Archive for August, 2014

12 Howard Place

Regular readers know that I rarely write about properties that are for sale. But a curious upside-down house, on a unique backland plot overlooking the railway line, has really caught my eye.

Buckingham Place is the busy stretch of bright white terraced Victorian townhouses that runs from Seven Dials to Brighton Station. Behind it is extremely quiet Howard Place that offers elevated views across the railway and the London Road valley. Local architect Alan Cronshaw, whom I have mentioned before in this column, has just finished working on a brand new detached house, fronting Howard Place, at the rear of 51 Buckingham Place.

The plot was previously occupied by a large garage with a driveway so it makes sense that the new house has been designed to ‘read like a coach house’. It has actually been named ‘The Coach House’. Planning permission was some time in the making and the final decision was won on appeal by developer Ian Bunday of Clifton Properties. Levitt Construction was chosen as main contractor.

The reason that I was particularly interested in the project is that I like it a lot despite constantly being torn on the issue of garden/garage developments (though in this case I should point out that there is actually more garden space now than before development commenced). I suppose that the rule should really be that parts of a plot with their own road frontage are fair game but true backland development where there is garden-grabbling (behind Hove Park houses for example) should be discouraged.

In the case of 12 Howard Place (‘The Coach House’!), it pretty much goes without saying that it is delightful inside. The upside-down layout creates incredible views from a 30ft-long open-plan lounge/kitchen upstairs. The house’s two double bedrooms downstairs do not require such views to fulfil their purpose fully after all. Gadgets include a light tube in the bathroom and a light chamber in one of the bedrooms. They really do work.

This isn’t the first time that I have written about Alan’s work. He was the architect who was responsible for combining two flats into one at the top of 58 Marine Parade which has arguably the finest staircase in the city on one of the longest building footprints. He’s currently working on barn conversions in Steyning and near Wadhurst, amongst other things.

12 Howard Place is currently being marketed by Mishon Mackay.

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Dubai

Looking across Dubai, towards the sea, from my 59th floor hotel room, I really do wonder how it all went so wrong.

Back in the 1990s, prior to the commencement of development, there was opportunity, vision and resources. Dubai was a blank canvass and any of a number of different approaches could have been taken.

In many ways, Dubai’s problems can be summed up by a quick glance at Al Yaquob Tower on the city’s main drag, Sheikh Zayed Road. The building is a 69-storey, 328m high, replica of Westminster’s Elizabeth Tower (AKA Big Ben). This building belongs in Las Vegas, and its developer belongs in the real Big Ben’s first floor prison room. Such structures are not constructed in serious places, nor are hotels called ‘Atlantis’ or others claiming to be 7* (there is no such thing).

Dubai doesn’t suffer from crassness alone. Many schoolboy infrastructure errors have been made as well. They built roads everywhere but forgot about pavements. One particular four-lane highway springs up from nowhere and leaves pedestrians stranded on one side. Along similar lines, there are hundreds of miles of coastline but few public beaches. Indeed, the tens of miles of brand new waterfront that were created as part of the famous man-made Palm islands contain not a single public beach. And, to top it all off, there is so little greenery that one wonders how Dubai manages to use more water per head than anywhere else in the world.

In Dubai’s favour, it is home to the tallest man-made structure on the planet, the Burj Khalifa, which offers a sparkling finger to the trash around it. It achieved this record on 1st September 2008 when it surpassed Warsaw Radio Mast at 688m after taking every other record (tallest proper building, highest top floor, etc) on the way. It topped out at 829.8m in 2009 and ended up being named ‘Khalifa’ (‘burj’ means ‘tower’) after the ruler of neighbouring Abu Dhabi which bailed out Dubai earlier in its ongoing financial crisis. If the tacky Dubai Mall (biggest shopping centre in the world, of course) was removed from its base, the finished product would be close to perfection.

Like so many who played Sim City as a child, I would relish the opportunity to build a city from scratch. But with real buildings, using real money, I would think a lot more before clicking that mouse.

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26 Lewes Crescent

I often mention the private tunnel beneath Marine Parade, down to the beach, of Tamworth House, one of the most striking seafront houses in Brighton. The tunnel was uncovered in 2005 by developers Doug Pearch and Barry Grogan. Their latest project is the complete renovation of an entire house on Lewes Crescent.

There are very few Grade I listed houses in Brighton & Hove. Indeed, there are very few Grade I listings generally. The rather short list includes Brunswick Square, Lewes Crescent and Sussex Square where there are just two or three complete houses on each. 26 Lewes Crescent, on the lower east side of one of Brighton’s most loved Regency compositions, is one such house.

Lewes Crescent was designed and built from the 1820s by Charles Augustin Busby and Amon Henry Wilds as part of Thomas Kemp’s grand plan for the area. No. 26 consists of five storeys including a top floor which has been combined with attic areas to create an unexpected abundance of space and light where other houses have low ceilings.

Doug and Barry bought the house in January 2014 following three rounds of sealed bids. It was previously owned by an elderly gentleman who had lived in the building for many years. Over 100 tonnes of rubbish was removed in 1,200 rubble sacks through the surprisingly large back garden.

The new layout includes three bedrooms on the top floor, an immense master suite with huge dressing room and steam room on the second floor, entertaining space on the first floor and a luxury lounge/kitchen on the ground floor. The basement is a flexible area with access to the rear garden which has a number of possible uses including self-contained flat or teenager bedrooms.

One famous resident of the building was the exiled Princess Suvadhana of Siam (now Thailand) who moved to England in 1938. During her time in Brighton, her and her family’s work with the Red Cross and British soldiers was notable.

Roedean School was actually founded as Wimbledon House next-door at 25 Lewes Crescent in 1885. Its rapid expansion meant that more space was needed and it had overflowed into No. 26 by 1887, prior to its move to, well, Roedean in 1898.

I was overwhelmed the quality of the work that has already taken place at 26 Lewes Crescent and will be writing a follow-up as soon as the job is completed.

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Harveys Brewery Tour

A message on Harveys’ own website from their Head Brewer, Miles Jenner, points out that the waiting list for tours of Lewes’ famous brewery has now exceeded two years. I was incredibly lucky, therefore, to receive a personal tour of the place that he quite clearly loves to bits from Mr Jenner himself.

After a spot of lunch with Miles at the John Harvey Tavern nearby, our tour started alongside the red-brick brewery buildings, above the point where water is tapped from deep below ground. ‘AQUA HARVAE’ is the inscription on an attractive octagonal structure dating from 2010 above one of the wells. Getting the fresh water to the top of the brewery’s distinctive Gothic tower is the first step in the brewing process.

Harveys dates back to the late 18th century when John Harvey was a wine and spirit merchant in the Lewes area. After operating as a brewer nearby, he purchased the current site in 1838 for £3,100. Hamish Elder, a seventh generation descendent, is currently Chairman and Joint MD (alongside Miles). An eighth generation relative, Zoë Prescott, works for the company too. Miles joined in 1980 as Third Brewer after graduating in History a few years earlier. He was Head Brewer by 1986 and follows in the footsteps of his father, Anthony Jenner.

I’d love to write more about the tour but space here doesn’t permit it. Essentially once water reaches a large tank at the top of the main tower, gravity takes it through the next steps which include mashing with malted barley (in a ‘mash tun’), boiling with hops, fermenting and barrelling (in steel barrels – wood was withdrawn during the 1970s). The ‘macaroni head’ at the fermenting stage was particularly memorable as was the view inside the empty ‘coppers’. Tuesday-Friday are brewing days with cleaning on Mondays.

There are no doubt pros and cons to running an advanced brewing business from a listed historic building. Such a structure is highly challenging to both modify and maintain. Serious effort was made during the 1980s, for example, to add a tower-like protrusion so that capacity could be doubled. The result is fantastic and the new part looks quite at home on Harveys’ marketing material throughout Sussex, Surrey and Kent.

The effectiveness of the building itself as an advert shouldn’t be underestimated –which is baked up by the lack of signage on the firm’s modern distribution yard nearby.

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