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21 March 2019

Amalgamation and Hove

Judy Middleton 2001 (revised 2019) 

copyright ©  Brighton & Hove Libraries

The former coat of arms of Hove Council granted in 1899 included emblems of Hove, the first quarter shield is dedicated to the original Parish Church of Hove – with the cross of St Andrew, the second quarter shows shackles on a red field denoting the Parish Church of Aldrington - St Leonard the Patron Saint of all prisoners. The lower section of ‘arms’ represent the de Warrene family, the Rape of Lewes and six martlets the emblems of Sussex. The ship, which is ashore on a shingle beach, represents a 16th century French galley and commemorates French attacks on the coast of Hove. The inclusion of a knight’s helmet is of unknown origins. 
Hove’s motto was 'FLOREAT HOVA' - ‘May Hove flourish’

Victorian Times

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove  
c.1850 "View of Hove" by George Hilditch, showing Hove's Old Parish Church of St Andrew's. 
Looking east from this rural view the whole complex of Brunswick Town would have been seen dominating the coastline of Hove.

The history of the amalgamation of Brighton and Hove is a long series of skirmishes. Going back to 1844 there was some talk of the boundaries of Brighton being extended westwards. The Brunswick Square Commissioners resisted the idea, calling it ‘uncalled for interference’.

In 1854 Brighton applied for a Charter of Incorporation, and again it sought to include Hove within its boundaries. Hove resisted.

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove 
Brunswick Terrace, HOVE in 1850, and definitely NOT Brighton as the printer has stated.
(this view of Hove is in complete contrast to Hilditch's rural painting of the same period shown above)

By 1871 building work was going on apace at Hove and this presented some difficulties for the Hove Commissioners because put quite simply, the new area had outstripped the jurisdiction of the local government. The owners of the West Brighton Estate had three choices:

1. to apply for a private Act of Parliament that would allow them to manage their own affairs
2. to unite with Brighton
3. to seek to unite with Hove into one corporate governing body

This is where James Warnes Howlett (1828-1911) proved to be such a staunch ally on Hove’s behalf. He qualified as a solicitor in 1849, and moved to the south coast in 1857, joining a legal firm later known as Attree, Clarke and Howlett. He lived at Brunswick Place. Howlett was strongly in favour of the third option, and he became a member of the committee formed to promote the integration of the whole of Hove parish.

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums
James Warnes Howlett (1828-1911)
Brighton Corporation immediately promoted a Bill for the annexation of the parishes of Hove and Preston. At Hove some £4,000 was subscribed with the aim of fighting this measure. Howlett took a leading part in the subsequent 1873 Parliamentary contest It was stated that the natural drainage of the parish of Preston was divided by Dyke Road – drainage on the east side of the road falling into the valley in which Preston village was situated, while drainage on the west side of Dyke Road dropped away towards Hove. On these grounds, and with the consent of Mr Benett Stanford, the landowner, the Parliamentary Committee divided the Parish of Preston by Dyke Road, giving the east portion to Brighton, and leaving the western portion to be added to Hove at a later date.

In November 1875, without giving any prior notice to Hove, Brighton Corporation suddenly got up another Bill to annexe Hove. This placed Howlet in a delicate situation, and he was obliged to resign his post as solicitor to the Stanford Estate because his views were incompatible with those of the owners. In fact, although the owners had backed him in the 1871 battle, by February 1876 they had entered into an agreement with Brighton not to oppose the Bill. Howlett stated ‘into this position of neutrality I cannot follow them … the prosperity and good government of Hove would suffer severely under union with Brighton.’ Howlett also acted as solicitor to the Hove Commissioners. This time Brighton’s argument was that Brighton Waterworks (ie the Goldstone Waterworks) was situated in West Preston, and by default West Preston ought to belong to Brighton. At that time West Preston, except for the Waterworks, was entirely devoted to agriculture. But with Howlett’s able support, this Bill too was thrown out.

Howlett’s battles on Hove’s behalf was well known throughout the town and he became something of a local hero. A popular jingle of the time ran as follows:

Howlett and Hove
Names almost synonymous
Since Howlett’s sharp move
Made Hove autonomous

copyright © J.Middleton
This marvellous old postcard gives you some idea of the appearance of Waterhouse’s Hove Town Hall
although in reality the bricks were a deeper shade of red.

It was Howlett who was chosen to lay the foundation stone of the splendid Hove Town Hall on 22 May 1880, and he it was who formally opened it on 13 December 1882. The bell in the tower, which sounded the hour and weighed all of 35 cwts, was inscribed Floreat Hova 1881 James Warnes Howlett, chairman. Howlett sat on numerous committees and attended meetings galore. Indeed, it was said of him ‘Mr Howlett was a gentleman who could do twice as much work as any other man in the same amount of time’. He became an Alderman in 1898 and the first Honorary Freeman of Hove in 1911. 

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums
Charles Woolley, Town Clerk of Hove
When he retired as chairman of the Hove Commissioners in 1892, some 300 subscribers raised £570 in order to present him with suitable mementoes. One such gift was a handsome silver candelabra with ivy-leaf decoration, and a long inscription part of which stated in recognition of his able and successful services in the years 1872 and 1873 in the originating and carrying out of the incorporation of the town for local government purposes.

In 1889 an unofficial committee of Hove ratepayers came up with conclusion that amalgamation with Brighton might be a good idea. Naturally, Brighton was delighted at this outcome and Brighton Council stated that such a move would be greatly to the advantage of the two towns. However, Charles Woolley, Town Clerk of Hove, sent back a dusty answer to the effect that the Parliamentary contests of 1873 and 1876 showed the ratepayers and inhabitants of Hove were strongly in favour of independent municipal government.

In 1896 Hove petitioned for a Charter of Incorporation. In October 1896 a Public Inquiry was held at Hove Town Hall and lasted for four days. Not surprisingly, Brighton Council was strongly opposed to such a move, and even went to the trouble of employing a QC to argue their case. When this failed, in April 1897 Brighton Council applied to the Lords of the Council for an opportunity to put their case against the granting of a charter to Hove. But their new grounds for appeal turned out to be merely a re-hash of points that had already been raised in the past. In August 1898 Hove received its Charter of Incorporation. 

Hove’s Expansion

In 1893 Aldrington and Hove were amalgamated.

In 1928 Hove expanded its boundaries to included West Preston – by then known as Preston Rural - and part of the parish of Patcham. At the same time Brighton was expanding its boundaries northwards and eastwards.

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove
Map of Brighton in 1929, Hove on the left of the boundary now includes the open land that was once Preston Rural.

After the Second World War

In 1946 The Boundary Commission was sitting and the Sussex Daily News (22 June 1946) stated the following:

‘Some people are obsessed with the idea that no Commission could logically think of Brighton and Hove as anything but a single unit. They are not only full of the idea but are taking steps to make it appear that Hove is already resigned to this subjugation and that any scheme with that object, from whatever source it emanates, will be welcomed with open arms. Nothing could be further from the facts. Everybody connected with its administration is utterly opposed to Hove being the satellite of any other borough. It is willing to be enlarged but not to be absorbed; and the natural direction of its extension is to the west.’

The Sussex Daily News was of the opinion that perhaps all the parishes west to Lancing could come within Hove’s orbit.

Naturally, Brighton had its own ideas on such a topic. In 1948 it asked for its boundaries to be expanded to include Hove, Portslade, Southwick and Shoreham. Sir Herbert Carden had once dreamed of a Greater Brighton, stretching from the River Adur in the west to the River Ouse in the east.

The Commission did not grant Brighton’s request, but it did recommend that Hove and Portslade should be amalgamated, although nothing happened at this juncture.

Meanwhile, successive Mayors of Hove were doing their best to keep the Hove flag flying independently. In March 1947 Councillor H. C. Andrews declared he ‘would defend Hove to the last beach from the advances of Brighton.’

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove
The Wards of Hove in 1939

In May 1957 Alderman C. A. Clarke stated the disadvantages to Hove, if Brighton and Hove were to be amalgamated, would far outweigh the advantages. He continued ‘it would of course do away with the duplication of heads of departments but I suspect that those who would be left would want even more staff to do the job, and I fear greatly that there might be a loss of efficiency.’

In 1958 Councillor F. H. Nixon re-iterated these sentiments saying he had ‘a great desire to see Hove running her own affairs, and not losing her identity and name’.

Hove’s MP Anthony Marlow QC agreed, and said it had always been one of his principal objectives to help towards Hove’s attainment of county borough status. However, the government’s view was that this was unlikely to be obtained with a population of less than 120,000.


In 1963 the old idea of a greater Brighton was revived. It was proposed that Brighton, Hove Portslade, Southwick and Shoreham could become a county borough. But Hove and Portslade were not keen on the idea, preferring a merger between the two of them if that were to bring county borough status.

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum,
Councillor L. E. Hamilton the former
Chairman of Portslade Urban Council 
from 1964-1965.
Portslade was amalgamated with Hove
 in 1974, he was elected Mayor of Hove
from 1978-79 & 1997-98

In fact Hove and Portslade did amalgamate on 1 April 1974 but unfortunately it did not bring county borough status.

The same date saw the creation of Adur District Council, which comprised the Urban Districts of Southwick and Shoreham plus the parishes of Coombs, Lancing and Sompting. 


In this year a group of people had come to the conclusion that the natural division between West Sussex and East Sussex ought to be the River Adur, and therefore Southwick and Shoreham should come within Hove’s administrative boundary.

On 4 June 1984 this idea was put before the Policies and Resources Committee. If the councillors had agreed, the proposal would have been forwarded to the Boundary Commission. But the committee rejected the idea with Portslade Councillor L. E. Hamilton saying that he objected to land grabbing by Hove Council. 

The 1990s

In 1994 it was stated that local government was about to undergo its biggest overhaul since 1974. The government wanted all services to be delivered by a single authority in each area. This would supplant the two-tier system already in place, by which services were split between East Sussex County Council and local councils. The criterion for the creation of a new authority was to have a population numbering between 150,000 and 250,000.

The Commission arrived in Sussex in March 1994 to hear submissions, and drafted its resolutions in May. In June and July members of the public were invited to make their comments, and by September the Commission was preparing its final report for the Environment Department.

Both Hove and Brighton put forward their plans to run their own services individually with Hove’s campaign being nicknamed Hove Alone. Other options for Hove were a merger with Adur, or amalgamation with Brighton.

By July it was clear that the Commission’s preferred option was for West Sussex to remain much as it was, but their draft recommendation was that Hove should merge with Adur and Worthing. Some Hove councillors welcomed the plan but it was not welcomed by those west of the River Adur. Indeed Worthing Council said it would campaign to preserve the status quo.

On 11 November 1994 the Evening Argus carried a banner heading ‘We Told You So’ with news that Brighton and Hove would become a Unitary Authority while the rest of Sussex remained unaltered. However, the official announcement was not made until a month later. 
Hove’s Fight

By January 1995 Hove Council was vowing to continue its opposition to the proposed merger. It was prepared to spend £10,000 on hiring Parliamentary consultants, and in addition it would engage a professor to compile an independent analysis of the Local Government Commission’s recommendation for Sussex.

A town poll was held, which revealed that no less than three-quarters of Hove’s residents were against amalgamation with Brighton. In addition, Hove councillors voted nineteen to five in favour of opposing the Commission’s recommendation.

In February 1995 Professor Ronald Johnston, vice-chancellor of the University of Essex, with over twenty years of experience in political geography, delivered his report and stated the following:

It would be very undesirable for the Secretary of State to accept this recommendation, since it fails to meet the test of public acceptability, which has been widely promoted as a salient criterion on which proposals for change will be based.

When a delegation from Hove visited Government officials in London to plead their cause, they were treated with indifference, and it soon became abundantly clear that the powers-that-be had made up their minds and had no intention of being budged.

Councillor Jim Marshall said that 77 per cent of Hove people had voted against the merger.

Brighton’s Take-over

copyright © J.Middleton
In 2015 the City Council proposed to move Hove Library to Hove Museum and to sell the historic Hove Library building. Apparently, almost half of the budget allocated to Brighton & Hove City Libraries Service must be expended upon paying off Brighton's Jubilee Library’s debt. Thankfully, because of the Hove resident's 'SAVE HOVE LIBRARY' campaign, Hove Library was not sacrificed to pay off Brighton's Jubilee Library debt.

On 1 April 1997 the County of Brighton and Hove emerged – officially not in East Sussex. Now it is the City of Brighton and Hove.

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum
The historic Hove mayoral chain and badge,
now locked away from public view
Hove residents were quite right to be wary of the merger, and indeed it turned out to be a wholesale take-over. The figures back up this statement. In November 1996 Brighton & Hove Leader revealed that out of 80 top jobs already approved in the top three tiers, only eight had gone to existing Hove staff. Bob Evans, Unison branch chairman, said ‘We’re talking about professional officers here who have served Hove well over many years.’ A case in point was Michael Ray, an extremely well-regarded planning officer who had twenty years of experience, and yet was not appointed to the new authority. Ian Moy-Loader, a former mayor of Hove, said he was annoyed to hear of the shabby treatment of Hove Council’s senior officers, especially since ‘Hove has always been light years ahead of Brighton in general administration and good house-keeping’.

The take-over mentality was revealed in subtle ways. For instance, the Hove mayoral chain and badge – more historic, more beautiful, and more valuable – was never again seen in public. When storms lash the coast and pebbles are thrown onto the promenade, those at Brighton are soon cleared while those at Hove are allowed to linger for weeks. Hove seafront was once regularly maintained but after the take-over, the historic railings and shelters were rarely painted.

copyright © J.Middleton
Then there was the take-over of Hove Town Hall. Hove lost the Great Hall where so many events, meetings and concerts took place, because Brighton wanted to expand its office space, and true to form, there was a large overspend on the conversion. Now Hove has no public meeting space. The Registry Office was run down, and was then referred to as an 'Out Post'.

Many Hove residents believed that the chief reason Brighton wanted to be amalgamated with Hove was to get their hands on Hove’s rates. That has been the story ever since – money from Hove and Portslade vanishes into Brighton’s coffers but does it receive a proportional benefit back?

copyright © Brighton & Hove City Council
Left:- former Hove Council's Coat of Arms from 1899
right:- Brighton & Hove City Council's Coat of Arms from 1997

When Brighton & Hove became a unitary authority and a new coat of arms was designed to represent the joining of Brighton and Hove, the new City coat of arms is predominately ‘Brighton’ with only the French galley and helmet (of unknown origins) included from Hove’s former coat of arms which are not the most logical of emblems to associate with Hove (See the detailed description of Hove's coat of arms at the top of this page).


In this year Brighton and Hove became a city.

copyright © J.Middleton
Hove Plinth showing objects/icons associated with Hove :-  Amber Cup, Queen Victoria, An old-style camera (for the Hove Film Pioneers) , Hove ship (from Hove’s coat of arms) , West Blatchington windmill, Elm tree (to celebrate Hove’s magnificent and rare elm trees), Cricketer, Seagull on beach hut, Skateboarder.

Hove’s Fight-back

Somehow, Hove has managed to hang on to its identity. The following points prove that fortunately Hove has a life of its own:

There are some local councillors of quality and resolve who make sure Hove’s voice is heard.

There are residents who keep a sharp eye on planning matters.

On the seafront there is the innovative Hove Plinth.

Recent surveys have shown that Hove is one of the top places in the kingdom to live.

Many associations have been formed to enhance their local open spaces with volunteers and money-making events to fund improvements. For example, the Friends of Hove Lagoon, the Friends of Stoneham Park, and the Friends of St Ann’s Well Gardens.

Hove Library is still operating from the same building it has occupied for over 110 years.

People who like to eat out are literally spoiled for choice at Hove. The wide variety of restaurants situated along Western Road and Church Road is unique.

The Hove coat-of arms is still to be seen on Hove Town Hall.

copyright © D. Sharp
Brighton's i360 viewing tower (opened in 2016) is a good example of how a proportion of Council Taxes collected from Hove and Portslade residents helped to finance the creation of a Brighton tourist attraction, 
unfortunately funding for community projects does not flow back the other way to anywhere near the same extent.
Portslade residents have been campaigning since 2014 for a Portslade Museum to be established in Portslade's former Edwardian Police Station building, as yet, to no avail.
 (Portslade has the oldest continuously used building in the whole of the City of Brighton & Hove, in the form of St Nicolas Church, which has never fallen into decay or out of use throughout its nearly 900 year history)
Over 100 years ago Mr H. Porter commented in his 'The History of Hove' (1897) 'Perhaps the peruser in bidding au revoir to these pages will be impelled to admit that Hove does possess some interest to have a history of its own, and that the town is quite as worthy of consideration as its overbearing, overcrowded and overgrown rival – Brighton.'

See the saveHOVE website for the latest information and commentary on the environmental, infrastructure, conservation, planning and development issues that effect Hove


Brighton & Hove Leader
Middleton J, Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Evening Argus
Sussex Daily News

Copyright © J.Middleton 2019
page layout by D. Sharp