12 January 2016

Hove Museum

Judy Middleton (2002 revised 2017)

 copyright © J.Middleton
The elegant Hove Museum was photographed on 14 April 2015.

Brooker Hall and the Vallance Family

Hove Museum occupies premises once known as Brooker Hall. Henry Porter states the house was built in 1876 but it does not appear on the Ordnance Survey Map of 1876. The building was completed in 1877 for John Olliver Vallance who named it Brooker Hall after his father John Brooker Vallance.

Thomas Lainson of 170 North Street, Brighton was the architect and in 1877 he became a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Lainson also designed the impressive building in Holland Road known as Pickford’s for many years, and the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Sick Children in Brighton.

Thomas Lainson was employed as surveyor to the Vallance Estate and so he had oversight of many of the houses built at Hove in the area now known as Poets’ Corner.

Brooker Hall was brick-built with cement dressings and designed in the Italianate style with more than a hint of Osborne House. But it is surprising to find the Green Man incorporated into the decorative details at the front of the house. There are four examples on the pilasters by the two front doors in contrast to the ordinary leaves on other pilasters. The Green Man goes a long way back into history, having appeared in Roman sculptures. He is depicted as a human face set amongst leaves and sometimes has foliage issuing from his mouth but the variations are endless. He is to be found in old church carvings in Britain and Europe. The motif suddenly became popular again in the 1870s and the fashion lasted until the 1920s.
copyright © J.Middleton
Photo left:- This version of the Green Man looks rather wistful. 
Photo right:- There are other decorations on the façade of Brooker Hall too.
An interesting feature of Brooker Hall is the single room measuring 13 feet by 13 feet situated by itself on the third floor, nestling amongst the chimney pots and sloping roofs. As the structure is not centrally placed, it gives the building an asymmetrical look. Tradition states it was John Olliver Vallance’s personal retreat and that he enjoyed taking his spyglass up there in order to look at shipping out in the Channel. There are certainly all-round views to be had from this eyrie. Vallance was interested enough in boats to commission his own yacht Day Dream to be built at Shoreham in 1890.
 copyright © J.Middleton
Major Vallance’s look-out room can be clearly seen in this old postcard view.
The 1881 census records the Vallance family happily ensconced in the house. John Olliver Vallance was aged 34 and his wife Kate was the same age. He was also a Lieutenant in the Sussex Artillery Militia. The couple had three sons; three-year old Henry, two-year old Arthur and Walter aged three months. The household also contained Harriet Forman a 19-year old cook; Lucy Moppett a 15-year old housemaid; Emma Keay a 29-year old nurse; Emily Keay a 16-year old nurse, and Charles Frampton a 17-year old page.
copyright © Brighton & Hove City Libraries
Major John Olliver Vallance (1847-1893) was
 photographed wearing his uniform of 
the Sussex Artillery Militia c. 1870.

An idea of the sort of entertaining that used to take place in the house can be gauged from a report in Brighton Society (3 January 1891) about a Dance Mrs Vallance gave for 200 guests. Apparently, there were some exceptionally pretty faces and elegant ensembles amongst the ladies. Mrs Vallance looked charming in her ‘elegant gown of terracotta silk richly brocaded with flowers’. Chinese lanterns decorated the conservatory and proved a welcome sitting-out room.

By 1891 the family had expanded to include two daughters, Ada aged eight and five-year old Gladys. The domestic staff consisted of a butler, cook, parlour-maid, housemaid and two nurses. Emily Mann was a parlour-maid at Brooker Hall from 1891 to 1894; then she turned up at Eastbourne in an ‘interesting condition’. Her descendants have been unable to identify the father of her baby.

John Olliver Vallance died in 1893 at the age of 46; it was an early death just like his father. His five children were all under age and so his property was held in trust for them while his widow continued to have the use of Brooker Hall until her death or remarriage.

  copyright © J.Middleton
The Brooker Hall Estate.
The Brooker Hall estate consisted of the house set in 4½ acres with outbuildings, paddocks, lawns and garden, bounded on all sides by walls. The house contained family silver, books, glass, china, linen and family portraits. Four Vallance portraits remain in Hove Museum’s collection to this day but it seems other portraits were dispersed amongst various family members and at least one of these has been stolen. The children were set to inherit equal parts in the estate, which as well as Brooker Hall, consisted of Hove Manor besides other land holdings at Hove being developed for housing purposes. The Brighton Standard described the Vallance family as ‘one of the wealthiest in the two boroughs owning valuable building estates and streets of commercial and residential properties.’

On 6 July 1904 Mrs Vallance threw open the beautiful grounds of Brooker Hall for a ‘fête champetre’ in aid of Aldrington Church Hall. Fortunately there was fine weather and nearly 1,000 people attended. The chief attraction was Captain F.D. Lyon’s balloon ascent, which took place before gaping crowds shortly after 4 p.m. But there were plenty of other entertainments such as the Royal Naval Volunteers who provided an exhibition of their cutlass drill and an inter-sectional tug-of-war and various sporting events like the egg-and-spoon race and a topsy-turvey sack race. Portslade Industrial School Band provided music in the afternoon and there were various singers while St Leonard’s hand-bell ringers gave a performance. In the evening festoons of Chinese lanterns strung amongst the fine, old trees provided a touch of magic while Brighton Imperial Band gave a concert.

Brooker Hall and the Great War

Mrs Vallance continued to live at Brooker Hall until 1914 but by the following year it was empty. It seems that none of the Vallance children were particularly interested in Brooker Hall or Hove Manor. The eldest son died at the age of 21, the second son occupied Hove Manor for only a couple of years and the third son Walter Claude B. Vallance lived in a brand new house in Vallance Road while the two daughters married and moved away from Hove.    
  Copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, 
Brighton & Hove
Mrs Claude Vallance in her gipsy costume

In 1915 Mrs Vallance lent Brooker Hall for a fund-raising entertainment on behalf of the Women’s Union and the Hostel for Lonely Convalescent Soldiers and Sailors. It was entitled A Gypsy Phantasy and was due to be staged in the grounds but the weather was so bad the production had to be moved into the ‘big, empty, reception rooms of the mansion’. The show proved so popular that three performances had to be given. Mrs Vallance’s daughter-in-law Mrs Claude Vallance was a great hit in her gypsy costume as she sang ‘very charmingly’ My Little Grey Home in the West and Where my Caravan has Rested.

On 17 August 1915 Mrs Vallance again extended her hospitality to wounded soldiers. The day turned out to be one of cloudless skies and glorious sunshine and various games and competitions were staged. The most novel amusement was when some ladies put themselves in the hands of soldier hairdressers and three soldiers carried off the prize for being the ‘greatest experts in the feminine coiffure’. There was hat-trimming, apple bobbing and quoits. Private Austin of the 2nd Battalion, Yorkshire & Lancashire Regiment carried off the prize from the most popular game called ‘Killing the Kaiser’. As usual Mrs Frances Minnie Pollack, the soldiers’ friend, assisted in the conveyance of the soldiers. She later received the honour of being Mentioned in Despatches in connection with her work for wounded soldiers.

Mrs Vallance had the valuable assistance of her daughter-in-law Mrs Claude Vallance and her son Arthur Vallance who was also a true friend of the British Tommy. It is ironic in view of later events that the reporter wrote Mrs Claude Vallance ‘spares herself no trouble where the soldiers are concerned’. In fact Cicely Vallance of the lovely voice fell in love with a wounded Canadian soldier to the outrage of her husband who was 24 years older then his wife. The marriage broke up and Claude Vallance left Hove in disgust and went to live in Devon. He took with him his two children and their governess Daisy Poupard and he and Daisy raised a second family of three children.

German Prisoners of War

Meanwhile, back at Brooker Hall, events were drawing the building deeper into the war. An anti-aircraft searchlight was in operation from the top of the building by 1917 and by 1918 some German prisoners of war were held there. The Brighton Society (7 February 1918) published a letter from a disgruntled Hove resident who signed it ‘Yours faithfully, Sarcastic’. He wrote ‘I was glad to notice the company of German prisoners being brought into our town and was further gratified to notice that they were being housed at one of Hove’s Mansion Houses.’

The parent camp for German prisoners-of-war was at Eastcote House, Pattishall, Northamptonshire and there were around 200 satellite camps attached to it, including Hove. The popular notion was that the Hove prisoners were German officers but under the terms of the Hague Convention such men were not required to undertake physical work. The reality was quite different. Brighton & Hove Gas Company were so desperately short of workers that they applied to the Government for the allocation of German prisoners of war to clear an enormous accumulation of clinker and ashes. The men duly arrived and were marched from Brooker Hall to the Gas Works under a strong, armed guard every day. The general public were assured they would not be allowed anywhere near the gas-making plant.

Other German prisoners resident at Brooker Hall worked on local farms. Probably, they were quite pleased to be away from the horrors of war and as many came from an agricultural background, the work was familiar. It seems they were only lightly guarded while thus engaged although when they returned to Brooker Hall it was to a base encircled by two rows of barbed wire and sentries on duty.   

The last German prisoners of war left in November 1919 and a few days later an auction was held of all the fittings used in connection with the establishment.

It has proved impossible to find out exactly to which regiments these Germans were attached although Hove resident Albert Torrance was of the opinion they were Prussian Guards. Enquiries directed to German authorities elicited the information that such records were destroyed as a result of bombing during the Second World War. Neither could the Imperial War Museum provide assistance, other than advising a trawl through regimental histories or private records belonging to British forces charged with guarding such prisoners, which might provide some clues. 

However, it was fascinating in November 2016 to receive some information out of the blue concerning a British officer who was seconded to Brooker Hall to fulfill the role of interpreter, arriving in late 1917 or 1918. He was Lieutenant Arthur S. ffrench O’Carroll of the Army Service Corps and the reason he was fluent in German was that he had been educated in that country. Before he came to Hove he had seen active service in Egypt and France. But according to his service record he had never been in robust health because of heart disease. This lead him to being invalided out of active service after the Battle of the Somme and his arrival at Hove.

It seems quite probable that the British soldiers guarding Brooker Hall were also on ‘light duties’ either through age, injury or illness. 

Post War

When the prisoners of war returned to Germany, Brooker Hall remained empty. Then in 1923 Hove Council approved plans submitted by J. Parsons on 5 April to convert the mansion into two residences. The plan was to divide the house vertically, which would mean the removal of many original details such as the central door and staircase, the two-storied galleried hall, and fireplaces. Each residence was to have its own front door and staircase. At the same time the building would be brought up to date with the installation of new drains, central heating and electric lighting.

A New Museum

Mrs Vallance died in 1924 and in 1925 the Vallance Trustees were willing to sell Brooker Hall to Hove Council to use as a museum and art gallery for £4,000.

As was always the case when it came to Hove Council expending money, a great debate ensued amongst the councillors as to whether or not the purchase should go ahead. Councillor Bull thought the timing was wrong because the Government urged economy.

Councillor Rowe declared the place to be a white elephant and because it had been unoccupied for so long, it was only fit to be demolished.

Councillor Pocock was in favour of purchasing the property because the museum was at present housed at Hove Library where it had no right to be because Mr Carnegie had intended the building to be used for books.

The mayor said he had been overwhelmed with letters from people who were all in favour of acquiring Brooker Hall. When a vote of the councillors was finally taken, 24 were in favour of buying the house and fourteen were against it.

When Brooker Hall was purchased from the Vallance Trustees, the ground floor contained nine rooms, with the usual offices plus a conservatory measuring 26 feet by 12 feet; on the first floor there were ten rooms with two bathrooms and two water closets; on the second floor there were six rooms.

A great part of the grounds was sold off for housing purposes. But the council also purchased a piece of land north of the house for £950, which had a frontage to Pembroke Gardens. There was an idea that two tennis courts could be created on this land and the money earned from their hire could go towards the upkeep of the ornamental gardens.

Hove Museum Opens

Frances Garnett, Viscountess Wolseley (1871-1936), formally opened Hove Museum on 2 February 1927. She was the only child of Viscount Wolseley Commander-in-Chief of the British Army from 1895 to 1900 and one of Queen Victoria’s most famous generals. It was not surprising that she was chosen to perform the honours because she had been involved in plans with Mr J.W. Lister, Hove’s Chief Librarian and Curator, to create the Wolseley Room at Hove Library. Moreover, she had family connections with Hove because her aunts Matilda and Caroline lived at 17 Medina Villas. 

Revd Francis Smythe, vicar of St Barnabas, lent his fine collection of old English drinking glasses, mostly from the 18thcentury, for the opening exhibition. Some of them were extremely rare; for example there was one engraved with caricatures of the Rump Parliament of the 1640s.

Another loan on view was a famous painting by G.F. Watts (1817-1904) entitled Orpheus and Eurydice. His paintings were enormously popular in Victorian times and many a print adorned a drawing room wall. Mrs Watts lent the work and she was a frequent visitor to Hove.


Similar to the way in which Hove people donated books to stock Hove Reference Library, residents were also keen to give objects to their own museum. At last there was sufficient space to exhibit various items that had been rolling in since the 1890s.

Obviously some objects were more worthy of note than others. For example, whatever happened to the ‘very fine crocodile skin’ donated in 1914 by Mr C.O. Kassner, having been shot on the Congo?

In 1923 six etchings by Colonel Goff were donated and Ida Verner’s portrait of J.W. Lister. Colonel Robert Charles Goff (1837-1922) was an interesting man because he retired from the Army in 1878 to devote his life to art. His works were definitely not in the category of amateur daubs because they were much admired in artistic circles and particularly his etchings. He travelled extensively but in later life was mostly based at Hove. Ida Verner was a local artist who lived at 2 Victoria Terrace from around 1915 until1937. Other works by her at Hove Museum are a self-portrait and a portrait of the famous musician Isolde Menges who also had local connections. In 1926 Ida Verner presented George IV’s writing desk.

In 1925 Mr F. Cargill Bagg donated a suit of Japanese armour.

In June 1926 Mr M.D. Ezeliel of 47 Tisbury Road presented 30 models in silver illustrating Chinese life and industries and in September of the same year he added thirteen pieces of Chinese porcelain including Ming, Han and Sung.

In October 1926 Major A. Bingham Crabbe donated his collection containing several thousand specimens of British Lepidoptera.

In November 1926 medals and decorations belonging to Major General Sir Charles Holled Smith arrived. 

Dr T.C. Pocock, a Hove Alderman, made one of the most lasting contributions because he had collected examples of all the major English factories producing porcelain and pottery, which he presented to the museum.

William Benjamin Chamberlain was also an influential man in the museum’s history. He was an authority on Italian art as well as being an artist in his own right. He was a member of Hove Arts Collection Fund and was instrumental in securing several of its rarest purchases. He also donated some valuable paintings including a Ruisdale and a Marco Ricci.

Jaipur Gateway

  copyright © J.Middleton
The newly restored Jaipur Gateway.
Sir William Furse, director of the Imperial Institute, South Kensington, presented Hove with the Jaipur Gateway and the Baroda Pigeon House in 1926. It would be interesting to know why Hove was chosen. But it was a well-known fact that many residents of the town had links with India and retired to Hove after doing their stint for the Empire. For more facts on this subject, see Hove and the Raj.

The Maharajah of Jaipur commissioned the Jaipur Gateway and presented it as a gift to the Queen Empress Victoria. It formed the entrance gateway to the Arts-Ware Court of the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886 and was flanked on either side by carved screens. It led to the Jaipur Court where interested visitors could marvel at Indian craftwork from Jaipur including a shining display of brassware. There were six other courts specialising in objects from different parts of the sub-continent. No less than 103,000 square feet was devoted to Indian exhibits.

This exhibition had a direct ancestor in the Great Exhibition of 1851 held in London, which had included a great many objects newly crafted in India. The great success of the exhibition inspired a last burst of royal patronage in India and foremost in the movement was Maharaja Madho Singh II of Jaipur (r.1880-1922) with the emphasis moving away from courtly enhancement towards arts and crafts for the enjoyment of the public at large. In 1883 the Maharaja sponsored an excellent exhibition in Jaipur of Rajasthani crafts, which numbered an incredible 7,000 items. In this endeavour he was greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm of his resident surgeon Thomas Holbein Hendley and architect Samuel Swinton Jacob.

In 1886 the lofty correspondent from the Times did not think much of the Jaipur Gateway at all, dismissing it as a jumble of disparate architectural styles and indeed he somehow managed to perceive Norman influence. The web page of Hove Museum describes the Jaipur Gateway as a ‘hybrid construction’, which seems rather an unkind definition for such a magnificent piece and indeed implies a certain lack of worth. But this viewpoint has come under scrutiny in recent times and indeed David Beevers, Keeper of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, travelled to India and discovered what he thinks may well be the original inspiration for the Jaipur Gateway in the Panch Mahal (or Tower of the Winds) at Fatehpur Sikri, Rajasthan. Although the latter structure consists of five stories, the top two do bear an uncanny resemblance to the Jaipur Gateway at Hove.
copyright © J.Middleton
The Latin motto glows in the evening sunlight.
But this does not mean there was no British influence present because the gate (and the screens) were created under the guidance of two remarkable Englishmen, Colonel Samuel Swinton Jacob (1841-1917) and Surgeon-Major Thomas Holbein Hendley. Perhaps this should not come as a surprise after all because many British people who served in the Raj were keenly interested in the antiquities of India and indeed were instrumental in recording and preserving so much of its heritage.

It was Colonel Jacob who provided the design for the Jaipur Gate. It was most probably a pleasant diversion for him because his role as executive engineer in the Indian Army meant his energies were more usually employed in down-to-earth projects such as irrigation and road construction. But he was a good choice for the Jaipur Gateway because he was something of an expert on the different styles of architecture to be found in India too.

Surgeon-Major Hendley was also a man of parts because as well as his medical expertise he was also Principal of Jaipur School of Arts. He was responsible for recruiting expert carvers to work on the Jaipur Gateway and purposely chose men from the Shekhawati Desert in Rajasthan because he felt they were in touch with a living tradition handed down from father to son and thus less likely to be corrupted by Western influence. The carvers were not overwhelmed with delight at being the chosen few and indeed much persuasion was necessary in order to entice them to come and work in Jaipur. The wood they used was Bombay teak. It is fortunate indeed that Hendley left us an account of the gateway’s construction in his Handbook of the Jeypore Courts. 

The Jaipur Gateway is composed of two distinct parts because above the gateway there is a kiosk known as a Nakar-khana or Drum House. It is a replica of marble and sandstone originals found in courtyards of royal palaces or temples in India. Musicians would occupy the platform and sound fanfares and play drums or other instruments on important occasions. Mr Wimbridge was the man responsible for the Drum House and he was the head of East India Art Furnishing Company, Bombay, situated in the wonderfully named Gawalia Tank Road.

Below the cornice of the Jaipur Gateway there is the motto in Sanskrit of the Jaipur house, which translates ‘According to the measure of your faith shall be your achievements’. The inscription Ubi virtus ibi Victoria (Where virtue is, there is victory) is another motto associated with the Jaipur house and in Latin perhaps also serves as a compliment to Queen Victoria. On the opposite side there is the inscription Ex Oriente lux (From the East comes light).

In 1986 Hove held a six-week Festival of India and Sawai Bahawani Singh, Maharajah of Jaipur arrived at Hove Museum in a 1913 Rolls Royce to open it. Councillor Edward Cruickshank-Robb, Mayor of Hove and the Mayoress, greeted him and showered him with rice and rose petals. The Marquess of Abergavenny, Lord Lieutenant of Sussex, was also present. The Maharajah sat beneath the Jaipur Gateway, commissioned by his great-grandfather over one hundred years previously, to watch Indian dancing performed by women and children. 

copyright © J.Middleton
This sketch was drawn in 1979 when the Jaipur Gateway 
was still on the east side of the museum grounds.
In 2003 a survey was carried out on the Jaipur Gateway, by this time a Grade II listed building. It was something of a shock when the structure was declared unsafe and scaffolding was used to shore it up and stop it collapsing. The trouble was that the wooden gateway was never designed to withstand the rigours of the British climate and its first site was of course indoors. No provision had been made for the proper drainage of rainwater with the result that damp had invaded the structure and rotted it from within. The carved teak panels were carefully removed and remarkably they were in good condition. However, behind the panels there was rotting wood. This meant new teak columns had to be created to match the existing panels. Some £10,500 was spent on purchasing second-hand teak from India. Resin was also used in some parts.

Probably the most tedious part of the whole exercise was removing the steel screws holding the structure together. There were some 1,500 of them. It was no simple task because corrosion had set in and they had swelled inside the wood. Then all the different parts of the gateway had to be carefully numbered before being transported to the workshop of the Green Oak Company.

The whole enterprise took some sixteen months but it was worth the trouble to see the gateway restored to its former glory. The site of the gateway was changed from the east to the west side of the grounds and if you look closely at the base today, you can see the pillars have been raised above ground level to prevent the penetration of damp. The final touch was a new copper dome, which today is a disappointing muddy brown; perhaps eventually it will acquire a lovely light green patina.

The Baroda Pigeon House

 copyright © Brighton & Hove City Libraries
The beautiful Baroda Pigeon House is on the left and the Jaipur Gateway is in its original position.
This piece arrived at Hove at the same time as the Jaipur Gateway; it too had graced the 1886 exhibition in London.

Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III of Baroda (r.1874-1939) commissioned the Pigeon House. In 1875 when he was introduced to the Prince of Wales in Bombay he was already ruler of Baroda and head of a powerful Maratha family although he was only twelve years old. His appearance at this historic meeting resembled a ‘crystallised rainbow’ because he was so bedecked with a quantity of diamonds, rubies, emeralds and pearls. On a later occasion he was not so polite towards British royalty, having become impatient with British rule. At the famous Delhi Durbar of 1911 he did not bother to wear his full regalia and managed only a brief bow in front of the King-Emperor George V before turning his back and stalking away. This was a serious snub but the British sensibly decided to ignore the insult because the Maharaja was a model and enlightened prince who ruled wisely and was widely respected. For example, he introduced free education, outlawed polygamy, built irrigation systems, railways and hospitals and at Baroda founded the Kala Bhawan, an art school, which is still in existence.
copyright © J.Middleton
This close-up reveals the intricate carving 
adorning the base of the Baroda Pigeon House.

Mr Griffiths of Bombay School of Art and engineer Proctor Sims oversaw the creation of the Pigeon House. There again the word ‘hybrid’ has been used to describe the structure. But in 1888 T.N. Mukharji of the India Museum, Calcutta was prepared to state that the Baroda Pigeon House wood-carving, as used in an architectural piece, was the best example to be found in the entire Colonial and Indian Exhibition.

The Baroda Pigeon House was 24 feet in height and it was a mass of intricate carving featuring animals, birds and flowers. In fact it resembled an exotic lantern rather then a pigeon house. But unlike the dovecots of old England, the Baroda Pigeon House was not intended to supply a source of winter meat for the lord of the manor. In India the protection of wild birds was considered a pious act.

When the Jaipur Gateway and the Baroda Pigeon House had been safely installed at Hove, a reporter from the Brighton Herald wrote succinctly about the effect they created. ‘They stand like strange aliens from a distant land of Eastern romance, plunged into the very midst of prosaic utilitarianism.’

In 1927 the Hove Museum building was insured for £10,000 and the contents for £4,700. But did the contents cover exterior exhibits too? Whatever the small print meant, when the Baroda Pigeon House was found to be in a desperately poor state in the 1950s, nothing was done to rectify the situation. Perhaps there was an end of Empire feeling that considered such a relic irrelevant, but more probably it was the usual reluctance to find the necessary funds. The structure was removed in 1959 and quietly disposed of.

Does anybody out there know what happened to the Baroda Pigeon House? Undoubtedly, some parts would have made exotic garden ornaments.  

The Sussex Room

copyright © J.Middleton
The Sussex Room in Hove Museum.
At some stage it was decided to create a themed display from some of the exhibits in the museum’s stock. The Sussex Room evoked the living room of an early 18th century yeoman’s cottage c. 1690-1710 and nearly all the items came from old Sussex houses.

The fireback and pipe-rack came from Michelham Priory, the beam over the fireplace originated in Folkington Priory, the dower chest under the east window came from a farm at Patcham and the door in the centre of the west wall was created from an oak tree that once grew on the estate of Sir George Courthope at Whiligh, Wadhurst.

copyright © J.Middleton
Queen Mary 
visited Hove Museum three times.
Some local items were of particular interest to residents. The bricks on the floor came from Beach Cottages, which used to stand on the foreshore south of Kingsway, near where the King Alfred is today. The Minall family had lived in Beach Cottages for three generations and one member was on hand to lay the bricks.

Then there was the kitchen dresser made by a Portslade carpenter with a framed watercolour nearby to show the dresser’s original position in Red House Farm, Station Road, Portslade. The Tudor door to the right of the fireplace came from Hangleton Manor.

In the Sussex Room there was also an old settle, a cradle and a yoke of ox-team bells.

Queen Mary visited Hove Museum on 5 April 1929 when the Sussex Room was being set up. To mark the occasion she donated two items, a 10-inch statuette of George IV made of Sussex iron painted red, white and blue, and a Tunbridge Ware picture of the Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells.

The Sussex Room was the most popular one in the museum and even in the 1990s people could recall it, some 30 years after it was dismantled.

Georgian, Regency and Victorian Rooms

 copyright © J.Middleton
The Georgian Room in Hove Museum.
In the Georgian Room objects were limited to the years between 1710 and 1790 and there were examples of Hepplewhite and Chippendale furniture and an Adam fireplace.

The Regency Room included a rosewood cabinet presented by Queen Mary and Queen Mary was also interested in the Victorian Room. ‘How like Osborne’ she observed. As she signed the Visitors’ Book for the third time, Queen Mary said she had not visited Hove often enough and must mend her ways. Naturally, her remark was greeted with applause.

In fact Queen Mary used to come to Hove quite often and would visit her good friend Major Woodhouse at 9 Wilbury Road.

Some items in these three rooms were specially purchased to add interest with funds from the Wilson Bequest (the late Edgar Noel Wilson).


There are two important fireplaces in the museum but they are not original fitments of Brooker Hall.

In the room east of the entrance there is an Adam-period fireplace in white marble with fifteen green strips inset on either side of a wide, two-handled urn. There are also decorations in the form of classical jugs, ribbons and musical instruments. The green marble surround was a later addition. The fireplace came from Bromley Manor, Kings Bromley near Burton-on-Trent. The grate dates from around 1770 and was made of polished steel in a basket style.

The fireplace in the room west of the entrance is also from the Adam period and is made of white marble. Two female caryatids with ringlets and straight, classical noses are featured on tapering columns on either side. There are other decorations in the shape of bell-flowers and stylised honeysuckle. The decoration under the mantle is known as bucrane and features ornamental ox-skulls with festoons of garlands. The fireplace came from a house in Adelphi Terrace, London, where the Adam brothers once worked. The grate is of the basket type, made of steel and German silver, and Major and Mrs Woodhouse donated it.

The Second World War

Major Vallance’s old eyrie became a useful vantage point during the war from where fire-watchers could keep a close eye over Hove. It was essential work but of course it was not the most exciting of occupations. The watchers smoked cigarettes while they surveyed the darkened scene below. Evidence of this came to light in recent years when renovations were being carried out.

Meanwhile, the gardens surrounding the museum were utilised in the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign to grow vegetables. As a result a great deal of produce resulted and there was a particularly fine crop of potatoes lifted from ground near the Jaipur Gateway in 1945.

In 1940 the decision was taken that once the war was over, Hove Museum would specialize in fine arts. Miss E. Talmay served as Hove Librarian and Curator during the war years and by November 1945 the museum was in full swing again.

Entrance Gates

copyright © J.Middleton
This photograph provides a startling contrast between the old and the new.
The elegant 11-foot tall gates at the entrance to Hove Museum are thought to date from the Georgian period and a Suffolk firm constructed them for Bramford Hall, near Ipswich. Sir Percy Loraine was the owner of the gates by the late 1930s.

In the 1950s Hove Art Collection Fund purchased the gates for £250 as a memorial to Major and Mrs Robert Woodhouse. Major Woodhouse was a gifted craftsman who produced wrought-iron items for Hove Museum. As a friend of royalty, it was fitting that Princess Marie Louise should preside over the official opening of the gates on 2 July 1953.
 copyright © J.Middleton
The elegant gates provide a grand entrance to Hove Museum

The Fifties

In July 1954 Hove Council approved a scheme to build a two-storey extension to Hove Museum on the site of the old conservatory. At the same time rooms on the north east side on the first floor were to be made larger by the removal of partitions.

Building work started in 1955 and continued until the following year. Part of the museum remained open to the public but naturally enough attendance figures were down. The work was expected to cost in the region of £3,300.

When completed, it was stated one of the ground floor rooms would become a showcase for Hove Museum’s collection of pottery and porcelain. When Alderman T.C. Pocock bequeathed his own collection in 1952, it enhanced the museum’s number of items to over 900 pieces.

The Carnegie United Kingdom Trustees made a grant of £750 towards the cost of interior furnishings. This was fortunate because the revised cost of the work came to £6,000. The shortfall was to be partly met by selling off some the museum’s exhibits to raise at least £1,000. But the idea of selling items from the collection particularly those gifted by benevolent residents was a dangerous precedent to set and it would be exploited again in 1971.

Effects of the Fire at Hove Town Hall

The fire that virtually destroyed Hove Town Hall in January 1966 had a dramatic effect on Hove Museum. At a stroke Hove councillors lost their offices and conference venues and so it was decided to make the museum a temporary town hall. In order to make space for the wheels of administration to keep on whirring, the museum treasures and collections were put into storage.

It was a temporary measure of course but the museum was closed to the public for seven long years. Meanwhile items worth a quarter of a million pounds languished in various places of storage costing the council £450 a year. It was hardly ideal and moreover some items began to deteriorate badly. It was therefore decided it would be better if some items were sold and some 500 were selected for auction at Christie’s from a total stock of around 5,000 objects. 

Meanwhile, a terrific rumpus ensued as outraged Hove residents questioned the legality of the proceedings. In fact a close look at paragraph 30 in Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Sale of Works of Art by Public Bodies (1964) clearly demonstrates the action was illegal because when a work of art is given to a museum for exhibition, the public acquires rights over it, which cannot be taken away.

Despite this breach of guidelines, the only rather pathetic action taken was to hand out National Heritage leaflets to people attending the auction, which reserved the right to challenge the title of successful bidders at any time in the future.

The sale went ahead in 1971 and on the first day 154 lots were sold for £14, 500. On 28 July 1971 items sold included costumes, fans, textiles, dolls, toys and musical boxes.

On 29 July 1971 items sold were English and continental furniture, pewter, Eastern rugs and carpets, Victorian wedding dresses, a pair of silk brocade shoes from around 1740 and three mugs inscribed ‘Gaiety Music Hall, Brighton’. Amongst the more valuable pieces were the following:

Japanese lacquer and porcelain mounted cabinet and stand – 820 guineas

Regency rosewood writing table – 490 guineas. (Would that be Queen Mary’s gift to Hove Museum?)

Cary’s celestial and terrestrial globes – 400 guineas

George II padouk side table – 360 guineas

George I gesso mirror – 320 guineas

Early 18th century Coromandel lacquer cabinet on stand – 300 guineas

Mid-Georgian walnut long-case clock, the single-handed movement signed by Ninyon Wilmshurst, Brighthelmstone – 45 guineas

Similar clock to the above with the striking movement signed by Richard Comber, Lewes – 35 guineas.

As a public relations exercise the sale was a disaster and resentment continued for simmer for many years, particularly amongst those families who donated treasures in good faith.
 copyright © J.Middleton
This sketch of Hove Museum was drawn in 1979. At that time the trees were an exotic sight but were subsequently killed during a winter of severe frosts.

Armed Raid

On 6 January 1981 two men entered Hove Museum and attacked the staff at lunchtime. One man was armed with a sawn-off shotgun while his accomplice brandished an axe. Mr Arthur Penfold, security guard, was knocked down and hit about the head; Mr Dennis Barnett, museum caretaker was badly beaten and Mrs Kathleen Doherty was forced to the ground.

It seems to have been a case of ‘steal to order’ because the men knew exactly what they were looking for. The raiders stole a valuable collection of 500 watches and watch keys worth £45,000. The loss adjustors offered a reward of £3,000 for information leading to the recovery of the valuables but nothing was ever heard of them again.

Meanwhile, the unfortunate Mr Barnett had 30 stitches inserted in his head wound and was obliged to stay in hospital for two weeks.

Brooker Hall under Threat

In June 1984 there was a furore when it was revealed the Policy and Resources Committee wanted to move Hove Museum from Brooker Hall to the under-croft of Hove Town Hall; then they wanted to sell off the museum site for demolition and re-development into a block of flats. One of the reasons put forward for this preposterous move was that there were not enough visitors and perhaps more would come through the doors if the museum were situated at the town hall. Two other committees also gave their approval for the plan.

Fortunately, public opinion came to the rescue because there was a terrific amount of opposition from the general public. Ken Fines, a much-respected and retired Chief Planning Officer at Brighton, was one of the most prominent people in the campaign to save Brooker Hall. He lived at Hove and had also been born in the town. Mr Fines declared that Brooker Hall was one of the most important buildings at Hove and should be saved.

Hove councillors then had second thoughts; they also discovered there were restrictive covenants on the Brooker Hall site and so they could not do as they pleased. But that did not stop most of them wanting to move Hove Museum to a different site. On 21 June 1984 there was a full Hove Council meeting and the controversial plans were thrown out.

Although residents heaved a sigh of relief, the idea was not dead yet. It raised its head again in September 1987. This was in response to the report that Brooker Hall needed repairs costing in the region of £100,000 and naturally Hove councillors blanched at such a huge sum of money. They then called for a report on the viability of moving the museum to Hove Town Hall, before the renovation work was sanctioned. If the move were made, there remained the danger of Brooker Hall being sold off and already there was a businessman waiting in the wings willing to pay £500,000 for the property and convert it into a nursing home.

SDP Councillor Marilyn Randall spearheaded the campaign to keep Hove Museum at Brooker Hall. A leaflet entitled Bulldozer Threat to Museum was circulated to nearby houses. In October 1987 councillors decided against moving the museum This decision was reached not because of any admiration for the building and its heritage but simply because it had been calculated the costs of such a move would exceed the costs of renovating Brooker Hall.

It was expected that the cost of repairs spread over the next few years would cost around £152,000.

However, the idea of moving re-surfaced for the third time when Councillor Ed Cruickshank-Robb proposed Hove Museum should move down the road and occupy the extraordinary grey-brick Art Deco mansion at 157 Kingsway where there would be plenty of space. It is interesting to note that the Leisure Services Committee succeeded in rejecting the suggestion by just one vote.

Festival of India

In 1986 Tim Wilcox arrived at Hove on a three-month secondment from the Victoria and Albert Museum. He was to oversee the town’s six-week Festival of India; the previous year he had spent a month working in a museum at Hyderabad. The Maharajah of Jaipur opened the exhibition at Hove Museum and it was also the centenary of the Jaipur Gateway. The exhibition was full of spectacular 19th century items on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum (not normally on show) and there were paintings, sculptures, batik and puppets from Rajasthan. Sussex County Cricket Club loaned artefacts and photographs commemorating some of the famous players from the sub-continent who had played for Sussex including Ranjitsinghi, Dulip Singhi and the Nawab of Pataudi. Dr M.K. Godbole, president of the Indian Classical Music Association, and his wife gave three popular music programmes.

Hove Museum was open on Sunday for the festival, extra staff engaged and all the organised events were over-subscribed. It was stated that around 20,000 people attended the special events. The Festival of India concluded with a gala Indian meal for 120 people at the Imperial Hotel.

Tim Wilcox must have enjoyed his time at Hove because he became curator of Hove Museum.  

Other Exhibitions in the Eighties

In March 1987 there was a special exhibition featuring bygone wedding fashions to celebrate Hove Museum’s diamond jubilee celebrations.

A novel exhibition called Pennywise ran from 16 June to 26 July 1987. On display were more then 100 different examples of money-boxes and an accompanying booklet was produced to go with it.

Also in 1987 Hove Museum acquired Rosemary (La Valle)by the important painter Robert Bevan who was born at Hove.

In July 1988 there was a charming exhibition entitled The Scott Family at Home. In a way it harked back to the time when the museum had separate rooms to showcase different styles of furnishings in appropriate settings. This exhibition turned one room into a Victorian parlour to complement the paintings of four artistic generations of the remarkable Scott family who lived for many years in Brunswick Road.

From September to November 1989 there was an exhibition called From Hove to Hollywood, which paid tribute to the work of local early film pioneers George Albert Smith and James Williamson. In fact it was the first milestone in the belated recognition of their importance, a theme that has since been enlarged further.

The Nineties

In January 1990 Arts Minister Richard Luce unveiled four new sculptures at Hove Museum. The works cost £40,000 and most of the money came from Government grants and charitable trusts including the Henry Moore Foundation and the Pilgrim Trust. One of the pieces was a large and beautiful crucifix carved by famous artist Eric Gill who went to school at Hove.

In May 1992 there was an exhibition called From Primitives to Pre-Raphaelites. This had a local connection too because the works on display once formed part of the collection belonging to Constantine Ionides who lived in Second Avenue and had his own art gallery at the back of the house. When Ionides died in 1900 he bequeathed a thousand or so pieces to the Victoria and Albert Museum and Hove Museum borrowed 60 of them back for the exhibition including works by Degas, Canaletto, Whistler and Van Gogh.

From 7 March to 25 April 1993 there was a popular exhibition attended by almost 5,000 people. It was The Romantic Windmill and the star of the show was Constable’s sketch of West Blatchington windmill, which had been flown over especially for the exhibition from the USA. Tim Wilcox produced an informative and well-illustrated booklet to accompany the exhibition.

From 6 November 1993 to 9 January 1994 there was an interesting display called How Old is your House. It was a survey of some 40,000 houses in Hove and attracted 3,500 visitors.

During the whole of 1993, there were fourteen different exhibitions at the museum. Not surprisingly, attendances that year rose to 31, 643.

Also in 1993 Hove Council acquired a presentation drawing in pencil and watercolour with contributions from the Fine Art Society and the William Lang Trust. The work was by Sir James Knowles (1831-1908) and showed the projected Stanford Estate in 1871.

In March 1994 there came the unwelcome news that Hove Council was so short of funds that plans for ambitious exhibition to mark the centenary of film in 1996 was abandoned. One assistant was also to be made redundant.

From 8 March to 17 April 1994 an exhibition entitled The Great Ice-Cream Show attracted 3,600 visitors and in May 1994 Quilts with Conviction attracted almost the same number of people. In the latter exhibition there were 100 handmade pieces; traditional ones were on view at Hove Museum and modern pieces were displayed at the Corn Exchange at Brighton.

From 9 October to 4 December The Woodcarvers’ Craft showcased three centuries of British woodcarving.

Childhood Gallery

In December 1994 the new Childhood Gallery was unveiled in an upstairs part of the museum that had not been altered in fifteen years. South East Museum Service funded the project, which involved a tremendous amount of work prior to opening. Isabel Wilson, project creator, and Jonathan Fell, museum designer, spent eighteen months on research and development. The large range of exhibits was displayed in a novel way; for instance delicate samplers were kept in the plan chest while children pulling open the many drawers never knew what treasures they might find. Hidden surprises ranged from miniature crockery to a plastic action man or Noddy.

One important part of the display was a case containing dolls’ house and antique dolls. H.L. Hansard of Romney, a retired engineer, created the dolls’ house for Mrs Percy Willett of Hove.

Rose Chalkley of Brittany Road died aged 85 in 1977 and left her collection of dolls to Hove Museum; amongst them was a wax-faced Victorian doll and another from the 1920s. Many years ago Mrs Chalkey used to give Christmas parties for poor children at her private nursing home in York Avenue.

The Childhood Gallery provides immense enjoyment to youngsters because it is ingeniously set out and there is even a snoring wizard in a hammock, which gives the more sensitive child a bit of a shock because they cannot be sure if the wizard is real or not. Parents too have a trip down memory lane because the exhibits are not restricted to Victorian and Edwardian times and include more recent toys they will recognise from their youth.

There are delightful displays of lead soldiers and lead farm animals as well as model engines and boats. The gallery leads through to a room containing paintings with a childhood theme.

Tea Room

In 1995 a tearoom was opened in the china gallery. At first it was only open for business at weekends but it proved to be so popular that the hours were extended to weekdays too. It was an appropriate setting because there was a collection of teapots nearby dating from the 18thcentury to a modern ‘pumpkin’ design.      

There was an article about the tearoom (Evening Argus 13 September 1997) in which the writer said the waitress was ‘summoned by the quaint ringing of a bell’.

Other Exhibitions in the Nineties

On 20 April 1996 a special exhibition of French painters from Le Havre was opened. Works on display included paintings by Monet, Pissaro, Sisley and Dufy.

In July 1996 there was a novel exhibition entitled Nosh featuring eating, drinking and shopping at Hove in times past.

In 1996 the museum’s interior entrance was refurbished. Glassmakers Diane Radford and Lindsey Ball transformed the doors with their eye-catching glasswork.

In November 1997 there was an exhibition and sale featuring the work of Sussex artists with more than 300 paintings, sculptures, pottery and other handmade items, which raised around £1,500 for the Jewish Home in Burlington Street.

In 1999, attendances shot up 2,482 during February. Abigail Thomas, Museum Keeper, said the success was due to the popularity of Zoo an exhibition of fantastic creatures, and DIY Cinema one hundred years of home movies.

Brighton & Hove Albion

In 2000 there was a very successful exhibition featuring the local football club, subtitled 99 Years of Entertainment and Passion. During its run of nine weeks 10,704 visitors came through the door. There were all sorts of memorabilia including old programmes, photographs, old postcards, shirts, scarves and paintings. There was even an ancient turnstile complete with peeling paint from the Goldstone Ground.

It is interesting to note that in November 1996 Hove Council purchased for £4,000 a painting entitled Brighton & Hove Albion at the Goldstone. Fred Yates painted it in 1953. He was an art teacher who painted in his spare time but eventually he became successful enough to become a full-time artist.

The Barnes Collection and the Early Movie Galleries

In September 1996 a special exhibition opened entitled The Arrival of Cinema 1895-1914. Twins John and William Barnes lent many of the exhibits. Originally, the Barnes Collection was housed in their Museum of Cinematography at St Ives, Cornwall, which opened in 1963 and closed in 1986. It was hoped that eventually it would be possible to purchase the collection for Hove Museum and place it in a special extension. The collection would add interest the history of the early Hove cinema pioneers George Albert Smith, , Esme Collings, James Williamson and William Friese-Greene. South East Film and Video Archive had already transferred films made between 1896 and 1900 on to videotape to be shown in the gallery.

In December 1997 it was announced that Hove Council had acquired part of the Barnes Collection and twelve cameras (mainly the work of Alfred Darling) plus 30 pieces of move-making equipment would go on display.

Funding Secured

In April 2000 it was announced that the Heritage Lottery Fund had awarded Hove Museum £336,500 to improve disabled and community access. There would also be new galleries to display the museum’s best-known exhibits like the Barnes collection, toys, local history and fine arts.

The total cost was put at £534,734. Brighton & Hove City Council provided £163,000, the Headley Trust granted £35,000 and Friends of Hove Museum raised £8,000. In fact the £163,000 promised by Brighton & Hove City Council was used as match funding to secure the award from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  

In 2001 it was announced that Hove Museum had been successful in a £100,000 bid to the Regional Arts Lottery Scheme, which would allow a new contemporary craft gallery to be created, in addition to the other work already agreed upon.

Hove Museum shut in July 2001 in order that building work might begin. It took seven weeks to clear the building and re-site the offices. But there was an unfortunate hitch in the proceedings because planning permission did not come though until 19 October 2001 and nothing could start until it was received. The contractors moved in on 9 January 2002.Originally it was hoped that the museum would re-open in late October of the same year but the delay in starting meant it would not be ready until 2003.
 copyright © J.Middleton
The handsome railings are a modern installation. Unfortunately, the money ran out before railings could cover the whole frontage.

Snowdog Max

An Art Trail consisting of over 40 individually decorated snowdogs adorned various outdoor sites throughout Brighton and Hove from September to the end of November 2016. The idea behind the venture was to raise money for Martlets Hospice in Hove and it proved to be extremely successful. The inspiration for the model came from the snowdog that appeared in the animated sequel to Raymond Briggs’ famous creation The Snowman.

Max occupied a prominent site outside Hove Museum. Sarah Arnett, 48-year old Brighton artist and designer, created Max. She took her inspiration from the exotic wallpapers to be found inside the Royal Pavilion. She said ‘I am absolutely obsessed with the Royal Pavilion and I wanted to celebrate it in a different way that has never been done before.’

Staunch supporters of Martlets, Hove couple Joan and Jerry Cooper, sponsored Max. Mrs Cooper said ‘He’s absolutely beautiful. The design is just magical. I am thrilled. When I looked at him I could see the Royal Pavilion immediately.’

Max proved to be the most popular snowdog, raising the most money. Tim Wonnacott presided over the auction on 6 December 2016 and the new owner was prepared to pay the astonishing sum of £22,000 for Max.
  copyright © J.Middleton
Max by Sarah Arnett standing 1.5 metres 
was photographed outside Hove Museum on 2 November 2016.

Tea Room Closes

It is sad to record that the tea room, which had been such a success initially, closed on 30 April 2017 due to a lack of customers. Some people claimed the café had been systematically run down but the fact remains that taxpayers were subsiding it to the tune of £25,000 a year.

Council officials could not help taking a side-swipe about the defeat of plans to move Hove Library into Hove Museum. If that had gone ahead footfall would have increased by 150,000 a year and the café would have become sustainable.

Christopher Hawtree, Hove Library campaigner, questioned why valuable display space should be lost to a café in the first place. In the tea room visitors who might wish to study the pictures on the wall, found they were placed so high up, they were unable to appreciate them properly.


Brighton Society
Beevers, David From the East Comes Light; A Relic of the Raj at Hove. Royal Pavilion, Libraries & Museums Review July 2000
Beevers, David A Possible Source for the Jaipur Gate at Hove Museum. Royal Pavilion, Libraries and Museums Review July 2004
Census Returns
Middleton J. Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Hove Council Minute Books
Local newspapers on micro-film, Hove Library
Maharaja; The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts. Edited by Anna Jackson and Amin Jaffer with Deepika Ahlawat (2009)
Middleton, Judy Yesterday in Brighton & Hove (2010)    
Porter, Henry A History of Hove

Copyright © J.Middleton 2015
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