Archive for June, 2012

Goldstone House

Boundary divisions between the gardens of post-war houses usually consist of nothing more than wooden fences. I was a little surprised therefore when regular reader Malcolm Pither showed me the gardens of Goldstone Lane.

Goldstone Lane is the road that runs directly to the west of the old Goldstone Football Ground (now the Goldstone Retail Park) in Hove. The area was once home to Goldstone Farm that was leased by John Jackson Clark from 1877. The word ‘Goldstone’ refers to the large rock, thought to have been a Druidic altar, that is displayed in Hove Park. Clark is said to have helped to locate it in 1900, years after its burial by another farmer who was sick of sightseers. Its current location was assured when Hove Park opened in 1906.

The farmhouse was built in around 1872 after the previous building was removed to make way Wilbury Road. The building, later known as Goldstone House, was a symmetrical brick-built double-fronted mansion which was characterised by generous sash windows with voussoir lintels. It was accessed from Goldstone Lane but situation on land that is now occupied by a series of low bungalows on Fonthill Road. Its elevated position afforded views across the farm and, in particular, the adjacent Goldstone Meadow.

1901 is a significant date for local football fans as it was the year that Clark leased Goldstone Meadow to Hove FC. One stipulation was that views from Goldstone House over the new ground had to be retained, which allowed him to watch matches. It wasn’t long before the newly-founded Brighton & Hove Albion called the Goldstone home as well.

Goldstone House was served by a terracotta wall, similar to that which graces the Metropole Hotel in Brighton. The house was demolished in 1955 but the wall survives. Despite the removal of its steps, other sections are in perfect condition, as can be seen from the gardens of Nos. 33 and 35 Goldstone Lane. On close inspection, the wall is perhaps finer than the Metropole’s. After all, its plinth is more pronounced, its fluted balusters more attractive, and its shade of orange more alive.

Although Clark did not build Goldstone House, he may well have added the wall. As a farmer, baker, builder, councillor, magistrate, freemason and friend of the Albion, Clark was a great man. What is perhaps the only physical reminder of his time with us now gathers ivy.


Threshold Architecture Hub

The car park of myhotel (not my lower-case lettering) in Brighton’s North Laine is an unlikely location for an architecture-themed gallery. But its use is exactly in line with the subject of the event, Threshold, which will run from 20th-24th June. For my sins, I will be talking about housing on Saturday 23rd and my friend Amy Smith will be talking terracotta on the Sunday.

Threshold is being held to coincide with the RIBA’s Love Architecture Festival 2012 to demonstrate “how architects and associated creative professionals can adapt, reuse, transform and re-invent the spaces around us”. As residents of Brighton & Hove, each of us is all too aware of the constraints of our land- and sea-locked city.

Several local architectural practices that I am fond of already are either organising or taking part in the event. The list of organisers includes Chalk Architecture, a firm that I have written about several times, most recently for award-winning work on the Wilbury Road branch of Small Batch Coffee. Also involved is a:b:i:r architects (their lower-case lettering and colons – I can’t keep up), whose work for Brighton Housing Trust on Oriental Place was the topic of a recent column. Jim Stephenson, the popular architectural photographer, Richard Wolfstrome, an incredibly passionate and versatile designer, and Push Studios, are all helping out too. Cara Courage is curator.

Whilst I don’t want to give too much away, as the goal is ultimately to attract visitors, I am certainly intrigued to see just what Paul Nicholson at Chalk will be doing with the caravan that he has just purchased for £100.

As I write, my own 30-minute talk on housing is close to completion. After playing around with various ideas, we settled on Building an image: why the RIBA should accommodate a poster boy as a title. I am going to be giving my thoughts on why the public simply do not look forward to development, and why architects need to find a Jamie Oliver from amongst themselves – rather than let Kevin McCloud from Grand Designs do all of the work.

If you want to come to Threshold, check out www.thresholdarchitecturehub.com for details of the various exhibits and talks. To hear my ideas on housing, just turn up at the car park of myhotel on Jubilee Street in Brighton at 2:30pm (for a 3pm start) on Saturday 23rd June. No tickets – or capital letters – are required.


4 Grand Avenue

“Season ticket rates to London are £54 12s. per annum first class and £39 13s. third class.” Things were certainly different in 1939.

4 Grand Avenue is the monolithic sheer-faced block on Hove’s widest road. Its 1930s features are unmistakable and, like Furze Croft and Courtenay Gate nearby, it would make an ideal home for a certain Monsieur Poirot. Indeed, the original brochure for the block that I borrowed from resident expert David Hull is entitled “Particulars of a refined new building of 52 Family and Bachelor Flats in a distinguished position”. One of the balconied bachelor flats would have suited Poirot perfectly.

Like the King Alfred leisure centre on the Hove seafront, 4 Grand Avenue was built in 1939. They share a similar dark brown brick though the King Alfred’s Art Deco details are less pronounced. 4 Grand Avenue consists of ten storeys, including the basement which once housed a restaurant. As the brochure states, “On no floor are there more than six flats, and as the building is constructed in two wings, each with its own electric lift, there is complete absence of corridors with the service of one lift for three flats per floor”.

It is interesting to note that the brochure mentions “fire-resisting construction”. On the basis that the brochure was produced just before the outbreak of war, I wonder if the building was later promoted as “bomb-proof”. Oher buildings of the period, such as the Dorchester Hotel in London, were described as such on account of their reinforced structures.

4 Grand Avenue replaced three large houses that dated from around 1880. They were of similar appearance to the neighbouring buildings, Nos, 2 and 6, which survived. No. 4, now a Grade II listed building, has been modified little over the years though several new flats have been squeezed in here and there. The grand foyer features fluted pillars and parquet flooring. Tradesmen can serve the building by using dedicated stairways and lifts at the rear (of which only one is in operation at present).

Now that the residents are buying a share of the freehold, I would certainly be keen to purchase a flat there for myself. In fact, Hove estate agents Nash Watson are currently marketing the eighth floor penthouse on the south-west corner for £600,000. If my season ticket were to return to the aforementioned 1939 rate, I would be more than tempted.


Central United Reformed Church

I used to write churches off as all being much of a muchness. But I have come to love writing about them for the imparted knowledge that is more often than not available as a direct result of continuous usage over long periods of time by individuals, or even several generations of the same family.

The Central United Reformed Church in Hove is one such example where the same family has been involved for nearly 150 years. Following an introduction by my friend Sheena Ireland, I had a good chat with Keren Hancox (whose husband Colin showed me around the Hove Park Railway recently). Keren has used the church since birth but her great-grandfather, the Reverend Ambrose Spong, was Minister from 1872 until 1908.

The first church building on the site, on the west corner of Blatchington Road and Ventnor Villas, was constructed as a small Sunday School in 1861. Its status was formalised when the Cliftonville Congregational Church was made official in 1863. Ventnor Hall followed in 1865 and then the church itself in 1870.

The United Reformed Church was formed in 1972 when the Congregational Church merged with the Presbyterian Church at national level. Locally, this led to a ballot being held to decide which of two sites should be kept which proved in favour of the Cliftonville. At this time, a whole new level for various facilities was created by raising the floor of the church. The space is now lower but it works well, and reminded me of the intimate Meeting House at Sussex University.

A hatch in the entranceway of the church was begging to be lifted but revealed nothing more than a hole that simply served as a lift motor room. The space beneath Ventnor Hall, accessed via a steep stairway, turned out to be much more exciting – yet its generous chambers raised more questions than they answered.

Eight separate chambers have had holes knocked between them to create one large basement under Ventnor Hall. But why weren’t they connected originally? Door-sized indentations on the east side of each suggest a series of exterior openings. What for though? The basement did at least contain a door marked ‘3’ which confirms that a room with a missing door upstairs was the old third classroom.

A series of upgrades to the buildings will shortly be taking place to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the church in 2013.