Archive for February, 2010

Hangleton Barn

The new Hangleton Manor – that is, the current extended 1540s building – was part of a working farm until 1930, several years after a major refurbishment had taken place. Just thirty years later, it sat derelict with not a single pane of glass intact. The vandals didn’t appear to be interested in its Grade II Listed status.

Today, the site consists principally of the Hangleton Manor (the pub), an adjoining building to the west once known as Hangleton Barn, Rookery Cottage to the north, the dovecote, a modern stone bungalow and thirteen houses that were added during the 1960s. The barn has served variously as a pigsty, stable and blacksmith’s but now goes by the name of ‘The Old Manor House’, presumably because it is thought to be the oldest section.

Old photographs show a corrugated iron roof, ivy and different window configurations. There was also wet rot, dry rot and deathwatch beetle. George and Jane Hollis-Dennis purchased the barn in 1972 and commenced a great restoration project. As the co-founder of Dennis & Robinson, a large and successful local joinery, George was just the man for the job.

The ground floor of this flint structure essentially consists of three rooms – a snug living room, a reasonably-sized kitchen and a huge open drawing room with massive oak beams on display. Some of the beams have been hollowed out so that steel could be inserted to strengthen the structure without comprising the building’s aesthetic integrity. Five bedrooms grace the first floor and oak beams again steal the show. The master suite’s pair of classical doors with shell motifs are certainly worth a mention as are the attractive Australian walnut doors to the other bedrooms. Above is a series of attic spaces with a number of openings scattered around various nooks and crannies.

A separate garage block was sympathetically built during the restoration which, from the outside, looks as old as the main buildings. Exposed concrete blocks within give away its true age. Two of its three up-and-over doors lead into a large space for cars with a sizeable inspection pit. The other door leads into an amazing workshop containing all manner of traditional woodwork tools. Several stacks of cassette tapes reveal tastes from an entirely different era.

This immensely important home is currently for sale for £735,000 with King & Chasemore. I don’t know though if that includes the Billy Ocean cassettes.


Regency Society Troubles

As a paid-up life member of the Regency Society, I have been considerably worried by its recent well-publicised troubles. But as a committee member of six years, I have been actively involved.

In my own small way, I helped prepare the Society’s submission at the recent Marina Inquiry. Our official position was one of opposition to the developers’ plans so I was considerably put out when two of my fellow trustees, Audrey Simpson and Delia Forester, spoke independently at the Inquiry in support of the proposals.

Delia and Audrey have both been labelled in the past as ‘developers’ so some saw the episode as an opportunity to remove the two in order to restore the Society’s emphasis on conservation. I am personally keen to see the Society move back to its preservationist roots but see expelling trustees as a rotten means. We discussed the issue at committee extensively yet closure was not reached. An Emergency General Meeting (EGM) was called to remove Audrey and Delia. At that point I chose to heavily back the pair to remain on-board.

With emotions charged, the EGM was always going to be hard and an amendment to ‘censure’, not remove, the pair caused particular division. The amended resolution was eventually voted upon and passed with virtually unanimous support; Audrey and Delia even voted to censure themselves. Not everybody left happy though.

Nick Tyson gave the best speech of the evening; an eloquent description of the vote really being about an emphasis on conservation or development. I in fact think that the Society will emerge from this mess much stronger, with that renewed emphasis on conservation, with or without Audrey and Delia continuing as trustees.

I was particularly upset that party politics was brought into the affair by some. Delia and I stood for council against each other in Regency Ward in 2007; Delia for Labour, I for the Conservatives. We’ve always got on and the question of which teams we’re on has always seemed pretty irrelevant – especially bearing in mind our responsibilities as charity trustees.

I fundamentally believe that committees work best when people disagree and the mechanism to pick that committee is by vote at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting. The members of this great Society are, therefore, ultimately in charge. I’m sure that they will use their votes well to ensure that a new committee goes forward with that all-important fresh mandate.


Freemason’s Tavern

Freemasonry has existed in Brighton for over two hundred years and the individual lodges are well known for meticulously recording the details of their meetings. The Freemason’s Tavern on Western Road has been in operation since at least the 1850s but, despite the abundance of Masonic records, it’s not clear what the actual connection is between the pub and the fraternal society.

The Freemason’s is spread across Nos. 38 and 39 Western Road in Hove. No. 38 is the most distinctive of the two as its façade consists of an intricate two storey entrance portico with a huge, principally gold and blue, mosaic surround. ‘FREEMASONS RESTAURANT’ and ‘KEMP TOWN BREWERY’ are inscribed across the top of the mosaic frame; the latter demonstrating that the distinctive Art Deco refurbishment took place after 1933 (the year that the Kemp Town Brewery was founded).

The level of detail is quite staggering. The windows are a work of art in themselves and the glass has been etched to include the Masonic square and compasses. Other Masonic symbols feature prominently. The principal ceilings within No. 38 are divided into sections by what appear to be large concealed beams suggesting that a steel frame was added during the 1930s refurbishment. Each compartment features cornicing in a style very much of the period. In fact, the building shares a number of similarities with the Sussex Masonic Centre, where most local lodges today meet.

The General Manager, Chris, was kind enough to allow me access to several of the building’s hidden areas which include a labyrinthian cellar complete with large windows at the front and rear which once let in light from the street and a yard respectively. A flat spans the two buildings and features steel-framed windows above the distinctive façade but wooden sash windows everywhere else. It has access to a wonderful roof terrace overlooking the oasis-like secret garden of 33a Brunswick Square.

The Freemason’s Tavern is today owned by Steve Simpson who bought the business from the pub group Punch Taverns several months back. Steve also owns OHSO Social on the Brighton seafront.

For more on this local institution and many other great buildings nearby, be sure to book a place on Brunswick – A Town Within a City, a tour which is to be given by Mike Robins of M & M Tours during the Fringe Festival. Mike is on 01273 773052 and 07900 844951.


42 Withdean Road

Despite the extensive television and magazine coverage which has been devoted to this fine house by Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud, its location will be a complete mystery to most readers.

Several ambitious new-builds exist either side of Dyke Road; none quite as breath-taking though as this one. Some nestle behind other buildings on plots that were once back gardens but this development replaced a detached house on an elevated position on Withdean Road in leafy and secluded Withdean.

As an artist, carpenter and experienced developer, Barry Surtees had much to bring to this project from the beginning. With masses of open-plan living space, five bedrooms, a helix staircase and a swimming pool spread over three expansive floors plus a further gigantic bedroom pod perched on the roof with fantastic views across the London Road valley, his expertise was not just helpful – it was simply invaluable.

The house was designed by Barry himself and Brighton-based architect Bernard Howells. By acquiring three detached neighbouring properties, Barry was able to build his dream home whilst converting the flanking buildings (one of which was the family home) in complimentary styles. I thoroughly disapprove of the removal of grand homes so was pleased to discover that the number of dwellings stayed as it was. The building was constructed quite close to the road so its most obvious feature is perhaps a giant glass wall making up most of the façade. But, when viewed from slightly further back, the floating bedroom pod up top, which opens straight onto a delightful roof garden, becomes much more obvious. It must be like waking up in the heavens which made it all the more relieving to hear that its lengthy glass walls are 5cm thick.

Barry bought his first house in Brighton (Springfield Road) in 1977 so has had plenty of time to get ideas together for this project. The number of features worthy of mention is quite staggering but my favourites are the bronze-anodised aluminium kitchen cupboard doors and the huge wooden front door. A Ducati 916 hangs on the wall of the principal living space. It’s quite a feature but I, as a biker, would much rather see it on the road!

Those who saw Barry and his wife Julie on Grand Designs would know that blood, sweat and tears really did flow to create this radical structure. If only more people put in half the effort…