12 January 2016

Brunswick Terrace, Hove

Judy Middleton (2001 revised 2020)

Copyright © J.Middleton
Brunswick Terrace

Its name is probably due to the surname of the contemporary ruling house of Britain. The foundations were excavated early in 1824 and by the following year the work was advanced enough for the attention of several prospective buyers. The central blocks adjoining Brunswick Square were roughly uniform in size but the corner properties were larger. The eastern section adjoining the Brighton boundary only had six houses and these varied in size. By the close of 1826 several houses were ready for occupation and in October 1827 work began to complete the last part, the ten houses at the western end. Although work proceeded rapidly at first, it slowed down at this stage due to the difficulties of financing the project. It was because of financial restraints that these last houses in the terrace were not constructed as carefully as the first ones.

The terrace was prone to problems caused by damp, either due to the sea or by poor drainage. When number 19 was being built, a storm drove seawater into the foundations. In 1834 William Lambert, who was a Brunswick Square Commissioner, carried out some drainage work. Obviously this did not solve the problem and in the 1860s the Commissioners decided to seek expert opinion. The famous engineer Joseph William Bazalgette was called in. He was the man responsible for London’s drainage system and for the construction of the Thames Embankments. He was knighted in 1874. As a result of Bazalgette’s advice, a single outfall was built at the east end in a joint venture with Brighton at a cost of £3,700. The situation was much improved but heavy storms continued to cause problems. On 25th August 1877 the western portion was flooded.

In July 1987 a freak thunderstorm and 5 inches of rain during the night caused flooding to a depth of 3 feet and two children had to be rescued through a window. The new and very expensive Stormwater Tunnel was constructed to reduce such problems in Hove by storing excess water running off streets until it could be released in a controlled way.

Brunswick Terrace differs from Brunswick Square in that the majority of houses were let as furnished houses and the figure rose to 25 in 1862 out of a total of 42 houses; whereas there were only three furnished houses in the square at that time. This meant that while the square had several houses occupied by a single family over several years, the terrace had a more transient population. But the terrace fulfilled its function as a fashionable place to stay for a few weeks or months. The height of the season was not in the summer but in the winter. It was also the latest fashion to be able to enjoy sea-views from one’s drawing room windows.
Copyright © J.Middleton
Brunswick Terrace 
The time of high society was in the early days. 

Looking at the 1861 census it is clear the terrace was home to a more diverse and less socially sparkling population. Indeed the largest group of householders was widows. There were seven of them but they did not live alone as often other family members were present and each household had several servants. The next largest group were gentlemen and magistrates (four in each category). Then there were three fund-holders, two clergymen, two landowners, two house proprietors, and singly, a gentlewoman, a wharfinger, a banker, a retired Army captain, a retired barrister, a solicitor, an oil merchant and a brewer. There was also an old established school for ladies at number 32 although business enterprises were not supposed to be allowed in these residences. General Sir Adolphus John Dalrymple at number 5, the Dowager Lady Scott at number 22, Sir FH Bathurst at number 24, the Earl and Countess of Scarborough at number 25 and the Dowager Countess Rosse at number 33 provided the Quality. On census night 1861 there were 212 resident servants in the terrace, 152 female and 60 male. There was a smattering of governesses too, who regarded themselves as several steps higher than servants.
This figure does not include the rather unusual circumstances appertaining to number 12 where builders were at work and living on the premises. There were twelve of them; four plasterers, three painters, two carpenters, a grainer, a man to hang wallpaper, and a labourer.

At Lord and Lady Lurgan’s house at number 26 in 1881 there were fifteen servants. At number 10 there was an unusual type of male servant – a bath-chair man while at number 1 a magistrate employed two footmen amongst his five male servants. At number 8 an interesting piece of social history can be deduced. Charles Leslie, a 52-year old Church of England clergyman, lived there. He had married a widowed heiress now aged 56 who was a landed proprietor while her daughter was a fund-holder. The couple had a son and daughter of their own too. Only at number 23 were there no resident servants and a woman and her niece occupied the house.

During World War II Brunswick Terrace began to take on a somewhat forlorn aspect. The regular painting of the stuccoed facades was suspended for the duration and there was a RAF convalescent home at number 42. The view from the windows was dismal. The seafront was prohibited territory to residents and the beaches were mined while the promenade was disfigured by tangles of barbed wire, tank traps and gun emplacements. On 12th October 1942 cannon fire caused some blast damage.
Some parts of the terrace deteriorated badly. In 1974 it was stated that number 35 had been empty for 25 years and it was boarded up. It was not the only unoccupied house and several had been empty for at least two years. In 1974 Sussex County Freeholds (Developments) Ltd of London purchased number 35 and the company also owned much of the rest of the terrace. Conservationists began to worry the company might gut the building and a petition expressing concern about the future of the terrace was presented to Hove Council. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, Lord Olivier and Lord Holford headed the petition, which was signed by 1,700 people.

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums,
A photograph of the Hotel Alexandra in the 1930s (the far left), the hotel was formerly known as the Marlborough Private Hotel in 1899, in 1901 it became the Shelbourne Private Hotel, a year later in 1902 the name was changed again to Hotel Alexandra, possibly in honour of the recent Coronation of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.


Meanwhile other parts of the terrace had been quietly rotting away and in August 1976 Hove Council agreed to spend £2,300 on emergency repairs and treatment for dry rot on numbers 33 to 42. They also agreed to have a proper survey carried out. In the 1970s the Twentieth Century Banking Co. held the majority interest in the western part of the terrace. Developers had purchased some of the properties with the intention of turning them into luxury flats but the property market collapsed and the firm went bust. In December 1977 Twentieth Century Banking came up with a scheme whereby numbers 37, 38 and 40 would be converted from homes to offices, number 41 would be changed from a house to an hotel while numbers 33 to 36 would be retained for housing. Hove Councillors backed the scheme and work was supposed to start in 1974.
However, it never took off and private developers restored some of the houses instead. During the early 1980s Royston Leicester took over and restored numbers 40 to 42,  thus giving new life to the Alexandra Hotel, which had been in existence since 1902. In 1983 he started to restore number 39, which he intended to convert into nine flats. Meanwhile, Tony Heard restored numbers 33 to 35.
copyright © J.Middleton
Imposing entrance on the corner of  Lansdowne Place
but numbered as 32 Brunswick Terrace.

But number 32, on the corner of Lansdowne Place, proved to be a stumbling block. By 1981 it was in such a wretched state that Hove Council was obliged to erect scaffolding around it as a safety measure to prevent collapse. The legal side was in a similar state with a number of management tangles, which needed to be sorted out. 

In 1982 it was stated that Jadenote Ltd owned the property and they had leased it to Pressguard Ltd of Waterford. In 1984 Hove Council ordered Pressguard to carry out £100,000 of repairs within a year. When nothing happened Jadenote successfully applied to the courts for Pressguard’s lease to be forfeited. Then negotiations began for Hove Council to acquire the property. From May 1984 to early 1985 talks were going on between Hove Council and Sussex Heritage Trust about a plan to jointly repair and manage the building. At the time the premises were divided into seven leasehold flats. When one of the owners tried to sell the flat at auction, bidding stopped at £10,000 and the property was withdrawn. 
copyright © J.Middleton
32 Brunswick Terrace 

In 1987 English Heritage agreed to spend £100,000 on number 32, the largest conservation grant awarded that year. But the money would not be forthcoming unless the remainder of the repair bill could be met. This might cost as much as £250,000. Hove Council had already set aside £61,000 in its budget for the building. In October 1987 it became clear seven months after the project had been awarded £160,000, that not a penny had been expended on it. There were fears that when restoration work was under way, more faults would be discovered and the extra money would have to come from the freeholder. But neither Hove Council nor Sussex Heritage Trust could afford to take the risk. But there was some cause for optimism as the lessees were hoping to gain control of the freehold. This option had not been open to them before because of the involvement of head lessees who had now all sold out. The affair was still grinding on into the 1990s when in June 1991 Hove Council made another grant, this time of £27,000 towards the restoration and the total cost of it was now put at £350,000.

Angel House

The name Angel House derives from the fact that 1 Brunswick Terrace is opposite to the Peace Statue and is therefore right on the borders of Brighton and Hove. The house was also one of the first to be built in the Brunswick Town Development.

Like the rest of the Brunswick houses it has had a complicated history of ups and downs from the height of fashion when it was newly built to a state of near dereliction after the Second World War.

In the 1960s the house was converted into nine bed-sits, having previously seen service as a dentist’s surgery. Its fortunes changed in the 1970s when the house was re-converted back to a single residence. A well-known and public-spirited actress was the occupant and she delighted in helping creativity by letting rooms to writers and artists.

One such writer was Nigel Richardson who at the time was deputy travel writer of the Daily Telegraph. It is said that it was in this house he wrote Breakfast in Brighton, which was published in 1998.

Phill Haiselden took over the property in 2005 and at first shared it with four other people. But it soon became clear that major structural repairs were required and so the house was closed in order that the work could begin. Of course the estimated time scale of eighteen months proved to be way off course and the project took all of three years. At times the pressure was too much and Mr Haiselden must have wished he had never embarked upon his venture. But there were skilled people to help and the house itself seemed determined to be returned to its former glory because as Mr Haiselden said the house ‘always seemed to draw good things to it’.

By March 2015 a beautifully restored Angel House was being publicised as a deluxe wedding and events venue. (Argus 31 March 2015).  

See also Brunswick Terrace's Famous Residents page  

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