12 January 2016

Victorian and Edwardian Decorative Tiles of Hove

Judy Middleton (2015)

When people think of Victorian tiles, they often envisage interior decoration in halls or around fireplaces and indeed the Victorian era was a rich time for such tiles. But there is another aspect too; those tiles used to enhance the exterior of a building or to make a decorative statement in the path leading up to a grand entrance. As Hove enjoyed something of a building boom in Victorian times, it comes as no surprise that there should be a quantity of tiles about. What is surprising is how well some of those tiles have lasted, which must surely speak of superior quality as well as careful preparation of the surface. When you think that often there has been well over one hundred years’ worth of feet tramping across the surface, it is a marvel indeed.

The following is a sample of the treasures that can still be enjoyed in Hove. Of course not every path is illustrated and some are in poor condition. But this is a large enough sample to illustrate the great variety of colour and design. Sometimes the design only differentiates from another by tiny details, but it is enough to make each pathway unique. Today appreciation of such tiles has come into its own and it is especially relevant when so many front gardens have been lost to hard standing for cars or the ubiquitous red brick driveway.


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These Minton tiles date to around 1888 and are to be found in the chancel. They were laid when the chancel was refurbished at that time.


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Church Road, Hove
The building where these tiles are to be found dates from the 1890s and is just opposite Hove Library. From 1896 to 1906 these beautiful tiles plus a matching decoration, were on either side of the Sackville Refreshment and Dining Rooms at 177 Church Road.

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Albion Hotel, Church Road, Hove
Although this mosaic cannot claim a Victorian or Edwardian provenance, it is included for interest. It dates from 1916 when the Albion Inn in Church Road, Hove became the Albion Hotel. Note the peculiar shape of the letter ‘N’. From a design point of view, it would look better if the letter had been placed the other way around to balance the letter ‘A’ at the opposite end.

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Hove Railway Station
The Brighton to Shoreham railway line opened on 12th May 1840 and thus precedes the London to Brighton railway that opened the following year. The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway were responsible for the operation and it is their monogram seen here on a tall pillar beside the entrance.

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The men’s swimming bath was established in 1894 on Hove seafront and the seawater was changed daily. These Doulton tiles lined the walls. The tiles take their inspiration from the movement of waves, the colour of sand and there is a nod towards the architecture of the Royal Pavilion. These wonderful tiles are at present exposed to the elements while various planning applications for the site come and go. 

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Victoria Terrace, Hove
In 1913 number 19 Victoria Terrace was a butcher’s shop run by HE Hobden.

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Western Road, Hove
Hill’s of Hove was founded in 1893 at 58 Western Road. It expanded into a grand department store stretching from 50 to 59 Western Road. This mosaic tiling is outside what was once the east entrance.


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It seems strange that in such a grand crescent there is little to show as regards decorative tiles before the front door. This is most probably because the earlier parts were built before the craze for tiles had taken off. Two of the designs are not unusual at Hove but the third, multi-coloured one is a bit of a mystery. It resembles a poem to the shades of colour in the sea and it has a contemporary look about it.

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 Albany Villas
These two most attractive paths are unique because of the gentle curve on one side of each path. It would need a master craftsman to handle such a scheme. It is interesting to note that on 21 July 1881 the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) drove south along Albany Villas in a carriage accompanied by Princesses Louise, Victoria and Maude.

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Blatchington Road, Hove
Once the west part of this road was known as North Place and old-time house owners were given a large key along with their deeds to unlock the wicket gate into Hove Drove (later called Sackville Road). It was not until the late 1870s that all the houses were numbered in Blatchington Road. These tiles belong to a house that must have been quite close to the wicket gate. Note the dramatic 3-D zigzag border and how it cuts into, and distorts the design, at the foot.

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The 1851 census noted that twenty houses were in the process of being built in Brunswick Road. These tiles stand out because most of the houses boasting tiled paths favour the standard black and white variety.

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Denmark Villas, Hove
There were already several houses on the lower east side by 1876. Denmark Villas is now regarded as one of the prettiest roads in Hove with fine villas, most of them Italianate in design. The colours in these tiles are repeated elsewhere in Hove but the use of double small blue tiles in the border is quite different.
The second photograph of Denmark Villas, is of a path belonging to a house on the west side of the road. The colour scheme is unusual with its use of muted reds and browns.

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Eaton Road, Hove
Eaton Road was developed in the 1870s and 1880s. These tiles have preserved their colours because they adorn a north-facing house.

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Eaton Villas, Hove
This road received its name in 1890. The unusual central motif bears some resemblance to the cross of Lorraine but without the double bar.

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First Avenue, Hove
The road was developed in the 1870s and the 1875 Directory noted that there were four occupied houses and eight unoccupied houses. The Hamilton family lived at number 12 and as a youngster Patrick Hamilton (1904-1962) must have stepped across these tiles many times. He became a noted author and playwright.

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Goldstone Street
South west corner of Goldstone Street and Goldstone Road

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Goldstone Villas, Hove
Although Goldstone Villas leads to Hove Railway Station and the railway was opened in 1841, residential development did not get under way until the 1870s. The two examples shown here are fairly typical of others to be found at Hove. But however familiar the colours and shapes in the central design, the decorative borders were different.
In the second example the classic black and white design can be arranged as ordinary squares or as a diamond shape. It is especially effective if it involves a flight of steps. Other examples of this type can be found in Cambridge Road and at the east end of Church Road on the north side.

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Kingsway, Hove
In 1910 Hove Council decided to rename the road Kingsway in honour of King Edward VII’s several visits to his friends Arthur and Louise Sassoon at 8 King’s Gardens, Hove, which also fronts Kingsway. 
The example shown here is not from that house but there are some pleasant iron railings to admire. Also there are not so many examples of red and white tiles as there are of black and white ones.

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Leicester Villas, Hove
Leicester Villas was part of the Aldrington Estate and Hove Council approved plans for the new road in 1907. The design of the path is comparatively plain when set against the more elaborate Victorian examples at Hove.

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Medina Villas, Hove
Medina Villas formed part of the Cliftonville Estate in Hove, which was developed piecemeal by various developers. Medina Villas was virtually completed by the 1850s and the plots were the most valuable on the estate because they were the largest.
This is a most impressive entrance with a wide path leading to a wide flight of steps and double-size doorway. The path also boasts an attractive border.

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New Church Road, Hove
There are three of these extensive black and white tiled paths on the south side of the east end of the road. It is strange that there is no differential border. The second example comes from the other end of the road and shows a completely different use of black and white tiles. Note too the borders, which are a variation of the Greek key pattern. The third photo was taken on the north side of the road at the east end.

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Norton Road, Hove
House building began in Norton Road in the late 1870s. These tiles date from the 1880s and provide a fresh and unusual pattern.

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Osborne Villas, Hove
Osborne Villas formed part of the Cliftonville Estate in Hove and was the first road to be completed. The road was named after Osborne House in the isle of Wight, the holiday home of Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert who designed it. Other road names in the development were Medina Villas and Ventnor Villas – place names also to be found on the Isle of Wight.
Here are the favourite black and white tiles again. But it is a good example of how carefully the tiles were laid so that all the treads appear identical.

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Pembroke Crescent, Hove
Pembroke Crescent was built on land previously owned by the Vallance family and the road name was chosen to honour their supposed descent from the Earls of Pembroke. The first house plans were passed in 1896 and by 1900 some 43 houses had been built.
This path displays an intricate use of square and triangular shaped pieces in black and white.

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St Aubyns, Hove
The first part of St Aubyns began to be developed at the south end in the 1860s but it was not until 1882 that the entire road was declared a public highway. Also in that year the council decided to expend £40 on planting trees on either side and they are still a magnificent sight today.
These tiles on the left look especially bright because as you can see the photograph was taken after a shower of rain – also a favourite trick of advertisements for brick-paved driveways.
In the second example the red and white tiles are similar to those seen at Kingsway. Note the larger red diamonds on the step and the smaller diamonds on the uprights.

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St Leonard’s Road, Hove
The design of this path is not uncommon but the severe and plain border only serves to emphasise how it cuts into the pattern at an unfortunate place. For a precise mathematical design, it looks untidy.

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Seafield Road, Hove
Seafield Road was constructed in the 1870s although it was not declared a public highway until 1882.
People might think this is a modern design as it is decked out in blue and white, the familiar colours of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club. But on closer inspection there is a foot-scraper to be seen at the right of the bottom step.

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The Drive, Hove
The Drive began to be developed in the late 1870s and 1880s. It was notable for its spacious houses and the great width of the roadway. It was called Grand Drive originally but was changed to The Drive in order to avoid confusion with Grand Avenue. The design in the first photograph is simple but effective – perhaps as an acknowledgement that it was spread over a wider area than was usual. The second photograph shows a small area covered in a complex design whose inspiration seems to be a mixture of a maze and the Greek key design.

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Third Avenue, Hove
Third Avenue was part of a development in Hove known as the West Brighton Estate that began to be developed in the 1870s. There was no building line to adhere to as happened in older parts of Brighton and Hove because this area had been farmland. It was thus possible to follow a rigid grid layout similar to New York and with street names to match too – First, Second, Third, Fourth and Grand Avenues. This pattern of tiles has worked beautifully in the dimensions allotted to it and looks perfectly at ease. Compare it to the awkward border cut-off in the tiles at St Leonard’s Avenue.

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Westbourne Villas, Hove
When the first houses were built in Westbourne Villas in the 1880s, there was a stipulation they must be set back at least 5 feet from the road and the cost of each house in both materials and labour should come to at least £1,500. Therefore it is not surprising to find a wealth of lovely paths in such an environment. The first photograph features the path at a house called Morningside at number 28. George Gallard, one of the developers of the Cliftonville area in Hove, lived here from 1887 until his death from dysentery in 1889. 
The second example has red six-sided tiles – an unusual feature at Hove. The third photograph has a distinctive border at the front and there is a foot-scraper set into one of the wall piers. In the fourth example the handsome design looks almost as fresh as the day it was laid. The fifth path is an arresting design of small tiles but the border does not quite match. Were some spare tiles being used up? It would certainly explain the odd inclusion of light tan and blue tiles.
Although the sixth and seventh paths seem identical, there is a different border plus the surprise inclusion of pretty flower-patterned tile with a blue centre – a somewhat feminine touch in a rather masculine design. The last path is showing its years and has been inexpertly repaired.

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Wilbury Road, Hove
The south part of Wilbury Road was developed in the 1870s and this handsome surface forms a welcome to numbers 2 & 4. Unfortunately the eye is drawn to a repair in the middle. The second example shows a pleasing small design but the colours have faded badly, which is a pity because the purple/violet shade was an unusual choice.

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Worcester Villas, Hove
By April 1907 some 58 houses had been built in Worcester Villas. This black and white path has a similar border to the example shown under Goldstone Villas.

See also Victorian and Edwardian Decorative Tiles of Portslade

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