Connaught Centre

As a lover of quality modern architecture, I wish that more of my time could be spent writing about the decent new buildings that we have around Brighton & Hove. Unfortunately, I’d run out of subject matter pretty quickly. Instead, I inevitably find myself writing about the histories of older – better – buildings when, as is often the case, their futures are uncertain.

The large and much-loved Victorian building on Connaught Road, currently known as the Connaught Centre, may be under threat. It was built on the site of a brickworks and began as the Connaught Road Schools; consisting of the Connaught Road Boys’ School, Girls’ School and Infants’ School; each with a separate entrance along with another for the teachers. The rather grand structure, built in red and yellow brick with terracotta dressings to the designs of Thomas Simpson of Ship Street, first opened its doors in 1884. Various other arrangements followed until it closed as a school in 1984 – 100 years after it opened.

Today, the Connaught Centre is owned by Brighton City College and run as an adult education satellite site. It is used by an impressive 3,000 people each year. There is also a Brighton & Hove City Council day care centre tucked away in an outbuilding behind. The College currently has five sites with facilities ‘not fit for modern use’ (a College spokesman’s words, not mine) and hopes to end up with four state of the art new ones by variously selling, relocating and rebuilding. In the case of the Hove site, the Connaught Centre, a move is in mind. Inevitably, this would lead to the sale of the building to who knows whom. Bearing in mind the recently-built 1A Connaught Road, built by the developer behind the King Alfred scheme, and the awful Tesco around the corner, there may be reason to worry. There is even talk of a Tesco petrol station for the site!

Connaught Road, like Connaught Terrace and the Connaught Hotel public house, takes its name from Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught, a great royal figure who had connections with Hove. He was Queen Victoria’s third son and said to be her favourite. 

I write this piece having just returned from a thoroughly delightful ‘World of Art Deco’ Saturday workshop. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, I say. Call the Connaught Centre on 01273 736491 for details of other courses.