Toad Hall

I first came across Hove’s Toad Hall in 2004 when on official business. The current owner, Monsieur Francois Lavaud was at that time serving as French Honorary Consul and Toad Hall was the Consulate. The flag and plaque may now be gone – and it is now for sale with King & Chasemore – but a wealth of other clues and mysteries still invite curiosity.

Thick red carpets, grand reception rooms and a number of fascinating ornaments and antiques characterise the interior of this unique house. The building is spread across four floors which consist of a huge garage in the basement, generous entertaining space on the ground floor, master bedrooms on the first, and smaller bedrooms within the eaves. Whilst not a glamorous feature, the number of attic spaces within Toad Hall is quite astounding. I counted at least five different large storage spaces tucked into the various voids which result from an imaginative layout.

Toad Hall’s very existence tempts speculation. It is attached to one of Wilbury Road’s huge villas; a building that would be, had it not been for Toad Hall, identical to the neighbouring properties. So did Toad Hall, a grand house in its own right, actually begin as an extension to 9 Wilbury Road?

A difference in type and age of materials gives away most extensions immediately. Toad Hall, however, has been constructed using exactly the same catalogue of decorated bricks as its larger neighbour. This may well be explained by William Willett’s spell at No.9 in 1879. Willett built much of the area (it is known as the Willett Estate after all) so would have been in a perfect position to extend No. 9 just after it was built using exactly the right materials.

Further clues appear to confirm Toad Hall’s origins. On close inspection, the front door opening appears once to have once been a window and a join between the building at the rear really do confirm to me that the building was added as an integral piece of its larger neighbour.

Queen Mary sometimes visited Mrs Cecilia Mary Woodhouse and her husband, Major Robert Woodhouse, who owned No. 9. This is indeed interesting but the key year in my mind is 1951 – the year that Mrs Woodhouse passed away. It was at this time that No. 9 became flats and perhaps the time that Toad Hall became a house in its own right.