Archive for March, 2007

Hove Hospital

In terms of local government, Brighton and Hove have only recently been connected. After all, Brighton Borough and Hove Borough only amalgamated in 1997. But, on the issue of health specifically, the Brighton Dispensary in 1809 saw the two towns’ inhabitants working closely as one.

The Brighton Dispensary was established in 1809 on North Road in Brighton. Following demand from those living in Hove and Cliftonville, the Brighton & Hove Dispensary, Western District, was created. Money from various sources allowed a house, 4 Farm Road, to be purchased as its premises in 1859. This building quickly became cramped so in 1885, a site on the west side of Sackville Road by Poets’ Corner purchased.

The new large red-brick building was designed by Clarke & Micklethwaite and built by John T. Chappell. It has three impressive gables in a style typical of the period on the principle façade to the east facing Sackville Road. It also has various castellated sections including an impressive belvedere (squat tower) on the south side. The year that most of the building work was carried out, ‘1887’, is emblazoned on both the north and east sides in terracotta. However, a gigantic array of terracotta panels on the south side includes the date of the opening, ‘1888’, astride an intricate shield. It is without doubt the building’s greatest feature.

In 1918, what had become the ‘Western Branch of the Brighton, Hove and Preston Dispensary’ was renamed ‘Hove Hospital’ (phew!). Space again became sparse so a new extension was added in 1934 that was opened by Princess Helena Victoria. This nearly doubled the number of beds from 26 to 51. By 1946, the nurses’ accommodation had become hospital wards which raised the number of beds to 86. Despite the changes, Hove Hospital became less suitable over time and its casualty department was closed in 1970. It eventually closed in 1997 to be replaced with new facilities to the south of Neville Avenue on former allotments.

Hove Hospital’s last owners, Brighton & Hove Health Care NHS Trust, sold the vacant building to a Brighton-based developer called First Steady. It was converted into 37 flats to the designs of the architect Christopher Dodd. The block was named Tennyson Court complimentary to the names of the roads of Poets’ Corner despite a clear difference in architectural style (I would have preferred a medically-themed name). I guess that’s poetic licence for you!


St Nicholas’ Churchyard

One could write a book on the history of St. Nicholas’s Church but I, due to the presence of the grave of one of my architectural heroes, am mainly interested in its surrounding graveyard. .

The Grade II Listed church itself is a very short walk away from the centre of Brighton on the east side of Dyke Road, just south of Church Street. When it was originally built in the fourteenth century, it was in a secluded location, overlooking the old town. St. Nicholas of Myra is the patron saint of fishermen which explains how St. Nicholas’s, which is the ancient parish church of Brighton, got its name. It was only when I discovered that Amon Wilds was buried in the churchyard that I began investigating the church and its surroundings.

Many people are interested in Brighton’s architecture but the acid test for me to distinguish between those who really are and those who aren’t is whether or not they have heard of Amon Wilds! With architect Charles Augustin Busby, Wilds built both the Kemp Town and Brunswick Town estates. His son, Amon Henry Wilds, was responsible for Montpelier Crescent, Hanover Crescent, Park Crescent, Oriental Place, the Royal Albion Hotel and many more of Brighton’s greatest buildings.

St. Nicholas’s churchyard was extended to the east in 1818. A second extension, to the north of Church Street, was then added in 1824. Wilds Sr died in 1833 aged 71 and is buried in the eastern extension. His distinctive tomb is thought to have been designed by Wilds Jr. The tomb’s prominent decorative shell motifs are very much in the style of those found on many of Wilds Jr’s best buildings. A third extension, laid out and entered through an archway by Wilds Jr, was opened in 1841. Other famous locals who have been buried in the churchyard include Martha Gunn (‘queen’ of the Brighton dippers), Captain Nicholas Tettersell (rescuer of King Charles II) and Sake Dene Mahomed (‘Shampooing Surgeon’ to King George IV and King William IV).

One of the great mysteries of local history is the location of Charles Augustin Busby’s body. He was buried in St. Andrew’s (Old Church) in Hove in 1834 but when Church Road was subsequently widened his headstone and body should have been moved. Today, their location remains a mystery. Some believe that Brighton & Hove’s most prolific architect is now under a road.


Cologne

Four became two when my friend Nishad lost his passport two nights before flying. Despite the setback, the trip was still a great success (except for poor Nishad and Gemma).

On the plane over, I read up on the history of Cologne, or ‘Köln’ as the Germans say. It is located on the Rhine and has a population of around 1 million making it Germany’s fourth largest city. Kölsch is the name of the local dialect and also the name of the local beer. Upon arrival we were treated to the fantastic Cologne/Bonn Airport. Terminal 1was built in 1970 and is famous for its distinctive brutalist concrete. Terminal 2 was built in 2000 by Helmut Jahn and is very much a modern take on Terminal 1 in shining steel, glass and more concrete.

Cologne Cathedral is unquestionably the city’s most famous landmark and the world’s largest Gothic building. It was also the tallest building in the world from 1880 until 1884 when it was overtaken by the Washington Memorial. The RAF bombed the city in the first 1,000 bomber raid, ‘Operation Millenium’, during the Second World War which saw the destruction of 600 acres of built-up area. Miraculously, the Cathedral was relatively unscathed. The surroundings have obviously been rebuilt but it doesn’t quite work for me as the buildings are clearly fakes. Post-war architecture just isn’t the same. To give some credit though, the buildings around the Cathedral are at least low in a way that St Paul’s in London can only now dream of.

Brighton could learn two things from Cologne. Cologne’s conference facilities are amongst the best in Europe. Brighton’s Brighton Centre is becoming an embarrassment. Admission to Cologne Cathedral is free though many, of course, leave a donation. Adult admission to the Royal Pavilion is currently £6.50. Brighton’s seafront, however, beats Cologne’s riverfront hands down and Brighton’s Regency architecture easily beats Cologne’s pastiche efforts. Cologne’s Chocolate Museum (Schokoladenmuseum) is worth a mention though. It combines several architectural styles though with great effect.

The people of Cologne are certainly strange, that’s for sure. There are moustaches everywhere, all meals involve sausage and they have a strange obsession with dogs. But, that’s the fun of the place, I guess, and we had a thoroughly good time because of it. If that’s not your thing though then go for the Cathedral – architecture fans would be mad not to do so.


Booth Museum

Despite having sat outside the Booth Museum of Natural History on countless occasions in the morning traffic, it’s only recently that I have been inside. I’m glad to say that it was worth the wait.

Edward Thomas Booth was born in 1840 in Buckinghamshire and studied at Brighton, Harrow and Cambridge. The wealth left to him by his parents allowed him to pursue his fascination with birds. This led to interests in guns and taxidermy and Booth is actually recognised universally as the first person to display stuffed birds in recreations of their natural habitats. His wealth also allowed him to purchase an isolated house on Dyke Road in 1865 which he named rather appropriately ‘Bleak House’. This was demolished in around 1939 to make way for the not too horrific Fairways and Elm Court blocks of flats. The Museum was built in his garden in 1874 when his collection of stuffed birds outgrew the house.

After Booth died in 1890, his widow offered the collection of 308 exhibits to London’s Natural History Museum. When the offer was declined, she then gave the collection and the Museum to the people of Brighton on condition that the display cases were not modified. It then opened to the public in 1891. Although the birds on display are very impressive, I was particularly fascinated by the displays of bones. From the skeletons of the tiniest rodents to killer whales, the Booth Museum has them all. The bones are pretty frightening, but the worst exhibit of all is the ‘merman’ – a part-fish/part-monkey specimen brought from South East Asia.

The Museum building itself has some excellent features and is very similar to the British Engineerium in Hove which was built in 1866. The various colours of brick on each are intricately arranged very much in the style of the period. The Grade II Listed Museum is deceptively large and stretches back a long way from Dyke Road. Hot air wafts through decorative iron floor vents to heat the cavernous structure. Admission is free – see www.virtualmuseum.info or call 01273 292777 for details.

I recently heard a story about somebody going to the Booth Museum and taking photos of some of the most gruesome exhibits like the merman and the stuffed brown bear to use as his a desktop background to scare the secretary in his office. But, I would never do anything like that of course!