Amex and its links with Brighton

Amex House, the nine-storey, 300,000 square foot office block, was designed by Gollins Melvin Ward and cost a reported £10 million. It was built over part of Mighell Street, and a number of other streets disappeared under the building, including Boss’s Gardens. The building, nicknamed ‘The Wedding Cake’, was officially opened on September 15 1977 as the European customer service HQ of the American Express Corporation.

The company had previously used sites all over Sussex, but first moved into the Edward St area in 1968, when it moved its Mechanical Accounting centre to the Virgo Walker building.

Amex is now the city’s largest private sector employer, with more than 3,000 staff, and contributes 7% of the city economy, worth about £300 million a year. This explains the jitters that went around the city when, in 2008, it was feared that the company would move elsewhere, as it needed bigger, better premises.

Possible new homes were said to be Crawley, Exeter, Scotland or somewhere in mainland Europe. However, in September 2008, Amex confirmed it would not be moving from Edward St.

Instead, it applied for planning permission to create a new 265,000 sq ft building behind Amex House, which would be demolished by 2016.

The new building will have between five to nine floors, plus two basement floors, new vehicle access off John Street. There will be 106 car parking spaces and 132 cycle parking spaces on the site.

In May 2009, Amex reached an agreement with the council, which agreed to sell the firm the freehold of the land in Eastern Road to carry out the redevelopment of the site. The deal included a clause which requires the company to make a long-term commitment to basing its operations in Brighton.

Amex will build a new office block on its car park site, bordering Carlton Hill. The company owns half of the historic Mighell St farmhouse which needs restoration.

On November 4 2009, Brighton and Hove City Council’s planning committee voted unanimously in favour of the proposals. One of the conditions of the Amex plans is that a £300,000 donation is made to Carlton Hill Primary School, which will have its playground overshadowed by the extension. The money will allow the school to relocate its playground and revamp facilities.

As well as saving the Amex jobs, it was estimated that the £130 million redevelopment would also sustain 75 non-Amex jobs and could create more than 1,000 construction jobs.

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.