Hidden House, Hove

A tall wall with a gate on a service road in Hove entirely obscures an upside-down two-storey house.

I do love a hidden house. One example is 1a Whichelo Place in Hanover, an eco-home that is surrounded by something like 30 other houses – but it can’t be seen from the street. The front door of another, 33a Brunswick Square in Brunswick Town, can easily be seen by passers-by. But that’s all that can be seen. The rest, including all of its windows, is tucked away behind.

The subterranean fascinates me too. I wrote about the vaults of the Chapel Royal on North Street in Brighton years back. It was to become a bar but still sits empty, I think. Another example, the cellars of the old Brighton Steam Brewery, survives beneath Church Road and Osborne Villas in Cliftonville. The signs are there if you know where to look.

Last year sometime, two friends showed me their home, which is both hidden…and subterranean. The aforementioned gate leads into a small yard and towards a front door. Behind the door is a bright kitchen/lounge area. A spiral staircase leads downstairs to a large lower floor that extends beneath the whole house. Light floods in through a courtyard of aluminium windows. I like it that nobody knows that the house is there; let alone that it is two-storey and covered in glass and metal.

The history of the site is a little murky but, taking an educated guess, the story begins with a Victorian three-storey terraced house on a main road with a rear garden. The plot is level but the land around it rises steeply which means that the road at the rear is approximately one storey above the road at the front. The building presumably became offices at some point and a ground floor extension was built over the entire rear garden.

The whole site was bought in 2003 from solicitors Tisdall Nelson Nari & Co by a local property developer called Steven Sparks who modified an existing planning approval to create a new hidden house at the rear. I do know that Sparks changed the design from neo-Georgian to ultra-modern. Finding this out though took so long that my two friends moved ages ago.

I have yet to chat properly with the current residents – hence not mentioning its precise location. I’ll be impressed if anyone else knows where it is.

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