33 Palmeira Mansions

I was first given a tour of 33 Palmeira Mansions by local historian and tour guide, Jackie Marsh-Hobbs, several years ago at a time when I couldn’t appreciate the significance of the building – the materials, the craftsmanship. 

Palmeira Mansions consist of two terraces of townhouses, symmetrical about Palmeira Avenue, facing the sea just above Palmeira Square and the famous Floral Clock. They were designed by Henry Jones Lanchester in the Renaissance style and built in 1883/4 to high specifications. However, Arthur William Mason, the owner of No. 33, saw fit to take things further. The rest of Palmeira Mansions and, indeed, Palmeira Square itself are Grade II Listed. However, No. 33′s importance is recognised by its Grade II* status.

Mason rented 11 Palmeira Mansions before he bought No.33 in 1889. His fortune came from his father’s ink manufacturing business which he and his brothers floated on the stock market earlier that year. This gave him the means to completely transform the interior of the six storey building using the finest materials. A heavy front door leads to an entrance vestibule that was added to the building by Mason. A stained glass window features the family coat of arms, which Mason himself commissioned, with the words ‘Facta Non Verba’ – Deeds Not Words. The vestibule leads to a grand hallway that has been lined with orange, green and black swathes of marble and Derbyshire alabaster, formed by combining the original entrance vestibule and hallway.

The hallway features an imposing staircase but, overall, is rather dark due to the unsympathetic addition of partition walls upstairs, in front of a massive window. Again, the ceiling, perhaps Hove’s most impresive, of the original the dining room on the ground floor at the front of the building (so easily viewed fronm the street) is not as it should be. The room is now a student common room. Preserving the history of the building is important for today’s owners, the English Language Centre, but they have a business to run as well.

I recently met Jackie for another tour of 33 Palmeira Mansions to hear about the formation of the Friends of 33 Palmeira Mansions. The group will raise funding for the restoration of the building’s original features; continue researching the history of the house and its contents; and raise public awareness of this hidden treasure. E-mail Jackie on jackiemh@fsmail.net to join, help or donate.