Claremont

Few of Hove’s large detached Victorian houses remain as single units which made it all the more pleasing to have a good look around a virtually unspoilt example.

13 Second Avenue, or ‘Claremont’ to give the double-fronted house its name as engraved on plaques on both entrance pillars, was built as a private residence, probably during the 1870s by the famous builder William Willett. In the mid-1920s, it became the Claremont Preparatory School and then a hotel, today called The Claremont. It is now managed by the charismatic Dan Maynard and owned by Vicki Banks and Stuart Hill whose involvement with the business began  two and a half years ago.

Claremont and No. 12 next door were built in an identical style using the characteristic yellow brick of the West Brighton Estate (which became part of Hove), once owned by the immensely wealthy Stanford family. Claremont has a flat-topped slate roof with all five of its original chimneys still intact. At basement level, the stucco covering the bricks has been rusticated to give the appearance of stone block construction. An interesting feature of the building is its number of floors. A clever half-landing arrangement gives the building four storeys in some places and five storeys in others all under the same roof. There is also a large attic room.

Grand steps with black and white geometric tiles lead up to a thick front door with more geometric tiles beyond on the hallway floor. The ground floor has three large reception rooms of which two have marble fireplaces. Gas pipes and taps, once serving fires and lamps presumably, are scattered throughout the building. Baths, like those in many other buildings in the area, once had a third tap – for saltwater – which was confirmed by a letter that I read from a former pupil of the Claremont Preparatory School.

A flight of York stone steps leads down to the rear garden which is a lawned and pebbled oasis surrounded by a tall rendered wall. Around the edges, flora includes clematis, honeysuckle and roses. Inanimate decorations include a fireplace, stained glass and various statues.

Many have recently seen The Claremont in its capacity as one of the “Artists Open Houses” (their missing apostrophe, not mine). However, it houses a permanent revolving exhibition so it’s never too late to pop by. For more details on this modern survivor of a bygone era, see www.theclaremont.eu.