Seven Dials Monument

Back in May, Brighton & Hove City Council announced a competition to design a feature for the centre of the Seven Dials roundabout.

Long before the specifications were released, it was generally hoped that the prolific Regency architect, Amon Henry Wilds, would somehow be commemorated. The Council did actually mention Wilds in its literature which is certainly in tune with local residents’ views. Wilds was responsible for, amongst many other things, Montpelier Crescent, Villas and Road nearby. His trademark features were shell motifs above windows and Ammonite capitals (fossil-inspired column tops). He is thought to have used the Ammonite design as a pun on his first name.

Although the Council has a winner in mind, it is understandably not yet keen to publicise the matter as £30,000 must first be raised privately to actually pay for the project. Three designs made it into the final from Jon Mills, Myles Dacre, and Guy Stevens and Alyosha Moeran. Mills is a Preston Park-based metalwork artist who has created many pieces both locally and nationally; Dacre is a Seven Dials-based artist who works mostly in metal and stone; and Stevens and Moeran are stone masons and carvers who create large icon pieces, often involving members of the local community.

Below the artwork, the structure will consist of three circular tiers. The first will be an over-run area for vehicles; the second a concrete plinth incorporating uplights; and the third a smaller plinth. The finished monument should be durable, maintenance-free, easily seen and, indeed, attractive from the seven roads that approach the roundabout (Dyke Road twice, Prestonville Road, Chatham Place, Buckingham Place, Vernon Terrace and Goldmsid Road). Seven Dials was one of the country’s first roundabouts and today seems one of the busiest! Thankfully the planned works will also be addressing safety concerns.

It’s a strange twist that the creator of some of Brighton’s greatest monuments – the Victoria Fountain, the archway at St Nicholas Churchyard, the tomb of Amon Wilds Sr – is to receive his own monument. The continued love of his buildings may well be the greatest gift that he could have asked for. After all, The Latin inscription on Sir Christopher Wren’s tomb in St. Paul’s translates to “Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you”.

Nevertheless, the formal recognition of Wilds’ work is fantastic so I congratulate those involved and hope to hear the official announcement of the winner soon.