Pevsner Brighton & Hove

Nikolaus Pevsner’s section on Brighton in his 1965 guide to the buildings of Sussex is revered to this day. Now taking the form of an updated volume of its own, Brighton and Hove by Nicholas Antram and Richard Morrice has just hit the bookshop shelves.

Pevsner was born in Germany in 1902 but moved to England in 1933 due to the difficulties that he faced as a Jew under Hitler’s regime. He began work on his county by county guide to the buildings of England in 1945 and ended up writing 32 of the books himself and 10 with collaborators. The series was later extended to Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

Brighton and Hove’s typical cover photograph of Brunswick Square and a herring gull suggest the mundane. The picture’s, well, a red herring really as inside, efforts have clearly been made to offer innovative photographs of the buildings. This has caused considerable frustration for me as several of the ideas that I have for a book of my own are no longer original! Standard shots of Embassy Court and the Clock Tower, for example, have been avoided and new thought-provoking views used instead. There is just the right blend, however, between the familiar and the unusual to ensure that both experienced local historian and architectural newcomer are kept happy. I was especially pleased to see included three of my favourite historic plans for Brighton that never came to fruition.

The first shows the Anthaeum, a giant glass dome, in its intended location at the top of Oriental Place. The second depicts Adelaide Crescent as it was meant to be – a deep enclosed arc with no Palmeira Square above. Adelaide Crescent was modified and the Anthaeum was built there instead (but it collapsed in 1833 almost instantly!). The third shows Sir James Knowles’ vision for the West Brighton Estate of First, Second, Grand, Third and Fourth Avenues (now technically in Hove). There were to be four gargantuan yellow-brick structures; two either side of Grand Avenue. Of the two that were actually built, one was bombed during the Second World War leaving us with just King’s House, Brighton & Hove City Council’s headquarters.

Brighton and Hove’s clear descriptions, useful suggested walks and handy size make it a practical tool, not just something for the coffee table. My one criticism is the use of the term "Brighton Pier". It’s the "Palace Pier"! Quite unforgivable.