Brighton College & Gilbert Scott

We may not have secured Frank Gehry for the King Alfred but a variety of existing buildings by a number of architectural greats including Robert Adam, John Nash, Thomas Cubitt, Decimus Burton, Sir Charles Barry and Sir Edward Lutyens more than makes up for it. Sir George Gilbert Scott’s work at Brighton College is one such particularly fine example.

Last week, I gave an overview of Brighton College where Scott’s main school building was the first component to be built. In 1848, construction began on the imposing flint and Caen stone Gothic building in the Collegiate Gothic style (as opposed to the Tudor Gothic style of the newer gatehouse structure). A similar knapped flint building locally is the huge former Diocesan Training College for Headmistresses, today called the Brighton Business Centre, on the corner of Viaduct Road and Ditchling Road. It was built six years afterwards.

The Headmaster’s house was attached to the eastern end of the main building in 1854 and a chapel – with fantastic stained glass – was added by Scott in 1859. A distinctive brick and terracotta building was then built to the south in 1886-7. The great quadrangle scheme was never fully realised though which is a shame. Each building now has Grade II Listed status.

Scott is most famous for St. Pancras Station, the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park and the Martyrs’ Memorial in Oxford. But he also built Europe’s largest swimming pool, Brill’s Baths, in 1869 – in Brighton. The gentlemen’s baths on East Street included a circular pool which held 80,000 gallons of sea water but the building was demolished in the 1920s and the Savoy Theatre put in its place. His grandson, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was an architect too and is known for his work on Battersea Power Station, Bankside  Power Station (now the Tate Modern), the new House of Commons Chamber and, indeed, the red telephone box.

The saviour of Brighton & Hove’s Regency compositions, Antony Dale, was in fact an alumnus of Brighton College. It seems unimaginable now, but Brunswick Square was once seriously considered for demolition so Dale formed the Regency Society and the rest is history.

In the absence of vision from those building now, we should make the best of what we’ve already got – and that goes for Marlborough House by Robert Adam and St. Peter’s Church by Sir Charles Barry which are both derelict this very moment.