20 The Drive

Grand Avenue and The Drive form Hove’s greatest thoroughfare – the scene of many architectural triumphs and disasters.

Although First to Fourth Avenues have not really been meddled with since they were built, Grand Avenue and The Drive have not been so lucky. Many of the fine houses have been replaced by unimaginative 1960s towers. The only replacement building with any integrity is 4 Grand Avenue; an imposing yet glamorous 1930s block. Bearing previous catastrophes in mind, I was understandably worried when I heard that 20 The Drive is to be extensively remodelled.

No. 20 is a unique building. But, despite its obvious quality, I’ve always thought that it looked rather odd due to its flat roof. Not including the basement, the building originally had three proper storeys plus the roof space. A delightful gable once extended above the top storey but, many years ago, both the roof and gable were unsympathetically replaced with a new floor and flat roof. A local property developer, David Martin, with the assistance of T. Scoble Associates, has received planning permission to remove the shameful additions. They will be swapped for a whole new floor and, above it, a new gable and proper pitched roof will be reinstated. With a bit of imagination, the building will be returned to almost its original state – the only difference being an extra storey.

Visitors to 20 The Drive are first greeted with a pretty mosaic pathway leading to a grand door which is surrounded by faïence (enamel-coated terracotta) mouldings. Much of the forthcoming work will involve the replacement of damaged pieces along with the creation of new ones for the gable and upper storey using a photocopy of a vague original plan that was approved by the Hove Commissioners in 1894. It shows that the architect was Warren Cooper of Bedford Row, London, working on behalf of T. L. Williams. The actual building, however, has differences such as the position of the staircase. Dr Burnett and his family lived at 20 The Drive from 1897 to 1915. His daughter was the novelist Dame Ivy Compton-Burnett whose time there has been commemorated with a blue plaque to the right of the front door. At the time, there were thirteen bedrooms.

Work is due to start shortly on this exciting project. I fully intend on making good use of Hove’s greatest thoroughfare as I keep an eye on progress.