Regency Square

The West Pier, the proposed ‘Brighton Eye’ i360 tower, the derelict Bandstand and the large lump of tarmac in front of the Metropole that was once a paddling pool all draw regular press coverage. But, what about the fabulous Regency Square Conservation Area in which they are all situated?

The Regency Square Conservation Area is pretty much everything between Embassy Court, the Grand Hotel, Western Road and the sea. Regency Square itself was built from 1818-28 and was the third large set-piece development in town following Royal Crescent and Bedford Square. Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice describes the way in which young ladies were attracted to Brighton for the soldiers. It is referring to, in part, the 10,000 troops who were stationed in 1793, a time of unrest across the English Channel, on Belle Vue Field – the site that became Regency Square.

Joshua Flesher Hanson, the owner of Belle Vue Field, laid out 70 building plots which were quickly snapped up by individual developers. Each had to conform to approved specifications such as bow fronts and stucco on the ground and first floors with yellow brick above. The Square’s uniform balconies, canopies and entrance porches are explained by this strict code. By 1828, most of the work was complete. Two of my favourite architects, Amon Wilds and his son, the prolific Amon Henry Wilds, are thought to have designed the majority of the buildings. Amon, along with Charles Augustin Busby, built Lewes Crescent and Brunswick Square. Amon Henry was responsible for, amongst other things Hanover, Park and Montpelier Crescents.

The stunning buildings around Regency Square are either Grade II or II* Listed as is the Portland stone cenotaph at the bottom which is the Royal Sussex War Memorial. It was unveiled in 1904 to commemorate the deaths of the 152 men of the regiment who died in the Boer War of 1900-02. This isn’t the only memorial in the Square though. There are also several pretty plaques including an excellent example well-hidden behind the umbrellas of the Regency Restaurant (No. 1) commemorating the life of Harrit Mellon, Duchess of St Albans.

The flats and hotels of Regency Square today surround 1.56 acres of gardens. An ugly car park lies beneath the lawns that was constructed in 1969 at a cost of £523,000 for 520 cars. The soldiers certainly let their guards down to allow that monstrosity to be built!