Archive for November, 2008

Osborne Villas Renovation Project

Several months ago, I wrote about my new home on Osborne Villas. The plan was to live there at least until I had a proper plan in place for my next step.

The place was bought as a damp, badly carved-up wreck and proper renovation was always going to be expensive. It was a toss-up between a simple paint-job (with a view to retention and a quick jump on to the next project) and complete refurbishment. I lasted one week before snapping one evening and ripping out all of the carpets and, shortly afterwards, all of the plasterboard walls. The following weekend, having removed the bathroom and kitchen too, I had to move back out.

Osborne has been reduced to its shell. It has no internal doors, no ceilings, no gas, a couple of dangling bulbs, one or two working sockets, one tap and no plaster on the walls. At least it has some walls left, I suppose. It has been a tough but fulfilling few months and there’s little more in the way of demolition for me to do. The layout now closely resembles its original format save for some lintels that I had installed between the principle front and back rooms. Non-structural refurbishment is to commence soon.

Although there was little in the way of original interior features to preserve, I have tried to work in the spirit of the building where appropriate. Interior design is one of those things that almost everybody thinks that they can do – but many really can’t. I’m acutely aware of my limitations so have been scouring as many books and magazines as possible to find the exact look that I want – so that I can blatantly copy it.

Outside, I have taken the opportunity to remove all superfluous junk (such as a lean-to extension, overbearing plants, cabling and a satellite dish) to return the building to its clean and calming Italianate state. The greatest – but most expensive – addition will be the new roof. Cheap but heavy clay tiles replaced the original material which led to several important beams buckling. The new slate will be stunning though.

Osborne Villas was built in around 1850 and takes both its name and style from Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s official residence on the Isle of Wight. Osborne House was designed by Thomas Cubitt and Prince Albert. I wonder what they would make of my new place.

Old Steine War Memorials


Three war memorials grace the northern enclosure of Brighton’s Old Steine – the Egyptian Memorial, the Brighton War Memorial and a new one that is yet to be named officially (from which the above wording is taken).

To mark the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War, a local campaign was run calling for the addition of Corporal Steve Prior’s name to the Brighton War Memorial. Corporal Prior died in the Falklands aged 29 in 1982 while serving with the 2ND Battalion of the Parachute Regiment. Although a plaque on the Brighton War Memorial does in fact commemorate those who died in conflicts after the First World War, the structure is specifically Listed as a World War I monument so adding extra names was simply not feasible.

A new memorial was proposed by Councillors Brian Oxley (the then Council Leader of the Council) and Steve Harmer-Strange (a Falklands veteran himself) as a tribute to all of those who have died in conflicts since the Second World War. It was made by a local stonemason, Jeremy Tilley, who sourced an appropriate single piece of pink granite to match the adjacent Egyptian Memorial. The unveiling on Veterans’ Day this year (27th June) was made extra special by the presence of Bob Prior (pictured with Cllr Harmer-Strange), the brother of Corporal Prior.

The Egyptian Memorial of the 1ST Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, is a pink granite obelisk with a list of the names of those who died in the Egyptian campaign of 1882 and the Nile Expedition of 1884-5. It was erected in 1888 and is now Grade II Listed.

The Brighton War Memorial was unveiled in 1922 and specifically commemorates those who died in the First World War. The statue of George IV that is now outside the Royal Pavilion’s North Gate was relocated to make way for it. It was designed by Sir John Simpson and takes the form of a tranquil Roman water garden. Although its pylons record the names of 3 women and over 2,000 men, it is known to be the case that not all of those who fell are listed.

This year’s Remembrance Sunday fell on 9th November and Armistice Day – always on 11th November – saw its 90th anniversary.

Station Road

There are plenty of roads around Brighton & Hove whose names change along their lengths but just one that I know of with a different name each side.

The names of Dyke Road, Church Road and Upper North Street all change as they become Dyke Road Avenue, New Church Road and Montpelier Terrace respectively. But, the case of Station Road in Portslade is entirely different for it is in fact only half of a road – widthways. The other half – the Hove side – is called Boundary Road. There are plenty of examples of sets of houses with different names to the roads on which they are situated. Indeed, Carlton Terrace on Station Road is one such case. However, I wouldn’t describe any set as a road by itself.

Station Road has been known variously as Aldrington Lane, Aldrington Drove and Red House Drove. The railway arrived in 1840 and the name "Station Road" was certainly in use by 1889. At that point, both sides of the road, as one would expect, were called Station Road. In 1903, Hove Council renamed its side of the road "Boundary Road" because people were expecting Hove Station to be at the top. Hove Station was actually a couple of miles away though – hence the confusion. Strangely, Portslade Station is technically on the Hove side anyway. The original station was in fact on the Portslade side but that’s another story entirely.

Hove Station is now, of course, at the top of Goldstone Villas but that was not always the case. The Hove Station of today opened in 1893 and is in fact the third station to be built in that part of Hove. Goldstone Villas was once known as Station Road and the station was then known as Cliftonville Station after the area that it served. The road later became Goldstone Villas Road and then simply Goldstone Villas.

Much of the above can be attributed to the relationships between place names and administrative boundaries. Just as Aldrington and Cliftonville were once seen as distinct areas, they are now either unknown or seen simply as "Hove". It is certainly the case that several areas – Hanover for example – have fought well to preserve their identities but others need more support.

I propose a radical rethink of administrative boundaries. The names "Cliftonville", "Aldrington" and even "Brunswick Town" should be properly revived – as distinct council wards of their own.