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13 August 2018

Grand Avenue, Hove.

Judy Middleton 2002 (revised 2018) 

copyright © J.Middleton
From left to right these buildings are Warnham Court, Victoria Court, and 15 Grand Avenue. 


Grand Avenue was designed as the central space of the ambitious development proposed by the West Brighton Estate Company with First and Second Avenues to the east and Third and Fourth Avenues to the west. Grand Avenue was built on land formerly part of the Stanford Estate that stretched from Preston Manor to the coast road at Hove (for additional information, see under First Avenue.) The seafront lawns formed part of the scheme, and were intended for the use of estate residents.

copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
The broad width of Grand Avenue can be appreciated in this c1917 postcard

Grand Avenue is the broadest street in Hove, measuring 70 ft from kerb to kerb. The land had no building line from previous housing on the site and so the company could afford to be generous with the allocation of space. The broadness also points to confidence in their ambitious scheme but it seems the developers might have missed the boat with regard to Grand Avenue. There have always been fluctuations in the strategy of house-building and Grand Avenue, despite its upmarket name, hit a downward curve. In May 1900 the company was obliged to admit ‘Grand Avenue has not proved to be a business success owing to the absence of demand for high-class residences.’

copyright © J.Middleton 
A nostalgic view of the original houses on the west side, now long gone.


Building work at Grand Avenue was sporadic, starting off in 1877 when the Hove Commissioners gave planning approval for the designs of James Ockenden, junior, for three houses, then there was a pause until 1892 when the well-known builder John Thomas Chappell proposed erecting a house on the west side, while in 1900 Hove Council gave approval to plans drawn up by A.F. Faulkner on behalf of W. William Willett. Today, a house built under the auspices of William Willett is a guarantee of a well-built residence and indeed a Willett-built house is an accolade.
copyright © J.Middleton  
This impressive statue of Queen Victoria 
designed by Thomas Brock was unveiled in 1901

As a result of this drawn-out time-line, there was no overall design, as had been the case with First and Second Avenues. Some houses in Grand Avenue were built using white/yellow brick popular in other parts of the estate, while others were built in red brick.

Another indication of slow progress was the time it took before the entire road was classed as a public highway. In 1894 one part was declared a public highway, another stretch of road followed in 1899 with the last parts completed in 1902 and 1903.

Up until 1893 the company intended to make a private road on the west side but in February of that year, they abandoned the plan. Hove Commissioners gave permission for houses to be built, provided they kept to a building line compatible with the east face of 1 King’s Gardens, and the east face of the south wing of Grand Avenue Mansions. By 1899 only one house had been erected on the west side.

Eventually, Grand Avenue did begin to live up to its title, and there were several substantial residences with equally grand residents. No doubt the ambience was enhanced by the erection in 1901 of the magnificent bronze statue of Queen Victoria at the south end. This statue was intended to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee but by the time it was ready, Queen Victoria had died at Osborne House. The unveiling of the statue was necessarily a somewhat muted affair in order to respect the memory of the late sovereign.

Some of the houses in Grand Avenue could boast of a third tap in their bath-tub so residents might enjoy a sea-water bath in the privacy of their own home. To provide this amenity, there were tanks under the lawns opposite Grand Avenue capable of holding 29,000 gallons of sea-water, which was drawn from the sea at high tide. The Easton & Anderson pump was installed in its underground chamber in 1872 and it did not cease pumping until 1940 when the last man to supervise the pump was Mr C.S. Goodwin. It is said that the equipment remains in situ.

The large block of flats on the east side of Grand Avenue was erected in 1939 and it was considered one of the best mansion blocks in town with spacious rooms. For instance, a lounge in a first-floor flat measured more than 19 feet by 12 feet and in October 1990 this flat was up for sale at £175,000.

Second World War

On 4 September 1940 five high-explosive bombs and one unexploded bomb fell on Grand Avenue, Salisbury Road and the Sussex County Cricket Ground. Nobody was killed at the time, but ten days later three soldiers were killed when the UXB exploded.

In 1940 and 1941 Mr J. Ellman Brown of Shoreham, on behalf of the Admiralty, requisitioned properties in Grand Avenue. Some of them, plus the Princes Hotel, became the wartime establishment of HMS Lizard, a combined operations holding and operational base. 

  copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
1914 advert for the Princes Hotel from the Brighton Season Magazine

This part of Hove became virtually a no-go area for residents and indeed the rolls of barbed wire, guarded by military personnel, blocked off the junction with Church Road. The seafront became a restricted area with the beaches mined and gun emplacements on the promenade. No maintenance work on beach or groynes could be carried for the duration and by the time peace was declared, Hove’s seafront was a pretty miserable sight.

In November 1945, nearly all the requisitioned buildings were restored to their owners, with compensation being paid eventually.

House Notes

Number 1 – Sir George Donaldson (1848-1925) occupied this house from around 1916 until his death. He was born on 25 May 1848 of Scottish parentage and it was remarked that he received a much better education ‘than used to fall to the lot of art dealers in England’. He travelled a great deal in northern Europe and built up a solid knowledge of art history. By the 1890s every connoisseur knew his gallery in New Bond Street, London. He once sold a large Velasquez for £30,000.

Donaldson was also a great lover of music, his favourite instrument being the violin. He amassed musical instruments with historical associations for a period of thirty years and in 1894 presented the entire collection to the Royal College of Music, and it became known as the Donaldson Museum. His treasures included the following:
An upright spinet made in northern Italy in the 15th century – said to be the oldest keyboard instrument in existence.
A clavicembalo (dated 1531)
A pair of ivory and ebony mandolins (belonging to the last Doge of Venice)
A tortoiseshell guitar (played by David Rizzio before Mary, Queen of Scots)
A guitar (once belonging to Louis XV when he was Dauphin)
A chitarrone (the property of Titian, and latterly belonging to Rossini)
The collection also included manuscripts by Mozart and Rousseau, and Handel’s gold-enamelled portrait ring.
Donaldson was a Fellow of the Royal College of Music, and a director of the Royal Academy of Music to which he made a large loan for the construction of a new building in Marylebone Road.
In 1900 Donaldson presented a collection of furniture to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Donaldson was once heard to say that Brighton and Hove had no equal in Europe, and as a mark of respect in 1917 he donated a beautiful copy of Canova’s Dancing Girl and it was installed in the entrance hall of Hove Town Hall.
In 1872 he married Alice, daughter of John Stronach of Edinburgh, and there were three sons and four daughters of the marriage.

Donaldson had another property at 2 Eastern Terrace, Brighton, and it seems that he used the Grand Avenue house as his personal museum, indeed the 1919 Directory identified the house as Sir George Donaldson’s Museum, caretaker Alfred Sharpe. By 1921 his sole address was at Grand Avenue. The interior was glimpsed in the Brighton Herald (22 December 1917) when Donaldson threw the house open to the public for an entrance fee of 2/6d, all proceeds going to the Red Cross. The reporter thought the house had ‘perhaps the most wonderful collection pf beautiful and historic furniture’ in the country. He enthused about the English Room where Donaldson could:

‘tell you how the dark oaken floor came from an ancient building, the linen panel walls from another, the great carved rafters from another; how the magnificent Elizabethan fire-place, richly wrought with cunning carving, with a fireplace where a sheep might be roasted whole, came from a certain ancient hostelry. The gorgeous gilded chandelier, hanging like an eternal sunshine against the rich darkness of old oak, can remember the days when Englishmen fought Englishmen in the War of the Roses. Above the oak panelling which surrounds the room is a seven-ft frieze of Jacobean needlework where hundreds of quaint figures and animals sport amid a tangle of floral decoration. On the walls are pictures of haughty ladies, very stiff with their gold brocade collars […] The great oriel-like window with its panelling of stained glass is quite in the Elizabethan tradition.’

There were displays too of letters and documents bearing the handwriting of Mary, Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, James I, Charles I, William IV, Queen Anne, Oliver Cromwell, Dr Johnson, David Garrick and Horatio Nelson. Queen Elizabeth’s letter ended with ‘scribbled with my own racked hand Elizabeth R’.
Another room was devoted to the female art of needlework, with examples of 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.

Donaldson died at 1 Grand Avenue in the early hours of 19 March 1925, having been in failing health for some time, and his widow died in 1929.

In 1926 Hove Council gave planning approval to W.H. Overton on behalf of Mr J. Worton to convert the property into flats.

Number 2 – The house was built by James Ockenden in 1877. In 1893 Mr and Mrs Raphael lived here. On 1 May 1893, their youngest son married Flora Sassoon, daughter of Mr and Mrs Reuben Sassoon, who were friends of the Prince of Wales. This grand society wedding was conducted in a London synagogue, and the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge attended the reception afterwards. The Raphael’s London address was 31 Portland Place.

Another notable occupant of the house was Jeremiah Colman (1853-1939) whose father was Edward Colman, one of the original founders of the famous firm J. & J. Colman, mustard manufacturers of Norwich. Jeremiah Colman first came to know Hove when he attended Mr Wyatt’s school in Victoria Terrace. He became a London merchant, and in later life was chairman of several companies in the City of London. Jeremiah Colman was elected Mayor of Hove in 1899 and served for three years; it was Mrs Colman who unveiled the statue of Queen Victoria at the foot of Grand Avenue. Colman’s mayoralty was by all accounts ‘one of the most brilliant that Hove had known’.

This house was the couple’s last move – previously they had lived at Wick Hall (the original house rather then the flats) while in the 1890s they lived in King’s Gardens. According to Violet Raby, who was once head parlour maid at the Grand Avenue house, the Colmans kept a large establishment of fourteen servants. When Violet left service to be married, the Colmans presented her with a canteen of cutlery as a wedding present. In 1986 Charles and Violet Ravy celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.

 copyright © D. Sharp
Lt Col. L. M. Colman in his younger days
Like the ‘mustard’ Colmans, who were famous for their benevolence, Jeremiah Colman also helped many deserving causes, particularly during the First World War. During this time he raised £1,335 towards the Indian Famine Fund, and the Lord Mayor congratulated him particularly because it was the first contribution from the provinces of more then £1,000. But as the Sussex Daily News (July 1939) noted ‘He was a man who was fond of doing good work by stealth, and his benefactions in this respect will probably never be known’.

The Colmans celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1932 and Mrs Colman died on 2 May 1935 aged 74 – her tombstone inscription reads ‘beloved wife and companion for 53 years’ – the couple had two sons and a daughter. Jeremiah died in July 1939 and his funeral service was held at All Saints – it was a fitting place for the ceremony because he had been treasurer of the building fund for some years.

During the Second World War, Mr D.M. Colman, Lieutenant L.M. Colman, and Mrs Hunt lent this house for the duration, and it served as a Red Cross depot from 1940 to 1945.

By November 1994, the house, long since converted into flats, was called Grand Court Mansions, and a second-floor flat was on sale for £79,500 – it had two bedrooms and a lounge measuring 24 feet. There was a resident caretaker, and a wood-panelled lift served all floors.

Number 4 

 copyright © J.Middleton 
Number 4 Grand Avenue can be seen on the east side

 copyright © J.Middleton
In this photograph the large block of flats on the left was built in 1939 on the site once occupied by number 4

The West Brighton Estate let this house for the war effort and from 6 April 1915 to March 1919 the building served a useful purpose as the Hove War Hospital Supply Depot. During this time some 3,000 voluntary workers, nearly all of them women, toiled away making items such as bandages, dressings, swabs, and splints, and despatching drugs, food and clothes to British prisoners of war abroad.

  copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Advert from the Brighton & Hove & South Sussex Graphic
copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove 
The manufacturing of bandages at the Hove War Hospital Supply Depot in 1915

Moreover, the workers paid sixpence a week for the privilege of working there. This money was used for administration costs, which meant that all donations could be used to purchase raw materials. The depot also took over Airlie House opposite. The total output was impressive:
copyright © J.Middleton
George Robey’s widow lived in this building. 
This postcard dating from 1906
 depicts her husband and two children

Roller bandages 780,974
Sewn bandages 154,780
Splints, metal / wood 13,164
Crutches, bed-cradles, bed rests, tables 6,353
Dressings & appliances 884,026
Ward linen, etc 80,413
Articles of clothing, etc
Slippers & ‘trench feet’ 16,629
Socks, mufflers, mittens, etc 37,221
Miscellaneous 31, 062
The grand total came to 2,106,676 – a magnificent achievement.

In 1939 a large block containing 55 flats was built on the site of the original house and grounds. In 1939 Sir Henry Wood, the first conductor of the Promenade Concerts, stayed at the Old Ship Hotel, Brighton, before renting a flat here. He used to travel up and down to London on the train, but he was such a well-known figure that he found people wanted to talk to him when all he wanted was to be able to get on with his work. Later, he moved to Hertfordshire, and he died in 1944 at Hitchen.

Lady Robey lived at flat number 9 from 1958 to the 1980s. She was the widow of Sir George Robey (1868-1954), the famous entertainer, popularly called the Prime Minister of Mirth. Lady Robey was obliged to move out of her flat when she broke a leg. She died in June 1981 aged 83 and she left £137,000 net.

Number 6 – This house was built in around 1880 to the design produced by E.J. Ockenden in yellow stock bricks – it became a listed building on 2 November 1992.

Numbers 8, 9, 10, 11
 copyright © J.Middleton
These houses earned listed building status in 1992

By contrast to number 6, these houses were built of red brick in what has been labelled the Surrey vernacular style. A.F. Faulkner was the architect and William Willett was the builder. The gable ends of number 9 have been rebuilt, possibly because of wartime bomb damage. These houses became listed buildings on 2 November 1992 – a bit like bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted because so many of the original houses have been demolished to make way for blocks of flats.

Number 11 – In the 1890s the idea of founding a public library in Hove arose, but first of all the Hove Commissioners wanted to know the public’s opinion on the matter. Voting papers were issued on 28 March 1891 and collected two days later. The result was that 1,197 people voted in favour of a library, 502 voted against it, 499 did not reply, and there were 167 spoiled papers.

William Willett offered to rent rooms at 11 Grand Avenue for the purpose. There was some haggling over money but Mr Willett firmly stated the lowest terms he was prepared to offer were £100 a year for the first two years, and £150 a year thereafter, on a seven-year lease.
copyright © J.Middleton
Number 11, the original location of Hove Library

Hove Commissioners had £500 set aside for library purposes, which had to last six months, and it was clearly not enough. Thus it was decided to open a reading room for the first six months, and found a reference library to which the commissioners hoped there would be many donations. 

The wealthy people of Hove rose to the occasion, including Mr Howlett who donated volumes of Punch (1840-1890) strongly bound in green calf, while Mr Metcalf, Hove’s Medical Officer of Health, undertook to provide dictionaries in English, French, German, Latin and Greek. The newsroom opened on 14 December 1891 and the hours were from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. People could peruse ten daily newspapers, 20 weekly papers, and 30 monthly magazines. Ever keen to save money, 

Hove Commissioners decided there was no need to employ a librarian – a caretaker would do. This decision was quickly reversed and Mr J.W. Lister became Hove’s first Chief Librarian at a salary of £70 a year. He produced a list of around 4,000 books that should be purchased to stock the lending library, which opened in October 1892. It is interesting to note that members of Hove Library in 1893 included the following:

219 gentlemen
1 stockbroker
199 students
139 domestic servants
3 blacksmiths
1 corset-maker
1 livery stable keeper

The lease on the building expired on 24 June 1898, and it was renewed for a further three years. By this time the floors were beginning to buckle under the weight of books and people, and it was decided the library must find premises elsewhere. On 23 June 1901 Hove Library moved to 22 Third Avenue, and eventually in 1908 to a purpose-built edifice in Church Road.

Number 12 
  copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Advert from the 1916 Brighton & Hove & South Sussex Graphic

In the 1930s a Miss I. Rowntree ran a boys’ prep school on the premises. The 1951 Directory noted that William Willett Ltd occupied the house, while next door the First Church of Christ Scientist was to be found.

By the 1980s the London & Manchester Insurance Company owned the building – most of it was occupied by Whtehead’s, estate agents, with the architectural firm of Morgan Carn & Partners located in the upper portion. In 1984 a private investor paid just over £260,000 for the house.

Number 15 – The house was built in 1939 for Dr (Edmund) Distin Maddick (1857-1939), a Quaker, a Surgeon Commander in the Royal Navy, and a film pioneer, with an interest in architecture. He was an extraordinary man with a distinctive name. He was also very well connected because besides being on social terms with the king of Italy, he was also in the society milieu of Edward VII and George V, and once accompanied the Prince of Wales (later the Duke of Windsor) on his world trip.

According to his son, Major Strafford Byng-Maddick, Dr Maddick was Army Director of Kinematography during the First World War and no doubt was involved in the making of the unique film of the Battle of the Somme made on the first day of battle, 1st July 1916; this film was shown before an invited audience at the Scala, Charlotte Street, London on 10 August 1916, which Dr Maddick owned. This irreplaceable film ended up in a safe in his son’s house, and the major moved to Albany Villas, Hove in 1927. The film was ‘lost’ for some years but fortunately surfaced eventually. In 2005 the film was afforded the accolade of being of world significance.

The house in Grand Avenue was built of red brick with white marble floors, while the exterior resembled the bridge of a ship. Dr Maddick caused a flagpole to be erected on top of which a carved, golden hand pointed skywards. It is said that he hoped to build a cinema in Hove too.

Dr Maddick was buried in an extraordinary mausoleum in West Norwood Cemetery, now a listed building. The interior was lined with mosaic and marble, while the exterior was of Portland stone. It is instructive that, in a similar way to his golden hand at Hove, the pinnacle of the unusual mausoleum roof is topped by the figure of Christ placing a blessing on the head of a child. Dr Maddick’s tomb has his initials D.M., which he must have been aware stood also for Dis Manibus (to the souls of the departed) known to any student of ancient Roman tombs.

In the 1940s Mr and Mrs Freedman (of the Dorothy Norman shop chain) moved into this house, which was called Fyfteen, and stayed until it became the last privately owned house in Grand Avenue. Norman Freedman was born to poor, Jewish parents within earshot of Bow Bells and thus he was a cockney, while Dorothy was born in Chingford.

Dorothy and her mother moved to Hove in 1932 and Norman soon followed. They opened their first Dorothy Norman shop in Imperial Arcade, Brighton, with the assistance of an overdraft of £100 from Barclay’s Bank. The shop was run on such a shoestring that shelves were packed with empty boxes to give the impression of a well-stocked interior. They sold real leather handbags for 3/11d or 4/11d. Business built up steadily and the couple were able to marry in 1934 at Middle Street Synagogue.

During their 30 years in business they opened branches in Worthing, Eastbourne and Tunbridge Wells. Meanwhile, their Brighton shop moved three times – they moved from Imperial Arcade to Western Road, and when the premises had to be demolished to make way for Churchill Square, they moved further west along Western Road in 1969. Norman Freedman was founder and senior trustee of the Jewish Home for the Aged in Brighton, and a life governor of the Norwood Orphanage for Jewish children. 

In 1949 Dorothy became ill with multiple sclerosis, but she continued to play an active part in the business. Norman was elected to Hove Council in 1960 and he was Mayor of Hove from 1969 to 1970 – he was the second Jewish Mayor of Hove, the first being Alderman Barnett Marks. Norman stated that he would use his own Rolls Royce on official occasions, and nursing sister Mrs E.M. Wallace would accompany the Mayoress in her wheelchair everywhere.

Norman loved to cultivate the garden of his house in Grand Avenue – there were two palm trees, while grapes grew in the octagonal greenhouse on top of which was Dr Distin Maddick’s gold hand, safely preserved when the flagpole was removed. Inside the house, the walls of the magnificent drawing room were hung with peach silk. A fine, wrought iron balustrade was added to the staircase, and over the stairwell the words ‘Love, Life, Labour and Light’ were embossed on the ceiling.

Dorothy Freedman died 1 February 1973 and her funeral service was held in the Jewish section of Hove Cemetery – gentlemen were reminded that they must wear head coverings. Norman closed down his business operations and retired. But later he married Mai, widow of another Hove councillor. In 1979 Norman sold the house for a quarter of a million pounds and moved into a neighbouring penthouse worth £100,000. The house was demolished and a block of 33 luxury flats was built on the site. Norman Freedman died on 15 June 1984 aged 77. In May 1985 a seat dedicated to his memory was placed outside the site of his former home.

Number 20 – The Sussex Branch of the Royal Amateur Art Society held an exhibition in this house from around 1904 to 1906, courtesy of Sir William Chance. There was a department for painting under the Hon. Mrs Villiers and Mrs Mavrogodarto, a department for arts and crafts under the Hon. Frances (later Viscountess) Wolseley, a department for black and white works under Mrs A.O. Jennings, and a department for photography under Mr Job. Miss Campion of Danny, Hassocks, was the honorary secretary.

Grand Avenue Lawn

copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
 Early 1900s view of the Grand Avenue lawns, which today is a tarmac car-park !

Grand Avenue Lawn ceased to be for the private use of tenants in 1948 when Hove Council took over control, along with the former private enclosures of Brunswick Square, Adelaide Crescent, Palmeira Lawn, Medina Lawn, and the seafront lawns.


  copyright © J.Middleton
Some of the original pillars have been preserved

Coombe Lea – This was the first and largest block of flats built on the west side. containing 84 flats. It was thus named after the house that once occupied the site, and where David Duff lived in the 1930s.

Ashley Court – This was the next block to be built and it contained 67 flats.

Warnham Court – This block contains 34 flats.

Victoria Court – This block contains 30 flats.

Number 15 – This block of 33 flats replaced the last private house in Grand Avenue and its grounds.

Grand Avenue Mansions

  copyright © J.Middleton 
Grand Avenue Mansions – what a pity modern blocks of flats are nowhere near as elegant as this Victorian structure.

Grand Avenue Mansions were the first purpose-built flats at Hove and the only one erected on the West Brighton Estate. The plans were dated 17 January 1883, and three days later were stamped as complying with local byelaws. The architect of Grand Avenue Mansions was J.T. Chappell of 149 Lupus Street, Pimlico, who was also responsible for building at least 120 units of the 169 units on the West Brighton Estate.

The flats were spacious indeed – there being only two flats on each of the five floors, bringing the total to ten. Each flat had from three to five bedrooms, and two or three reception rooms. The building was constructed of yellow brick, sometimes known as white brick, and there was wrought iron work and a cupola over the south elevation. The basement was used for stabling horses, and it was separated from the ground floor by fireproof and soundproof arching. In 1883 the average rental was £230 a year.

 copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
The Drawing Room of an apartment in Grand Avenue Mansions. This c1900 photograph shows a room decorated in an Edwardian style with heavy curtains and a small harmonium against one wall. A decorative fireplace with a heavy over mantle and mirror a loudly patterned carpet and upholstered chairs

It seems probable, in view of the blank wall on the south side, that the structure was the first part of an intended series of flats stretching down Grand Avenue. But when Grand Avenue Mansions were built, it was a time of stagnation, and they were not snapped up as eagerly as it had been hoped. A hall porter was employed, and his wife helped him in his duties.

A feature of the flats was the three taps on the bath – the extra one being for sea-water. Until recent years, the basement still contained the pump that brought the sea-water from the underground storage tanks beneath the lawns at the foot of Grand Avenue.

On the south side, Cl;ayton & Black designed the iron and glass shelter porch, which Hove Council approved on 5 December 1901.

copyright © J.Middleton  
This lovely iron and glass shelter porch was designed by Clayton & Black
 – it calls to mind a similar structure outside the old Hove Town Hall –
 unhappily it is no longer there
During 1981 and 1982 Barratt Southern Properties Ltd converted the ten flats into 25 units but some were still more spacious than the norm today. There were also vestiges of former splendour because when renovation work was undertaken, marble fireplaces and magnificent cornices came to light and were retained. The new units ranged from a one-bedroom flat to a three-bedroom flat. Some had dressing rooms, and several had two bathrooms. The four show apartments were open for inspection seven days a week.

In August 1982 a one-bedroom flat was advertised for sale at £35,950, with a two-bedroom flat costing £64,950, and a three-bed flat at £89,950. The opportunity was also taken to thoroughly clean the exterior brickwork, which had become dingy after years of pollution from coal fires. It was a pleasure to be able to appreciate the original brick colour once more.

Some Grand Avenue Mansions Residents

Kathleen, Lady Harmsworth - She lived at Flat 3 from around 1934 to 1968. She was the widow of Sir Hildebrand Aubrey Harmsworth (1872-1929). He was one of five brothers who became distinguished newspaper magnates and politicians, including Lord Northcliffe and Lord Rothermere, but Sir Hildebrand was regarded as the most eccentric of them all. In 1900 he married Kathleen Mary Berton from New Brunswick and the couple went on to have four sons. Sir Hildebrand died in April 1929 and the Rector of Hangleton and Bishop Russell Wakefield conducted his funeral; he was buried on the south side of St Helen’s Churchyard. Before moving to Grand Avenue Mansions, Lady Harmsworth had occupied the whole house at 3 Adelaide Crescent.

Sir (Edward) Milner Holland CBE QC (1902-1969) – He lived in Grand Avenue mansions during the 1960s. He was called to the Bar in 1927. Hr rose to the rank of brigadier during service in the British Army in the Second World War. He was knighted in 1959, and in 1965 was awarded the KCVO, a personal order in the gift of the Queen. He was the author of The Holland Report a study of housing conditions in central London.

Captain J. Glynne Richard Homfray – He live at Flat 8 from around 1902 to 1934. He was one of the first Hove residents to become a car owner – some say he was the first. His vehicle was a French Panhard and he employed a French chauffeur called Barthelemy who was resplendent in a black, leather uniform. Captain Homfray was also a keen racehorse owner.

In February 1914, 43-year old Augustus Parry, who worked for Captain Homfray, was accused of stealing a diamond brooch worth around £200 from Mrs Homfray. He appeared before Hove Magistrates bench and was committed for trial at the Assizes.

Nina Winder Reid (1891-1975) – She was born in Grand Avenue Mansions. She went on to study at the St John’s Wood School of Art. She became a founder member of the Marine Society, and one of the foremost women marine painters in the country during the 1930s. In 1937 she held her fourth exhibition at the Arlington Gallery, London. She painted landscapes as well as marine subjects, and her favourite medium was oils.

Dame Anne Charlotte Seymour – She lived at Flat 4 in the 1930s. When she died in 1935, she left gross estate to the value of £61,144. Her legacies included a cabinet of swords and medals belonging to her late husband, which she left to the Commanding Officer of the Queen’s Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards), £1,000 to the Lower Market Street Mission in Hove, and £500 to Hove Hospital.

It seems likely that she was the widow of General Sir William Henry Seymour of the 2nd Dragoon Guards, who was the son of Sir William Seymour, Judge of the High Court in Bombay. General Seymour entered the Army in 1847 and saw service in the Crimean War. He was a Colonel of his regiment (2nd Dragoon Guards) from 1894-1920. There was a famous incident on 8 October 1858 during the Indian Mutiny at Sundeela, near Oudh, when he found himself in mortal danger from a sudden attack by mutineers, from which he was rescued by Private Charles Anderson and Trumpeter Thomas Monaghan of thr 2nd Dragoons, both of whom were awarded a Victoria Cross for their gallant actions.

George C. Tebbit – He and his wife Elizabeth only lived in Grand Avenue Mansions for a short while in the 1930s. They were there in 1940 but had left by the end of the war. Their claim to fame arises from their daughter Mrs Elzabeth Sparshott who became the close companion of Sir Reginald Fleming Johnston in the 1930s. Johnston had been tutor to the last Emperor of China, and interest in him was revived with the 1987 film The Last Emperor in which Peter O’Toole played the part of Johnston. Johnston and Elizabeth Sparshott lived together on the Scottish island of Eilean Righ. They did not enjoy much time together because they met in around 1935 and he died on 6 March 1938. On his instructions, she destroyed all his personal papers. In his will, he left her practically everything, which upset his family. She also received Eilean Righ, which he wished to be given to the Scottish National Trust when she had no more need of it; instead the island was sold. In 2012 the island was on sale for £3 million.


In the 1960s actor Gary Brighton lived in Victoria Court. His first West End role was in Mr Wilberforce MP. He later appeared in the West End stage production of Annie.

In September 1994 ambulance men were unable to move a 30-stone woman who needed hospital treatment. The fire brigade helped out by employing a hydraulic platform to reach the third-floor flat.

For 35 years until 1999 floats taking part in the Brighton Lions Carnival parade mustered in Grand Avenue before setting off along the seafront.

In October 1999 it was noted that 36-year old Howard Travers held two word records for paragliding. He had been paragliding for eleven years and also travelled to Australia to conquer the notorious Bunda Cliffs.

Some Grand Avenue Wills

Eileen Clarissa Mary Walton, spinster, died on 9 March 1979. She left £4 million and most of the money went to charity. She was the heiress of Covent Garden fruit and vegetable firm of P. Walton.

Joan Somerville Wallace died on 17 November 1988, leaving £2,549,364. She bequeathed £100,000 each to the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, and the Parkinson’s Disease Society.

Josephine Dalmaine died at the age of 96 leaving £833,363. In January 1999 it was stated that as a young student at the Royal College of Music, she met famous musicians such as Holst and Britten. She taught music first at Roedean and then at Brighton & Hove High School for Girls. Her bequests were as follows:
Brighton & Hove High School £20,000
Royal College of Music £20,000
Children’s Country Holiday Fund £10,000
Glyndebourne Arts Trust £5,000
Musicians Benevolent Fund £5,000

In 1999 widow Judith Cox of Victoria Court left £749,000 in her will to be shared between the Cats Protection League, the Bleu Cross, and the International League for the Protection of Horses. Her late husband was London architect and surveyor David Cox and the couple had moved to Hove some fifteen years previously.

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