Pylons

‘Greater Brighton’ was created on 1st April 1928 when Brighton absorbed the villages of Rottingdean, Ovingdean, Falmer and Patcham. The town expanded nearly fivefold to 12,503 acres, the same size as Chicago at the time. Two stone pillars, the Pylons, were constructed on opposite sides of the London Road to mark the new northern boundary. This key moment in the history of Brighton is certainly worthy of an explanation.
 
This story centres on the controversial Alderman Sir Herbert Carden (1867-1941), a visionary who helped to sculpt Brighton into the city that we know and love today. From the late 1800s, Carden bought farmland around Brighton & Hove and sold it on to the town without profit. He persuaded the council to become pioneers in civic enterprise which included setting up corporation electricity, telephones, trains and housing estates. Carden was a Labour supporter and became a town councillor in 1895. He was made an honorary freeman of the borough on 28th October 1926 and was knighted in 1930 by Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald. The sharp lines of the Pylons reflect his love for the Art deco movement and it was this love that caused the controversy. He wanted to replace the Pavilion and the whole Regency seafront with Embassy Court style buildings which led to the formation of the Regency Society!
 
The Pylons were designed by John L. Denman and have foundation stones laid by the Duke and Duchess of York (who became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth). Coins, newspapers and a bound book recording the laying of the foundation stones were buried inside. The cost was borne by a public subscription of £993 and a personal contribution from Carden of £2,555. The western pillar bears the message, “Hail guest, we ask not what thou art. If friend we greet thee hand and heart. If stranger no longer be. If foe our love shall conquer thee”. They were actually built 35 yards south of the border.
 
The Pylons today mark the city boundary of Brighton & Hove. The London Road has more than doubled in width so the pillars now sit in the centre and on the east side of the road. The late and great Conservative councillor, John Sheldon, hoped to organise the construction of a third pylon to retain symmetry and to celebrate the millennium. Due to funding problems, his idea was never realised. What a great shame.