Sillwood House

The Regency Square Conservation Area contains Norfolk, Clarence, Russell, Bedford and Regency Squares. Much of it and many other fine Regency set-pieces around Brighton may be attributed to one particular family – the Wilds.

Amon Wilds (1762-1833) along with Charles Augustin Busby (1788-1834) were responsible for two of England’s finest Regency compositions – Lewes Crescent and Brunswick Square. Amon Wilds’ son, Amon Henry Wilds (1784-1857), designed Montpelier, Hanover and Park Crescents and many more of the city’s finest buildings. In the Regency Square area alone, A. H. Wilds built Western Terrace (including the Western Pavilion and Gothic House), Oriental Place, much of Russell Square and most of the Sillwoods. He is also thought to have designed Regency Square with his father though this cannot be confirmed.

Grade II* Listed Oriental Place was laid out in1827-8 as the grand entrance to an ambitious tropical greenhouse project, known as the Anthaeum, for the botanist, Henry Philips. Funding stopped the realisation of this scheme (though it was later built on what is now Palmeira Square but tragically collapsed a day before opening). Oriental Place is today painted yellow and features A. H. Wilds’ trademark ‘Ammonite’ capitals (a pun on his name) and semi-circular shell motifs above the first floor windows.

The unfinished scheme was purchased by Sir David Scott who then commissioned A. H. Wilds to build Sillwood Place as the continuation of Oriental Place. The terrace on the western side was replaced by the horrific Osprey House in 1969. The pretty eastern terrace, with fine Corinthian pilasters, survives. The Sillwood area, most of which is Grade II Listed, is named after Sir David’s family estate, Sillwood Park, in Berkshire.

Sillwood House faces the sea from an excellent plot at the very top of Sillwood Place. This fine detached mansion, also by A. H. Wilds, was Sir David’s own residence. The three-storey building (with attics and basement) has iron balconies and a semi-circular portico facing Montpelier Road. No. 8A Western Terrace is thought to have been its coaching lodge. In 1880, it became the Sillwood Hall Hotel and was later purchased by the nearby Debenhams (in Gothic House) and was used as a warehouse. It was converted into flats in 1989.

We will never again see such a prolific period of building but should be thankful that the country’s finest architects chose Brighton as the town on which to test their experimental and grand compositions.