Archive for February, 2013

65 Marine Parade

A photograph from the 1870s shows numbers 65 and 66 Marine Parade as two separate slim townhouses. They are long gone.

A large single dwelling replaced the two of them, and a house on Wyndham Street behind, in 1932. Bright stucco made way for red bricks in an area that is nationally-renowned for its white and cream facades. I was intrigued to look around this most unique building.

The owners, Bruce Gibson and Nasir Badshah, completed a major renovation of the building around five years ago that included restoration and reinvention in equal measures. The clay-tiled roof, and its ornate terracotta finials, are new. The double-glazed sash windows (which replaced inappropriate aluminium replacements) and their Bath Stone sills are new. The guttering (which has been uprated to zinc) and downpipes are new. A whole new house has even been added to the rear, fronting onto Wyndham Street, which works well as it fills what was an unwelcome gap. The generous front garden is where the sun is anyway.

The front door is on the side of the building and is reached via a short flight of terrazzo steps with chequered inserts (similar to those throughout the Sussex Masonic Centre of 1928 on Queen’s Road). The layout is quirky as the rooms essentially wrap around an open central staircase. The ground and first floors lend themselves well to entertaining spaces. There is even a fully-ventilated smoking room. The second floor has bedrooms and an office. Best of all is the immense basement which features a massive bedroom, along with a luxurious travertine-clad sauna and hot tub complex.

The house was the residence of Oliver Dalton who owned the Palace Pier and who was the namesake of Dalton’s Bastion which is where the Brighton Wheel is located. This is rather fitting as the eye is immediately drawn towards both the Pier and Wheel from most of the windows on the front and side of the building.

Solid oak beams, floral fireplaces and mouldings, and medieval-style door furniture suggest Arts & Crafts as the building’s predominant style. Yet geometric brick patterns, a classically-inspired engaged portico with scrolled pediment and pilasters, and an elegant iron balcony suggest Art Deco. Single-pane sashes, of which this building has many, are famously Victorian.

65 Marine Parade is a real mix of styles and it all adds up to one of the finest homes in Brighton & Hove.

2 Portland Place

The grubby façade of 2 Portland Place in Brighton gives absolutely the wrong impression as to its recent history. The building is not forgotten, or unloved. Its owner, John Atkins, simply loves it too much.

John began meticulously restoring the Grade II listed townhouse in 2004, not long after he took on the grand property from his mother. He was in fact born on the first floor. Eleven skips were filled – eight for the old plaster alone – to bring the building back to the bare bones so that an incredible restoration could commence. But the job though meticulous, has simply dragged on. And John loves the place too much to cut corners. He is now selling.

Portland Place, just off the Kemp Town seafront, was built in 1824-28 on land that was owned by Major Villeroy Russell. The composition was designed by the prolific local architect Charles Busby. It consists of two opposing five-storey terraces that are characterised by large Corinthian pilasters with yellow-brick inserts. Major Russell never quite finished his dream home either sadly. It was to be a massive mansion facing the sea at the top of Portland Place but it burnt down in 1825, before it could be completed.

There are all sorts of fascinating things to see when buildings are naked. The workings are exposed and offer the same sort of attraction as an explanation of a magic trick. The routes of the brass wires of a forgotten servants’ bell system are laid bare. An internal lead-lined gulley, running from the parapet at the front to a downpipe at the back, through the loft, is currently exposed. An extensive wooden framework, connected to the main chimney breast on the first floor, clearly exists just to make the main fireplace look symmetrical.

The slate roof of the building has been replaced, as have its sash windows. My favourite feature is actually a two-storey high arched window at the rear of the building that serves both the first and second floors. Its lower section consists of twelve panes of glass; its arched top consists of thirteen. I have never seen such a tall window in a building of this size.

It is rare to find a Regency townhouse that has not been converted into flats, and rarer still to find one for sale. 2 Portland Place is now on the market with Mishon Welton for around £1 million.

183 King’s Road Arches

My first memory of the arches beneath King’s Road on the Brighton seafront was as a student. The principal nightclubs that were there back then were the Zap, the Beach and the Honey Club. I was more interested though in how these different subterranean spaces linked together rather than in all that weird dancing stuff.

I’m obviously too old now to go clubbing but I do regularly visit Brighton Fishing Museum. When I walk along the promenade, I can’t help but glance at the various entrances – some large, some tiny – that lead to all sorts of weird and wonderful spaces beneath the seafront road. I was delighted, therefore, to be offered a tour of 183 King’s Road Arches, currently Katz, by Mike and Diana Palmer who leased it from Brighton & Hove City Council just before Christmas.

I know the interior of the Fishing Museum fairly well as my godfather used to work there. But there is no rule on arch layouts. They are pretty much all different. This is linked to the fact that the arches were actually built to hold the road up above – and the road was built in several stages.

King’s Road was first laid out in 1822. Arches were added each time that it was widened until the project was completed in 1886. This is evidenced by four distinct sections within the Palmers’ arch, and backed up by a carving of the number 44 – presumably an old door number – on the wall of the second section from the front.

The back of this particularly long arch features a door-sized alcove. I was so curious about its purpose that I returned with my 30m tape measure to see exactly where it was in relation to the road above. Diana and I measured the arch internally as 26.69m. We went straight up to the road above and waited for a gap in the traffic to measure the distance from the railings on the promenade to the buildings opposite. The reading was 26.80m. It is fascinating to think that the building in question, now home to The Ocean, was once directly connected to the beach through its basement. I wonder why the hole was filled in.

Mike and Diana are currently working like crazy to complete the refurbishment of their cavernous arch. If all goes to plan, Lucky Beach will be opening there at the end of February.