33a Brunswick Square

A hidden door, a huge wedge-shaped staircase and a wall veiling a secret garden add up to a great architectural story. A hidden house on Brunswick Square has an abundance of such features.

From the air, it is quite clear that No. 33, ‘Palm Court’, was once the largest building on Brunswick Square due to its corner position. It was used as various schools for many years and for a while, controversially, as a hotel. It’s easy to find for a blue plaque commemorating the composer and conductor Sir Hamilton Harty has been installed beside the porch. An imposing door leads into the building’s stately hallway but to the left, completely out of view, is a second door leading to an entirely separate house – 33a Brunswick Square.

Straight away, the door number and the hidden door suggest to me that No. 33a was not originally a house in its own right. It appears to consist of around one third of what was once part of No. 33 along with a massive extension behind to the west. Pictures of the roof from above strengthen this argument. Most strangely, it has no front façade so none of its windows look over the square. If a conversion did take place, and I’m sure that it did, it certainly wasn’t carried out recently.

Along with the privacy from the front, the rear is cut off too. A tall wall separates No.33a’s oasis-like garden from the Freemasons Tavern and various shops on Western Road behind. The residents of a strikingly modern row of houses on Brunswick Street West, however, are actually treated to direct views over what is a very well designed calming garden. Inside No.33a, the best features are a fully operational cage lift and an intricate mosaic floor.

Local architect Charles Augustin Busby was responsible for Brunswick Square and, along with his building partner Wilds, Kemp Town as well. In each case, just the facades were constructed by the developer which gave the first owners the chance to personalise the rest as they pleased. Interestingly, a giant garden also exists behind the north-east corner of Sussex Square within the Kemp Town development.

For great historic tours locally, be sure to listen out for one particular resident of No. 33a – Mike Robins. He’s currently on view on the side of a local bus so, unlike his home, he is most definitely not hidden away.