Work began on the local bus company’s large depot on Conway Street near Hove Station in 1939. The style of architecture is unmistakable and has many similarities with the King Alfred and 4 Grand Avenue which were both completed that same year.
A monolithic appearance with acres of dark brick and a particular attention to symmetry characterise the buildings of the day. The depot took a year to build and includes offices, workshops and storage areas. There was originally a coachworks on the site but this was closed down in 1969.
Conway Street itself was developed from the 1870s and there were certainly stables there already when a number of local horse bus companies combined in 1884 to become Brighton, Hove & District United Omnibus Company (not quite as catchy as Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company). Pubs, barracks, laundries, blacksmiths and stables created quite an odour and lead to complaints about smells. The walk down the steps from Goldstone Villas was compared to a descent into hell.
Being huge, fairly undeveloped and near a station, the depot is a property developer’s dream or, in the case of Andy Lambor, a nightmare. Andy spent years building up a portfolio in the area that, when combined with the bus depot and several other key plots, could have been the biggest scheme in the city for a number of years. Towers, a cinema, employment space and homes were proposed. It was sadly not to be. The upside is that the bus company is staying in Hove and huge investment is now taking place.
My recent tour, given by the company’s Business Development Manager, Patrick Warner, was something of an eye-opener in that I saw several of the hidden areas that most will never get to see. The most interesting area was the pits below ground where mechanics can work below the buses. It was a job at Huet Car Audio in Hove that brought me down from London all those years ago. Seeing layers of Snap-on tools (the best) in glorious red cabinets did bring back memories – and, indeed, serve as a reminder that these guys take serious pride in their work. Another fascinating spot is the control room which shows the locations of every moving bus in the city.
On that Friday afternoon, with a crash on the A27 and the start of half-term, ‘chaotic’ was something of an understatement.