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24 May 2018

First Avenue, Hove.

Judy Middleton 2002 (revised 2018)

copyright © J.Middleton
In this view of the east side of First Avenue, the fine ironwork balconies and railings are clear to see.

Origins

The road was built on land that once belonged to the Stanford Estate (a swathe of land stretching from Preston Manor to the seafront at Hove), but from 1848 to 1871 this strip of land formed the eastern boundary of Brunswick Cricket Ground.

The land could not be utilised for building purposes beforehand because the estate was in trust for the benefit of child heiress Ellen Stanford whose father died in 1853. He endeavoured to pass on his estate intact by making his daughter tenant for life and a ward of court. Although done with the best of intentions, these moves proved to be highly lucrative for the legal profession.

Ellen Stanford celebrated her 21st birthday on 9 November 1869 and thus became of age to manage her own affairs. However, in order to get around the problem of not being able to sell any land, an Act of Parliament was necessary – the Stanford Estate Act being passed in 1871.

This Act led directly to the development of the West Brighton Estate, which included First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Grand Avenues. The naming of the roads probably followed the American fashion and was thought to be right up-to-date. Alternatively, there could be a more prosaic explanation – First Avenue was simply marked ‘number one’ on the Stanford Estate map regarding Hove.

Development

On 8 August 1874 a deed was signed between the following people:

Edward Stanford of Fishbourne (1st part)
Charles William Gordon of Newtimber (1st part)
Ellen Benett Stanford (2nd part)
Percy Mansfield Morris of The Hall, Uttoxeter (3rd part)
Marmaduke Robert Jeffreys of Brompton (3rd part)
Henry Arthur Fane of Howick Place, Middlesex (3rd part)
William Morris of 22 Abingdon Street, Westminster (4th part)

The land in question was in First Avenue and measured from north to south on the east side 198-ft 11-in, and from north to south on the west side 203-ft 11-in. The land was for the use of William Morris and he lost no time in selling off parcels of it.

The 1875 Directory noted that there were four occupied houses in First Avenue, and eight unoccupied ones.

It is interesting to note the fluctuating fortunes of First and Second Avenues. By 1880 there were ten occupied houses in First Avenue, while in Second Avenue there were nineteen occupied houses with more being built while in 1875 there had been just one inhabited house.

By 1890 the roles had been reversed – First Avenue boasted 31 inhabited houses, two furnished houses and two empty houses, while Second Avenue had 21 occupied houses.

In August 1878 the south portion of First Avenue (556-ft from the coast road) was declared a public highway, with the rest of the road following suit in June 1881.

In May 1897 unfurnished houses in First Avenue were being advertised for rent at £140 a year, while furnished houses cost 4 guineas a week.

Architecture

copyright © J.Middleton
This photograph shows the west side of First Avenue, looking north from number 13.

Most of First Avenue is occupied by high-density housing conceived in grand Victorian style; most houses are six-storey or five-storey edifices, which because of the spacious basements do not feel overpowering. Whereas the Brunswick Town area was somewhat shoddily built with stuccoed facades, and the next major development known as Cliftonville had smaller buildings, First Avenue houses were solidly built of good quality brick, classified as white brick, but in reality more of a pale, ochre colour – it was a very popular material at Hove. Then there are the embellishments in first-floor balconies and iron, black-painted railings leading up to the front door – there is a fine sequence of these in numbers 34 to 54. In addition, there are a few examples of pleasing Victorian tiles on the paths.

Mews

Like garages or car-parking spaces today, the mews were an essential part of Victorian town planning. This was where the horses, owned by well-to-do families living in First Avenue, were stabled, and their carriages too. Above the stables were living quarters for the grooms and stable workers, plus haylofts. Original cobbles are still to be seen. First Avenue was broad enough to enable a horse-drawn carriage to turn around in comfort. Today, the width is difficult to discern with double-parking in the centre plus parking on either side.

On the north-east side of First Avenue, the mews is called St John’s Place and they were built of the same bricks, and had slate roofs. Numbers 1 to 7 became listed buildings in 1992. Originally, this mews was known as St John’s Mews. It still had this name when Frederick William Whittingham of 7 St John’s Mews, First Avenue, was granted a petroleum licence by Hove Council. This allowed him to store 300 gallons in a tank sunk into the forecourt.

copyright © Royal Pavilion, Brighton and Hove Museums
An advert from the Brighton Herald for May 29th 1911

The Victoria Wine Company later occupied the mews buildings fronting First Avenue. Today, an independent children’s bookstore called ‘The Book Nook’ has been in residence for some years. It has been much commended for its original approach to encouraging youngsters to develop a love of books. Contrary to public opinion of the past, Hove is not exclusively occupied by retirees, because there is a much younger demographic than used to be the case.

copyright © J.Middleton
The Book Nook in Third Avenue.

The mews on the north-west side of First Avenue is called Queen’s Place today although originally it was Queen’s Mews. It has a cobbled yard and there was a large lamp suspended between the properties. There are impressive gate piers with seven bands of diamond-shaped mouldings and ball finials. This mews was marked in an 1877 map and thus was in existence before the houses at the north ends of First and Second Avenue were built. In May 1899 it was noted that lamps in the mews would now be lit at public expense.

copyright © J.Middleton
These imposing pillars mark the entrance to Queen’s Place, and beyond them customers of the Flour Pot Bakery are sitting outside to enjoy the sunshine.

In July 1928 the West Brighton Estate Company stated they were willing to lease number 2 in the mews (that is the ground floor plus the flat above) for fourteen years at a cost of £70 for the first three years, and thereafter to Hove Council for £75. The garage was used to house one motorcar and two motorcycle combinations belonging to Hove Police. Old habits die hard, and Hove Police were still utilising the premises until the 1960s when the new Police Station in Holland Road became operational. There was also a petrol pump in the mews used by the police for their cars.

The south side of Queen’s Place acquired listing building status in 1992.

In 2018 in the part of the mews complex fronting First Avenue, there is a thriving café called the Flour Pot Bakery.

Further north from Queen’s Place, is a peculiar, narrow passageway providing a back entrance for properties in Church Road. It existed without a designated name for a long time but is now called Church Road Lane.

Water Trough

In 1889 a water trough and drinking fountain was installed in First Avenue but far from welcoming such an amenity, the inhabitants petitioned Hove Commissioners for its removal. This was authorised in May 1889 and the offending water trough was moved to Hove Street and placed opposite the Connaught Hotel.

A Resident’s Suicide

Lord Cecil Manners lived in First Avenue – he was the third son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. In September 1896 he threw himself under a train at Crowborough Station. A fully loaded six-chamber revolver was discovered on his body.

Second World War

On 14 June 1941 four high-explosive bombs were dropped on First Avenue, Western Road, Kingsway and St John’s Road. One person was killed and there was severe damage to properties, gas mains, cables and sewers.

In the run-up to D-Day 6 June 1944, a line of tanks occupied the middle of First Avenue.

Conservation

In 1985 First Avenue became part of the conservation area known as The Avenues.

New Houses

In November 1998 Karis Developments applied for planning permission to build three new houses on land behind First Avenue. Permission was granted in January 1999.

House Notes

 copyright © J.Middleton
This view of the south side of 1 First Avenue displays the conservatory on the first floor.

Number 1 – On 1 October 1874 William Morris sold a portion of land for £625 to John Thomas Chappell. The land measured from north to south on the east side 49-ft 11-in, and on the west side 54-ft 11-in, with the width being 103-ft 3-in. This land abutted to 3 First Avenue on the north, and on the south to land used as a lawn at the rear of houses in Queen’s Gardens.
 copyright © J.Middleton
It is unusual to have the address on the pillar.
John Thomas Chappell was a well-known builder with a London address at 149 Lupus Street, and he was responsible for the construction of many fine houses at Hove. Indeed, he is said to have built at least 120 of the 269 units in the West Brighton Estate (the Avenues, and Grand Avenue). He also built Hove Hospital, Hove Town Hall, Connaught Road Schools, Davigdor Road Schools, St Catherine’s Lodge, and other houses in Kingsway. 

John Thomas Chappell built this house and sold it on 5 October 1874 for £7,500 to Helen and Margaret Shelley, Brighton spinsters. It seems the transaction was made before the house was built, or at least finished. It also appears that the sisters paid rather a steep price for the property because in 1886 the house was sold for £5,500.
Since then of course, house prices have rocketed, and there is also the fact that these erstwhile family residences have long since been converted into flats. For example, in 2005 flat 4 of this property was on offer for £57,000 while in 2014 flat 5 in the same property was for sale at £800,000.

 copyright © J.Middleton
The Imperial Hotel now occupies numbers 1-10 First Avenue. Note the hanging sign for Tate’s Bar.

Numbers 2 & 4 (later on 2-10) – The building does not seem to have ever been occupied as a private residence, and first appears in the Directory for 1908. It was utilised as follows:

1908-1912 – The Imperial Ladies Club, secretary in 1912, Comtesse M. Zolawolaska.

copyright © D. Sharp
These photographs from the 
Brighton Season Magazine of 1911, shows the Imperial Ladies Club's  Card Room and  left;- Miss Marie Charles, right:- Miss Chantal Browne, two of the three Directors of the Club. 
Comtesse M. Zolawolaska Mus. Doc., took management of the club's music and literary circle. 
Members of the club had the privilege of using the private lawns on the sea front for croquet and lawn tennis. 
The Imperial Ladies Club attracted ‘the smart set’ and men were only allowed associate membership.

1913-1925- The New Imperial Club, by 1917 the club also occupied 6A First Avenue

1927 – The New Imperial Hotel, ladies’ and gentlemen’s residential hotel, proprietor Mrs L. Hobbs
In the Hotel Guise 1934-35 the hotel was described as overlooking the sea while being quiet and sheltered. There was hot and cold running water in all bedrooms as well as central heating. There was a Billiard Room, an enlarged dining room and a lounge. Terms were 4 guineas a week in the summer, and 3½ guineas in the winter. Mr and Mrs McNab were the proprietors; the couple also ran the Hotel Victoria on Brighton seafront. The following year the McNabs were still in charge of the Imperial, and had added a sun lounge ‘enclosed by Vita glass’ and artificial sun lamps. In addition there were Zotafoam and seawater baths. Costs had risen, and the fees were now from 4 to 6 guineas in the summer, and from 3½ to five guineas in the winter.
   copyright © Royal Pavilion, Brighton and Hove Museums
Jack Armfield Bindon (1910-1985) painted this unusual 
view of Hove. He also painted murals that once 
adorned the ballroom in the Imperial Hotel.

By 1951 Benn Hotels Ltd owned the Imperial Hotel. In the same year, Hove artist Jack Armfield Bindon painted some murals in the cream and gold ballroom. They depicted four nudes – one of them 14-ft tall – with red and blue streamers and floral decorations. Mr D.C. Benn, managing director, congratulated the artist on his enterprise. Jack had a studio in Hove, and was a versatile artist as well as being an excellent self-publicist by all accounts. One beautiful example of his work is in the local collection and depicts the church of St John the Baptist in Hove from an elevated viewpoint.

However, enquiries about the Imperial murals in 1995 encountered a blank wall – nobody at the hotel had ever heard about them, and certainly nobody knew what became of them.
Kim Baker owned the Imperial for five years in the 1970s and Paul Krusin was the manager, and he stayed on when the hotel changed hands.

In May 1980 it was announced that Harry Bloom’s hotel consortium had purchased the Imperial for an undisclosed sum. Harry Bloom was also vice-chairman of Brighton & Hove Albion, and his consortium owned Langford’s Hotel, making the company Hove’s largest hotel owners. Larry Duggan was the managing director of the company, and he was the former general manager of the Metropole Hotel, Brighton. At the time of the takeover, the Imperial had 80 bedrooms and a staff of twenty-five. There were plans to update the reception area, bar, and conference rooms at a cost of £30,000.

On 27 July 1986 a gala Indian meal was staged at the Imperial to mark the conclusion of Hove’s Festival of India that started on 16 July. Paul Chapman, founder of the Curry Club, prepared the meal featuring avocado Goan-style, Sri Lankan duck curry, and lentil dishes. Around 120 people attended the event.

By 1987 ownership had changed again, and the Imperial and Langford’s were sold for around £3.3 million. London businessman Nazir Hussein was the new owner of the Imperial, and in September 1987 Gerard de Nervaux was the new manager, replacing Jim Davie. It was stated that the priority was to promote the restaurant called Secrets.

In August 1988 Hove Council insisted that the decorative chimneys that had been partly demolished and altered following the Great Gale of October 1987 must be restored to their original state.
By the early 1990s John Goodchild owned the Imperial, and he was also regional director of Logis, a large group of hoteliers who prided themselves on high standards. The Imperial re-opened in February 1992 after Paris Construction had carried out an extensive refurbishment costing £2 million. The 76 bedrooms had been upgraded to include en suite facilities, and there was new heating, ventilation and electrical services. The new Hamilton’s Brasserie was enhanced by framed prints on the wall chosen by John Goodchild. Tate’s Bar was named after legendary Sussex cricketer Maurice Tate, while the walls were adorned with photographs of other Sussex celebrities including Tommy Farr, Tommy Sopwith, and sports commentator Alan Weeks. It was now claimed that the Imperial was one of the finest three-star hotels on the Sussex coast.

The Imperial also became the venue for local activities such as the Imperial Bridge Club, while in 1992 Sotheby’s held consultations there every other month.

  copyright © J.Middleton
It is well nigh impossible to take a wide-ranging photograph of the Imperial Hotel without parked cars in the foreground.

By 1995 the hotel had changed hands yet again and Wimpole Hotels were now the owners – they also owned the Birch Hotel, Haywards Heath. The drawing room hosted a good selection of mounted watercolours including Seascapes by John Snelling, Bathing Scene at Brighton and Royal Pavilion by Rod Pearce, and Landscape with Sunset Sky by Dean Shelley. A beautiful frieze of scrolled leaves and flowers embellished the room, while from a large ceiling rose hung a brass candelabrum-style chandelier. There were spectacular drapes at the windows. Hamilton’s Brasserie and Tate’s Bar were still there, and the hotel had five conference rooms.

Number 7 – In 1918 Hove Council gave planning permission for the property to be converted into two maisonettes.

  copyright © J.Middleton 
This photograph shows the sympathetic new extension to Princes Court, 11 First Avenue

Number 11 – Princes Court - In 1990 Meridian Homes restored and extended Princes Court and added a three-floor extension on the north side, cleverly matching the style and colour of the original building. The house’s most impressive feature was the stained-glass ceiling at the top of the building. After restoration, seven apartments were on offer, ranging from a one-bedroom flat for £55,000, to a large maisonette for £250,000.

   copyright © J.Middleton 
The author Patrick Hamilton lived in this house as a child, 
and a blue plaque commemorating the association
 can be seen to the right of the front door.
Number 12 – The author Patrick Hamilton (1904-1962) lived in this house as a boy with his parents, sister and brother, and three or four servants, from around 1908 until the First World War. He was not at all complimentary about his boyhood home writing that the ‘grey, drab, tall treeless houses leading down to King’s Gardens and the sea convey absolutely no social or historical message to me. They are not even funny, or ostentatious, or bizarre.’

One of Hamilton’s best-known novels is entitled The West Pier. In June 1988 Jim Buttimer, Mayor of Hove, unveiled a blue plaque on this house in honour of Patrick Hamilton – it is somewhat ironic that although Hamilton had little time for Hove, the town was pleased to commemorate his association with it. Penguin Books sponsored the plaque. Today, the lettering is somewhat faded.

Number 13 – Kensington Court – John Thomas Chappell built this house. In the early 1960s Derek Francis, business development manager of Worthing Symphony Orchestra, purchased the first floor of Kensington Court and began restoring it to its original splendour. The drawing room measured 21-ft and boasted floor-to-ceiling doors opening onto a sun balcony, and there was a marble fireplace; there was an elegant dining room with doors leading to the original conservatory; which is visible from the pavement on the south side – a unique feature; there were also intricate mouldings on the ceilings in the bedrooms.

   copyright © J.Middleton  
The renowned Thomas Chappell built the impressive Kensington Court, 13 Third Avenue.

In 1991 Mr Francis put the flat up for sale at a price of £169,000. This house is different to others in First Avenue because there is an imposing entrance on the south side of the house, and one can imagine carriages sweeping up the forecourt.

Number 20 – In 1921 Hove Council gave planning permission for this house to be converted into flats.

Number 21 – In 1922 Hove Council gave planning permission for this house to be converted into flats.

Number 27 – In November 1895 the house was sold for £2,750. From around 1947 the house became the First Avenue Hotel. The original hotel of that name was situated on Kingsway but in 1941 the building was badly damaged by bombs, and moved to its new location afterwards. It was still trading as a hotel in the 1950s.

Number 28 – In 1918 Hove Council gave planning permission for the house to be converted into two maisonettes.

   copyright © J.Middleton   
2nd Lieutenant Baines 
lived at Kingsway House, 29 First Avenue.
Number 29 – At the time of the First World War the parents of 2nd Lieutenant Frederick Athelstan Fanshawe Baines (1896-1915) of the 4th King’s Royal Rifle Corps lived here. The young lieutenant’s military career was heartbreakingly brief – he joined his battalion on the front line on Sunday and by the following Tuesday he was dead. He was killed during the Second Battles of Ypres, at Bellewaarde Wood. There is a handsome memorial tablet to him in All Saints Church, The Drive, where he was baptised as a baby, and there is another memorial tablet inside St Martin’s Church, Westmeston, as well as a stained glass window, the parents having later moved to Westmeston.

When his old headmaster from Winchester College heard about his death, he wrote to the bereaved parents as follows; ‘This is the saddest blow I have felt so far; he was such a wholesome, honourable and attractive fellow, truly a white soul, if ever there was one. Everyone one was admiring him when he stayed here only thirteen days ago.’

    copyright © J.Middleton  
This beautiful marble memorial tablet to 2nd Lieutenant Baines is to be found inside All Saints Church, Hove.

The lieutenant’s father was Athelstan Arthur Baines, a member of the legal firm of Fitzhugh, Woolley, Baines & Woolley of 3 Pavilion Buildings, Brighton. The lieutenant’s mother, Katherine Mary, was the daughter of Revd Frederick Fanshawe. Another relative was Lieutenant Colonel Cuthbert Athelstan Baines who lived at Medina Villas.

Number 30 – In 1921 Hove Council gave planning permission for this house to be converted into flats.

    copyright © J.Middleton 
Prominent men once occupied numbers 35 and 37 First Avenue.

Number 35 – Aaron David Sassoon (1841-1907) lived in this house from 1883 until his death. He was a younger brother of Arthur Sassoon (1840-1912) and Reuben Sassoon (1835-1905) who both lived on Kingsway, Hove, with a large retinue of servants and entertained royalty.

  copyright © J.Middleton  
The entrance to Hove Place Hotel.
Aaron died aged 65 on Sunday 6 May 1907 – it was known he had been in failing health for some time. A train took his body to London and on Tuesday he was buried in the Mile End Cemetery of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Congregation. The mourners included David Sassoon, Frederick Sassoon and Leopold de Rothschild. The Brighton Gazette commented that ‘local charities lose a generous benefactor by Mr Sassoon’s death.’

Number 35/37 – Mrs M. Troubman ran a boarding house here in the late 1930s, while in 1938 Leon Troubman also ran his dental practice in the premises. In 1939 this was a private Jewish Hotel run by J.H. Silberstein and in 1940 telegrams could be despatched to the establishment with the address ‘Bracing, Hove’.

By the end of the Second World War it had become Laker’s Private Hotel, and by 1951 M. Lemberger was the proprietor; a sprung dance floor was installed in the 1950s, by which time it had become the Hove Place Hotel. A unique feature is the extensive Italianate garden at the back, which is well patronised by customers in the summer. This garden must surely owe something to the taste of William Benjamin Chamberlain, an expert on Italian art, who lived in number 37 and died in 1937.

    copyright © J.Middleton  
Dr Nathan Marcus Adler, Chief Rabbi, 
once lived at 36 First Avenue.
Number 36 – Dr Nathan Marcus Adler (1803-1890) Chief Rabbi of England and the British Empire lived in this house, where he died on 21 January 1890. Dr Adler was born in Hanover, the third son of the Chief Rabbi of that place. When living in Hanover, Dr Adler was on friendly terms with Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, and it is thought that the duke recommended his friend for the post of Chief Rabbi in England, when the former incumbent, Solomon Herschell, died in 1842.

There were fifteen candidates for the position and Dr Adler made the short list of four men. On 9 July 1845 Dr Adler was instituted as Chief Rabbi. He took a great interest in Jewish education, and became the first president of the Jews’ College, which he inaugurated. His advice on Jewish matters was sought from all over the world, and he also visited provincial synagogues. He wrote prayers, order of services, and scholarly works. But he also turned his attention to the wider community, being a founder of the NSPCC and inaugurating Hospital Sabbath when a collection was taken in all synagogues for the benefit of local hospitals.

Number 37 – William Benjamin Chamberlain, who was born in Hastings, lived in this house for many years. He was an authority on Italian art and he discovered in Assisi the earliest authentic Italian painting then known – it was a painting of the Virgin and Child dating from the second half of the 13th century, probably painted by a Pisan artist working under Guinta Pisano. Chamberlain purchased the painting and presented it to the National Gallery.
Chamberlain also had his own art collection, which included a work by Rembrandt. This painting once belonged to Ely Cathedral, but Chamberlain picked it up in around 1877 for £100 at a sale in Palmeira Square. It was sold as depicting the head of William Tell, but at Christie’s in 1938 the painting was identified as a portrait of Rembrandt’s father as a warrior, painted c.1630, size 25½-in by 19¾-in. The painting was sold to Sir Edward Mountain for £7,350, despite an army of Dutch dealers being present.

     copyright © J.Middleton 
W.B. Chamberlain was associated with Hove Museum for some years.
Other gems from Chamberlain’s collection were a painting of a man fishing by Corot (sold in 1938 for 600 guineas) and a river scene by J. van Goyen (sold in 1938 for 500 guineas).
Chamberlain was associated with Hove Museum from its inception, and was also a member of the Fine Arts sub-committee and the Hove Arts Collection Fund Association. It was stated that he was ‘instrumental in selecting several of the association’s rarest purchases, and has given a number of valuable paintings, including a Ruisdale and a Marco Ricci, to the town.’
Chamberlain was an artist too, painting in oils, watercolours and pastel. In 1936 there was a one-man exhibition of his work at Hove Museum; his subjects covered Florence, Venice, Rome, Egypt, Ceylon, and India. Chamberlain died in 1937 and his collection was sold the following year.

    copyright © J.Middleton   
A man with the impressive name of 
Henry Farquhar de Paravicini
 lived at 54 First Avenue.
Number 54 – Mr Harry Farquhar de Paravicini J.P. (1859-1942) lived in this house in 1927. He was born on 20 October 1859 and attended Harrow where he played cricket for the Harrow XI in matches at Lord’s against teams from Eton in 1877 and 1878. It is interesting to note that one of his opponents at Lord’s was his younger brother Percy de Paravicini (1862-1921) who attended Eton, later going up to Trinity College, Cambridge where he won blues for cricket and football. Percy became an amateur cricket player and an international football player.
Meanwhile, Harry was a great supporter of Sussex County Cricket Club. Harry’s wife, Lady Eva, (1869-1954) was also sports-minded, and was a member of Brighton & Hove Ladies’ Golf Club.
By November 1997 this house had been developed by Hartwell Homes, the architects being Peter Taylor Associates; five flats were put up for sale.

Sources

Argus
Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Directories
Middleton, J. Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Internet searches
Middleton, J. Hove and Portslade in the Great War

The Keep

PAR 387/10/58 Stanford Estate land, 1852

Copyright © J.Middleton 2018
page layout by D. Sharp.