12 January 2016

Brunswick Road, Hove

Judy Middleton (2001 revised 2015)

Originally, the land on which this road was laid out did not come under the jurisdiction of the Brunswick Square Commissioners. But this was rectified on 7th August 1851 when the Brunswick Square Improvement Extension Act received the Royal Assent. The 1851 census noted there were 20 houses in the process of being built and by the time the road was completed there were 60 houses. It is possible to know the building date of a few by the survival of leases; thus numbers 31 and 35 were built in 1854 while number 33 was built in 1855. The land was part of the Goldsmid Estate (formerly Wick Farm) and the Goldsmids continued to retain an interest in the properties; for instance in 1907 the Goldsmid Estate was still collecting rent from the residents of numbers 31, 33, 34, 35, 37 and 38.

It is interesting to note the change of character of the road. In 1861 there were seven private schools involving eleven houses and 113 children (84 boys and 29 girls) but the height of its scholastic status was in 1871 when there were eight schools occupying thirteen houses with 158 pupils (95 girls and 63 boys). By 1881 there were five schools located in ten houses with 93 children (53 boys and 40 girls) while by 1891 the number had dwindled to three schools and 40 children. Of course the road will always be famous because Sir Winston Churchill was a schoolboy at the Misses Thompson’s establishment at numbers 29 and 30 from 1884 to 1888.

The road was also a popular location for private boarding houses or lodging houses. There were five in 1871, nine in 1881 and the same number in 1891. While one house sheltered a few elderly ladies, other houses provided a roof for professional people such as a surgeon. Doctors too thought Brunswick Road was a good address at which to put up their brass plates with Dr Frederick Wildbore at number 2 being the first. By 1891 there were three doctors and three clergymen living in the road. Mention must also be made of number 59, which was the home of the artistic Scott family for many years.

Famous Residents

3, 4, 5 and 6 Brunswick Road
The Revd Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Sons. In 1861 William Olding, 33, ran Camden House School in 4, 5 and 6 Brunswick Road. He lived with his wife, their three sons, a lady superintendent, three teachers (including a French pastor) and seven servants. There were 41 boys in the establishment. By 1871 the school had added another house (number 3) and William Olding was assisted by his unmarried sister Sarah Olding. There were now 56 boys including the twin Spurgeon boys, Charles and Thomas aged fourteen, whose father was a celebrated preacher, the Revd Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892). Both boys went on to become pastors too but while Thomas went to New Zealand, Charles became pastor of Holland Road Baptist Church, Hove, from 1908-1917.

The Spurgeons had Dutch origins, having been forced to flee the country to escape religious persecution. They settled in East Anglia and were known for their piety and industry. CH Spurgeon was the eldest of seventeen children and both his father and grandfather were pastors. All the same it was no easy task for Charles to follow in the footsteps of his famous father. As he himself admitted he was happy to learn at his father’s feet but he could never preach in his presence and he was reluctant even to reveal the text he was using in his sermon. The Revd R Schindler neatly summed up the situation. ‘Pastor Charles Spurgeon has the advantage of his father’s name and fame, which may not always be an advantage, however, for the public are not always just in their expectations. He enjoyed, nevertheless, considerable popularity; and what is far better … he fulfils his ministry with growing acceptance and usefulness’.
William Olding was still running the school in 1881 but it had closed by the 1890s.

copyright © J.Middleton
29 & 30 Brunswick Road the former 
school of the young Sir Winston Churchill
29 & 30 Brunswick Road  
Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) In 1861 there was already a school at number 29 where Miss Eliza Burrell, 52, in conjunction with Miss Helen Mounsey, educated young ladies. There were five teachers, five servants and nineteen girls including Rosamund Churchill aged nine, third daughter of the Duke of Marlborough. (It is perhaps a coincidence that there was one Churchill here in 1861 and another Churchill present in the 1880s).  The same partners continued to run the school in 1871, by which time there were four governesses (one French) and 24 girls of whom one was born in India and five were Sussex-born. Perhaps as Miss Burrell was aged 63 and Miss Mounsey was aged 56 in 1871, they felt retirement approaching; at any rate they had gone by 1878 when Miss Young and Miss Hoggins were running the establishment. 

The next year Miss Young was in charge on her own and she continued to do so until 1880 when Marylebone-born spinsters and sisters Charlotte Thomson, 37, and Catherine (Kate) Thomson, 34, took over the school. In 1881 there were two female governesses, one male classical tutor, three female servants, a matron and sixteen boys, five of them born in India. 

In 1884 young Winston Churchill arrived at the school with a mop of red hair and a reputation for being naughty. But he also suffered from a weak constitution and the school was probably selected for the benefit he might obtain from the sea air and the presence of the family physician, Dr Robson Roose, in Brighton. Another reason was that Winston had been deeply unhappy at his former prep school, St George’s at Ascot, which he described as horrible. The Misses Thomson ran a more kindly regime and indeed Winston was very happy at their school. He later commented that he was allowed to pursue subjects that interested him and he enjoyed learning reams of poetry by heart as well as physical activities such as swimming and riding. However, his health remained a worry and when his mother Lady Randolph Churchill visited him at school in February 1885 she found him very pale and delicate. Apparently the food also left something to be desired with Winston grumbling that on one occasion he only had half a sausage for breakfast. But perhaps it was poetic licence in comparing more Spartan fare with the lavish meals served in the Churchill household.
Winston wrote many letters home during his four years at the school and he always wrote ‘Brighton’ under the heading ’29 & 30 Brunswick Road’. 

On 17th December 1884 Charlotte Thomson had the unenviable task of writing to Lady Churchill to inform her that a fellow pupil had stabbed Winston with a penknife in an argument during a drawing examination. Winston received a slight chest wound but of course it could have been much more serious. Lady Randolph was not surprised to hear that Winston had pulled the other boy’s ear first. There was a closer brush with death in 1886 when Winston became ill with pneumonia. On 15th March 1886 Dr Roose wrote to Lady Randolph telling her he was fighting the battle for her boy. Although Winston’s temperature shot up to 103, Dr Roose refused to feel anxious so long as he could keep it below 105.
copyright © J.Middleton

It appears Charlotte Thomson made the most impression on Winston. On one of his reports she wrote ‘decided improvement in attention’ and when Winston wrote home he would mention her health or how she had been given a fox-terrier puppy. One early battle of wills resulted in a victory for Charlotte. On Sundays Winston attended the Chapel Royal, Brighton, with the other boys but his Protestant soul was horrified when during the recital of the Creed, everyone turned towards the east. Winston felt sure that his beloved old nurse, Mrs Everest, would disapprove of such a Popish practice and so he refused to turn with the rest of them. He prepared himself to be a martyr. But next time the boys attended the Chapel Royal, they found themselves placed in pews that already faced east.

It was Charlotte who accompanied Winston to Harrow in March 1888 when he sat the entrance exam. She was almost as nervous as he was and he was violently sick afterwards. According to Charlotte he just scraped through but his arithmetic papers scored top marks and unfortunately no papers were set in his best subjects of English, French, history and geography. Instead there were papers on Latin, Greek, Euclid and algebra. Winston said it was far harder than he expected and there was some very difficult Latin and Greek translations.

Winston Churchill left Hove in 1888 and the school left Hove in around 1898 and moved to Oathall Road, Haywards Heath, where it was known as Brunswick Prep School. There was a stone plaque on the Brunswick Road building to commemorate Winston’s stay. The original rectangular one was unveiled on 17th July 1953 by Councillor AE Brock, Mayor of Hove, but Mrs Nellie Cushman (who had sponsored the tablet) was unable to be present. Unfortunately the dates were wrong with 1883-1885 being inscribed instead of the correct 1884-1888. When a round blue plaque replaced the tablet, the same wrong dates re-appeared but as both plaques were privately sponsored, there was nothing Hove Council could do about it. Every so often the Council receives an irate letter from people who discover the discrepancy but to no effect. One such correspondent was Celia Sandys (nee Churchill) Winston Churchill’s grand-daughter.

Number 47
Lady Rebecca Waller (1814-1890) lived in this house in 1861. In 1844 she had married Sir Edmund Waller (1797-1851) but by the time of the 1861 census she had been widowed for around ten years. Their son Sir Edmund Waller (1846-1888) lived in the house too.

Lady Rebecca came from an interesting family and her maiden name was Guinness. Her grandfather Arthur Guinness (1725-1803) founded Guinness’s Brewery in Dublin in 1759. Lady Rebecca’s brother, Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, became the sole owner of the brewery business when their father (another Arthur Guinness) died in 1855. He built up the firm and it exported their famous product throughout the world. He was able to use his wealth to restore St Patrick’s Cathedral to its former splendour and it took five years.

59 Brunswick Road
John Henderson Scott (1829-1886) He was described as a landscape painter in 1861 and he was the son of William Henry Stothard Scott (1783-1850) and the grandson of Edmund Scott (1758-1815). They were all artists and so was their extended family. This included two brothers and two sisters of JH Scott, a cousin Edmund Evan Scott (an architect) and Scott’s daughter Amy (1862-1950) who was the last survivor of the artistic Scotts.

Grandfather Edmund Scott was a society portrait painter and he became portrait engraver to the Prince of Wales while his son WHS Stothard was a friend of the artist John Sell Cotman and they used to go on painting expeditions together.

In 1871 J H Scott was living in this house with his wife Maria, 44, his daughters Mary, 18, Elizabeth 15, Isabel 14 and Amy 10, and three female servants. In fact the family occupied the house for over 30 years. Mrs JH Scott was artistic too but in a different field; she was a professor of singing and gave singing lessons. By 1890 Miss Amy Scott was giving art classes and she had her own studio at 1 Sillwood Terrace, Brighton. She was a National Gold medallist and when she died in 1950 she bequeathed the family archive to Hove Museum. In 1988 Hove Museum mounted a a very successful exhibition devoted to the Scott family set in a replica drawing room and one of the exhibits was a painting signed by ‘Miss Amy Scott 59 Brunswick Road, 

Census Returns
Churchill, Randolph Winston Churchill Volume I 1874-1900 (1967
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade 
Middleton, J A History of Hove (1979) 
Sandys, Celia From Winston with Love and Kisses (1994) 

Copyright © J.Middleton 2015
page layout by D.Sharp