by Robert Nemeth
I was recently fascinated to see the substantial ground floor flat at 53 Marine Parade in Kemp Town – a five-storey Regency townhouse with a footprint several times that of its neighbours.
The house was built during the 1810s, not long before the Chain Pier was built nearby in 1823. In 1865, it became the home of Captain Henry Hill, a prolific collector of French and English contemporary art who had amassed a collection of over 400 canvasses by the time of his death in 1882. His collection included paintings by Degas, Prinsep, Frank Holl and Frederick Walker.
There are just a handful of seafront townhouses in Brighton & Hove that dwarf their already large neighbours. Examples include 58 Marine Parade, just a block away, with its atrium staircase and ballroom, and 26 Brunswick Terrace in Hove with its rooftop synagogue and intimidating rear protrusion.
I’m not sure if Hill picked the building for pre-existing top-lit gallery spaces at the rear, or if he had them built. Either way, the four former gallery spaces are mind-blowing; especially the room that is today the master bedroom. As the building is unexpectedly deep, the room’s existence is a surprise. A lounge, kitchen, courtyard, snug, and sky-lit service area must be passed to reach it. High ceilings and undecorated walls make for quite an atmosphere – and a whopping skylight more than makes up for a lack of windows.
At one point, the building served as a nursing home and was later home to squatters who inevitably caused damage. It was presumably converted into flats towards the end of the 20th century. The refurbishment of the ground floor by owner Lucy Goodman was actually covered on Channel 4 by Kirsty Allsop. Lucy has decided to sell and is now marketing the property with Brand Vaughan.