12 January 2016

Hove Plaques Index A - B

Listed below:- Elizabeth Allan, Dame Henrietta Barnett, Sir Charles Barry, Robert Bevan, Hablot Browne 'PHIZ', Charles Busby, Dame Clara Butt. 

Elizabeth Allan (1910-1990)
Judy Middleton  (2001 revised 2014)

copyright © J.Middleton
3 Courtenay Terrace. Hove.
Elizabeth Allan’s father was a doctor and she was the youngest of six children; she was born in Skegness. She won a scholarship to the Old Vic and in 1927 she made her first stage appearance in The Taming of the Shrew.

Her film debut was in 1929 in Alibi, an Agatha Christie thriller and her first speaking part was in 1928 in School for Scandal. Her first screen-starring role was in Service for Ladies opposite Leslie Howard in 1932 with Alexander Korda being the producer. Another film dating from 1932 was a thriller The Lodger in which her fellow actors were Ivor Novello and Jack Hawkins.   

In 1932 she married her agent Wilfrid J. O’Bryan (generally know as Bill O’Bryan) who was instrumental in furthering her career.

In 1934 she departed for Hollywood where she was kept busy in one film after another. That same year she was cast in Men in White with Clark Gable, Myrna Loy and Otto Kruger.

In January 1935 the film David Copperfield was released. Elizabeth appeared with a star-studded cast including Freddie Bartholomew, Lionel Barrymore, Basil Rathbone, Maureen O’Sullivan and W.C. Fields while George Cukor was the director. The film remains a classic.

In December 1935 a second film based on a novel by Charles Dickens was released.  This was A Tale of Two Cities in which she played Lucie Manette opposite Ronald Coleman who took the part of Sydney Carton.

In 1936 Elizabeth was cast in another film directed by George Cukor; it was Camille and her fellow stars were Robert Taylor, Lionel Barrymore and Greta Garbo.

Elizabeth’s first glimpse of the legendary Garbo was of her playing a hard game of tennis against a professional tennis player. In the Thirties tennis was much in vogue amongst Hollywood stars and fortunately Elizabeth was a keen tennis player. Two other stars with whom she played tennis were Ginger Rogers and Katherine Hepburn. In later life Elizabeth took up golf.

As Elizabeth herself said she was usually cast as a goody two-shoes character when she would really have preferred to get her teeth into portraying a vamp or a femme fatale. But despite her demure screen image, she had a racy reputation in Hollywood and there was gossip about affairs. Her marriage suffered too because her husband’s work was based back in Britain although he visited the States as often as possible. There was a separation.

Neither was Elizabeth afraid to voice her opinion and this caused arguments with the film companies and she once walked off a film set. She was blacklisted following a dispute with MGM and disillusioned with Hollywood she returned to England in 1938.
But it was not all gloom and doom. She was reconciled with her husband and the longer the marriage lasted, the more devoted to him she grew. She even became a Roman Catholic, which was her husband’s religion and when they lived at Hove, she went frequently to Mass. Her husband became Major O’Bryen and had the distinction of serving in both world wars, being awarded the Military Cross and the Croix de Guerre. During the Second World War Elizabeth busied herself working at a canteen in London.

She took up her film career again and in 1942 appeared in Went the Day Well with British stalwarts such as Thora Hird and Patricia Hayes. In 1951 Elizabeth was cast in
No Highway in the Sky with Marlene Dietrich, James Stewart, Glynis Johns and Jack Hawkins. In 1954 Heart of the Matter was released, based on Graham Greene’s book. Elizabeth’s fellow cast members were Trevor Howard, Denholm Elliott, Peter Finch and Michael Hordern. Trevor Howard said it was one of his favourite films. Michael Hordern also has a local connection because he went to Windlesham House School when it was based in Portslade.   

Elizabeth’s last firm Haunted Stranger was released in 1958 when she played opposite Boris Karloff as his wife.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth had also been making a name for herself on the small screen. She was famous for her appearances as a panellist on What’s My Line with irascible Gilbert Harding and comedian Jerry Desmonde. She was admired for her elegance, wit and fascinating earrings. But she left the show in 1952 when the schedule was moved to a Sunday and she did not wish to work on Sundays.

In the 1960s she appeared in Swop Shop and Call my Bluff and she had her own show too Shopping with Elizabeth Allan.

After over 40 years on stage, screen and television, and around 50 films to her credit Elizabeth retired to look after her sick husband. The couple lived at 3 Courtenay Terrace, a charming period property situated on the seafront at Hove. When it was first built, the house’s garden extended to the beach but eventually Hove Council purchased part of it in order to extend the famous promenade. Her husband died aged 79 in 1977 and Elizabeth decided to remain in her Hove home.

Gladys Haseltine, landlady of the Neptune pub during the 1940s and 1950s, remembered Elizabeth Allan as one of her regular customers. The pub had become popular with theatrical folk and luminaries such as Gilbert Harding, Jerry Desmonde (her erstwhile colleagues on What’s my Line) and Dickie Henderson also visited the place when Mrs Haseltine was behind the bar. The pub was at no great distance from Courtenay Terrace.

In July 1990 Elizabeth Allan aged 82 suffered a severe stroke and she was taken to Brighton General Hospital. She died on 27 July the same year.

On 25 September 1996 Leslie Hamilton, senior, Mayor of Hove, unveiled a plaque at her home 3 Courtenay Terrace.

Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Internet searches

Copyright © J.Middleton 2014

Dame Henrietta Barnett (1851-1936)
Judy Middleton (2001 revised 2014)

Copyright © J.Middleton
Plaque – 45 Wish Road
Henrietta Octavia Weston Rowland was born on 4 May 1851, the youngest of eight children, a clue to her place in the family hierarchy being provided by her second name Octavia. Her father, Alexander Rowland, was a merchant who imported essences and oils from the West Indies. Her forbears founded Rowlands Macassor Oil Company.

Although her family was wealthy, Henrietta had a keen social conscience and she enjoyed working for charity. It was during her voluntary work that she met her future husband Revd Samuel Augustus Barnett (1844-1913). The couple married on 28 January 1873. Revd Barnett was an Anglican clergyman and social reformer who was born at Bristol and educated at Wadham College, Oxford. He was actively involved with poor people in London and served as Rector of St Jude’s Church, Whitechapel from 1873 to 1902. 

During these busy years Henrietta co-founded the Children’s Country Holiday Trust while her husband founded the Family Welfare Association and in 1884 Toynbee Hall. The latter institution was the first university settlement to allow students to see at first hand how the other half lived in the East End and to interact with them; the experience must have proved an eye-opener for many a gilded youth. 

Beatrice Webb (1858-1943) social reformer and economist, described the young Mrs Barnett as ‘pretty, witty and well-to-do’. Henrietta was also blessed with enormous energy and self-confidence, which other people could find somewhat daunting but nobody could deny she had a warm and caring personality.

Her ultimate dream was to purchase a huge tract of land where people of all classes could live together in neighbourliness. In 1904 she formed the Garden Suburb Trust and in 1906 the Hampstead Garden Suburb Act received the Royal Assent. The land was acquired from Eton College Trustees. The first two cottages were built in 1907 and in 1909 Princess Louise came to open Waterloo Court, a block of flats for single ladies. There were some luxurious houses for the wealthy and simple cottages, many of which unfortunately did not have a bathroom. No public house was allowed within the estate although there was a clubhouse. 

True to her beliefs, Henrietta thought a church should occupy the most prominent position at the centre of her suburb and she commissioned Edwin Lutyens to design one; Eric Gill designed the foundation stones. The church was called St Jude-on-the-hill, no doubt as a tribute to their old church in Whitechapel. The church was opened in 1911. For her sixtieth birthday Henrietta’s friends clubbed together and paid for a tower and spire to be added to the structure. A Free Church was built on a site opposite and there was also a Quaker Meeting House and a synagogue.

The Hampstead Garden Suburb was a pioneering scheme and became famous throughout the world. Henrietta was made a Dame of the British Empire as a tribute to her work. 

A school for girls in the estate was named after her and in 1994 it had 650 pupils and came top in a survey of state school results. 

In 1913 the Barnetts retired to Hove where they took a house on King’s Esplanade but Henrietta’s husband died the same year and she moved to 12 Wish Road on the west side of the road. In around 1930 she moved to 45 Wish Road on the west side of the road where she remained until she died in 1936. Her ashes were buried in the churchyard of St Helen, Hangleton where her husband was also buried. 

In 1985 a plaque was unveiled at 45 Wish Road, which was funded by the Hampstead Garden Suburb Archives Trust.

Slack, Kathleen D. Henrietta’s Dream (1986)
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade

copyright © J.Middleton

Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860)
Judy Middleton (2001 revised 2014)

Copyright © J.Middleton
Plaque - St Andrew's Church
It is pleasant to record that Charles Barry was born in Westminster, opposite the site on which he was to leave such an outstanding and famous building. He was the fourth son of Walter Edward Barry, a stationer, who must have been an astute businessman because when he died he was able to bequeath a considerable sum to his family.

At the age of fifteen Charles Barry was articled to a firm of Lambeth surveyors and architects called Middleton & Bailey and he stayed there for six years. Perhaps as a mark of respect Barry’s son Edward was given the second name of Middleton and he too became an architect, designing Wyckhurst Place, Bolney in the 1870s.

As soon as Charles Barry reached the age of 21, he inherited enough money from his father to enable him to undertake an extensive grand tour. From 1817 to 1820 he travelled through France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Syria and Palestine. He thus built up a wide appreciation of different styles of architecture, which he had the leisure to study in detail. Hove Museum owns a charming pen-and-ink wash by Barry entitled Ponte delle Pagalia.    

In 1817 he also married Sarah Roswell and they went on to have a family of seven children, five sons and two daughters.
Copyright © J.Middleton
St Peter’s Church, Brighton. 
In 1823 Barry won an open competition to find the best design for a new church at Brighton to be called St Peter’s. This caused a great deal of disappointment to the local firm of Wilds & Busby who had high hopes of success with their design. To rub salt into the wound, Barry was also chosen to design St Andrew’s Chapel, Waterloo Street, Hove, which was consecrated in 1828. But then Barry was a friend of Revd Edward Everard whose idea it was to build a chapel at his own expense. Charles Augustin Busby had designed the entire Brunswick Town area on his own and it was unfortunate he was overlooked when the new chapel was mooted. St Andrew’s became a fashionable church. In 1828 the Brighton Gazette noted that ‘on Sunday last the congregation included no less than three Dukes and three Duchesses’. Today St Andrew’s Church is an important listed building and the first example of the Italianate style in England.

Copyright © J.Middleton
St Andrew’s Church, Waterloo Street
There was another connection between Barry and Hove when local landowner Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid asked him to enlarge his villa at Regent’s Park to create something similar to a country house.
Copyright © J.Middleton
Royal Sussex County Hospital
Then there was Barry’s design for the (Royal) Sussex County Hospital at Brighton, which opened in 1828; Attree’s Villa, Queen’s Park Brighton and the ‘Pepper Pot’ (a water tower in reality). At Hurstpierpoint Barry designed Holy Trinity Church.

Copyright © J.Middleton
This sketch of the well-known Pepper Pot 
was drawn in 1980
Barry has been described as the most versatile of the early Victorian architects. He was able to design Gothic-style churches, Grecian-style institutions while his Traveller’s Club on London was Quattrocento and the Reform Club was Cinquecento.

Barry’s magnum opus was his design for the new Houses of Parliament after a disastrous fire destroyed most of the old buildings in 1834. Once again the commission came about as a result of winning a competition and this one attracted 97 entries. A.W.N. Pugin (1812-1852) helped him create the drawings and later designed the interior details and sculptures.

But the commission was something of a poisoned chalice for Barry because of the enormous stress it involved. It was difficult to design because of the constraints imposed by having to accommodate the ancient parts that survived the fire and also the proximity of the River Thames, which involved a great deal of expense to stabilise the site. Barry woefully underestimated the time the building would take to complete and hoped it would be finished within six years; instead it spiralled out to 20 years and the final cost was put at £2,166,846. However, the Houses of Parliament immortalised his name and its image is known throughout the world.

Out of Barry’s five sons, two followed an architectural career; one was a surveyor; another became a bishop while the fifth son was the engineer of Tower Bridge.  Charles Barry was knighted in 1852.

On 8th November 2014 Councillor Brian Fitch, Mayor of Brighton & Hove, unveiled a blue plaque on St Andrew’s Church to commemorate Sir Charles Barry, which was funded by the Friends of St Andrew’s Church. Also present at the ceremony was the Mayoress of Brighton & Hove, Norah Finch, and Averil Older, chairwoman of the Commemorative Plaques Committee.

Argus (8/11/14) (10/11/14)
Bingham, Neil Busby, the Regency Architect of Brighton & Hove (1991)
Dale, Antony Fashionable Brighton (1947)
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Internet searches
Middleton, J. A History of Hove (1979)

Copyright © J.Middleton 2014

Robert Polhill Bevan (1865-1926)
Judy Middleton (2001 revised 2014)

copyright © J.Middleton
Plaque - 17 Brunswick Square
Robert Polhill Bevan was born at 17 Brunswick Square, Hove, on 5th August 1865 and he was the fourth child of the marriage. Laura Maria Polhill married Richard Alexander Bevan in 1861. The Brunswick Square house was the Polhill’s family home for over 40 years and Edward Polhill had been a Brunswick Square Commissioner from 1836 to 1859. The Bevans did not normally share the premises but they had recently purchased an estate of over 100 acres at Cuckfield, a house being in the course of construction, and so it seemed sensible for Mrs Bevan to spend her confinement with her widowed mother.

The Bevan family was heavily involved in banking, the tradition having started with Silvanus Bevan, banker of Lombard Street, London. It was his grandson, Richard Alexander Bevan (1834-1918), who joined the Union Bank at Brighton in 1859 and Bevan’s second son, Lancelot Richard Bevan (1863-1918), became a partner in 1891. The Union Bank was taken over in 1894 and a couple of years later it became Barclay & Co. with no less than four Bevans as directors of the local head office at North Street, Brighton. The family tradition continued into the 20thcentury.

Robert Bevan grew up with his siblings on the family estate called Horsgate at Cuckfield. Robert and his brothers, Richard, Lancelot and Herbert, enjoyed a country lifestyle, belonging to two hunts while the family kept two packs of harriers. As an artist Robert’s easy familiarity with horses is evident in his work.

Although Robert Polhill Bevan did not inherit his family’s financial genes, the money accrued did mean he was free to follow his artistic bent. He received an allowance, which was of great assistance to his ambitions, although sometimes he was short of funds and on one occasion was obliged to pawn his gold watch and chain. He was thus more fortunate than his sister Edith who had no independent life of her own until her father died in 1918 when she was aged 49. Robert received an inheritance of £10,000. 

Robert Bevan was educated at Winchester and he was at Oxford briefly, before enrolling at the Westminster School of Art in 1888 where he was taught by the principal, Fred Brown. He lodged at the house of Alfred E. Pearce who had come to Horsgate to give him drawing lessons in previous years.

In 1889 Bevan went to Paris where he studied for a year at the Academie Julian, the largest art school in the city. In 1890 he went to Pont-Aven with fellow artist Eric Forbes-Robertson where he soon filled three sketch-books with his work. After a visit to Tangier, he was back in Pont-Aven in 1893 and it is claimed that it was there Renoir encouraged him to draw horses.

Stanislawa de Karlowska

In July 1897 Bevan arrived in Jersey to attend the wedding of his friend Forbes-Robertson to a Polish art student. It turned out to be a momentous occasion for Bevan because the bridesmaid was Stanislawa de Karlowska and the attraction between the two was immediate. He pursued her to her country house in Poland and the story goes that she was combing her hair when she heard the arrival of horses in the courtyard and glimpsed Bevan through the window, dropping her comb in surprise. At first their language of communication was French and when they travelled to England she was still in the process of mastering English.

They married in Warsaw on 9thDecember 1898 and by 1900 had moved to London. But it is interesting to note that their daughter and son were both born at Horsgate. Bevan’s wife, known as Stania, was described as his greatest asset and being an artist herself, she could understand what drove him. She continued to paint under her maiden name and sometimes they both sent works to be exhibited.

Camden Town Group

Bevan and Stania knew the leading figures of the Fitzroy Street Group such as Walter Sickert, Augustus John, Lucien Pissaro, Charles Ginner, Harold Gilman and Spencer Gore.

In May 1911 Bevan became one of the founder members of the Camden Town Group, which developed around Sickert. Originally there were sixteen members of the group including Pissaro, Augustus John and Wyndham Lewis; Duncan Grant did not become a member until later on.

They held their first exhibition in June 1911 and Bevan’s Cab Horse was part of it; the Tate Gallery now owns the painting. There was a second exhibition in the same year, held in December, and one of Bevan’s works was Cab Yard, Night. In 1913 this work was exhibited at Brighton Art Gallery and purchased by Brighton Council for £400. In recent years this same work was one of the main attractions at an exhibition held at Hove Museum.

In 1914 Bevan paid his first visit to Applehayes, near the Devon and Somerset border, with Ginner and Gore, and he liked it so much that after the war he went every year. The painting called Rosemary La Vallee was painted there. In 1987 Hove Museum was keen to acquire this small oil painting and the artist’s daughter agreed to cut the recommended price from £24,000 to £20,000. There were grants available to cover £15,000 of the cost and so Hove Museum only had to fork out £5,000 in the end.

Bevan’s Work

Bevan painted in oil, watercolour and crayon and his subjects ranged from English landscapes to Polish scenes, and from market scenes to horses. He also painted a few portraits. It is pleasant to record that his reputation as an artist has grown with the years.

Bevan died on 8th July 1925 after an operation at St Thomas’s Hospital, London, just before his 40thbirthday. He was buried in the family grave at Cuckfield.

He bequeathed part of his collection to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The obituary in the Times had this to say. ‘A member of the original group of enthusiasts who gathered round the late Spencer Gore and the late Harold Gilman in Camden Town, Bevan responded to the influences of the movement known as Post-Impressionism without prejudice to his personal delicacy, the influence working out in his case in a preoccupation with colour pattern. His earliest works which attracted attention were studies of the cab-rank and show-ring.’ The article also spoke of his ‘characteristically angular treatment of the masses’.

His widow died on 9thDecember 1952, a victim of the London fog.

Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Stenlake, Frances From Cuckfield to Camden Town (1999) This work was expanded to a large illustrated edition and entitled Robert Bevan, From Gaugin to Camden Town (2008) 

Copyright © J.Middleton 2014

Hablot Knight Browne 'PHIZ' (1815-1882)
Judy Middleton (2001 revised 2014)

copyright © J.Middleton
8 Clarendon Villas, Hove.
Hablot Knight Browne was born on 15 June 1815 at Kennington, London; he was the ninth son of William Loder Browne and his long-suffering wife. It is understandable that with such a large family, there was a determined effort to find him some useful employment and so he was apprenticed to Mr Findon, an engraver.

As it happens, it was a happy choice, and he was an apt pupil who was awarded a medal by the Society of Arts in 1833 for his John Gilpin etching. John Gilpin was a comic ballad by William Cowper. It recounts the unfortunate adventure of John Gilpin on an outing with his family when suddenly his horse bolts for ten miles, leaving his aghast wife and children far behind.

Browne began his fruitful association with Charles Dickens in 1836 but it came about in somewhat sad circumstances. What happened was that between the first and second numbers of The Pickwick Papers, the artist working on the project called Seymour, committed suicide. Browne was brought in to replace him.

At first, Browne used the name ‘Nemo’ for his etchings but he changed it to ‘Phiz’ to harmonise with Dickens’ pseudonym ‘Boz’.

Browne illustrated many of Dickens’ most memorable works including Nicholas Nickleby, Martin Chuzzlewit, Dombey & Son, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Little Dorrit and Bleak House.

copyright © J.Middleton
Charles Dickens
But it could be difficult working for Dickens whose requirements were exacting. For example, in 1846 Dickens was especially anxious about the depiction of Mrs Pipchin and Paul and he was upset by Browne’s working of it. In a letter he wrote ‘I can’t say what pain and vexation it is to be so utterly misrepresented. I would cheerfully have given a hundred pounds to have kept this illustration out of the book.’ He grumbled that Browne could not have read the text with sufficient attention. However, Dickens knew how to give praise as well and later he wrote ‘Browne has sketched an uncommonly characteristic and capital Mr Micawber.’

In 1837 Dickens and Browne visited Yorkshire together to make studies for use in Nicholas Nickleby and in 1838 they visited Straftford-on-Avon and Kenilworth. Also in 1838 the pair attended theatrical performance where according to a letter written by Dickens to his wife ‘Browne laughed with such indecent heartiness at one point of the entertainment that an old gentleman in the next box suffered the most violent indignation.’

Dickens did not monopolize Browne completely because Browne found time to illustrate the works of other authors such as Lord Lytton and Harrison Ainsworth.

In 1867 Browne was struck by paralysis and although he survived for another fifteen years, his hand had lost its old skill.

In 1880 Browne and his wife moved to 8 Clarendon Villas, Hove. It was a busy household because their four daughters Emma, Eliza, Mabel and Beatrice lived there plus two grandchildren aged four and two who had both been born in India. In addition the Browne family included five sons.

It was at 8 Clarendon Villas that Hablot Knight Browne died on 8th July 1882. He was buried at Brighton Extra-Mural Cemetery. Browne’s eldest son Edgar became an eye surgeon in Liverpool and his direct descendant Marilyn Browne Lester paid for Hablot’s grave to be restored in 1998.

Gordon Browne (1858-1932) was another of Hablot’s sons and he followed in his father’s artistic footsteps. He received his training at Heatherley’s  School of Art and he first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1894. His most notable work was to illustrate the eight volumes of Henry Irving’s Shakespeare published in 1895. He also illustrated works by Daniel Defoe, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Andrew Lang, George Henty and others. Gordon lived at Hove for a few years in a house overlooking Hove Lagoon. Later he moved to Richmond where he died on 27 May 1932.

Meanwhile, after Hablot Knight Browne died, his widow and daughters moved away from Clarendon Villas but remained in Hove at Maycroft Villa in the Upper Drive.

In around 1888 the famous sculptor, engraver, typographer and writer Eric Gill (1882-1940) attended a small kindergarten run by the Misses Browne, Hablot’s daughters, who he said were ‘dear, kind people’. He became best friends with their nephew Bunny Browne.

Hove Museum is of the opinion that the Misses Browne taught at Arnold House, a prep school at Hove, that Eric Gill also attended. But in his memoirs Gill only mentions the masters who taught there.

In a letter that Gordon Browne wrote to Hove Library dated 30 August 1928 he stated that his four sisters had been resident in Hove, Portslade and Southwick from 1880 to the present day,

Hablot Knight Browne was so well esteemed at Hove that his name was one of four inscribed at the base of the dome in Hove Reference Library in 1927.  

There is another connection between Dickens and Hove because Charles Dickens, his friend John Leech and their families lodged briefly at 16 Lansdowne Place in 1849, thus meriting a blue plaque on that building too.

Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Forster, John Life of Charles Dickens (1872) 3 volumes
Gill, Eric Autobiography (1940)  
Letters of Charles Dickens 1837-1870 edited by his sister-in-law and his eldest daughter (1893)

Copyright © J.Middleton 2014

Charles Augustin Busby (1786-1834)
Judy Middleton (2001 revised 2014)

copyright © J.Middleton
2 Lansdowne Place
Charles Augustin Busby became a well-known architect and hydraulic engineer and it is interesting to note that he and his six siblings were all home educated. In 1807 the Royal Academy awarded him a gold medal for one of his designs.

He received his first important commission when he was only 23 years of age and this was to design the Commercial Coffee Rooms at Bristol.
copyright © J.Middleton
Brunswick Terrace
He married Louise Mary Williams in 1811; their son was born in 1814 and a daughter followed in 1817. That same year of 1817 he found it expeditious to remove himself to the United States of America, when a roof of one of the buildings he designed collapsed. It is not clear whether youthful enthusiasm had led him to create an unsafe structure or whether the builders were to blame. Whatever the cause, it was time to test fresh pastures.

In America Busby developed a close interest in steam-boats and even took his fascination to the point where he designed a new paddle-wheel. He also used his time across the Atlantic to study bridge design and in addition he drew plans for State Penitentiaries.

Busby returned to England in 1819. Thomas Read Kemp persuaded him to move to Brighton where he set up an architectural practice with Amon Henry Wilds. But the relationship was of short duration, being established in May 1823 and dissolved in 1825.
copyright © J.Middleton
Photo left:- Brunswick Square, west side,  Photo right:- Brunswick Square, east side.
It used to be thought the firm of Wilds & Busby was responsible for the design of Brunswick Town in Hove but recent evidence has come to light revealing it was solely the work of Busby and it remains his greatest architectural achievement.

However, Wilds & Busby did design Lewes Crescent and Sussex Square in Brighton and the Masonic Temple in Queen’s Road, Brighton. It came as a great disappointment when the plans submitted by Wilds & Busby were placed second in the competition to find the best design for St Peter’s Church, Brighton. First place went to youthful architect Charles Barry instead. Even more of an affront to Busby’s feelings was when Charles Barry was also chosen to design St Andrew’s Chapel, Waterloo Street, Hove, adjacent to the estate so closely associated with Busby.

But Busby did design other churches, notably St George’s, Kemp Town, and St Margaret’s Chapel, Brighton, both in Greek Revival style.
copyright © J.Middleton
Photo left:- Brunswick Place, west side, Photo right:- Brunswick Street West.
As for Brunswick Town, Busby’s work involved the design of Brunswick Terrace, Brunswick Square, Brunswick Place, Brunswick Street West, Brunswick Street East, Lansdowne Place and Lansdowne Square. But his Market House was not a success. It occupied a prominent island site between Upper Market Street and Lower Market Street and opened for business on 28 August 1828. Although all kinds of necessities could be purchased there, it was never the success that Busby envisaged and by 1839 was no longer in use as a market. Later on it became famous as the home of Dupont’s Riding Academy.

Brunswick Cottage

In 1829 Busby moved with his family to a house at 1 Stanhope Place, which later became 2 Lansdowne Place. At the back of this house a passage led to his drawing office, a lofty, arched chamber with large windows. The true nature of this small building has only come to light in recent years. It is now called Brunswick Cottage and is situated in Brunswick Street West.

In the 1950s this drawing office was converted into a residence and all sorts of partitions were installed. In May 2000 work started to restore the building and create a modern living space while at the same time maintaining more empathy with the original dimensions. By this time the ceiling was sagging in an alarming manner under the weight of a water tank in the loft; when everything was removed, the original arched ceiling could be seen. As the walls were also beginning to bulge, steel lines were strung across the space. Busby obviously thought of his drawing office as a temporary structure because it was not well built and the walls of bungaroush were so unstable that even applying thin coats of plaster brought away chunks of it.

Restoration work revealed the shape of two large windows on the east wall but it was impossible to re-establish them because the privacy of next-door’s garden/patio would be invaded and anyway planning permission was refused.
copyright © J.Middleton
Brunswick Cottage, Brunswick Street West
Outside there are three windows at pavement level that indicate the basement living area. Emergency work was needed on the chimney after damage caused by a storm on 15 September 2000. Alan Phillips was the architect who oversaw the restoration and the project was the subject of Channel 4 TV programme Doing It Up broadcast in February 2001.   

Hard Times

The Brunswick Square Commissioners were established in 1830 and Busby was one of the original members. He was also honoured by being given the title of High Commissioner of Hove.

He should have made his fortune from Brunswick Town. The terms were quite generous and after Brunswick Square was completed, he was to be given the houses numbering from 19 to 44. Unfortunately, the economic climate changed rapidly after building operations started and consequently the building boom slowed down. As a result the downturn in house sales was not what he had anticipated and he overstretched himself financially.
copyright © J.Middleton
Photo left:- Brunswick Street East, Photo right:- Lansdowne Place, west side. 
In 1833 he owed some £12,600, mostly to friends, and bankruptcy proceedings against him were started. Even his two female servants went unpaid. But he must have been a popular character because his friends rallied around and saved the situation. But the family was left almost penniless.

Busby died on 18 September 1834 and his entire estate was worth less than £200. His funeral was held at St Andrew’s Old Church, Hove and he was buried in the churchyard there.
copyright © J.Middleton
Photo left:- Lansdowne Place, east side, Photo right:- Lansdowne Square.
As a final ignominy, while the tomb of Amon Henry Wilds is splendidly preserved in St Nicolas’s Churchyard, Brighton, Busby’s has disappeared. Surely his family could have afforded a headstone? In the 1970s most of the north part of the churchyard belonging to St Andrew’s Church became playing fields for the newly built St Andrew’s School. Before all the headstones and memorials were demolished, a dedicated team set about recording all the inscriptions in a book that was printed in July 1974. But there was no mention of Busby in the index. It can only be presumed that Busby’s mortal remains are still there somewhere because there was only one family (the Brownlows) who wanted the remains of their forbears moved to Hove Cemetery. An interesting point is that when Tesco’s came to build their extensive car park off Church Road on another part of the churchyard, the contractors discovered the bodies had not been buried as deeply as they should have been. The surface had to be raised up before they could lay tarmac.
copyright © J.Middleton 
St Andrew’s Old Church, Hove, south side. Busby’s grave was in the north part of the churchyard


In April 1988 some 200 architectural drawings by Busby were discovered in the attic of a farmhouse in Essex. They disappeared from public view after Francis Wells, one of Busby’s pupils, inherited them. It is a relief to record that the Royal Institute of British Architects purchased the drawings for the sum of £10,000.

In 1991 a fascinating piece designed by Busby went on display at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. The item was a large and beautiful tea urn made of silver and decorated with a model of the Chain Pier. This item was ceremoniously presented to Captain Brown, the designer of the Chain Pier, in 1826.
copyright © J.Middleton 
Photo left:-Market House, north façade, Photo right:- Market House, east façade.
In August 1991 some original Brunswick house deeds came up for auction. Incredibly, they had been discovered in a castle in Holland. But before the auction took place, the owners accepted £300 from Nick Tyson of the Regency Town House Trust at 13 Brunswick Square where he planned to put them on display.

The Regency Town House Trust also felt moved to splash out some money in October 1997 when a rare volume containing Busby’s architectural designs and interiors was purchased for £6,000.

It seems fitting that although we have lost the grave, items associated with Busby have continued to come to light.

Bingham, Neil C.A. Busby, The Regency Architect of Brighton & Hove (1991)
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade

Copyright © J.Middleton 2014

Dame Clara Butt (1872-1936)
Judy Middleton (2001 revised 2014)

copyright © J.Middleton
4 St Aubyn’s Mansions, Hove
Early Years

Clara Butt was born at 57 Albion Street, Southwick, West Sussex, in a white-painted bow-fronted house, which Shoreham Shipping Company used as offices in the 1960s. On the front of the house there was a plaque stating In this house was born on the First of February 1872, Clara Butt DBE – the singer whom the Empire loved. Unfortunately, there were plans to demolish this historic house.

It was chance rather then design that led to Clara Butt being born there. At the tender age of sixteen, Clara’s mother fell in love with Henry Butt who worked in her father’s shipbuilding yard at Shoreham. She made a runaway marriage and the couple settled in Jersey in the Channel Islands where the Butts came from and where their first child Bertie was born. Unhappily, the infant soon died.

The next child was Clara and it may be that the Butts were on their way to attempt reconciliation with her family because the Butts were aboard a schooner off the Sussex coast when Mrs Butt’s labour pains started and the boat put into the nearest port. Whatever happened within the family, it is a fact that the Butts returned to Jersey as soon as possible and there they stayed for the next seven years.

In 1880 the Butts left the Channel Islands and headed to Bristol from where Captain Butt continued to go to sea. It was at Bristol that Clara encountered the leading singing teacher in the west of England. His name was Dan Rootham and under his tuition her voice matured to such an extent that she won an open scholarship to the Royal College of Music.

A Stellar Career

copyright © J.Middleton
Dame Clara Butt
Clara Butt made a great impression both because of her voice and her commanding presence. She stood 6 feet 2 inches tall, with dark eyes and dark hair attributed to a remote Spanish ancestor. The consensus was that Tennyson’s words were an apt description of her ‘a daughter of the gods, divinely tall’. It is interesting to note that Edward Elgar found her so inspiring that he based the part of the angel in his oratorio The Dream of Gerontius on her.  

On her mother’s side, Clara was descended from Thomas Hook, a famous author and practical joker who also edited John Bull.

All Clara’s sisters had fine voices and she made herself responsible for their training. They were Pauline (a soprano) and Ethel and Hazel (both contraltos like Clara). They all sang together at one of Clara’s Royal Albert Hall concerts.

Clara Butt’s first public appearance on the concert platform was in December 1882 at the Royal Albert Hall in a performance of Arthur Sullivan’s Golden Legend with Madame Albani and Edward Lloyd.

The work most closely associated with Clara Butt was Abide with Me and indeed she sang it at Queen Victoria’s memorial service in 1901. Another favourite was Sullivan’s The Lost Chord. It was at Clara’s suggestion that Land of Hope and Glory was written and Elgar’s Sea Pictures were especially composed for her.

There was a well-known story concerning the time Clara was rehearsing with massed brass bands at the Royal Albert Hall. The conductor was obliged to shout to the musicians ‘Play up, gentlemen, I can’t hear you.’ The name of the harassed conductor varies with the storyteller but never the name of Clara Butt.

During her first tour of Australia the Sydney Sun wrote enthusiastically, ‘The singing of this great contralto is warm with the life of breathing womanhood – it throbs with the earnestness of one who is a singer by the Grace of God.’

Sir Hebert Tree once said ‘There’s Nature – there’s Art … and there is Clara Butt!’

Family Life

On 26 June 1900 Clara married Kennerley Rumford at Bristol Cathedral while a crowd numbering some 20,000 people milled around outside to see the bride arrive. One of the pageboys was young Ivor Novello (1893-1951). Two years previously Clara had stood him on a chair and taught him to sing Abide with Me.

Edward Lloyd, the famous tenor, was a guest at the wedding. When Lloyd gave his farewell concert on 12 December 1900, Clara also sang. Lloyd emerged from retirement once more to sing in one of Clara’s concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, which took place on 18 October 1902.

Edward Lloyd owned a house called Hassendean in New Church Road, Hove from around 1898 to 1900 and is said to have leased it to Clara for a while. The house still stands and is now occupied by St Christopher’s School. Alfred Fisher founded the Hove Academy of Music at 22 Church Road, Hove and Clara is said to have had something to do with the institution.

Clara and Kennerley Rumford had once taken part in recitals together. For relaxation he enjoyed nothing better than to go fishing. One of his wedding gifts to his wife was a fishing rod, hoping no doubt to enthuse her in the sport. His love of fishing was so well known that Queen Victoria allowed him the privilege of enjoying two days of fishing on Deeside.  There were three children of the marriage, Joy, Roy and Victor.

St Aubyn’s Mansions

The Rumfords had a home in Hampstead but they also enjoyed their flat at 4 St Aubyn’s Mansions on Hove seafront, which they occupied from 1903 until around 1906.

The large hall contained Clara’s grand piano.

The dining room walls were maroon in colour and formed a perfect background on which to display some fine engravings. There were also several mementoes to affirm the couple’s popularity with the royal family. Queen Victoria gave Mr Rumsford a loving cup in appreciation of his singing. Other royal gifts included a cigarette case set with diamonds from Queen Victoria, a cigarette case engraved with the royal coat of arms from Princess Christian, two Jubilee medals, a signed portrait of the Queen, a silver-framed photograph of Princess Christian, and a silver tankard and a silver inkstand engraved with the royal coat of arms.

The drawing room was described as ‘a fine apartment, panelled in oak, supplemented by a rich frieze in olive green, whereon are bronze and copper plates. Oaken balustrades inclose (sic) a most inviting recess of ease, on either side of which dainty lanterns of electric light are pendant for those who would read as they rest.’

From either of these rooms you could ‘step on to the balcony through a couple of glass doors and imagine yourself afloat. Almost underneath you is the sea and the advantage of the St Aubyn’s promontory is that the sea is neither so truant nor so migratory as it is elsewhere. It never recedes very far, while even the lowest tides does not leave a dismal and un-decorative desert of sand and it is never so far away that you cannot catch the pathos and passion of its song.’
copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Brighton Season Magazine 1925

Great War

In 1918 a special pageant was held at the Hippodrome in Brighton in aid of the work of Hove Hospital War Supply Depot in Grand Avenue, and Clara had a starring role. The Brighton Herald reported that the ‘most imposing figure of all, on her throne on the left of the stage was Madame Clara Butt. No such embodiment of Britannia has ever before been seen in Brighton.’ She wore a white robe with myriad points of lustre, a sweeping crimson cloak, a golden helmet with crimson plumes and she held a trident. She sang Rule Britannia and Have You Any News of My Boy Jack?

Amusing Incident at the Dome

In the early 1920s Clara gave a concert at the Dome in Brighton. She was in the middle of singing Down in the Forest Something Stirred when someone dropped an umbrella from the gallery and to everyone’s horror it went clattering down the steps. But Clara was not annoyed and instead she stopped singing because she was laughing so much. She said she could not go on because it was so funny.

Tour of the East

In September 1930 Clara returned from an extensive tour of the East. She met the famous Indian poet Sir Rabindranath Tagore and she was a tremendous hit in Japan. A leading Japanese newspaper organised a poll to find who was the most popular person and top of the list was Clara with 20,000 votes. As a result of this popularity she made a number of recordings in Tokyo including Abide with Me and Land of Hope and Glory.


Dame Clara Butt died on 23 January 1936 at North Shields.

It was decided that a blue plaque should be installed at her Hove residence and Councillor Geoff Wells, Deputy Mayor, unveiled it in August 2011. Unfortunately, there were red faces all round when someone noticed that the year of her birth was wrong. The plaque stated she was born in 1848 when the correct date should be 1872. The mistake was soon rectified.

St Aubyn’s Mansions thus became the only building in Hove to boast of two blue plaques, the other being in honour of Vesta Tilley.    
copyright © J.Middleton
This photograph of St Aubyn’s Mansions was taken on 16 April 2014 and the two plaques on the first floor. 

Brighton Herald
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Ponder, William Clara Butt (1928)
The World (24 November 1903)

Copyright © J.Middleton 2014
page layout by D.Sharp