The Blockhouse and the Battery

The earliest known fortification of the town was possibly the ‘werke’, probably a bulwark, which was referred to in 1497, together with a ‘sea-gate’. The first major fortification was The Blockhouse, erected in 1559 on the cliff top between Ship St and Black Lion St. It was a circular fort 50 feet in diameter with flint walls 18 feet high and about 7 feet thick; it was financed out of both town and government funds. Inside were arched recesses for storing ammunition with a dungeon below, while a battery of four large cannons from the Tower of London stood on the cliff in front; ten small guns were also provided by the town. A turret on the top housed the town clock.

In 1558, The Blockhouse, a circular fort, was built near the southern end of Middle St. It was 50 feet in diameter, 16 feet in height, with 8 feet thick walls, and had six large guns and 10 small cannons. A wall nearly 16 feet high, with placements for guns, extended 400 feet eastwards to East St and westward to West St. Its four gates were East Gate, Porters Gate, Middle Gate and West Gate. It was maintained from the ‘quarter-share; claimed by the church-wardens from each fishing trip and also by the landsmen’s rates, in accordance with the Book of Ancient Customs.

In 1749, residents were able to go to the Blockhouse where ‘Mary Saunders, Widow, sells fine genuine French Brandy, at nine shillings per gallon’. The fort’s foundations were gradually undermined by erosion and it was badly damaged by the great storms of 1703 and 1705. Its clock was taken down in 1726, the walls were partly washed away by another storm in January 1749 and, by 1761, the blockhouse was completely ruined. It was eventually dismantled for an improvement to the cliff-top road in 1775.

The Blockhouse was replaced by The Battery. Built by the Board of Ordnance in 1760 at the bottom of East St, it was equipped with 12 old and dangerous guns; during a salute to Princess Amelia in August 1782, a gunner had both hands blown off, and when the Prince of Wales visited the town for the first time in September 1783 another gunner was killed.

Not surprisingly, the guns were not used again. The battery was severely damaged during a storm on August 7 1786 and collapsed completely on November 3 1786. Part of the battery wall was later used in the foundations of Markwell’s Hotel. Two other batteries were built: the East Cliff Battery, built in 1793 on the cliff top opposite Camelford St, was equipped with four 36-pounders, while the West Battery, built in the same year on the cliff top at Artillery Place, was equipped with eight 36-pounders.

The West Battery guns were used in royal salutes, which often caused nearby windows to shatter. Only once were its guns fired in anger: a British ship, in pursuit of smugglers and therefore not displaying her colours, fired shots which landed near battery. The gunners retaliated and the ship was forced to break out her colours.

The West Battery was removed January 27 1858 for the widening of King’s Road, but Artillery St and Cannon Place were named after it. The East Cliff Battery was dismantled in about 1803, as vibration from the guns and encroachment by the sea had made the walls dangerous.

Architectural Styles in Brighton

Look around the town of Brighton and you will see it is awash with different architectural styles. Here is an in-depth look at some of these you will find.

FLINTS
The most common local building stone, closely associated with chalk, is flint, either rough stones picked up from the fields or smoothed, round flint cobbles (known locally as ‘pitchers’) from the beaches. In many cases, the flints have been ‘knapped’ to present a flat face to the exterior, and on some of the larger houses the flints are also ‘squared’ to give a regular coursing; the random joints formed when knapped flints are not squared are known as ‘snail-creep’.

Good examples of knapped flint buildings can be seen at Ovingdean, Patcham, Rottingdean and Stanmer villages; at St Nicholas’s Church; the Druid’s Head, Brighton Place; and 8 Ship St. Knapped and squared flints may be seen at Court House and Down House, Rottingdean; Southdown House, Patcham; Home Farmhouse, Withdean; and in Preston, at 36 North Rd, 199 Preston Rd, and in South Rd. Flint-cobble buildings, often coated with tar to improve weather-proofing, are common and mostly date from the early 19th century.

Good examples in the town may be found at Bartholomews; Church St; the Cricketers Arms, Black Lion St; Dorset Gardens; Kemp Town Place; Marlborough Place; Middle St; Mighell St; New Rd; Pavilion Parade; Queen’s Place; Richmond Gardens; St James’s Place; Ship St; Southover St; Union St; Upper Rock Gardens; and York Place.

The other use of flint is the form of wall which is known colloquially as ‘bungeroosh’ and is very often to be seen in boundary walls, and in internal walls which are subsequently plastered.

GEORGIAN

The streets of the East Cliff contain numerous examples of small-scale, Georgian-style housing, many with bows to allow visitors and lodgers a view down the road to the sea. Other good examples may be found at Bartholomews; 15 Prince Albert St; Ship St; and a terrace at Tilbury Place, reminiscent of Georgian London.

GOTHIC

Despite the many Victorian churches and chapels, there are few examples of domestic Gothic-revival architecture in the town. The Percy and Wagner Almshouses; the former Debenhams store, Western Rd; and Wykeham Terrace are the best examples.

MATHEMATICAL TILES

These were hung on timber-framed buildings to give the appearance of higher quality brick walls, and it is usually difficult to distinguish them from the real thing. Black, glazed mathematical tiles are easy to discern, and may be seen at many locations including Jubilee Library; Grand Parade; Manchester St; Market St; Old Steine; Pool Valley; Royal Crescent; and York Place; also at Patcham Place and Wootton House, Patcham; and at North End House, Rottingdean. No.8 Wentworth St is a good example of a house faced in cream-coloured mathematical tiles; many other late 18th and early 19th-century houses in the East Cliff area are also faced with these tiles.

RED BRICK

From the 1890s to the 1920s, large areas of red-brick housing were erected, particularly in Preston. Fine examples, often with decorated gables, may be seen at Beaconsfield Villas; Compton Rd; Ditchling Rd; Edburton Avenue; Hollingbury Park Avenue; Inwood Crescent; Queen’s Park Rise; Queen’s Park Terrace; St James’s Avenue; St Luke’s Rd; St Luke’s Terrace; and Southdown Avenue. Much larger red-brick residences are found in Beaconsfield Villas; Dyke Rd; Harrington Rd; and Preston Park Avenue.

REGENCY
The great expansion of Brighton in the late 18th and early 19th centuries produced most of the town’s outstanding examples of architecture and, although the Prince of Wales’s regency lasted only from 1811 to 1820, the term ‘Regency-style’ has come to be applied to many of the buildings of the period from 1810 to the 1840s.

Typical are the classical crescents, squares and terraces, adorned with pilasters, ironwork balconies, verandas and bows. Most are covered in a painted plaster known as ‘stucco’ which resembles stone, and gives the town its traditional white and cream appearance; those that remained unstuccoed were usually faced with flint, or with yellow bricks from the former brickfields around the Hove boundary.

The use of stucco was, for many years, considered sham, and it was not until Osbert Sitwell and Margaret Barton wrote appreciatively of the Regency style in 1935 that general opinion changed.

Outstanding examples of the Regency style are the classical terraces of the Kemp Town and Brunswick estates; Cavendish Place; Marine Parade; Marine Square; Montpelier Crescent; New Rd; Old Steine; Oriental Place; Portland Place; Regency Square; Russell Square; Sillwood Place; and Western Terrace.

From the late 1820s until the 1860s, a later style was in evidence which retained some elements of the Regency period. Many houses were refronted with newly fashionable wide bows while new houses in this style were erected at Belvedere Terrace; Chesham Place; Chichester Place; Clarendon Terrace; Eastern Terrace; Eaton Place; Grand Parade; Montpelier Rd; Norfolk Square; Percival Terrace; Powis Square; and St George’s Place. Attractive Italianate villas were built at Buckingham Place; Clifton Terrace; 128-130 Dyke Rd; Montpelier Rd; Montpelier Villas; Powis Villas; and Russell Crescent. Less impressive but still attractive contemporary cottages may be found at Blenheim Place; Camden Terrace; Clarence Gardens; Crown Gardens; Crown St; Dean St; Frederick Gardens; Hanover St; Marlborough St; Norfolk St; North Gardens; Regent Hill; Spring St; and Trafalgar Terrace.

VICTORIAN

Angular window bays and decorative details are the typical features of mid to late-19th century Brighton houses and public buildings. Houses of the period may be found in many parts of the town, especially in the Hanover, St Saviour’s and Prestonville areas, while good examples of grander Victorian terracing may be found at Buckingham Rd; Denmark Terrace; Gladstone Terrace; Park Crescent; Round Hill Crescent; St Michael’s Place and Vernon Terrace.

Many large villa residences were also erected, especially in the Buckingham Rd/Dyke Rd area; the Clermont Estate at Preston; Florence Rd; London Rd, Withdean; Old Shoreham Rd; Preston Rd; Richmond Rd; Springfield Rd; Stanford Avenue; Walpole Rd; Wellington Rd; and York Villas.

PRE-WAR STYLES
The 1920s and 1930s saw dramatic changes in the Brighton townscape, as the main shopping streets were widened and the slums of Carlton Hill and Upper Russell St were swept away. Art Deco and International Modern styles began to appear, and the first high-rise blocks were erected on the sea-front.

The most notable buildings from this period are the former Co-operative Society store, London Rd; Electric House (now Royal Bank of Scotland), Castle Square; Embassy Court, King’s Rd; Marine Gate, Black Rock; the Ocean Hotel, Saltdean; St Dunstan’s, Ovingdean Gap; St Wilfrid’s Church, Elm Grove; Saltdean Lido; Varndean Sixth Form College, Surrenden Rd; the White House, Saltdean Drive; and the stores on the northern side of Western Rd. Council housing of the period includes the early ‘model’ estate of South Moulsecoomb; North Moulsecoomb; the Queen’s Park estate; Manor Farm and Whitehawk; and the Milner and Kingswood flats.

Private housing ranged from the ‘Tudorbethan’ style of Braybons Ltd in the Valley Drive area and the brown brick of the Brangwyn Estate, to the numerous bungalows of the Ladies Mile, Ovingdean, Patcham, Saltdean and Woodingdean.

POST-WAR DEVELOPMENT

The immediate post-war need was for housing and large estates were rapidly erected by the council at Bevendean, Coldean and Hollingbury. However, a little of the pre-war style lingered on into the 1950s, with buildings such as the Western Bathing Pavilion; Barclays Bank, North St; and some of the factories on the Hollingbury and Moulsecoomb Way industrial estates.

From the late 1950s until the early 1970s, the townscape was radically changed by the widespread replacement of many small, terraced houses with numerous blocks of both high and low-rise flats. The predominant use of concrete, the harshness of line, the brutal disregard for location, and the pure functionalism of designs in this period have resulted in many buildings which can only be described as ‘ugly’: within this category must fall the Albion Hill redevelopment; the Bedford Hotel; Churchill Square; the Law Courts, Edward St; New England House; Osprey House, Sillwood Place; the Police Station, John St; the eastern side of Queen’s Rd; St James’s House, High St; Sussex Heights; Sussex University; and Wellesley House, Waterloo Place.

Other less objectionable buildings of the era include Brighton Square; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Coldean; Church of the Holy Cross, Woodingdean; Church of the Holy Nativity, Bevendean; and the Spiritualist Church, Edward St.

‘POST-WILSON’

On March 22 1973, Brighton Council unanimously rejected the ‘Wilson report’ — a town-centre plan by Sir Hugh Wilson and Lewis Womersley which proposed large-scale road construction in the vicinity of Preston Circus and a ‘spine road’ through the North Laine to a car-park in Church Street. These would both have involved the demolition of over 500 houses as an interim measure, preluding even more extensive new road construction.

However, the essential aim of the plan — to restrict town centre traffic and introduce extensive pedestrianisation — was laudable. Five town-centre conservation areas were designated that year (with five more in 1977, notably North Laine), and so 1973 marked something of a watershed in civic attitudes towards the inherited townscape.

WEATHER-BOARDING
A few examples are to be found in the centre of Brighton: 29-30 and 43 Meeting House Lane; 37a Duke St; and 179 Edward St. There are also weather-boarded houses at 8-9 The Square, Patcham; and barns at Patcham and Stanmer.

ARGUS LOFTS

Once owned by the Southern Publishing Co, this building on the corner of Robert St and North Rd — former site of Robinson’s printing works — was the home of the Argus newspaper printing works from 1926 until 1992, when the paper moved to its new premises in Hollingbury. Workers used to drink at the Canteen pub, sited where the Bathstore shop is.

Ownership of the building changed hands numerous times in the next few years. A huge fired broke out on December 5 1999, and residents in Robert St were moved to safety from the 30 foot flames, intense heat and exploding gas-cylinders that were still inside the building.

At that time, preliminary work had begun on an £18.5 million scheme by City Loft Developments, comprising 61 loft-style homes, designed by Conran & Partners, plus workshops, shops and offices on the ground floor. Renamed the ‘Argus Lofts’, prices for the apartments in 2001 ranged from £120,000 to £385,000.

Black Rock Neighbourhood

Probably named after a large rock or cave that once lay at the foot of the cliffs, Black Rock, at Boundary Rd, marked the eastern limit of Brighton until 1928, a boundary which was fixed by an inquiry in 1606 after an argument over wrecker’s rights. Black Rock also marks the point where the white chalk of the South Downs meets the sea, and there are some unusual geological formations in the vicinity. Visible in the fawn-coloured cliffs behind the Asda superstore, about 15 feet above the Undercliff Walk, is a ‘raised beach’ of rounded, flint pebbles and sandy gravels up to 10 feet thick, resting on chalk. This beach was laid down around 100,000 years ago during a warm interval in the Ice Age and has yielded sea-shells and the remains of whales. Above lies a 45-foot-thick layer of ‘Coombe Rock’— chalky rubble eroded by freeze-thaw action during the colder periods and ‘sludged’ down into the valleys by the spring and summer rains. This layer has produced fossil remains of mammoths, woolly rhinos and hippopotamuses. The strata here may be seen to curve upwards where the solid chalk of the South Downs becomes exposed as cliffs; the prehistoric coastline was once at an oblique angle to the present cliffs. This area is protected as a site of special scientific interest. About 350 yards offshore to the west of the Marina breakwater is the site of an historic wreck, protected from interference by statute. On the sea-bed lies a large, timber framework from which a cannon ball, an anchor and other metal objects have been recovered. The origin of the wreck is uncertain but it may be a French ship from one of the 16th-century raids on Brighton, or even a Spanish galleon from the 1588 Armada. The first development at Black Rock was the gas-works, established in 1818-19 by the Brighton Gas Light and Coke Company. This was soon followed by some terraced housing and shops, in Black Rock Cottages, Rifle Butt Rd and Hillside Cottages and, by 1828, the Abergavenny Arms had also opened. A small laundry, employing four women who hand-washed everything, was run in Hillside Cottages; their customers included the Duke of Fife. Black Rock House was two houses knocked into one, consisting of 18 rooms. It ran as a hotel, then a guest house, and was eventually converted into flats. The bakery in Rifle Butt Rd opened in 1856 and was run by the Stevens family from 1926 until its enforced closure in 1972; it was still using the same coal-fired oven installed 116 years earlier.

Constant erosion claimed the Black Rock cliff top 75 feet inland between 1847 and 1897 — a major landslip occurred in 1843 — causing the closure of the road to Rottingdean and the opening of Roedean Rd as an alternative; large landslips continued into the 1920s. In 1824, a tunnel was constructed from the eastern end of the Kemp Town esplanade to the gas-works to facilitate the carting of coal, but it fell into disuse once coal started to be landed at Aldrington Basin, and was blocked at both ends by the town commissioners in 1850, after it had collapsed in the middle. In January 1906, Magnus Volk rented the southern entrance and, describing it falsely as a smugglers’ cave, used it briefly as a tourist attraction for his railway extension to Black Rock. The entrance disappeared completely when the corporation constructed public conveniences in the 1930s. Black Rock Farm survived until 1928, when the corporation bought the land there. On July 22 1932, with the cliffs now protected by the Undercliff Walk, a new 60-foot-wide highway, the Marine Drive, was opened between Black Rock and Rottingdean; the old inn was demolished at this time. The small community at Black Rock, centred on Rifle Butt Rd, was eventually demolished for the construction of the Marina road interchange which opened in 1976. The graves of the Quaker cemetery there were exhumed and the remains were taken to Lawn Memorial cemetery, where they were re-interred in a mass grave.

Black Rock was perhaps best known for its swimming-pool, formally opened on the site of a terrace garden on August 8 1936, and necessitating a slight shortening of Volk’s Railway. The pool, 165 feet by 60 feet, closed in 1978 and the handsome changing room and café building was demolished; in March 1984, demolition of the open air pool itself began. A major cliff collapse in recent times followed a winter of intense rain, and the soft layers of Coombe Deposits in the cliff behind Asda failed and a major fall blocked the Undercliff Walk, almost reaching the store. The walk was closed for some time before extensive work was carried out to sensitively secure the cliff face in what is an important natural site, designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The Black Rock cliffs were closed to the public again in 2001 and 2004, when storms caused parts of them to crumble and fall onto the Undercliff Walk. In 2005, professional abseilers from Uckfield builders CJ Thorne sank bolts into the rocks which were aimed at holding the rocks in place for the next 50 years. In July 2005, a sand sculpture festival was held at Black Rock beach, featuring Egyptian-style dragons, sphinxes, and Tutankhamun’s tomb, made by 60 carvers using 10,000 tonnes of sand.

In recent years, Black Rock has become the focus of several unrealised proposed major developments — some more controversial than others. However, a plan to build 147 homes on the set received a setback when, in March 2010, a High Court decision ruled that property developers would have to pay a substantial share of the costs involved in cleaning up such contaminated sites. In October 2003, RH Partnership and the Brighton International Arena became the two preferred bidders for the former pool site; RH’s proposal featured plans for a 150-bed, 5-star hotel by Forte, complete with health spa, winter garden and biodome. Brighton International Arena’s $50 million proposal was to include an 11,000-seat indoor events arena with two Olympic ice rinks (for skating and ice hockey) plus 109 residential apartments, 40 per cent of these ‘affordable’. Jayne Torvill and Robin Cousins supporting this scheme and proposed that it should be the home of a national ice dance centre. Brighton & Hove Council favoured this scheme, which was opposed by residents and a number of groups, including the Regency Society. However, the scheme — like other major developments in the city — was put on ice when the 2009 recession/credit crunch took its toll and financial backer Erinaceous went bust.

BHASVIC – the Brighton Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College

This originated as the Brighton Proprietary Grammar and Commercial School, founded in July 1859 at Lancaster House, 47 Grand Parade. Pupils were nominated and elected to the proprietary school by shareholders, to be transferred later to the higher school on approval. There, they were instructed in the classics, arithmetic, bookkeeping, accounting, etc, and also received a non-sectarian religious education. Non-proprietary pupils paid an entrance fee of one guinea and a quarterly fee of £2 10 shillings. On May 27 1868, the 180 pupils of the Brighton Grammar School marched in procession to a new, plain, three-storey school building in Buckingham Rd. The headmaster from 1861 until 1899 was EJ Marshall, to whom a plaque has been erected on the adjacent 79 Buckingham Rd. Due to the increasing number of pupils, the Grammar School moved for a second time in September 1913 to a site off Dyke Rd; the Buckingham Rd building at the corner of Upper Gloucester Rd then became the Sussex Maternity Hospital. The new school, designed by SB Russell, was known as the Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School; the playing fields occupy 15 acres. The murals in the school hall were painted by Louis Ginnett, master at Brighton School of Art, between 1913 and 1939, on the theme ‘The History of Man in Sussex’: they were ‘Prehistoric man in Sussex’, ‘The Roman prefect builds at Bignor’, ‘The siege of Pevensey’, ‘After the battle of Hastings’, ‘Rye after the Armada’, ‘The old boys’ war memorial’, ‘Sussex ironworking’, ‘The pavilion, George IV receives a loyal address’ and ‘Hollingbury camp, full circle’. The first three panels were unveiled in October 1913 and another two were unveiled in August 1914, when the school was requisitioned for use as a military hospital. The hall bears the names of those who died during this time, and Ginnett’s fifth panels were dedicated to ex-pupils lost in WWI. Ginnett also designed — with one of his ex-pupils, the painter Charles Knight — the school hall’s stained glass windows. The school continued after the Great War as a grammar school until 1975 when, after a reorganisation of secondary eduction in Brighton, it became a sixth-form college, known as ‘BHASVIC’.

About 60% of its students come from Brighton and Hove, but many come from other state and independent schools throughout Sussex. There are approximately 1740 students, of whom approximately 90% follow GCE or AVCE Advanced courses. The majority of students are in the 16-19 age range, and following full-time courses. About 70% of its advanced level students go on to a degree course at university or a specialist course at a college of further education. The College was last inspected by Ofsted during the Autumn Term 2007. Following the publication of the Ofsted Report, BHASVIC was awarded Beacon Status in July 2008.

A new Sports Centre was opened in April 2003, and planning permission was granted for further development during 2008-2009. Disabled access ramps and steps were built in 2005 by Nick Evans Architects. Well-known former pupils of the Grammar School include the artist Aubrey Beardsley, writer and broadcaster Tony Hawks, composer Howard Blake OBE (best known for The Snowman) and barrister and former Conservative MP Sir Ivan Lawrence. The school celebrated 150 years of its history with a lunch for more than 140 Old Boys and guests, in the school hall on July 4 2009.