavilion Gardens.
Images are from the planning applications. Click on the application numbers to open from the Brighton & Hove City Council planning portal in a new tab
Posted 6 January 2024
The Royal Albion is in one of the most important and visible locations in the city, as well as having considerable historic significance. The Regency Society reacted with sorrow to the fire in July 2023 but now argues that so much of it has been demolished that it presents an opportunity for a creative intervention.
The centre section used to look quite different when it was the Palace Pier Creamery and then Louis Tussaud's Waxworks. That closed at the end of the 1970s, but the way the frontage was re-designed when it was incorporated into the Royal Albion Hotel was frankly unimaginative and dull. Moreover, it appears that section has never been listed by Historic England along with the rest of the site and no wonder.
Once lost it would be difficult to insist on rebuilding as before. Building methods and techniques have moved on. Local and national regulations would not require that, although Brighton & Hove City Council must be mindful of the importance of the site and should encourage the owners to work for the optimum result.
So, rather than a slavishly faithful reproduction of the former appearance of the western (Grade II-listed Lion Mansion) section, the replacement should be harmonious with the seafront but could introduce new elements to add something fresh and dynamic to the streetscape. Cue imaginative architects and a meaningful public consultation.
If and when a planning application comes forward, the Regency Society will certainly consider it carefully, as it does with all major developments and restoration in the city, and hopes it will be subject to a meaningful consultation period.
Brighton (much more than Hove) has had an unfortunate tradition of leaving empty and damaged sites to decay for years, especially in prominent sites, such as Jubilee Street, King’s Road and West Street. This is a chance to show it need not always be like that.
Image (November 2023) by Felice Southwell, courtesy of Brighton & Hove News
These are the Regency Society talks available on YouTube.
Running time: 1:14:37
Running time: 43:10
11 November 2020
Running time: 38:49
9 December 2020
David Fisher: The expansion of Brighton and Hove 1875-1914
Running time: 28:03
Running time: 25:56
13 January 2021
Running time: 48:05
David Robson: The Denman Century 1876-1982
Running time: 1:12:42
Running time: 1:23:09
The Regency Society is saddened by the devastation caused by the fire at the Royal Albion Hotel. This is a key building at one of the most prominent locations in the city and therefore of unusual significance. Restoration of the site will require considerable sensitivity.
In fact, the hotel comprises three elements that were not merged until a little over 40 years ago.
The earliest and least damaged was the original Albion Hotel, designed by the great local architect Amon Henry Wilds and built in 1826 on the site of the house of Dr Richard Russell, the promoter of sea-bathing that did so much to create Brighton’s popularity as a resort. This is Grade II* listed.
The western section dates from the late 1850s and was known as the Lion Mansion Hotel until the Second World War. This is Grade II listed.
In between were two lodging houses from the mid-1840s, although from around 1903 the ground floor was the Palace Pier Creamery. In 1938 the two houses became Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks. When this closed in 1979, the building was restored with a similar appearance to the original and, like Lion Mansion, was absorbed into the Royal Albion.
The Regency Society hopes that the external appearance of the building can be restored. It would be best if demolition could be limited to what is strictly necessary for safety and access reasons.
It is worth noting that there are two Brighton Corporation plaques, to a design by Eric Gill: one on the front of the original hotel commemorating Dr Russell and a second marking the visits of prime minister William Gladstone on the frontage of Lion Mansion. The RS hopes this can be recovered and replaced in due course.
18 July 2023
Image: RS James Gray Collection
The familiar Regency Society's James Gray Collection, much used as a photographic reference for the history of Brighton & Hove, now has a second version. Contemporary images matching the original scenes as closely as possible have been created and sit side-by-side to show the changes, with a new descriptive text.
It can be navigated from a street index or a map and can be searched by keywords.
Follow this link:
We are sad to announce that John Small, a long-time member and former honorary secretary of the Regency Society, died at Christmas after a long illness.
Although many assumed that John was ‘Sussex-born-and-bred’, he was in fact born in Tolworth in south-west London, the son of an electrical engineer, and arrived in Hove at the tender age of two. The borderland between Brighton and Hove, however, remained his home for the rest of his life, apart from a period of national service and brief sorties to West Africa.
He spent his schooldays at Brighton and Hove Grammar School (now BHASVIC) where he showed a talent for drawing and developed an interest in design. Then, at the age of 16, he joined the Brighton School of Art, where he studied architecture under Frank Green and eventually became an associate of the Royal Institute of Architects (ARIBA).
Between 1955 and 1957 he did his National Service in the Royal Engineers and was stationed for the most part in Salisbury. Much of his time, it seems, was spent designing alterations and extensions to officers’ houses, an experience which provided him with a fund of amusing anecdotes.
In 1957 John married Marilyn Mayhew, a librarian, and they went on to form a close-knit family with three children—Nic (Nicholas), Pippa (Philippa) and Alex (Alexandra). That year also marked the beginning of John’s career as an architect when he joined a firm of architects in London and committed himself to a daily commute from Preston Park Station to London Victoria.
In 1959 he and Marilyn bought a piece of land in Inwood Crescent, high above the railway line. Keen to put his architectural ideas to the test and to explore the possibility of operating as an architect-developer, John designed and built a pair of houses, the eventual sale of one of which would help to finance the other. In order to accommodate the steep slope of the site the house was built on split levels around an open stair with the bedrooms on the upper entry level and the reception rooms below, opening to the garden. In 1970 the house proved too small for their growing family and they moved to a large Edwardian house in Windlesham Gardens.
In the same year John joined architects Ronald Ward and Partners, the practice he would remain with for the next 32 years, first as an associate and later as a partner. Ronald Ward ran a respected commercial practice which specialised mainly in office buildings, the most famous being the Vickers Tower beside the Tate Gallery. During the 1960s John was involved with work in West Africa and spent regular short periods in Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone. Later, during the 1980s, he worked on designs for the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank in Hong Kong. When the office finally closed in 1991, John took early retirement at the relatively young age of 58, though he continued to work as an architectural consultant in Brighton and was responsible, amongst other things, for the internal re-ordering of St John the Baptist Church on Palmeira Square.
In 1979 John joined the Regency Society and in 1992 became a committee member and trustee. Anthony Dale had been one of the founders of the Regency Society in 1945 and served as its honorary secretary from 1948 until his death in 1993. During this period the secretary was the mainstay of the society and the chair had a more symbolic role. When Dale died, the Society was at a low ebb and it seemed possible that it would die with him. But the then chair, Ian Dunlop, rose to the challenge, put the society’s finances into order and laid the foundations for a new era of intense activity. In 1995 John became the Conservation Secretary and its representative on the City’s Conservation Advisory Group (CAG). Finally, in 1997 he stepped into Anthony Dale’s empty shoes to become the honorary secretary.
John served as secretary for 12 years from 1997 to 2009 under a succession of three very different but equally effective chairs: John Wells-Thorpe (1997-2000), Gavin Henderson (2000-2006) and Michael Ray (2006-2009), and there can be no doubt that he provided the foundation on which these three were able to function so effectively.
With hindsight this period can be regarded as the Society’s second ‘golden age’ (its first being the early years from 1945 to 1951). Its president was the Duke of Grafton and its vice-presidents were the academics Asa Briggs and Sir John Kingsman. The committee included such well-informed enthusiasts as Peter Bareham, David Beevers, John Bluet Denman, Delia Forester, Derek Granger, Eileen Hollingdale, Liane Jarrett, Duncan McNeill, Hazel McKay, Selma Montford, Peter Rose, Derek Sherborn and Audrey Simpson. Every year there was a full winter programme of lectures by such luminaries as Helene Binet, Gillian Darby, Jeremy Dixon, Nick Grimshaw, Peter Howell, Simon Jenkins, John McAslan, John Outram, Anthony Seddon, Gavin Stamp, Derek Sugden, Giles Waterfield, George Saumarez-Smith and Lars Tharp. Every year, without fail, members met for a garden party in the Secret Garden and during every summer there were day-outings to places of interest across the south-east and long weekend visits, organised by Stella and Tony Mercer, to such faraway places as Lincoln, Chester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Bath, Worcester, Salisbury and Buxton. Throughout this time, the society made its voice heard with critical comments on heritage and planning issues that were channelled through CAG to the council's planning committee or published in the society’s own quarterly review.
That era drew to a close in 2009 when Michael Ray relinquished the chair and John Small stepped down as honorary secretary. John was made an honorary life member and in 2014 an annual lecture in his name was instigated.
As secretary of the Regency Society and chair of CAG John made a significant contribution to debates about the future development of Brighton and the conservation of its unique architectural heritage. He was also an active member of the Montpelier and Clifton Hill Association, the Hove Civic Society, the International Building Study Group (London) and the Sussex Heritage Trust.
In 2000 John sold the family home and moved to a flat in art-deco Furze Croft, where he surrounded himself with his unique collection of 20th-century furniture. His impeccable taste was apparent in the design of his flat and also in his carefully chosen wardrobe of elegant contemporary clothes. He continued to support the activities of the Regency Society and always stood out as the best-dressed man at the Annual Secret Garden Party.
Image: David Robson
Regency Society Occasional Paper 1
Brighton College is a fine example of an ambitious approach to building success in every sense. The history of its buildings recounted here demonstrates that the college has not always been the leading institution it is today. Vision, top quality design and a refusal to compromise have contributed centrally to its transformation. This has clearly not always been easy, and is an example we hope other institutions in our city will learn from.
This beautifully illustrated history by John McKean shows why Brighton College has created a benchmark for design in the city.
The Society is pleased to announce that the next AGM will take place at 7pm on Wednesday 12 April 2023. The venue will be the Hove Club, 28 Fourth Avenue, Hove.
As well as presenting the annual report for 2022, the agenda will include the election of trustees. If you would like to become one, please contact the honorary secretary. The meeting will be followed by
John Small Lecture: Wild & Busby Revisited
For details see the events page. Non-members are welcome.