81/81a Shirley Street

I have maintained in the past that Hove has the finest mews roads in the country – and they come in all shapes and sizes as I spotted in a recent Austin Gray auction catalogue.

We all know Poets’ Corner and, as has been adopted more recently by local estate agents, the nearby Artists’ Corner. But the area between Sackville Road, Goldstone Villas, Clarendon Villas and the railway has yet to be named. It appears to have once been called the “Hove Drove Estate”, which makes sense as Sackville Road was once called Hove Drove (a drove was a road along which sheep were walked). This vibrant spot contains a number of inconspicuous entrances, behind which there are totally hidden buildings and miniature streets.

The Austin Gray property, which is still for sale, is an entire mini-mews that includes, and is accessed through, a house that fronts Shirley Street. The road gets its name from the Shirley family who once lived at Preston Manor, and who owned land in Preston and Hove that became the Stanford Estate (which included the Avenues). It was the Stanford family that sold the land to developer George Gallard (the “George” in “George Street”) in 1872. Shirley Street, and the rest of the Hove Drove Estate, were developed in the 1870s.

Each of the roads in the area is made up of row upon row of terraced houses. Yet every now and then there is an archway in the terrace; wide enough to accommodate a car (or, more to the point, a horse and carriage). Some lead to a simple outbuilding behind. In the case of 81 Shirley Street, an archway leads through to 81a which consists of four completely derelict workshops/offices.

Ceilings are collapsing, stairs are cracking and bags of post are piling up. Previous tenants appear to have been artists and a photographer. The enclosed structures are crying out to be brought to life again. If only the right buyer would come forward to propose something suitable for this potential oasis.

The obvious mews in Hove are Cambridge Grove, Wilbury Grove and those between the Avenues. In, Brighton, Kemp Town is full of them. But there are other hidden spots around the city. I can think of at least four examples in the Fiveways area – one of which probably began as a market garden, and now contains one of the city’s finest courtyard gardens.

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