12 January 2016

Brunswick Place, Hove

Judy Middleton (2001 revised 2012)

copyright © J.Middleton
The west side of Brunswick Place

The houses on the north-west and north-east side of Brunswick Square turn the corner into Brunswick Place. The eight houses in Brunswick Place (south of Western Road) were constructed immediately after the completion of Brunswick Square and were finished by 1828. Charles Augustin Busby was the architect of these houses too but the final design was not the one he thought of originally. During the planning stage Busby entertained the notion of a grand ballroom on the east side. Drawings show he envisaged the ballroom as being 50 feet long and 40 feet wide with an arched ceiling 30 feet high while the outside fa├žade resembled a classical temple. When the idea was dropped, three houses were built instead; the fourth house was already part of the ballroom scheme to provide accommodation for guests.
The original eight houses were called Brunswick Place or Lower Brunswick Place. The houses north of Western Road were called Upper Brunswick Place although the land on which they were constructed lay outside the boundary covered by the Brunswick Square Act of 1830; all that is except for 100 feet close to Western Road where some houses were built before 1851. The jurisdiction of the Brunswick Square Commissioners was enlarged under a second Act of Parliament in 1851 and building began on the rest of the houses. By 1854 some 38 houses were built and occupied and by 1859 the number had risen to sixty-four.
Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid owned the land, which he leased or sold for development in individual plots or two at the most. This led to a somewhat erratic system of numbering and there was never a 49 or 50. In around 1878 both parts of Brunswick Place were renumbered into one sequence of 70 houses with odd numbers on the west and even numbers on the east. Before that date census records are difficult to work out what with the peculiar numbering plus the fact the houses do not appear in a continuous sequence but in four separate parts.
Advert for Boarding House
in Brunswick Place 1912

By 1858 the occupants of Brunswick Place could be said to be a typical Hove mix of the 19th century with a few private schools, several wealthy widows, a number of clergymen, some eminent military personnel and a light sprinkling of titles. Hove was well-known for its small boarding schools and people serving abroad (particularly in India) would send their offspring home to be educated. By 1880 the Army and Navy top brass were still strongly represented with Lieutenant General Cameron Shute, Lieutenant Colonel the Hon. WL Talbot, Colonel Sir John Stewart Wood, Colonel Verner, Lieutenant General FD George, Major Kincaid Smith, Captain Francis Reid and Admiral Randolph. Later in the 19th century the lower part of Brunswick Place came to resemble a local Harley Street with several doctors in residence.

In 1896 there were plans to plant trees in Brunswick Place, north of Western Road. The surveyor reported that because the pavements extended out to the line of the kerb, trees could only be planted at the side of the road, which meant kerbing and channelling would have to be taken up and re-laid. The estimated cost of the work and the purchase of 58 trees came to £350. In spite of the trouble and expense involved, the surveyor was given the go-ahead, but then a petition arrived signed by 30 residents and ratepayers. The petitioners asked the Council not to plant trees, bearing in mind the object lesson afforded by neighbouring Cambridge Road and Brunswick Road. The matter was quietly dropped. In 1899 it was decreed that two hackney carriage stands should be provided, one between numbers 7 and 8, the other between numbers 9 and 10.

On 24th March 1950 all of Brunswick Place together with walls and railings became Grade II listed buildings and on 2nd November 1992 seven old lamp-posts were also listed as Grade II, being added for their group value.
copyright © J.Middleton  
The old swan-necked lamp post
enjoys Grade II listed
building status.

In September 1992 there was a rumpus when Ian Moy-Loader, a former Mayor of Hove, was ordered to paint over or remove his bright red burglar alarm box. He was unhappy about the stipulation because he had installed the alarm as a deterrent to thieves, having been burgled eighteen times in sixteen years. But planning officials replied if they did not clamp down, a rash of red boxes would disfigure the painted uniformity of the Brunswick area

In May 1997 residents were furious when a large black column appeared at the foot of Brunswick Place. There was a security camera on top but far from being pleased, residents feared the camera might spy into their bedrooms. Besides it ruined the look of a conservation area. The pole was 32 feet high and provoked a wave of protests including a petition against it signed by 1,100 people. Bowing to public pressure, in November 1998 it was announced camera and pole would be moved to a less conspicuous position in Western Road and a much shorter pole would be painted green to blend in with the street lamps. In March 1999 it was stated the pole would be removed and the camera (using a cable instead of microwaves) would be installed at the corner.
Car parking in the southern portion of Brunswick Place had a long history. It was sanctioned in March 1926 under section 68 on the Public Health Act 1925. In July 1999 the Council decided to close off this portion from traffic going to and from Western Road – in fact making Brunswick Square a large cul-de-sac. Work on this project was still going forward in the summer of 2000. Also, despite protests, the taxi rank that always used to be in the centre of the northern part of Brunswick Place was moved to the east side.

In 2010 it was revealed that 19 Brunswick Place had been empty for four years and was once occupied by squatters. It had been added to the council’s Register of Listed Buildings in dangerous states of disrepair the previous year but by March 2010 it had deteriorated to such an extent experts declared it was ‘wholly uninhabitable’. In May 2010 it was stated the Council had been obliged to spend £40,000 on urgent repairs and hoped to recover costs from the owner.
The writer EM Forster once lived in Brunswick Place. Two of his most famous works are A Room with a View (1908) and A Passage to India (1924) both of them being made into films in the 1980s.
Recent notable residents include Helen Zahavi, who in the long, hot summer of 1988 lived in a flat where the back windows were overlooked by 30 other windows. It gave her the inspiration to write her best-selling novel Dirty Weekend, which was made into a film. In the 1990s Patsy Rowlands lived here too; she was one of the stars in the famous Carry On films.
Famous Residents

4 Brunswick Place
James Warnes Howlett. In 1871 Norfolk-born Howlett, a widower aged 43, was the occupant of the house. He was a solicitor and an attorney and he lived with his unmarried sister Frances, his daughters Beatrice 8, Edith 7, Marianne 6, a governess and three female servants. Ten years later none of his daughters was home on census night and there were only Howlett and two female servants present. In 1891 Howlett was still there and he was living with his daughter Edith and three female servants. It was this daughter Edith who tragically fell to her death from the third storey of the house on 17th December 1892, striking the balcony on her way down and injuring her head terribly. She was aged 29 at the time of her death. She had been involved in an accident with a London cab and had often complained of dizziness since the event.
Howlett was popularly called the Father of Hove and he was such a prominent man in Hove affairs that his name was inscribed on the hour bell (it weighed 36 cwt) at Hove Town Hall. He fought for Hove to retain its independence when Brighton was intent on taking over. A local jingle went ‘ Howlett and Hove / Names almost synonymous / Since Howlett’s sharp move / Made Hove autonomous’. He also devised the Hove motto Floreat Hova (May Hove Flourish). According to A. Fraser Taylor, Howlett was a tall, gaunt man with one eye but he kept a fine cellar. Even in old age whilst acknowledging his cellar was not what it was, he could still offer the visitor a choice between 50 or 60 different wines. Howlett remained in the house and died on 12th January 1911.

7 Brunswick Place
Diana Caldwell (1913-1987) She was born on 22nd December 1913 in this house. Her father was Josiah Seymour Caldwell, aged 45, and her mother Marjorie was 28 years old. There was an older sister Daphne who was five. Mrs Caldwell had not been at all pleased to move to Hove, which she considered to be a social wilderness. But her father thought there had been quite enough high living on the London social scene and that it was time she settled down to married life and so he purchased the Brunswick house for them. But where the family actually lived seems to be a bit of a mystery. In the book White Mischief, it is stated they lived in the Red House, Lansdowne Road and local resident, the late Mrs Marshall, supported this statement. But the Directories record the Caldwells occupying 7 Brunswick Place until at least 1940 and so does Leda Farrant in her book. However, Farrant’s description of the house does not sound a bit like Brunswick Place. She talks about a typical Victorian house covered with ivy and with a privet hedge surrounding it. The four-storey house had a large garden at the back with mature trees and capacious enough for a tennis court. On the ground floor were the drawing room, sitting room, dining room, morning room, study and conservatory (all these rooms would never have been located on a single floor in a Brunswick house). On the next two floors were six bedrooms and two bathrooms, while the floor above housed the day and night nurseries, nanny’s room, governess’s room and the maids’ rooms were at the top.
copyright © J.Middleton
Brunswick Place

Seymour Caldwell was too old for active service in World War I but he joined up anyway and served as a Lieutenant and later as a Captain in the 6th Territorial Pioneer Battalion of Princess Louise’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. But his duties were not onerous and he was often back home at Hove, where even at a tender age, Diana was able to twist him round her little finger. Diana attended St Michael’s Hall, a private girls’ school in Lansdowne Road, but when she was almost eleven years old she was sent to Horsley Towers, a boarding school. When Diana grew up she enjoyed the high social life as much as her mother had done. She married four times 1. Vernon Martin on 27th October 1937. 2. Sir Henry (Jock) Delves Broughton on 5th November 1940. 3. Gilbert Colville on 22nd January 1943. 4. Thomas Pitt Hamilton Cholmondeley, 4th Baron Delamare on 26th March 1955.
Everyone enjoys a good whodunit and Diana’s notoriety rests on her being one of the central figures in the murder of Josslyn Hay, Earl of Erroll, on 24th January 1941 outside Nairobi. At the time of the murder Diana was conducting an affair with Erroll despite the fact she had only recently married her second husband. The authorities assumed it was a classic case of a jealous husband taking his revenge. But Delves Broughton was acquitted of Erroll’s murder. The upshot of the book by James Fox was that Delves Broughton was guilty after all and he did commit suicide in 1942.  A book by Juanita Carberry also supports the notion of Delves Broughton’s guilt. Carberry’s parents had a coffee plantation in the White Highlands, Kenya, and knew the people involved. In fact Carberry claims that when she was a 15-year old schoolgirl, Delves Broughton confessed to her he had murdered Erroll and signed her autograph book with the date 27th January 1941. However, Farrant’s book suggests it was Diana who murdered Erroll and probably her old friend Hugh Dickinson helped to move the body. It appears many of the ladies in Kenya had their own guns and Diana was quite free with the use of hers. When another lover, Peter Leth, decided to end their affair, she was so angry she shot him; the bullet entered above the heart and passed out at the shoulder blade. He survived. Ron Watts, another lover, also had a lucky escape. Diana found him and a female guest in a compromising position and she again used her gun but the bullets missed their target.
On 25th September 1966 the Sunday Nation named Diana as Erroll’s murderer in its early edition. The reporter no doubt thought Diana was dead. But she was very much alive and the paper was hurriedly withdrawn. Everybody expected Diana to be furious but she was quite laid back saying ‘Everyone knows I did it’. Then in 1999 there came a new twist in the saga when Trzebinski claimed British agents on instruction from London had killed Erroll. It transpired that Erroll had once been a member of the British Union of Fascists led by his friend Oswald Mosley and he knew too much about right wing activities. He knew about the Duke of Windsor’s Nazi sympathies, and Rudolph Hess’s flight to Scotland. Susan Melanie Van Der Playden (alias Mary Shaw) and Army officer James Gregory were the two agents chosen for the mission. Mary shot Erroll behind his left ear with her Colt PT32 special as he was driving his Buick. Neither of the agents survived the war. Support for the theory comes from gaps in official documents covering January 1941, which suggest a cover-up. (Another footnote to the saga is that in 2007 Isabella Blow, the fashion icon, who was Delves Broughton’s grand-daughter, also committed suicide).

9 Brunswick Place
Mary Cockburn. In 1851 Scottish-born Mary Cockburn, a 60-year old widow, lived in the house with three female servants and one male servant. Mary Cockburn (nee Duff) was a cousin of the poet Lord Byron who as a child of eight was said to have fallen in love with her. It was more than a childish infatuation because when he heard of her marriage some eight years later, he was very upset. John Ruskin described her as still extremely beautiful in middle age, full of good sense and although she displayed proud severity, she was also very kind. Her husband Robert was an Edinburgh gentleman, a well-known wine merchant and leading importer of the finest Portuguese wine. His brother was Lord Cockburn the Scottish judge. Mary Cockburn lived in Hove after she was widowed and died on 10th March 1858.

16 Brunswick Place
Revd James O’Brien (1810-1884) In 1861 Irish-born O’Brien lived in the house with his wife Octavia, 43, his mother-in-law aged 83, three female servants and one male servant. There were no children of the marriage. He became a Doctor of Divinity in 1863 and he and his wife continued to occupy the house until his death on 8th January 1884. He was buried in the churchyard of St Andrew’s Old Church where his tombstone is to be seen to this day. His widow died four months after he did. O’Brien was the founder and first incumbent of St Patrick’s Church, Cambridge Road, Hove, and indeed he paid for it to be built. Although a man of learning, he was a dismal preacher and later in life left the disagreeable task to his curates. By this time he had honed his pulpit utterances to two sermons, both suitable for Christmas Day. But he was passionate about church music and in its glory days St Patrick’s could boast a choir of 80 men and boys. Critics dubbed the church ‘Paddy’s Music Hall’.    

47 Brunswick Place
Captain George Thomas Scovell. In 1852 when he was a Sandhurst cadet he was selected to represent the Royal Military College at the funeral of the Duke of Wellington in St Paul’s Cathedral. In June 1854 he joined the 79th Highlanders and served throughout the Indian Mutiny including the siege of Lucknow. He spent his later years at this house and died aged 85 in May 1923. It seems probable he was related to Lieutenant Colonel George Scovell of the 4th Dragoons who in 1812 managed to break the French Army’s main cipher (Grand Chiffre) thus providing Wellington’s staff with important information, which played a vital part in the victories of Salamanca and Vitoria.

53 Brunswick Place
Major General Richard Drought. In 1871 Worcester-born Richard Drought, 68, lived in the house with his wife, two female servants and one general manservant. He had retired from the Bengal Army. He was present at the siege of Bhurtpore in 1825-1826 and he was awarded the Indian medal; he was at the capture of Jhansi in 1839 and he was with Brigadier General Wilde’s Brigade in Afghanistan in 1842. He commanded his regiment at the Khyber Pass in 1842 and he was present at the siege of Delhi where he was wounded and from which he never recovered properly. Drought died on 11th April 1873 but in 1881 his widow Mary Drought, 64, continued to occupy the house with a butler and three female servants. 

Copyright © J.Middleton 2012
page layout by D.Sharp