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12 October 2019

Wilbury Road, Hove

Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2019)

copyright © J.Middleton
These substantial houses are on the west side of Wilbury Road

The 1860s
copyright © J.Middleton
 This silk book-mark 
was created to
 commemorate the 
marriage of the
 Prince and Princess 
of Wales 
on 10 March 1863

In the 1860s there was just a rough farm track where Wilbury Road is today; it led up to the chalk pond, and beyond it over the hill to Preston village. Around 100 yards north of Church Road there was a long cow-shed, and the farmhouse was also situated there. William Marsh Rigden lived in the farmhouse with his wife Ellen, and their large family of four daughters and three sons, all born at Hove. Rigden farmed in this district for some 40 years, and the farm covered an area of 750 acres, with Rigden employing 50 labourers in 1851. The farmland was reduced to 700 acres by 1861, and in that year Rigden was employing 45 men and ten boys.

The farm was known variously as Long Barn Farm, Old Farm or simply Rigden’s Farm. It was in the Long Barn that Rigden threw a party for 800 Hove children in March 1863 to celebrate the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales. The interior of the barn was suitably decorated for the occasion and rosettes of Coventry ribbon with the plumes of the Prince of Wales at the centre were given to every child as a souvenir. The meal consisted of the following ingredients:

800lbs of potatoes
600lbs of meat
400lbs of plum pudding
50 gallons of ale
1,000 oranges
1,000 buns

Rigden’s shepherd, Frank Upton, used to take the sheep down the track to the sea-front lawns where the sheep were allowed to graze before visitors arrived. On the way he passed a large house, where in 1879 a pretty young house-maid used to lean over the garden gate to chat to him when she heard the tinkle of the approaching sheep bells. Romance blossomed but they did not marry until 1885. Frank Upton regarded Rigden as a generous employer, and at harvest time, after the last of the corn had been gathered in, he supplied all the labourers with liberal quantities of beer – the festivities went by the curious name of Hollingpot.

Background

Dealings concerning the land on which Wilbury Road was later laid out go back to 1794 when some land was sold. The owner was Charles Callis Western – after whom Western Road was named. He sold land to William Stanford, and the Stanford Estate came to encompass a great deal of land in Hove and Preston. On this particular deed the other names itemised were John Plumpton and Nathaniel Kemp.

The schedule mentioned a number of dealings up to 18 December 1876 when some land was sold by Ellen Stanford, the heiress of the Stanford Estate, to Osmond Dash of Brighton for £2,762-10s. The other signatures on the document were trustees of the Stanford Estate, as follows:

Edward Stanford of Fishbourne, Sussex
Charles Henry Gordon of Newtimber
Percy Mansfield Morris of The Hall, Uttoxeter
Marmaduke Robert Jeffreys of Syston Court, Gloucestershire
Henry Arthur Fane of 1 Howick Place, Westminster

Why Wilbury?

According to Sir Charles Thomas-Stanford the name Wilbury was chosen because one of the first purchasers of a plot of land on the Stanford Estate was Sir Henry Malet of Wilbury, Wiltshire. Sir Henry then proceeded to have a house built for himself that he called ‘Wilbury’ and so it seemed logical to adopt the same name for adjoining roads. Whether or not Sir Henry knew about this, and whether he was annoyed or flattered, is not recorded.

Development

It is apparent that house-building in Wilbury Road had already begun by 1876 because the transaction included three houses on the north east side of Wilbury Road but not the house fronting Eaton Road, nor another house further down on the east side, around two spaces away. On 12 March 1877 this last-mentioned house was sold to Jabez Reynolds, a well-known builder, who in 1881 secured planning approval to install a billiard room.

The Hove Commissioners did not come into the picture until 1877 when they approved plans for the building of six houses.

According to the 1878 Directory there were twelve houses in Wilbury Road, mostly just names, but some were numbered too.

Thornham House was next to the entrance to the mews and was utilised as a boys’ school run by Mrs Young and Miss Neal. Miss Rooper ran a ladies’ school in another house nearby. It is interesting to note that the Rooper family were heavily involved in education at Hove. Revd T. R. Rooper founded the Farman Street Schools and Ivy Place Infants’ School, while Miss Maryanne Rooper ran a school for ladies in Lansdowne Square, which later moved to another location in Hove and was known as St Michael’s Hall. There are memorial tablets to the Rooper family in St Andrew’s Old Church.

copyright © J.Middleton
There are memorials to the Rooper family inside St Andrew’s Old Church
 
In November 1880 the south part of Wilbury Road up to Eaton Road was declared a public highway. Then work started on the next stretch of road leading to Cromwell Road, which in those days was known as Vernon Road.

Tenders were invited for new street works, and those received were as follows:

A. Oliver £775
Cheesman & Co £760
Messrs Parsons £759-6s
J. G. B. Marshall £570

Not surprisingly, Mr Marshall’s tender was the one chosen.

In April 1894 Hove Commissioners approved plans submitted by A. C. Udey on behalf of Mrs Ellen Benett-Stanford for the extension of the road over the railway, although this part was later named Wilbury Villas.

copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
An advert from the 1895 Brighton Herald, house for sale in 
Wilbury Road at £2500 or £130 a year rent

Wilbury Road is one of those famous Hove streets with such a generous width that it can accommodate a double line of parked cars in the centre, as well as parked cars on either side. This makes it difficult to appreciate the proportions of the area as seen in Victorian times. One aspect that does not change is the elegance and spaciousness of the original houses that still remain. They are four-storey edifices, some regrettably with more recent pent-house additions. The statement doorways are of particular interest.

copyright © J.Middleton
The stately doorways are to be found at number 21 (on the left) and number 34 (on the right) 

House Notes
 copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums,
Brighton & Hove
Lieut. Col. Frank W. F. Johnson

Number 1 This property was known as Melrose House and the Johnson family lived there before and during the First World War. When the First World War broke out Lieutenant Colonel Frank William Frederick Johnson (1866-1943) was asked to form the 2/6th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment, and went to Suffolk to provide coastal defence. Then he was sent to India in command of a Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment where he saw action on the famous Northwest frontier and received a D.S.O. for his actions. In 1919 there was the Punjab Rising and he again distinguished himself, this time at Lahore.

Meanwhile, his son had lost no time in enlisting, joining the colours in August 1914. He cut a very dashing figure with his dapper moustache and confident smile when photographed wearing his uniform with the wings of the Royal Flying Corps prominently displayed. 2nd Lieutenant Derrick Sivewright Johnson was born in 1895 at Cape Town and was educated at Brighton College. He was killed on 4 December 1916 in an ‘aerial fight’. But, due to the confusion of the times, it was originally reported that he had died whilst a prisoner of war. His name appears on the brass tablets of Hove’s Roll of Honour in the vestibule of Hove Library.
 copyright © Hove Library
2nd Lieutenant Derrick S. Johnson

Lieutenant Colonel Frank W. F. Johnson was a remarkable man of action. Norfolk-born, at the age of sixteen he decided that the medical profession followed by his father and grandfather was far too tame for him, and off he set for the Cape with just £5. Once there he soon joined Carrington’s Horse, or more properly the 2nd Mounted Rifles. In 1884 this outfit formed part of the Warren Expedition to Bechuanaland, and the following year it, plus the Kalahari, was made a British Protectorate. In 1885 Johnson transferred to the Bechuanaland Border Police, which also enabled him to hone his skills at organising supplies and transport. In 1887 Johnson was off on another expedition – this one known as the Northern Gold Fields Exploration syndicate. It was a success because Chief Khama granted them mineral rights in Bechuanaland. However, another expedition on a similar quest to Matabeleland ended disastrously for Johnson when the Ndebele headman died of fever. Johnson had unwisely taken it upon himself to offer the stricken headman some quinine to cure him, whereupon he promptly died. Johnson was ordered out of the country at once, and made to pay a fine of £100 – he was furious.

By chance, at Kimberley in 1889, Johnson met Cecil Rhodes, and the two men got on so well that Rhodes not only later invested in Johnson’s company, but the meeting also led to Johnson being offered the contract to lead the Pioneer Corps to occupy Mashonaland and construct roads and settlements – this land later being known as Rhodesia and now Zimbabwe. The Pioneer Corps was not just any group of volunteers but consisted of around 200 men, largely chosen from the best South African families. It is interesting to note that when Johnson was asked to form a Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment, he asked many of his old friends from his soldiering days to join him. In 1896 during the Langley Rebellion, Johnson became Chief Staff Officer to the Bechunaland Field Force, afterwards returning to England. By 1914 Johnson was chairman of no less than seventeen individual mining companies with interests in Rhodesia, Canada and Egypt. Johnson enjoyed his days of derring-do, as can be gauged from the title of his memoir published in 1940 entitled Great Days: the Autobiography of an Empire Pioneer.

Numbers 2 / 4 – The numbers relate to an imposing structure on the east side of Wilbury Road. A notable feature is the grand verandah running the whole length of the first floor. The entrance is by means of a flight of steps placed at either side of a central podium, which is covered by tiles of a similar style to those used at number 10 Wilbury Road, but in different colours.

The houses are now known as Grace Taylor House (number 2) and Leslie Bunker House (number 4).
In 1985 Hove Rotary Club purchased number 4 Wilbury Road for £51,000. In a way it was a surprise acquisition because the Club had come to a decision not to add to their property portfolio, but instead to concentrate on up-grading the houses they already owned. However, when number 4 Wilbury Road came on the market, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss since they already owned number 2 Wilbury Road. In order to convert the two Wilbury Road houses into 23 self-contained flats, a great deal of money was required, and thus the Club’s property at 4 Selborne Road was sold in 1987 for £104,644. By 1989 the work at Wilbury Road had virtually been completed. Number 4 was named Leslie Bunker House to honour a founder member of Hove Rotary Club.

Number 3 – According the 1919 Directory the house was occupied by the following:

Spiers J. Matthews-Hughes
Miss F. M. Matthews-Hughes
Mrs Higginson

Mrs Higginson was the previous occupant but from 1919 both Matthews-Hughes lived there too. Miss Matthews-Hughes was last mentioned in the Directories in 1949, while Mr S. J. Mathews-Hughes’s last mention was in 1954.

In around 1940 Mr Mathews-Hughes presented the Sussex Archaeological Society with a blunderbuss and three pistols that one belonged to his mother’s family, the Lermittes, who were of Huguenot descent. The pistols were decorated with silver lion masks on the butts and there was silver-wire scroll-work on the stock – they probably dated back to the mid-18th century, and the blunderbuss was dated to c. 1800. Family legend recorded that the firearms were carried by a man on horse-back to act as a guard when Thomas Lermitte wished to attend the opera, because he was obliged to travel in his coach across highwaymen-infested Finchley Common.

copyright © J.Middleton
There are plenty of architectural details to admire in the red-brick numbers 6 / 8

Numbers 6 / 8 – On the east side of the road there is a red-brick, three-storey gabled house with an unusual string-course and decorations. Under a window and above the door at number 6 there is a black shield bearing a stylised ‘H’. On the south wall there is a white date-stone displaying a shield, another ‘H’ and the date ‘1876’.

Number 7 – This house was built in 1875 and was probably the Thornam House mentioned earlier – there was a boys’ school here for many years. In 1894 Mr Mitchell, head of the establishment, applied for planning permission to built an extra classroom at the back of the premises, and so his school must have been well-patronised.

Then the house was used as a nursing home. In the 1950s the house was demolished and by 1966 there was a small block of flats on the site.

Number 9 – This house is a four-storey pale-brick house with the characteristic Willett motif of a sunflower above the windows. A curved flight of seven shallow steps lead up to a level plane, and then there are two further steps to reach the front door. On the south side there is an attached three-storey house with the same details above the windows. This house is named Toad’s Hall on the frosted glass above the front door. The entrance is nowhere near as grand as its neighbour, but compensates by having two seated lions to guard the way.

copyright © J.Middleton
Looking at these houses, the eye is immediately drawn to the obtrusive penthouse. Toad’s Hall is the house on the left

In 1879 the well-known builder William Willett lived in the property.
copyright © J.Middleton
This close-up shows the ornate lamp 
standard most probably created by 
Major Robert Woodhouse,
 and behind it can be glimpsed the
 sunflower motif so often to be found
 on a Willett built house 

According to the 1916 Directory, there was a prep school called St Erick’s here that catered for both boys and girls. Miss Hulme and Miss Rowntree ran the establishment.

By 1919 Major J. T. Cotesworth was living in the house.

In the 1920s Major Robert Woodhouse occupied the house with his wife. He was a noted metal-worker, besides being a goldsmith and silversmith with his own hallmark. He honed his skills in rather unusual circumstances.

During the Boer War he held a commission in the Essex Yeomanry, but after being captured he was sent to a concentration camp. He found that there were no surgical instruments, and so he set to work beating out old iron hoops and metal fragments and creating serviceable items for medical use. At Wilbury Road he had his own forge where he hammered out larger pieces or small items of silver. He made some miniature items for the Queen’s Doll’s House, including a tiny gold punchbowl complete with ladles.

But his greatest artistic achievement was the creation of a miniature banqueting hall in the style of Bramhall. It was intended as a gift for his grandchildren, the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, and Lady Veronica Hornby. The banqueting hall contained replicas of furniture, glass and silver, and was put on exhibition in London. It seems likely that he forged the 6-ft lamp that stands outside the property with its graceful curves and tendrils. But other claims have been made for it.
copyright © J.Middleton
Queen Mary
 was a friend of the Woodhouses

Major Woodhouse created all the family’s wedding rings, and in addition made rings for the royal family as well. The Woodhouses were friends of Queen Mary who visited them at home in Wilbury Road whenever she was in Sussex. These were of course private visits, and so were not always recorded in the Press, but the Queen certainly visited on 5 April 1929, and on 6 October 1937. The Sussex County Magazine (April 1929) wrote about the former visit. The article stated that the Queen had visited her old friends, the Woodhouses, and after luncheon the Queen visited three or four antique shops in Brighton, at King’s Road and Prince Albert Street, and made purchases.

Sometimes, a rumour would go around, and a small crowd of hopeful onlookers formed in Wilbury Road, hoping for a glimpse of the Queen. Young Julie was one such spectator, and she later became the daughter-in-law of Sir Jack Hobbs, who, by coincidence, later lived in a flat in this very house.

According to Marjorie Roberts, Queen Mary made seven private visits to the Royal Pavilion, and she invariably had lunch with the Woodhouses.

Major Woodhouse and his wife Cecilia shared an interest in art and curios, and Hove Museum was enriched by their donations. Indeed, at his death the Press labelled him ‘Hove’s Chief Art Patron’ and went on to state that without him there would have been no Sussex Room, Regency Room or Early Victorian Room.

 copyright © English Life Publications
This is the erstwhile Regency Room that the Woodhouses helped to create at Hove Museum 

 Their legacy was recognised when Hove Art Collection Fund purchased a fine pair of Georgian gates in memory of Major and Mrs Woodhouse. These gates are still to be seen at Hove Museum today – unlike the ‘rooms’ just mentioned, unfortunately. Princess Marie Louise, the 82-year old grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, officially opened the gates on 2 July 1953. She said in her speech ‘I hope the borough will regard it as a sacred trust in commemoration of those two great personages who did so much for Hove and this lovely museum and the furtherance of art.’

copyright © J.Middleton
These gates were purchased as a memorial to the Woodhouses

Major Woodhouse died at the age of 82 on 4 December 1936, and was buried at Whittle Churchyard, Essex. The Queen made a personal telephone call with a message of sympathy.

The widowed Mrs Cecilia Mary Woodhouse continued to live at 9 Wilbury Road, and died on 9 September 1951. She left £57,833 and made the following bequests:

To her maid Helen Richards, £200 and an annuity of £104
To her butler Arthur Nightingale, £200 and an annuity of £52
To her God-daughter, £100
To her God-son, £100

She left the residue of her estate to her great-grandson, the 13-year old Marquess of Dufferin and Ava.

The Woodhouse’s only son was Captain Cecil Woodhouse but he was killed in the First World War.

This left Brenda as their only surviving child. She married the 3rd Marquess of Dufferin and Ava. Unhappily, she was widowed on 21 July 1930 when her husband died in a tragic air disaster at Meopham, Kent. The 3rd Marquess was one of four passengers and two crew who were all killed. They were flying in a Junkers F 13 from Le Touquet to Croydon when the engine and tail plane broke away, flinging the passengers out. The other passengers were Viscountess Ednam, sister of the 5th Duke of Sutherland, Sir Edward Ward, and Mrs Sigrid Loeffer.

The 4th Marquess of Dufferin and Ava was killed at the age of 36 on 25 March 1945 in Burma. By a strange coincidence, his title originated from Burma, and Ava was for many years the capital of Burma. During the Second World War there was fierce fighting around Fort Dufferin, which was named after the 1st Marquess. In 1884 the 1st Marquess was appointed Viceroy of India, and annexed Upper Burma in order to strengthen the Indian frontier.

The 5th Marquess was only aged six at the time of his father’s death.

After Mrs Woodhouse’s death, the Wilbury Road property was divided into flats. Sir Jack Hobbs lived in one of the flats in the 1950s. Hobbs loved the flat, but was obliged to move when his wife became ill and could no longer manage the stairs.

On 2 February 2000 a bulldozer began to demolish the back garden belonging to number 9, and others. Sidney Harris was home at the time. He heard a loud noise, and the building began to shake, so he rushed outside to see what was happening. He and neighbour John Taylor managed to stop the workers from doing any more damage. The council informed the developer that he had no legal authority to demolish the gardens – the developer wanted to convert a building in Wilbury Grove into flats. (It turned out that part of the gardens belonged to the Honorary French Consul). At the back there was a Victorian ‘dung run’ belonging to the mews, but Wilbury Road residents had gardens laid out over the structure, and therefore owned them with a flying freehold. At the extreme south end there was a patio created by Julian St Clair Stephens, who had died recently. It is ironic that the funeral took place on the Friday at the very moment the bulldozer destroyed his precious patio with its stone balustrade.

Number 10 – This is another pale-brick house. There is no Willett detailing above the windows, but the doorway decoration is similar to some Willett houses. Above the entrance there is full-face stag with a motto that is difficult to read but looks like ‘Guide on High’. There is also the date ‘1877’. The two entrance piers are massive – around 8-ft high, topped with a pyramid shape. There is a shield on either pier – the north one bearing ‘C’ and the south an ‘M’.

copyright © J.Middleton
Note the stag’s head above the doorway and the unusual gate piers at number 10

In view of its somewhat Scottish baronial style, it seems probable that the residence was once known as Aberdeen Lodge, which in December 1878 was sold at auction in the Old Ship Hotel, Brighton, for £3,290. The frontage of the property was described as 65-ft, with a depth of 170-ft. There was a front garden, ornamental shrubbery, tennis lawn, and a good garden at the rear.

copyright © J.Middleton
Number 11 was the first house in
 Wilbury Road to be converted into flats,
 planning permission having been granted
 in 1921
By 1988 the property was an hotel called, appropriately enough, the Antler Hotel. In July 1988 there was a fire, but the 22 guests and two staff members escaped without injury.

Number 11 – In 1921 this was the first house in Wilbury Road to be given planning permission by Hove Council for conversion into flats. 

In 1962 Gerald and Catherine O’Brien moved to Hove and occupied Flat 1. They were there in 1964, but later moved to Brighton. They were the parents of famous singer Dusty Springfield O.B.E. (1939-1999) whose real name was Mary Isobel Catherine O’Brien lived for a time at Number 11 with her brother Tom – she became ‘Dusty’ in 1960. Dusty Springfield's name is commemorated on plaque number 54 on Brighton’s Walk of Fame at Brighton Marina and there is a Brighton Bus (838) named after her.

Number 12 – Mrs Mozelle Hyeem (née Sassoon) lived in this house from 1891 until her death aged 97 in 1952. Mozelle was the youngest and last survivor of David Sassoon’s thirteen children – he was born in Bombay in the 1790s.  

Mrs Hyeem lived for some years at 33 Third Avenue, but when her husband died she moved to Wilbury Avenue. She was a generous benefactor to Jewish charities, and her name appears on a tablet at the Middle Street Synagogue, Brighton, together with other members of the Sassoon family, which recorded the installation of four stained-glass windows in memory of her brother Arthur David Sassoon.

copyright © J.Middleton
Mrs Mozelle Hyeem – a member of the famous Sassoon family – lived at number 12 for over 60 years 

Mozelle was a great favourite of Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) English poet and novelist. He referred to her as ‘Auntie Brazil Nut’ which does not sound very flattering, but she was able to tell him a great deal about Sassoon family history.

Number 13 – Lieutenant General William Albert Stratton commanded the 77th Regiment at the Seige of Sebastopol (1854-55) lived at this address in the 1880s-1890s. Mrs Sabina Stratton donated a stained glass window to All Saints Church in 1908.

copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Brighton Argus 25 October 1882

Number 26 – Addiscombe College (for the daughters of gentlemen) started off at 39 / 41 Tisbury Road, Hove, and was there from 1889 to 1909, then it moved to 26 Wilbury Road. 

copyright © J.Middleton
Addiscombe College was once located at number 26

The glory days were those spent at the former address because it only lasted at Wilbury Road for ten years – closing its doors for good in 1919: probably the upheaval of the First World War had something to do with its demise. Everything in the house had to be sold off, and there was so much that the sale held at number 26 lasted for two days and took place on 18 and 19 August 1919. 

copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
An advert from the Brighton Herald in 1911

 Addiscombe College had prided itself on the excellent musical education it gave to its young ladies, and so perhaps it is not surprising that the most valuable objects for sale were pianos – even so, to have seven pianos does seem somewhat excessive. The contents of the sale were as follows:

Steinway, exhibition model, square grand pianoforte
Upright grand piano by R. Seitz of Leipzig
Cottage piano by Oetzman
Cottage piano by Erard
Cottage piano by Allison & Son
Cottage piano by Hund & Son
Cottage piano by Henry Ward
Pitch-pine school desks
Mahogany writing table
Chests of drawers
Cupboards
Settees
Chiffoniers
Bentwood chairs
Chippendale mahogany chair
Axminster carpets
Oriental rugs
Bedsteads
Quantity of bedding, blankets, linen and curtains
Antique warming pan
Plated goods
Books
Pictures
China
Glass
kitchen utensils
Clocks
Gas and electric light fittings
Ewart’s gas geyser

(It is interesting to note that there was a more famous ‘Addiscombe’ than the one at Hove. This was Addiscombe Military Seminary at Addiscombe, Surrey, which was in operation from 1809 to 1861 to train young men for service in India. It was run by the East India Company, and survived for a short while as the Royal India Military College after the British Government took over the direct rule of India. Entrance to the institution was by competitive examination. But it was soon decided that the college was surplus to requirements because there were already Sandhurst and Woolwich).

Number 27 – Miss Gordon, niece of the famous General Gordon killed at Khartoum (1833-1885), lived in this house with General Gordon’s nephew, Colonel L. A. Gordon, from around 1915 to 1937. 
 
copyright © J.Middleton
Miss Gordon, niece of General Gordon of Khartoum, 
once lived in this house
In 1913 Miss Gordon made a large donation to Hove Library consisting of 80 volumes of All the Year Round and five volumes of Household Words – both of these publications being associated with Charles Dickens.

In the Log Book of the Portland Road Schools on 8 September 1925 there is the following note. ‘Miss Gordon having read with interest several very good essays on self-reliance and noticed that one girl Irene Parks writes especially about and quotes General Gordon, Miss Gordon, niece to the late General, would like the little girl’s address as she would ask her to tea and would show her various things of General Gordon’s that might interest her.’

On 28 January 1933 the centenary of General Gordon’s birth was celebrated at Hove by a special exhibition in his honour at Hove Museum. Miss Gordon, and Colonel L. A. Gordon lent several relics, including the tools General Gordon took to China.

Also in the 1930s, Anthea Gordon, General Gordon’s grand-daughter, attended the PNEU School in New Church Road, Hove.

copyright © Brighton Museum
Commemorative jug with a relief portrait
 of General Gordon (c1884)
Vera Messenger was born in 1920, and the family lived in Haddington Street – her father being the manager of an ironmonger’s shop at 34 George Street. Vera went to work for Miss Gordon as a parlour maid.
When she arrived the domestic staff consisted only of the housekeeper called Kate, and the cook – domestic staff were hard to come by in the wake of the First World War. Vera wore a black dress with a frilly white apron and a white cap and earned around ten shillings a week. Her duties included serving meals in the dining room, and reading the newspaper to Miss Gordon who was unable to see the small print. Although Miss Gordon’s eyesight was not the best it did not prevent her from running her fingers along the banisters checking that dusting had been done properly. When the housekeeper had the day off, Vera had to ensure that Miss Gordon got into bed safely at night. Vera said that Miss Gordon was a kind old lady, and when Vera left after four years, Miss Gordon presented her with a pretty little brooch featuring a green stone. This kind gift put the cook’s nose out of joint and she declared that in her opinion the brooch was far too good for a mere parlour maid.

Number 30 – The Right Revd Charles Richard Alford (1816-1898) lived in this house. He was born into an Anglican clerical family, and it is interesting to note that one of his sons also became a priest. The bishop was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and went on to write some works including one entitled A Victorian Bishop in a Treaty Port, Japan: the Diary of Right Revd Charles Richard Alford 1867-1972. The dates correspond exactly with his term of office as Anglican bishop of Victoria, Hong Kong.
The bishop died in 1898 and the Hove Gazette (3 September 1898) stated that the gross value of his estate was £12,853-11-1d. He left money to his sister Mary Okell, and three nieces. His sons were:

Charles James Alford
Robert Gawase Alford
Edward Fleet Alford
Revd Josiah George Alford

Number 34 - The house was once the Whitehaven Nursing Home, and Peter James, the famous Sussex author, was born there on 22 August 1948. Most sources identify his birthplace as Brighton, but it was Hove actually – although perhaps ‘Brighton’ sounds somewhat racier. His parents met at a tennis party, and after a whirlwind romance, married just six weeks later. Peter James continued with the family love of tennis, and soon joined the Grasshoppers Tennis Club, in The Drive, Hove. At the age of seven he was sent to a prep school in Brighton, which he hated, and afterwards went to Charterhouse.

copyright © J.Middleton
These premises were once occupied by the Whitehaven Nursing Home

He must have been a sporty youth because at the age of fifteen he was invited to try out for the British Olympic ski team. Unhappily, his parents were against him participating, fearing the disruption to his education. However, his love of skiing continued into his adult life, and indeed he met his second wife, Lara, in the French Alps on a ski-lift. In his final school report from Charterhouse his housemaster noted that James was ‘enigmatic and as unpredictable as ever’ - on the other hand the housemaster must have recognised some spark because he concluded ‘A literary career seems inevitable’.

Peter James’s mother was Cornelia James, who was famous as a glove-maker to royalty. Her first royal commission was in 1947 when she made a pair of suede gloves to match Princess Elizabeth’s going-away outfit after her wedding. In 1979 Cornelia received the Royal Warrant as glove-maker to the Queen. Other family members who wore gloves by Cornelia James were the Queen Mother, the Princess Royal and Princess Diana. Peter’s sister, Genevieve, and her husband were both involved in the family glove business. But the family thought Peter ought to become an accountant.

Peter James’s first job was at the age of sixteen when he worked for Jack Tinker at the Evening Argus. Therefore it is no wonder that today’s Argus always gives prominence to a new book by Peter James. It seems that Peter’s father had wanted to be a writer too, and when Peter was writing his first novel Possession he felt his father’s presence around him in a positive way.

Today, Peter James has written 36 books with very satisfactory worldwide sales of some 20 million books. His most famous creation is Detective Superintendent Roy Grace with the crime novels being set in the Brighton area. James’s proudest moment occurred in 2016 when he was awarded the Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement by the Crime Writers’ Association – other illustrious recipients having been John Le Carré and P. D. James.

Later on, number 34 became the Whitehaven Hotel. In March 1989 it was stated that the establishment had recently been refurbished at a cost of £60,000. But the AA would not upgrade it to a three-star hotel because the floor space requirements failed by one foot. Michael Baker, general manager, was so annoyed that he got out his ladder in order to remove the two-star award sign. He said that the hotel was one of only four in Brighton and Hove to receive an Egon Ronay recommendation.

The hotel’s eatery was named the Rolling Clock Restaurant after its unusual time-piece. In May 1994 Steve Grant was the chef, David Mitchell was the general manager, and the head waiter, David Oper, had recently been placed fifth in the Wine Waiter of the Year competition. In October 1994 the Whitehaven Hotel and the Rolling Clock Restaurant were awarded an AA rosette for a high level of culinary skills.

In September 1995 there were plans to turn the hotel into self-contained flats.

Number 38 – The house used to be called Waveney Lodge, and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Hare Hobson lived here from around 1912 to 1927. The London Gazette (20 March 1900) stated that H. H. Hobson, late Lieutenant in the 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, was now a Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion the Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment). During the First World War Lieutenant Colonel H. H. Hobson was the infantry commanding officer of the 3rd (Special Reserve Battalion) King’s, Liverpool. However his son did not follow him into the Army, and instead became a captain in the Royal Navy. H. H. Hobson was the grandfather of the actress Valerie Hobson (1917-1998) who spent the first six years of her life at 38 Wilbury Road.

copyright © J.Middleton
The actress Valerie Hobson spent the first six years of her life in her grandfather’s house at Waveney Lodge 

Valerie was stage-struck from an early age, and began ballet lessons when she was two years old. Indeed, it seemed certain that her career would be in ballet, but at the age of fourteen she was struck down by scarlet fever and her dreams of a career in dancing came to an end. She had been a member of RADA since the age of nine, and returned to study there. One day, when she had just left RADA, she and her mother were lunching at Claridge’s when they happened to meet Oscar Hammerstein.
copyright © National Library of Australia 
The Sun (Sydney)10 November 1946:
<http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229545956>.
Valerie Hobson in Great Expectations

As a result Valerie was given a part and she made her first stage appearance in Ball at the Savoy in Drury Lane. Because she was still young, her nanny used to chaperone her when she went to film studios to act in Two Hearts in Waltz Time, The Path to Glory, and Badger’s Green. The latter film was a cricketing comedy by R. C. Sherriff, produced by Anthony Havelock-Allan, whom she later married. Valerie also won a film contract with Universal Studios in the United States where she filmed The Bride of Frankenstein and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It is amusing to note that although she looked so demure and lady-like, she was capable of uttering the most spine-tingling screams. The screams sounded so authentic that Universal Studios recorded them to place in their sound library.

On her return to Britain she made two films for Alexander Korda – they were The Drum (1938) and Q Places (1939) with Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson. Also in 1939 she married Sir Anthony Havelock-Allan. It was a true love match, but Valerie was shattered when her first son, Simon, was born mentally-handicapped. She took a whole year to recover, and since both parents were working, Simon was placed in a home. Valerie visited him every two weeks for the rest of his life – he died in 1991.
copyright © National Library of Australia
Sunday Times (Sidney) 16 October 1938:
<http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page4444508>
The Drum, starring Sabu, Raymond Massey,
Valerie Hobson & Roger Livesey

In 1942 Valerie was offered another Hollywood contract, but she decided not to take it up because of the war and she did not want to leave her husband on his own in London. He became one of the founders of the Cineguild Production Company, and in Great Expectations she played the role of Estella as an adult, one of her most memorable roles, and also the film that saw the first starring roles for Alec Guinness and John Mills. Kind Hearts and Coronets was another classic film in which she appeared with Alec Guinness. In 1951 Valerie gave birth to a second son, Mark, who became a writer. However, in 1952 the couple divorced, and in 1954 she retired from acting.

In the same year Valerie married John Profumo, a Member of Parliament, who by 1957 was Parliamentary Secretary to the Colonial Office. No doubt she expected a more tranquil life after her acting career, but in 1963 the Profumo Affair came to light. Profumo was obliged to resign because he denied his affair with Christine Keeler in the House of Commons. Valerie remained loyal to him, and they both took up charitable work – in her case on behalf of mentally-handicapped children and Lepra (an organisation for those stricken by leprosy). Profumo rehabilitated his shattered reputation to such an extent that in 1975 he went to Buckingham Palace to receive the CBE for his social work, accompanied by his wife Valerie.

Ronald Steele moved into the house some 66 years ago. A neighbour from across the road related a fascinating memory about the Second World War. Apparently, General Bernard Law Montgomery (1887-1976) and General Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) stood on the steps of number 38 in the days before D-Day in June 1944 to take the salute from hundreds of Allied servicemen marching from Hove Park to the seafront. Number 40 might have made for a more imposing saluting base for two such famous men, but at the time there were large trees to obscure the view. In around 2000 a party of ex-Canadian servicemen came on a visit to their old wartime haunts, and one of them happened to have been billeted at number 38, and he confirmed the story about Ike and Monty. (Argus 25 May 2000)

Number 44 – See under heading ‘Wilbury Lawn’.

Number 52 – Miss Ruth Broadwood was the owner of this house and when she heard the Bishop of Chichester, the Rt Rev Dr G. K. A. Bell, required a Hove base for three months, she at once placed the house at his disposal. This meant that for a short time, there were two Bishops and one Canon living in Wilbury Road – the Bishop of Lewes, Rt Revd H. M. Horden, lived at number 56 while Revd Canon F. J. Meyrick occupied All Saints Vicarage.

Number 53 – The famous boxer Tommy Farr (1913-1986) lived in this house in the 1950s. Farr was born on 12 March 1913 at Clydach Vale, South Wales, and was later nicknamed the Tonypandy Terror: there were eight children in the family. His mother died when he was ten years old, and soon afterwards his father was stricken with paralysis. Farr had his first fight at the age of twelve, and he began his professional career in a boxing booth at Tylerstown. In 1933 he became the Welsh light-heavyweight champion, followed in 1936 by becoming the Welsh heavyweight champion. The following year he became the British and Empire heavyweight champion.

copyright © J.Middleton
Tommy Farr – the Tonypandy Terror – 
once lived in this house 
The year 1937 was his best year because on 11 March he out-pointed Max Baer, the former world champion, at Haringey, and then went on to knock out Walter Neusel, the German champion, in the third round. It was also the year of his most famous fight, which took place in the Yankee Stadium, New York, on 30 August in front of 37,000 fans. His opponent for the heavyweight champion of the world title was the famous Joe Louis. Although Farr lost, the fight lasted the full fifteen rounds, and afterwards Louis said that it was the hardest fight of his long reign. In fact, many of his British fans firmly believed Farr had suffered a raw deal in the United Sates.

In the Second World War Farr joined the RAF, and became a PT instructor. Also in the 1940s he moved to the south coast where he purchased a pub called the Royal Standard not far from Brighton Station. Next door to the pub he opened a restaurant called Tommy Farr’s Pantry. In 1945 at Brighton Magistrates’ Court Farr gave a dramatic account of a fracas at his pub in Queen’s Road involving a party of cadet ratings from HMS King Alfred in Hove. One of the ratings, John Bottomley, foolishly criticised Farr’s prowess as a boxer whereupon Farr hit him. Farr was fined £5 for assault, and had to pay £5-5s costs.

copyright © Ian Hennell
An unwise cadet rating from HMS King Alfred  
once questioned Farr’s boxing prowess to his face
 and was punched for his audacity
Unfortunately, Farr spent his money freely, purchased several houses, and was soon immersed in the racing world. He lost an estimated £25,000. Although he owned some property in Kingsway, it was not sufficient to save him from ruin. For him there was only one solution to his problems, and that was a return to the boxing ring. 

He went back into training, and after a break of ten years he knocked out Jan Klein, the Dutch champion, at Pontypridd in 1951. He continued to box for three years, and paid off all his debts. His last fight was against Don Cockell in 1953 at Nottingham Ice Rink. After Farr lost, he sang Land of my Fathers in his fine tenor voice to the crowd. In fact, he once cut a record with George Formby. Farr also had a grand piano in his home, which he was fond of playing.
Tommy Farr in 1938
copyright © National Library of
Australia 
Sunday Times (Perth, WA) 
20 February 1938:
 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article
58803372>.

During his time on the south coast he lived in different properties in Brighton and Hove. In the 1940s he lived in a house called Ringside in London Road, next to Withdean Crescent. By 1949 he occupied a housed called Glovers in the Upper Drive, Hove, which was next door to Cottesmore School. In the 1950s he lived at 53 Wilbury Road, and from around 1959 until the 1970s his home was at 93 Goldstone Crescent. By 1973 he was installed in his final home, a bungalow on Shoreham Beach in Old Fort Road. Farr married Carol Montgomery, an actress and model, and they had two sons and a daughter Ann who attended the private girls’ school Wistons in Brighton.

Alec Whitcher, a keen sports fan and one-time director of Brighton & Hove Albion, knew Farr personally, and wrote. ‘He was the greatest British heavyweight of our time, utterly fearless, as strong as a lion, and as game as they are made.’ Whitcher also mentioned Farr’s charming personality and the fact he could ‘converse knowledgeably on any topic to a degree well above the average – in fact it would be an education to many to talk with him. He gave his all in the ring, especially in America, and has suffered much with his eyes and nose.’

During his career Farr was in the ring for 107 fights, of which 71 were wins, he drew in eleven and lost twenty-five. He died on 1 March 1986, appropriately enough for a son of the Valleys, on St David’s Day.

Number 55 - In 1915 Sir George Casson Walker lived in this house, he had a distinguish career in the Indian Civil Service and served as Political Officer in Kabul during the Afghan War (1878-80) and later as the Finance Minister to the Government of His Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1901.

Number 56 – The Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Revd H. M. Hordern, lived in this house during the 1930s. By some strange quirk, for a short time there were two Bishops and one Canon living in Wilbury Road – the Bishop of Chichester, Rt Revd Dr G. K. A. Bell, was at number 53, while Revd Canon F. J. Meyrick occupied All Saints Vicarage.

Number 60 – In 1913 Miss Zoe Ethel Grimwood (1862-1941) lived in this house, but four years earlier she was to be found living in Fourth Avenue. Apparently, from a young age she had a passion for firearms because according to the Brighton Season (1908/1909) ‘from girlhood onwards (she) has made rifle-shooting such a favourite hobby’. In around 1904 Miss Grimwood became the founder member of Brighton & Hove Ladies’ Rifle Club, and in 1907 won the Challenge Cup with a score of 32.8 out of a possible 35. 
copyright © D. Sharp
The redoubtable Miss Zoe Grimwood
with the Challenge Cup in 1908

The cup was not achieved in a one-off competition, but was calculated by adding together the twelve best shots by each competitor during the course of the season. Miss Grimwood was gracious in victory and did not wish to deprive the Club of its trophy, and so she returned the cup on the understanding that it must be won two years in succession, or three times overall, before the winner could take it home. But there were few ladies to match Miss Grimwood’s finesse with a rifle, and the following year, she won the Challenge Cup again. As the Brighton Season commented ‘ the cup now adorns her own gracious drawing room’. In 1913 Miss Grimwood was described as honorary organising secretary of the Ladies’ Miniature Rifle Association. In 1913 the first annual general meeting was held at number 60. It is interesting to note that no less a personage than Field Marshal Lord Roberts was president of the association.

Miss Grimwood, together with her sister Mabel, were active members of the congregation at St Barnabas Church, Sackville Road. Miss Grimwood was also to be found on various local committees and supported such causes as Braille Books for the Blind, the Red Cross and the RSPCA. When the First World War broke out, she threw herself into fund-raising events for the war effort such as Submarine Week, the British Prisoners of War Relief Fund, War Savings, and Flag Days for the Troops. She excelled herself in her role as honorary secretary of the Belgian Committee, which had been set up early in the war to aid the Belgian refugees fleeing from German atrocities. 

copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
One of the groups of Belgian refugees that stayed at St Mary’s School, Portslade
which included the Very Revd Canon Henry Otto of Malines (Mechelen) Cathedral (seated) and 
Baroness Beyens (standing in centre) wife of Baron Beyens, the former  Belgian Ambassador to Germany.
 (In 1921 Baron Beyens was appointed Ambassador to Pope Benedict XV and in 1922 to Pope Pius XI)

 At first, it was not difficult to raise money because there was a flood of sympathy for the Begian refugees when the dreadful cruelties became known. But as the war dragged on, donations tailed off because a myriad other causes presented themselves. Miss Grimwood struggled on valiantly. In her report for 1917 she wrote, ‘It would be a disgrace to the town if subscriptions were to fail altogether and the whole cost of our refugees were to fall on the London committee.’ At least the Belgian royal family recognised her sterling work by awarding her, plus four other Hove ladies, La Médaille de la Reine Elisabeth. It is sad to record that Miss Grimwood’s nephew, Flight Lieutenant Bertie C. R. Grimwood, was killed on 7 November 1917 – he had earned the Military Cross during a previous daring exploit.

Number 64 – The Wilbury School of Natural Therapy was established here in 1962.

Number 68 – Sir Walter Frederick Miéville (1855-1929) lived in this house. From 1874 to 1884 he served in the Consular Service and Foreign Office, and for his services during the Egypt Campaign of 1882 he was awarded the Khedive’s Star. For seven years he was secretary to Sir Charles Cookson, one-time Consul and Judge of the Chief Consular Court in Egypt. Miéville was President of the Egyptian Maritime and Quarantine Board of Health from 1884 to 1897. He was created CMG in 1887 and KCMG in 1898. He wrote about his experiences in Under Queen and Khedive; the autobiography of an Anglo-Egyptian officer (1899).

He retired to Hove and lived at 68 Wilbury Road. In 1914 he was appointed a Commissioner of Peace for Hove. He was keenly interested in genealogy and published a limited edition of a book entitled The Family of Miéville (1902) complete with illustrations, set in a large leather binding. In 1911 he managed to persuade Combridge’s of Hove to publish his Letters from Norway. Miéville donated his collection of books on Egypt and the Sudan to Hove Library.

Number 70 – St Bernard’s Home for Invalid Gentlemen was located here. According to the Sussex Daily News (23 March 1922) the 51st Annual Report had just been published, which stated that out of 282 applications from gentlemen eager to come to St Bernard’s, only 74 could be accommodated during the year. The Marchioness of Carisbrooke opened a Mi-Carème Bazarre at Hove Town Hall in order to raise funds for the establishment. Surprisingly enough, the home did not close until January 1999.

copyright © J.Middleton
St Bernard’s Home was located at number 70

There was another St Bernard’s Home in Hove at one time, but this was situated in Brunswick Place and was intended for gentlewomen of limited means who needed a change of air.

All Saints Vicarage


John Loughborough Pearson (1817-1897) – the same architect who was responsible for All Saints Church, Hove, and St Barnabas Church, Hove – also designed All Saints Vicarage, and it is interesting to note that the vicarage was built before All Saints was erected.

copyright © J.Middleton
All Saints Vicarage was built in 1883. It has been described as ‘unusual’ and to a layman’s eye the frontage looks alarmingly asymmetrical

On 27 May 1882 the Bishop of Chichester planted a tree in the lawn ‘in front of which will before long be erected the Hove Vicarage’. It had been a busy day for the Bishop because he had consecrated Hove Cemetery that morning, and later on officiated at the laying of the foundation stone for St Barnabas Church.

As for the finances involved in building the Vicarage, it was fortunate that the sale of glebe land realised £2,000 and that the church authorities were permitted to put it towards the cost of the Vicarage – the Ecclesiastical Commissioners also made a grant of £1,000. The Vicarage was built in 1883, and it was said to have cost £4,000, but the final cost of the site plus the house actually came to £5,309-12s. Parishioners raised the remarkable sum of £871-10-10d – the proceeds of just two bazaars – while a further £439-11s was raised by subscription. In 1885 an appeal was made to relieve the guarantors of a debt of £1,000 as soon as possible.

The first occupant of the Vicarage was Revd Thomas Peacey and his family. Victorian vicarages are famous for their spaciousness, and the Peacey family certainly needed the space. In the 1891 census the occupants were Revd Peacey, Mrs Peacey, five daughters, three sons, a nursemaid and a cook

However, what was beneficial for the Peaceys came to be seen as a burden to later clerical families. By the 1960s the Vicarage was seen as far too large and a drain on parish resources. In 1965 the surveyor reported that the house had something like 34 rooms, not to mention generous landings and cellars. In addition some features, such as the mullioned windows, required urgent attention, and in his opinion, demolition was the best option.

By 1966 there was a plan to demolish the Vicarage, and to build a ten-storey block of flats on the site, retaining the ground floor flats for the use of the vicar and curate. However, the scheme was linked to the sale of Ralli Hall, thereby generating enough money to build a new parish hall closer to the church. The plans fell through, and the Vicarage remained standing.

On 10 September 1971 All Saints Vicarage became a Grade II listed building because it was recognised as being one of Pearson’s finest vicarages. The report itemised perpendicular detailing, the mullioned and oriel windows, leaded lights, stained glass, and gables – all adding to the grand effect. The listed building status also included the garden walls and gate piers.

However, there were grumbles among some parishioners who felt saddled with a burden when a modern vicarage would be much more suitable. There must have been people on Hove Council who sympathised with this view because in 1974 – and against the advice of Michael Ray, planning officer - Hove Council gave permission for the Vicarage to be demolished.

The decision sparked a deluge of opposition from various preservation societies including the following:

The Brighton Society
Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings
The Victorian Society
The Sussex Archaeological Society
The Ancient Monument Society

In the Architectural Review (March 1975) Colin Amery wrote: ‘This building is a very important part of the Hove town-scape and it belongs to Pearson’s great church. It is a crucial part of the whole Victorian group. The varied outline, lively Gothic oriel windows and the fine detailing make it a house of rare quality. It is an unusual work by a great architect and it should be restored and converted – not destroyed for ever.’

Then the Bishop of Chichester intervened and said that demolishing a listed building would jeopardise the image of the church in Hove; therefore he would not support the application for demolition. Finally, the controversial plans were called in by Secretary of State who overturned Hove Council’s decision in 1975.

Harewood Court

This massive development covered the site of the old farmhouse and associated farm buildings. Work started in the late 1930s but when the Second World War broke out, everything ground to a halt. Even after peace was declared, there was a chronic shortage of building materials, and indeed Harewood Court was not finally completed until the 1950s. The Sussex County Magazine (November 1954) stated, ‘The latest addition in modern architecture in Hove are three imposing blocks of flats, which are nearing completion in Wilbury Road.’ The first occupant was due to move in shortly and ‘a Royal lady will probably perform the opening ceremony’.

copyright © J.Middleton
Harewood Court was photographed on 20 August 2019. It is difficult to imagine the site as it used to be in former days when an old farmhouse, a long barn and other rural buildings were here, and the road was nothing more than a cart track 

Harewood Court was built on behalf of the Royal Masonic Institution. J. C. Denman & Son were the architects and William Willett Ltd were the contractors, and with two such well-known names involved, you would expect quality. As a result, Harewood Court was strongly built, probably using stock bricks – how very unlike certain tower blocks of the 1960s. In the 1990s builders certainly became aware of the excellent quality because they had great difficulty in drilling through the walls when they were installing lifts – most probably, they had to resort to diamond drills.

The flats were intended for Masonic widows at first, then widowers were allowed too, while today married couples can also live there. All facilities are to hand, including medical care. In the 1990s there was a suggestion that perhaps Harewood Court might be vacated, and a masonic village could be built in the countryside instead. But sensibly, the management decided not to pursue this course.

Wilbury Grove

copyright © J.Middleton
This is the entrance from to Wilbury Mews from Wilbury Road

It was originally known as Wilbury Mews, being intended as stables for horses. As you might expect from such a well known builder as William Willett, great attention was paid to detail; for example, the bricks used as a road surface were known as candy bricks, which had a special surface to prevent horses from slipping in wet weather. Provision was also made for the discreet removal of dung via a structure known as a ‘dung run’. It was not exactly a tunnel, being constructed at ground level, but it was covered over with gardens belonging to house-owners in Wilbury Road who had the right of a flying-freehold while the dung run was the property of whoever owned the mews / stables. It seems probable that the structure needed wooden scaffolding while the bricks were laid, and when it was completed, the scaffolding was removed. Originally, there were several partitions to correspond with the relevant house in the mews. Limewash covered the walls of the south part. The dung run was constructed on the east side of Wilbury Mews with the north end being adjacent to 22 Wilbury Road.

copyright © J.Middleton
This view of Wilbury Grove looks northwards, and part All Saints can be seen in the distance 

In the 1880s Wilbury Livery Stables were established here, and in 1889 the manager was John Collis. Hunters, hacks, ponies and fashionable carriages were for sale, job or hire. There was a four-horse carriage suitable for picnic expeditions while ‘wedding carriages (are) supplied on the shortest notice’. Riding and driving lessons were available and there were special classes for children. Instruction in ‘sword fighting’ was also to be found there.

copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
An advert from the 1885 Brighton Herald

In April 1889 Mr Willett asked Hove Commissioners to light the gas-lamps he had installed at his own expense, and this was agreed. In 1898 the Wilbury Livery Company wanted better lighting at the entrance to the mews, and were told that if they provided the lamp, it would be lit at public expense. By 1899 the Belgravia Dairy Company also had their stables in the mews.

The people living in the mews were a small close-knit community. The saddest day of their lives occurred on 4 August 1914 when military authorities arrived to requisition nearly all the horses for military use. The owners received around £30 an animal and never saw them again. The mews seemed eerily quiet after the horses were taken.

 In 1922 Edmund Vaughan-Roderick brought the mews back to life when he took over the stables at 25 Wilbury Grove – he had served with the Royal Horse Artillery during the war. The following year he named his establishment the Royal Riding Stables; it was not entirely fanciful because he used to supply horses and carriages to the Duke and Duchess of Fife at their house in Chichester Terrace, Brighton. He also taught their children – Princess Alexandra and Princess Maud – how to ride, as well a giving them driving lessons along the seafront.

copyright © Picturegoer Series
Frances Day (1907-1984)
In the 1930s the stables were under the patronage of the Princess Royal, and Lady Preston kept her horses at the stables. In his time Vaughan-Roderick must have taught thousands of people to ride including the actresses Frances Day and Flora Robson. He recalled that at one time he owned 175 horses, and sometimes he was asked to supply 60 carriages for an event in Brighton, or required to send horses to London. From 1933 to 1939 he was stable manager at Brighton Racecourse. He remained proprietor of the stables until he retired in 1959. In his later years he was very concerned about the developing sprawl of the town and the inevitable loss of riding facilities.

Edmund Vaughan-Roderick taught the glamorous Frances Day how to ride a horse. Frances Day (1907-1984) began her career as a singer for cabaret, then became notorious for her daring dancing at clubs in the West End wearing nothing except a G-string, but wielding a large ostrich-feather fan. She later became famous as a film star. However, once she retired from show business, she, like Greta Garbo, opted for strict privacy, and lived in Maidenhead. Her will stipulated that there should be no obituary nor death notices, and that enquiries should be met with ‘Gone Away. Destination Unknown’, which, she added wryly, would be quite true

In 1960 C. H. Davis became the proprietor of the Royal Riding Stables. Understandably, he removed the establishment to the more more rural surroundings of Woodmancote – but he kept the name. In the autumn of 1965 Vaughan-Roderick came to say good-bye to his old horse Pride, which he had purchased as a four-year old. Pride was aged 30 by then but still capable of a little light work. Vaughan-Roderick was then 92 years old and died later that year, having lived in a flat in Hova Villas. In his memory a bench was donated and placed outside All Saints opposite the north entrance to the mews.

In February 1978 it was stated that the Horseless Carriage Company built 150 mph cars in Wilbury Grove, and seven men were working on them for director Nick Crossley. The Delta cost £4,450 without the engine.

At the Wilbury Road entrance, you can still discern the name ‘Wilbury Grove’ in faded letters on the south gate pier. On the right, the building on the south east corner was once used to make delicacies for Langford’s larder. Later, the property was taken over by Hire-All, a catering equipment firm. It was when this building was being converted into flats that a bulldozer arrived on 2 February 2001 and began to demolish part of the dung run until stopped by shocked residents from Wilbury Road. (See House Notes – Number 9).

A famous occupant of Wilbury Grove was the talented sculptor James Osborne (1940-1992) who in the 1970s set up an art gallery and his first bronze foundry here, and for twelve years did his own casting. There was never any doubt about what young James wanted to do when he grew up – from the age of eight he knew he wanted to be a sculptor. He would carve anything suitable that came to hand such as a bar of soap or a lump of chalk from Brighton beach. He grew up with two sisters and a brother in a small house in St Paul’s Street; the family having been bombed out of homes in Caledonian Road and Roundhill Crescent. His father was a motor mechanic.

It seems likely that young James was dyslexic – a problem not recognised then – and when he dropped out of Moulescomb School, he could barely read or write. He hoped to be able to study at Brighton College of Art but when he made an application, he was rejected. There was no other option than to become a self-taught artist. It must have been sweet satisfaction when years later, after he had made his name as a sculptor, he was invited to lecture students on the skills of bronze casting by the very same college that had once turned him away.

In March 1979 Osborne married Judith Dale, Wolseley Librarian at Hove Library, and the couple went on to have two sons.

Although Osborne could carve in wood or stone, his first love was always bronze casting. At length he was persuaded to move to the Covent Garden area of London, and the Osborne Studio Gallery was opened at 29 Floral Street in 1985 in the presence of Princess Margaret.

Two of Osborne’s most well-known works are as follows:

Balleyregan Bob, unveiled on 29 March 1989 at Brighton & Hove Greyhound Stadium.

The Dolphin Fountain, Brighton Square, unveiled in December 1991. Derek Hunnisett, chairman of Hannington’s, commissioned the piece, which cost £100,000.

copyright © J.Middleton
The famous dolphin sculpture is almost lost under festive lights in December 2010

Osborne also allowed some of his creations to be auctioned on behalf of various charities, including the following:

1981 – an 18-inch bronze of an Arab stallion (one out of a limited edition of ten) to the Sussex Barkers Committee. It was auctioned at their annual dinner at the Metropole Hotel and raised more than £2,000 – the money going towards x-ray equipment at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Sick Children, and on a sunshine coach for the Jeanne Saunders School at Hove.

1982 – a bronze statue of a fallen steeplechaser was auctioned for £1,500 during a charity dinner at the Grosvenor Hotel, London, in aid of the Bud Flanagan Fund.

1986 – a bronze of two polo players was donated to the Royal Variety Club of Great Britain, and purchased by Sussex businessman Alan Etherington for £7,000.

1991 – in June of that year during ‘Elephant Week’ people were able to purchase 6-inch miniature sculptures of eight different animals, including an elephant, rhinoceros, cheetah and giraffe, which were modelled by Osborne to raise money for TUSK, the African wildlife group. They were limited editions of 1,000 copies, each one selling for £395, and there was a smaller run in silver at £1,500 each. At Osborne’s suggestion, an elephant party was held at which Virginia McKenna, Bill Pertwee, and the Duke of Northumberland were guests.

1991- Hannington’s sold a signed miniature of the Dolphin Fountain for £850 - the proceeds going to the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital Rockinghorse appeal.

Osborne created figures of a saluki dog and a peregrine falcon especially to appeal to the Arab market. Amongst other works are the following:

Legendary horse Eclipse, unveiled at Newmarket Racecourse in 1989
The Queen’s horse Burmese, half-sized portrait, in the Royal Collection at Windsor
Derby winner Nijinsky
Life-size Boy on a Rocking Horse, sited in Kensington Royal Park in 1990

In 1991 Osborne and his family moved to Ireland whose government offered generous tax concessions to artists. The following year he returned to visit relatives in Brighton when he suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of 52 on 20 November 1992. On 6 April 1993 his memorial service was held at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, near his gallery. Comedian Jimmy Tarbuck read the address.

Wilbury Lawn

copyright © J.Middleton
Wilbury Lawn was photographed on 22 August 2019

On 5 December 1907 Hove Council approved plans submitted by J. H. Ball on behalf of Colonel Wishart for a detached housed to be called Wilbury Lawn. It was numbered as 44 Wilbury Road. His other home was Church Farm, Binstead, near Arundel.

copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums
Councillor Colonel Sir Sidney Wishart
1854-1935
In 1898 Wishart married Alice Maud, daughter of William Heseltine of Kent. Their daughter Lorna Ruth married Major William Sturney Cave of the 5th Queen’s Regiment in 1920. There was also a son, and another daughter, Stella, who died in infancy.

When the Territorial Army was formed in 1908 Colonel Wishart commanded the 6th London Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, and retained the post until 1912. He had raised two brigades of the 6th Brigade, and was on active service for the first two years of the First World War. He was connected with business in the City of London for 40 years, being a member of Lloyds. He also became chairman of Hartley, Cooper & Co, insurance brokers, a director of the General Accident, Fire and Life Assurance Company, and a director of the Cairn Line of steamships. He became a Sheriff of the City of London, and was knighted in 1921. His name and style certainly became a mouthful – in the Hove Council Minute Books when he was vice-chairman of the Finance Committee, he was defined as Councillor Colonel Sir Sidney Wishart. He was vice-chairman of Portslade Industrial School (L.C.C.) and represented Brunswick Ward on Hove Council from 1913, and Vallance Ward on East Sussex County Council from 1914. He was vice-president of the Sussex County Cricket Club, of which he was a keen supporter. After he retired in 1920, he embarked on a world tour and did not return to these shores until 1924.

When Colonel Wishart (1854-1935) died at his home in Binstead, the family requested that there should be no flowers at the strictly private funeral that was held at Hove. His death merited an obituary in national newspapers and this brought forth a heartfelt letter from Colonel J. E. D. d’Apice, which was printed in The Times (10 June 1935) as follows:

‘May I, as Adjutant of the late City of London Volunteer Artillery, as well as later an Adjutant of the London Territorial Artillery, add a few words to the obituary notices regarding Colonel Sir Sidney Wishart? It is no disparagement to many other distinguished Territorial Officers to say that he was the finest and best soldier with whom it has ever been my good fortune to serve. Apart from his magnificent brain and quickness of grasping the vital essentials of any problem, he possessed the the invaluable quality of calm and cool appreciation of any situation, and the art of inspiring confidence in all with whom he served, and capturing their devotion and affection by his absolute straightness and fairness. He never failed a friend or let down a subordinate, though he was always a strict disciplinarian. It was a great loss to the country that his age prevented him from taking a more active part in the War. The London Territorial Division owe much, not only to his fine example but to the wholehearted and efficient service he rendered in the early days of the War, as well as to the valuable and important part he played in the formation of the Territorial Army in 1908, and its subsequent development, which made for the efficiency of the London Territorial Divisions on the outbreak of the War. I always felt, had he chosen the Army as a career instead of the City, where he was so distinguished and respected, what a magnificent leader he would have made both in peace and war.’

According to the Argus (12 June 2002) Wilbury Lawn served as the headquarters of the Canadian Army during the Second World War.

In 1992 it was reported that neighbours of Wilbury Lawn were fighting to stop developers from demolishing the house and building a block of 16 flats. They handed a petition of protest to Hove Council, and English Heritage was also strongly against demolition. At the time the property, with its rustic shutters on either side of the upstairs windows, was divided into four flats. Hove Council had already turned down a previous application to build no less than 44 flats on the site.

At least public opinion was running in favour of keeping the house, although the problem did not go away because there was still a question mark regarding the spacious garden attached to Wilbury Lawn. In February 1999 Brighton & Hove City councillors explained that their hands were tied regarding the garden because the old Hove Council had granted planning permission for the garden to be developed three years ago. In 1999 Sterling Developments and Barratt Homes produced plans for a four-storey block containing sixteen flats. There were more than 130 objectors to the plan, but to no avail, and building work went ahead. By August 1999 Barratt’s were advertising their new development of sixteen luxury apartments, each containing two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Buyers included serious cricket enthusiasts because the County Cricket Ground was nearby, Prices started at £129,950.

However, Wilbury Lawn itself managed to survive. In June 2002 a two-bedroom flat was on the market on a new 99-year lease through estate agents Calloways. The price was not advertised, but the maintenance charge alone was £1,500 a year. The flat had two bedrooms with generous proportions when compared to bedrooms in modern housing; one bedroom measured 18-ft 6-in by 16-ft 10in, and the second bedroom was only slightly smaller – there was also a south-facing terrace with views overlooking the cricket ground.

Wilbury Lawn Tennis Club

copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
The north end of Wilbury Road in the early 1960s, showing the Wilbury Lawn Tennis Club on the left and the Sussex County Cricket Ground.


Some of the earliest tennis courts to be provided at Hove were situated south of Cromwell Road on a site between The Drive and Wilbury Road. The well known local builder William Willett was behind the scheme because he thought it would enhance the amenities in an area where he was busily engaged in house-building.

Nash’s Stranger’s Guide (1885) stated: ‘Mr Willett has laid down in a central position on the estate some three acres as The Drive Lawn Tennis Club and Recreation Grounds. These gardens with their rustic summer houses and banks well stocked with evergreens and trees, which form a screen from the surrounding roads, add to the charm of the place.’ It was later known as the Wilbury Lawn Tennis Club.

In the 1953 Town Map the area was designated as an open space, and there were seven hard tennis courts.

In April 1957 outline planning consent was granted for the development of this site for residential flats and garages.

In 1968 permission was granted for 61,525 square feet of office accommodation plus 200 car parking spaces for Seeboard’s HQ. As a result of the planning consent, Seeboard purchased the site for around £100,000. In 1970 plans for a larger building were refused. This was followed by two further schemes – one in July 1973, and the other in August 1974, but they were both turned down. Seeboard appealed against Hove Council’s decision, but this too was dismissed. By this time two earlier planning permissions had lapsed, and by 1976 there were no consents on the land.

Many people wanted the site to remain as an open space, and they were supported by Michael Ray, planning officer. However, Hove councillors voted 5 to 3 in favour of turning the site over to housing use. Sidney Green, a company director of The Drive, made a generous offer to buy the site at open space price, and present it to the people of Hove. But Seeboard were more interested in profit than altruism because if they sold the site as building land, it could raise £200,000.

At least the land was put to good use by building blocks of flats for older people. In December 1978 it was decided to call the flats Elizabeth House and Philip House in honour of Queen Elizabeth (whose Silver Jubilee was celebrated in 1977), and Prince Philip. Perhaps Hove councillors thought the word ‘house’ in conjunction with royal personages was somewhat prosaic because in January 1979 the names were changed to Elizabeth Court (east block) and Philip Court (west block).

Sources

Architectural Review (March 1975)
Argus
Census Returns
Daily Mail – Weekend (17 August 2019) My Haven by Peter James
Brighton Herald
Brighton Season (1908-1909)
Hove Council Minute Books
Internet searches
Meyrick, Canon F. J. Hove and the Parish Church (c. 1932)
Middleton, J. Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Middleton, J. Hove and Portslade in the Great War (2014)
Nash’s Stranger’s Guide (1885)
Portland Road Schools Log Book
Street Directories
Sussex County Magazine (November 1954)
Sussex Daily News
The National Library of Australia
The Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
The Times (10 June 1935)
Whitcher, A. Sportsman’s Club (1948)

Further research on the Grimwood sisters by D. Sharp (see also St Barnabas Church)

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