Archive for October, 2010

15 Lloyd Close

Two architects meant twice the amount of eco features on the Hove Park abode of husband and wife team Mark Pellant and Abi Torr, both from Koru Architects, who are now close to completing their new environmentally friendly family home.

Oak cladding and a distinctive zinc roof with matching zinc drainpipes only hint at the building’s sustainable credentials. There is much more hidden away. Features include piled foundations, a timber frame, lime render and a giant rainwater tank beneath the rear patio. An array of solar panels – 12 photovoltaic, 3 hot water – forms a large portion of the roof at the back of the building.

The split-level interior is defined by interesting spaces, quality joinery and an abundance of light. The use of shadow gaps instead of architraves throughout is a particularly nice touch and there are no skirting boards. The house feels much larger than it first appears and there are in fact three bedrooms and one large study upstairs. The clever use of the roof space may well help in this regard – as do acres of bright white walls.

Mark and Abi bought the plot around four years ago which consisted of a large portion of the garden of a house on Shirley Road. As the plot has a proper frontage on Lloyd Close, I can just about relax my usual strict views on back garden development as it feels like it was meant to be. Funnily enough, its own garden (by Incredible Gardens) is well on its way to becoming a highlight in its own right. Evergreen magnolia, silver birch, fig, apple, pear and plum trees have already been planted and a hole for a pond has already been dug.

Due to our draconian approach to sustainable design and good architecture generally in this country, this remarkable structure may well be considered futuristic for many years to come. But four huge York stone slabs from an old mill leading from the pavement to the front door remind us that good ideas are timeless – and that’s why one day, in the not too distant future I hope, many more people will warm (in both senses of the word) to the idea of sustainability.

For those interested in making sensible changes to their homes, several local sustainable refurbishment projects will be showcased on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st October as part of Energy Saving Week. See www.ecoopenhouses.org for details.


Patcham Down Indian Forces Cremation Memorial

Having only ever walked up to the Chattri Memorial in the past, I was ready for a hike through the mud in my suit in order to be present at the inauguration of the new Patcham Down Indian Forces Cremation Memorial.

The Chattri itself was erected as a memorial to the Indian soldiers who died in Brighton during the First World War. It is situated on Holt Hill, about one mile to the north of Patcham, and was designed by an Indian student staying in London, E. C. Henriques, under the supervision of Sir Samuel Jacob. Sicilian marble was used as the principal building material.

I was wondering how the High Commissioner of India, Lord Lieutenant of Sussex, High Sheriff of East Sussex, Mayor of Brighton & Hove, Member of Parliament for Hove and the many other local dignitaries who were scheduled to attend would actually get there. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a track is opened up across the muddy fields for such occasions – so suits stayed spotless.

Sunday 26th September 2010 was the date of the inauguration of the new memorial, a Portland stone screen wall bearing the inscription  “IN HONOUR OF THESE SOLDIERS OF THE INDIAN ARMY WHOSE MORTAL REMAINS WERE COMMITTED TO FIRE”. The 53 Hindu and Sikh soldiers who died in Brighton were cremated on a ghat (funeral pyre) on the site and their names are all recorded on the new memorial.

The project brought together the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Brighton & Hove City Council and the Chattri Memorial Group whose dedicated Chairman, Davinder Dhillon, has been campaigning for this fitting reminder for around ten years. I have no doubt that it was worth the wait.

At the ceremony, I met Kevin Bacon, Curator of Photographs at the Royal Pavilion, who told me about the Indian Military Hospital gallery which is currently in place upstairs at the Pavilion. Paintings and photographs tell the story of the Indian soldiers who were wounded on the Western Front and then treated at the Pavilion, Dome and Corn Exchange. The Royal Pavilion is always worth a visit but this exhibition made my latest outing there all the more relevant.

An annual remembrance service is held at the Chattri Memorial and, sadly, I have yet to attend. Sunday 12th June 2011 is firmly in my diary though and I shall certainly be there to pay my respects.


French Reformed Church

I introduced my recent column on 12 Richmond Terrace as the former residence of the owners of ‘one of Brighton’s best homes’.

The home in question was the French Reformed Church, just off the seafront on Queensbury Mews between the Metropole Hotel and Regency Square. It was was completed in 1887, three years before the Metropole. Haydn Hughes and his partner bought the building in May 2009 and I’ve been aware of their meticulous renovation work on the building for some time, but I only recently found out about the building’s time capsule.

A month or so back, three crumbling Portland stone tablets lined the west side of the building; their inscriptions unclear. Chris Pellett from Albourne Stone was responsible for their restoration which involved carefully slicing off and replacing the first 3” of stone on the three tablets (each of which turned out to be 12” thick!).

The middle tablet encompassed the time capsule which was unearthed during the works. It turned out to be a glass jar containing a number of items including the congregation’s 1886 annual report, some headed notepaper, a publicity leaflet, a silver shilling from 1887 and a copy of the Sussex Daily News. Haydn replaced the capsule in its rightful spot after adding a few new photographs for whoever next uncovers it.

The stone tablets now quite clearly mention five individuals who played some part in the construction of the church such as Mrs E. Hayes who raised funds for the building work and J. G. Gibbins who was the architect.

The French Reformed Church can trace its origins back to Deryck Carver, a French-speaking Flemish man who sought refuge in Brighton in 1548. He was burnt at the stake in 1555 for his Calvinist beliefs.

The church was originally bordered by Mr Clark’s stable and Mr Mocatto’s stable. It is now completely detached with a whole block to itself. It is special for many other reasons though including its unique history, excellent condition and enviable location. English Heritage seems to share that view and is in the process of assessing the building for listing. Grade II status seems to be the most likely outcome.

Whilst listed status does bring with it hassle in the form of, well, more forms to fill out, it also is something to be proud of. And proud of their work the owners of this fine structure should be.


St Michael’s Annual Lecture

Last year’s snow provided the Friends of St. Michael’s with an excuse to have two launch events after their first got cancelled following one particularly bad downpour. As one of the few who traipsed up Clifton Hill to brave the blizzard, I was treated to a personal tour of the Grade I Listed church.

It’s no secret that St. Michael’s is special. Indeed, it made it into the top one hundred in England’s Thousand Best Churches by Simon Jenkins. It’s no secret either that repairs to churches are expensive and that’s why I particularly welcome the news that a measured campaign is underway to raise the funds which are quite clearly needed to maintain this gem.

I wish that I could have attended a recent talk at the church given by John Wells-Thorpe OBE (the architect of Hove Town Hall) but I certainly will not be missing the Friends’ annual lecture. It is due to be held at St. Michael’s on Saturday 9th October. The afternoon begins with a concert at 1:15 followed by a talk on ‘Oxford and the Pre-Raphaelites’ at 2:45 by Dr Jon Whiteley from the Ashmolean Museum. The very reasonable entrance fee of £7 includes cream tea.

The Pre-Raphaelites and their associates are particularly relevant in the case of St. Michael’s as William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Ford Madox-Brown, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and others provided a number of the building’s delightful decorative elements. The painted paper murals, thought to have been created by local artists, are in need of urgent repair so will be the focus of the Friends’ first restoration project. They seem as fragile as they are uplifting, making swift action all the more important.

St. Michael’s began as a much smaller church in 1860. Indeed, the original structure today serves as the south aisle of large 1893 addition. Different architects, George Frederick Bodley and William Burges respectively, were responsible for each section. Externally, they share the common features of red bricks, stone dressings, huge gables and circular windows. The interior is a joy to behold and includes the best views of the building’s famous stained glass, which of course vary throughout the day.

The Friends of St. Michael’s have a new website, www.friendsofsaintmichaels.co.uk, which includes a growing collection of photographs of this rather special church and details of forthcoming events. The lecture on Saturday 9th October promises to be a real cracker – snow permitting.