Archive for December, 2006

Edinburgh

Some would say that it’s not fair to compare Brighton with a capital city. As regular readers know, I’m not one of those people! On a recent trip to Scotland’s capital with my mate Rick, I saw for myself exactly why Edinburgh’s reputation for beautiful architecture, amazing scenery and bad weather is well deserved. So, what can Brighton learn from Edinburgh and vice versa?

Brighton and Edinburgh share a strong connection with regards to neo-classical architecture. Edinburgh’s Georgian buildings and Brighton’s Regency are amongst the finest. In examining this connection, one of the cities’ greatest differences emerges – their respective choices of building material. One might easily assume that solid stone lies beneath the painted facades of Brighton’s great squares, crescents and terraces. In fact, stuccoed bungaroush is often below. Bungaroush is the mix of flint from the beach and surrounding fields with lime that forms many of the walls holding Brighton up. Stucco was used externally as a render to produce stone-like details. Edinburgh’s unpainted stone is clearly the real deal.

As Selma Montford from the Brighton Society often tells me, good new buildings in established areas are about ingredients, not recipes. Such a formula encourages both architectural progress and community cohesion. I saw some great examples of this in Edinburgh that followed the rule by featuring high quality stone and appropriate window arrangements – modern takes on their eighteenth century counterparts. Tesco on Church Road in Hove flies in the face of this rule by having absolutely nothing in common with its Victorian neighbours and is disastrous as a result. One of the UK’s most architecturally (and politically) controversial buildings is the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. I loved bits of it. I hated bits of it. I’m undecided overall. Across the road is Holyrood Palace at the foot of the Royal Mile. At the top is Edinburgh Castle which enjoys panoramic views of the city, its surrounding hills and distant coast.

I suppose that I could point out that Edinburgh’s amazing centre does not necessarily reflect the quality of the areas that I did not see during my trip. However, Brighton’s Lanes and North Laine are more fun as places to shop than anywhere in Edinburgh. Also, the proximity of the sea to the centre of Brighton really is unbeatable. I thoroughly recommend Edinburgh as a holiday destination though for me, there’s no place like home. Brighton wins once again!


Hanbury Club

The closure of the Hanbury Ballroom and adjacent Hanbury Arms following seven exciting years under the direction of Gavin George caused disappointment to many. But, it was running at a loss and changes needed to be made. Although the venue’s recent history is pretty interesting, we really should travel back to the late 1800s to see why such a unique building came to be built one block away from the sea.

Over a period of many years, the relationship between the great Jewish mercantile family, the Sassoons, and Brighton & Hove was strong. Arthur Sassoon lived at 8 King’s Gardens in Hove and King Edward VII often visited. Around this time, the magnificent synagogue on Middle Street benefited greatly from the Sassoons’ patronage. It was built in 1874-5 and was the first synagogue in Britain to have electric lighting. Sir Albert Sassoon lived at 1 Eastern Terrace, one of the most imposing properties on the Kemp Town seafront, from 1876-96. In 1892, Sir Albert built a mausoleum for his family on the corner of St George’s Road and Paston Place – directly behind his house.

Like the Royal Pavilion, the mausoleum has both oriental and Indian features. Its pagoda roof was restored several years ago with the help of a £56,000 English Heritage grant and looks great inside and out. Sir Albert was buried inside in 1896 and his son, Sir Edward, followed in 1912. Sir Edward’s son, Sir Philip, sold it in 1933 and transported their remains to London. The site of the family’s riding school, on the other side of St George’s Road, became an Odeon cinema in 1934 and was used, along with the mausoleum, as an air raid shelter during the Second World War. The Grade II Listed mausoleum became part of the adjacent Hanbury Arms pub in 1956. The Odeon was demolished in 1986 and the not so awful Cavendish Court was built on the plot.

Following a renovation project costing over £100,000, the husband and wife team of Chris Edwardes and Amanda Blanch, the owners of the Blanch House boutique hotel nearby on Atlingworth Street, have just reopened the two Hanbury venues as one – the Hanbury Club.

The Hanbury’s admission policy is unusual for Brighton in that the club is for members only. Never fear though, it’s an amazing venue with reasonably priced drinks without any West Street louts! See www.hanburyclub.com for the details.


Worthing Dome

The Dome in Worthing is a very different building to the Dome in Brighton which is unsurprising as it was built over one hundred years later.

The Dome on Church Street in Brighton was originally built as stables for the Prince of Wales behind his Marine Pavilion in 1803-08 by William Porden. It was converted into a concert hall in 1867. The Dome on the Worthing seafront, on the other hand, was originally built as a roller-skating rink in 1909 by T. A. Allen for the Swiss entrepreneur Carl A. Seebold. It was called the Kursaal at first but was renamed the Dome during the First World War because Kursaal sounded too Germanic.

Worthing’s Dome was converted into a 950 seat cinema in 1921 by Seebold. The town’s first cinema has unfortunately been demolished but its second, the Dome, is still going strong. It’s a funny-looking building actually. Its tall domed octagonal tower is considered by English Heritage to be ‘one of the most complete surviving examples of an early cinema in the country’. The opulent Edwardian ceiling is studded with domes and cupolas. It is one of only a few still using carbon projectors, the original method of showing films. I was lucky enough to see Richard Attenborough’s Oh! What a Lovely War there, complete with ice-cream break, several years ago.

After being operated by a series of companies, the Dome was bought by Worthing Borough Council in 1963. In 1993, it suddenly closed following its failure to pass an electrical safety test. Many feared that it would never open again. It was rewired at a cost of £26,500 by Seeboard, regained its cinema licence and reopened to the relief of many. In 1994, the tower was demolished and rebuilt at a cost of over £300,000 when virtually all the steelwork above first floor level showed signs of bad corrosion and had to be replaced. 35,000 locals then signed a petition to save it from being sold by the Council to the Chapman Leisure Group. In 1996, it was upgraded from Grade II to II* Listed status amidst battles between various prospective buyers including Charlie Chaplin’s son, Eugene.

In 1999, the Council sold the Dome to the Worthing Dome & Regeneration Trust Ltd for just £10 as part of a grand scheme to get the building back in shape. I can’t wait to see the project completed. See www.worthingdome.com.