Archive for May, 2007

Sussex Masonic Centre

Unlike much of what goes on inside, the Sussex Masonic Centre on the west side of Queen’s Road is certainly no secret.

Not to be confused with Freemasons Tavern on Western Road in Hove, the Sussex Masonic Centre is the meeting place of most of Brighton’s Masonic Lodges. The building’s relatively small Regency section is a massively modified 1820s Wilds & Busby house. Amon Wilds and Charles Augustin Busby were the duo behind the massive Kemp Town and Brunswick Town developments. It was donated to the Masons in 1897 by a family of brewers, the Kidds. However, it is the massive steel-framed 1928 Art Deco extension which is of major interest as it includes most of the building’s best bits.

The extension is entered to the north of the Regency dwelling and wraps all the way around it. The light green façade of the amalgamated structure offers only a small hint of what lies within though admittedly there is not much left inside from the Regency period. However, the yellow terrazzo floors, solid wooden panelling, brass fittings and extravagant leaded glass – all excellent examples of typical Art Deco features – ensure that the interior is one of Brighton’s finest. Behind the main entrance is an intricate staircase which encases the longest chandelier that I have ever seen – a brass and green glass affair. On the first floor is the largest of the dining rooms and above it is the main Masonic Temple. The Temple features the distinctive chequered floor which is common to Masonic Temples all around the globe.

Queen’s Road features several fine buildings but, overall, is a rather wasted opportunity bearing in mind that it is what first greets those who visit Brighton by train. This is due in part to several awful structures on its east side. Interestingly, one of the older and, indeed, beautiful buildings which was demolished was the home to another charitable fraternal club, the Odd Fellows. In true 1960s, it was mercilessly demolished. What a shame! Queen’s Road was originally known as Windsor Terrace and the original Wilds & Busby house was No. 8. Its name was changed in 1850 by Act of Parliament.

The Sussex Masonic Centre opens its doors every now and then to the non-Masonic public. To find out how to see this fantastic building for yourself or to discuss Freemasonry generally, call the Centre’s curator, Reg Barrow, on 01273 737404.

Lloyd’s Building

I’ve been a big fan of the Lloyd’s Building ever since I had to draw it for a GCSE art project at school. But, it was only recently that I managed to get on a tour (thanks Mike!) of what I believe is one of the most striking buildings on the planet.

Lloyd’s of London takes its name from Edward Lloyd who founded a coffee shop on the site in 1688. It’s not to be confused with Lloyd’s Bank. Lloyd provided the tools to do business (coffee, etc), leaving the owners of boats free to negotiate insurance deals amongst themselves. The Lloyd’s Building of today, built from 1978 to 1986 by Richard Rogers, operates along similar lines. Rogers is considered to be one of the finest architects on the planet and is also responsible for the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Madrid Airport, the National Assembly for Wales and the Millenium Dome.

The concrete and stainless steel Lloyd’s Building consists of six towers around a central atrium with electrical power conduits, water pipes, staircases and lifts on the outside. In fact, the 12 external glass lifts were the first in Britain. It’s approximately 76m high and has 14 floors. Technically-minded readers may be interested to know that 33,500m3 of concrete, 12,000m2 of glass and 30,000m2 of stainless steel cladding were used during construction. Placing services on the outside provided complete internal flexibility. As a result, the total possible underwriting area is 19,000m2.

The Lloyd’s building of 1928 was demolished to make way for the present one and its impressive main entrance was incorporated into the new building. Other features from the past include the Lutine Bell and the Committee Room. The Bell sits in the Underwriting Room, at the foot of the famous atrium, and is rung whenever there is important news to be announced. The Italianate Committee Room on the 11th floor started out in the 18th century as a dining-room. It was designed by Robert Adam in 1763 and was carefully brought in sections from the previous Lloyd’s building of 1958 across the road.

As far as modern architecture goes, there’s a fine balance to be struck between fitting in with the neighbours and pushing forward the boundaries of progress. There was no way to predict whether or not the Lloyd’s Building would work – the only way to find out was to build it. Thankfully, it worked perfectly.

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

The Royal Pavilion, the Dome Theatre, the Old Steine and the new Jubilee Library surround the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. With so many of Brighton’s best bits so close, it has a lot to live up to. But, with seven Council-run museums in Brighton & Hove, does it receive the attention that it deserves?

What is now the Dome Theatre was built in 1803-8 by William Porden as the stables for the Prince of Wales’ Marine Pavilion. When the Prince became Prince Regent, he employed the eminent architect, John Nash, to transform his fairly normal-looking Marine Pavilion into the Royal Pavilion – one of the most famous buildings in Europe. Queen Victoria, however, did not share her uncle’s love of Brighton and in 1850 the Pavilion was sold to the town. In about 1860, a museum, art gallery and library were established there but when the collection grew too large, it was moved into the former stables, coach houses and servants’ quarters connected to the Dome which had been converted by borough surveyor Philip Lockwood.

Like the Royal Pavilion next door, the Jaipur Gate in Hove, the Chattri Memorial to the north of Patcham and the Hanbury Club in Kemp Town, the Museum & Art Gallery has been strongly influenced by Indian architecture. Its yellow bricks, intricate stonework and octagonal towers easily explain its Grade II* Listed status. Fortunately, the fabric of the building inside is just as impressive as the exterior with grand staircases, mosaic floors and a cavernous main hall.

Thankfully, the transfer of books to the Jubilee Library has freed up even more space for exhibits. I particularly enjoyed the paintings of some of Brighton’s greats including Dr Richard Russell, the seawater doctor, and Sake Dene Mahomed, the ‘Shampooing Surgeon’ to Kings George IV (formerly Prince Regent) and William IV. I should mention that the Willett collection of pottery is of national significance though I spent most of my time looking at the intricate models of the piers and Old Steine. The close-up example of an Amon Henry Wilds ‘Ammonite’ capital is well worth a look also.

Of the seven municipal museums of Brighton & Hove, I have also recently visited the Royal Pavilion, Hove Museum & Art Gallery, the Booth Museum and Foredown Tower. But, before I can pick a winner, I still need to visit Preston Manor and Blatchington Windmill. See for details.

Hove War Memorial

‘THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE’ reads the INSCRIPTION on the south side of Hove War Memorial on Grand Avenue. Not only does it fittingly commemorate the fallen British heroes of the First World War but also serves as a reminder of the brilliance of its architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Soon after the end of the War, a fund was established in Hove of which some was to go towards a memorial and some towards various charitable causes. Several sites were considered for the memorial including Palmeira Gardens and the foot of St. John’s Road. In 1920, Sir Edwin himself chose the lower of two possible sites on Grand Avenue. His original suggestions of a cenotaph and then an obelisk were turned down in favour of a granite column topped with a statue of St. George. The Memorial was unveiled in 1921 by Lord Leconfield after being finished slightly over budget at £1,537.

Many regard Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) as Britain’s greatest architect. In 1918, he was knighted and, in 1921, elected to the Royal Academy. He was involved with the creation of many other war memorials and is best known for the Cenotaph in Westminster and the memorial to the Missing of the Somme in France. He was responsible for much in New Delhi, including the layout of the city and the design of the Viceroy’s house, and also the British Embassy in Washington DC. He was buried in the exclusive crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The longer inscription on the north side of the now Grade II Listed Hove War Memorial reads ‘IN EVER GLORIOUS MEMORY OF HOVE CITIZENS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR COUNTRY IN THE GREAT WAR AND WORLD WAR’. The mention of both Wars clearly indicates that the original column was modified to accommodate the fallen of the Second World War. The nearby statue of Queen Victoria at the foot of Grand Avenue is clearly not war-related but many other monuments around Brighton & Hove are. Examples include both the Brighton War Memorial and the Egyptian Campaign Memorial on the Old Steine, the Royal Sussex Regiment War Memorial on Regency Square and the Chattri Memorial to the north of Patcham.

This memorial is thoroughly effective despite the absence of a list of the names of the fallen which was in fact recorded elsewhere. For the complete list, see the elegant wooden panels in Hove Library.