Archive for June, 2015

Conway Street Bus Depot

Work began on the local bus company’s large depot on Conway Street near Hove Station in 1939. The style of architecture is unmistakable and has many similarities with the King Alfred and 4 Grand Avenue which were both completed that same year.

A monolithic appearance with acres of dark brick and a particular attention to symmetry characterise the buildings of the day. The depot took a year to build and includes offices, workshops and storage areas. There was originally a coachworks on the site but this was closed down in 1969.

Conway Street itself was developed from the 1870s and there were certainly stables there already when a number of local horse bus companies combined in 1884 to become Brighton, Hove & District United Omnibus Company (not quite as catchy as Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company). Pubs, barracks, laundries, blacksmiths and stables created quite an odour and lead to complaints about smells. The walk down the steps from Goldstone Villas was compared to a descent into hell.

Being huge, fairly undeveloped and near a station, the depot is a property developer’s dream or, in the case of Andy Lambor, a nightmare. Andy spent years building up a portfolio in the area that, when combined with the bus depot and several other key plots, could have been the biggest scheme in the city for a number of years. Towers, a cinema, employment space and homes were proposed. It was sadly not to be. The upside is that the bus company is staying in Hove and huge investment is now taking place.

My recent tour, given by the company’s Business Development Manager, Patrick Warner, was something of an eye-opener in that I saw several of the hidden areas that most will never get to see. The most interesting area was the pits below ground where mechanics can work below the buses. It was a job at Huet Car Audio in Hove that brought me down from London all those years ago. Seeing layers of Snap-on tools (the best) in glorious red cabinets did bring back memories – and, indeed, serve as a reminder that these guys take serious pride in their work. Another fascinating spot is the control room which shows the locations of every moving bus in the city.

On that Friday afternoon, with a crash on the A27 and the start of half-term, ‘chaotic’ was something of an understatement.



White Render

Visitors to Brighton & Hove may be forgiven for thinking that we haven’t yet had a chance to tidy up after last month’s Artists Open Houses event.

Modern art around the city has been imaginatively decorated since around the year 2000 by seagulls, rusting balconies, and blocked hoppers. Promoted on Grand Designs and by idealistic planning officers and over-optimistic developers, once plain facades, originally blank canvasses, could easily be mistaken for exhibits in the Tate Modern.

Whether it be the mansions of Tongdean and Withdean, or new homes in little industrial pockets in built-up areas, properties continue to receive the white render treatment. This goes for renovation, conversion and new-builds. In most cases, white render is highly inappropriate. Many a decent house in Tongdean and Withdean has been spoilt in fact by acres of added render that is already showing signs of deterioration. The so-called “Jurys Inn” by Brighton Station is the worst example in the city.

The 1980s and 90s saw a resurgence of brick as the building material of choice. This may well have been in response to the concrete of the 1960s and 70s. Accordingly, the 2000s saw, and the current decade continues to see, white render as the standard finish – a seemingly modern answer to the pastiche of the previous two decades.

In the right environment, white render is bright and clean. The problem is that our often harsh weather is not conducive to such an environment. Whereas brick, stone, glass, slate and zinc require little maintenance, white render requires painting every five years. Not all of us have the time, money or inclination to do this.

The Regency period saw render promoted as a direct response to the cost and availability of stone. However, their product was far superior and the building owners far wealthier.