12 January 2016

Palmeira Mansions, Church Road, Hove

Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2023)

 copyright © J.Middleton
Palmeira Mansions was photographed on 8 September 2015 from Palmeira Lawn.

These fine mansions in Renaissance style were erected in the years 1883 and 1884. There was a block of six houses between Salisbury Road and Palmeira Avenue and a block of six houses between Palmeira Avenue and Rochester Gardens. The houses had a frontage to Church Road, overlooking Palmeira Lawn but were separated from it by a private carriageway and wall.

  copyright © J.Middleton
Photo left:- Palmeira Mansions between Salisbury Road and Palmeira Avenue
Photo right:-  Palmeira Mansions between Palmeira Avenue and Rochester Gardens.

Jabez Reynolds

Jabez Reynolds, senior, of Brighton was the owner and builder of Palmeira Mansions. He was baptised in the Wesleyan Chapel, Dorset Gardens on 23 May 1824. He married Caroline Yates on 30 May 1846 at St Nicolas Church, Brighton. In 1877 he purchased a house on the east side of Wilbury Road from Osmond Dash who had bought it from the Stanford Estate the previous year.

Reynolds built seven houses in Lansdowne Street in 1881 and some in Cambridge Road. Two houses he built in Cambridge Road were too close to the boundary wall (contrary to the plans) and had to come down. He built four more houses in 1882 at Cambridge Road.

Palmeira Mansions are his most memorable work and he also erected stabling in connection with these houses in 1880s in St John’s Road, known then as Palmeira Mews Road. The stabling included coach houses and living quarters for the grooms.

His son Jabez Reynolds, junior, built houses in Church Road, Cambridge Road, Wilbury Road and Goldstone Villas.

Opulent Mansions

It seems that no expense was spared in the building and fitting-out of Palmeira Mansions. The entrance was through a porch of rusticated columns supporting entablature, frieze and cornice, leading to a lofty hall. The ground floor contained dining room, morning room, billiard room, boudoir, bachelor’s room, bathroom and lavatories. The floors were of tessellated pavement, there were carved marble chimney-pieces and over-mantels, marble fenders and tiled hearths. Mr A. Granville Greysmith of Ship Street, Brighton, painted frescoes on the walls. Venetian blinds were fitted throughout.

 copyright © J.Middleton
The ‘rusticated columns’ are a typical feature of Palmeira Mansions.

Shanks & Co provided the baths and lavatories. The basement contained kitchen, servants’ hall, manservant’s bedroom, various external cellars and a completely fitted wine cellar. The attics were light and roomy and suitable for servants’ bedrooms. This description of the properties is taken from an article printed in Brighton Gazette (21 February 1885).


Unfortunately, Palmeira Mansions were erected just as the property market was going through one of its periodic slumps. It was the same story when houses in Palmeria Square were newly built. The 1885 Directory recorded that only four houses in Palmeira Mansions were occupied but by 1887 the number had risen to ten. However, the 1891 census recorded six unoccupied houses.

The slump affected Henry Jones Lanchester badly because he found his work at Hove had all but dried up. He was therefore obliged to leave Hove and remove with his family back to London.

Coffee Stall

In April 1884 Mr Reynolds, owner of Palmeira Mansions, and Messrs Humphrey & Son, owner of Palmeira Terrace, asked Hove Commissioners to remove a nearby coffee stall, probably thinking it lowered the tone of the neighbourhood. This coffee stall was allowed to operate during weekdays on the east side of St John’s Church. When other residents heard about the move, they were horrified and soon a petition bearing 287 signatures asking for the coffee stall to be allowed to remain was presented to Hove Commissioners. That august body then decided it was not necessary to order its removal.

For twelve years the coffee stall happily plied its trade and then abruptly in September 1896 Hove Commissioners withdrew their consent and gave the coffee stall keeper one month’s notice to quit.

Pageboy in Danger

In 1885 a policeman was passing by Palmeira Mansions when he noticed a pageboy standing on an outside ledge in order to clean windows.

In September 1885 Mrs Whitefield of 29 Palmeira Mansions was summoned before the courts for permitting a servant to stand in a dangerous position on a windowsill. The magistrates inflicted the full penalty of a fine of £2.

Trees and Lamps

On 5 July 1894 the surveyor reported that owing to the trees on the north side of Church Road in front of the mansions, the light from the lamps situated on the private wall was considerably obscured. He recommended erecting two new lamps on the kerb of the pavement, one midway between Rochester Gardens and Palmeira Avenue and the other midway between Palmeira Avenue and Salisbury Road; the lighting of the two existing lamps should be discontinued.

This still did not solve the problem and in January 1899 the surveyor suggested four new lamps should be placed on the curb and new lamps should replace the old ones on the wall.

  copyright © J.Middleton
In this 1908 postcard the tree problem in front of Palmeira Mansions is obvious. 
Note the original lamp on the right and the hackney carriage stand on the left.

Private Roadway

In 1914 Mr R. Tilt, property owner, erected two posts in the private roadway, thus preventing through vehicular traffic. Although a private roadway, it had always been open to public use and by May 1914 one post had already been knocked over by a cab. Hove Council ordered the remaining one to be removed.

It is interesting to note that in recent times when renovation of the area was taking place, the vexed question of who actually owned the private roadway had to be looked into before work could begin.

Omnibuses and Excessive Speed

In 1923 some of the owners of Palmeira Mansions complained to Hove Council about the nuisance and damage to property caused by ‘excessive speed of the omnibuses’ especially early in the morning and late at night.

The Chief Constable took it upon himself to time no fewer than 79 omnibuses. He recorded that on one occasion two omnibuses travelled at 13mph and two at 14mph while another notched up 15mph. At the time the maximum legal limit was 12mph.


In the late 20th century Palmeira Mansions were something of a sorry sight. Their drab exteriors made them look run down, and this was because there was no legal requirement for the façades to be repainted at regular intervals, as was the case with Brunswick Square and Terrace, and Palmeira Square. There was one house in particular that stuck out like a sore thumb because it was still in its unadorned state of what used to be called Roman cement whilst all its neighbours had succumbed to a pleasing coat of creamy white. At last, this house too joined the club and today Palmeira Mansions have never looked so handsome.

  copyright © J.Middleton
This postcard view dating back to around 1904 shows Palmeira Mansions before the façades were painted and 
still displayed the original Roman cement.

copyright © J.Middleton
One of the lovely new lamps was 
photographed on 6 April 2002.

There has also been a trend to re-convert the mansions from offices to residential use; plans for such conversions were before the council in January 1999 and July 2000.

The upturn in their fortune was no doubt helped along by the restoration of the private wall, which was completed by December 1991. Hove and Brighton Conservation Board were responsible for the work, which cost £60,000, and it was the first scheme they undertook. The walls and piers were renovated and then specialist Robert Cook re-plastered them.

New lamp stands and lanterns were re-created from an original model and they are an impressive sight today.      

The area was further enhanced by the installation of new bus shelters, which instead of being brash and modern, were especially chosen to harmonise with the surrounding architecture.

 copyright © J.Middleton
Palmeira Lawn and Palmeira Mansions look their best in this photograph taken on 22 August 2015. Note the discreet bus shelters in the background.

House Notes

Number 9

Lieutenant-General Sir Edwin Henry Hayter Collen GCIE CB (1843–1911) lived at 9 Palmeira Mansions in 1905, he served on the Council of the Viceroy of India. Edwin was born in London, the son of the famous Royal miniature portrait painter Henry Collen.

He saw military service in Abyssinia, Afghanistan and Sudan. Later in his army career in 1895, he served in India. Sir Edwin retired from military service in 1901.

Number 11
copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Brighton Herald 14 September 1912

Number 15

The Countess di Avido lived at number 15 from 1893 until 1893

Number 21

copyright © G. Glastris
21 Palmeira Mansions in 1900

It is wonderful to be able to have a glimpse inside the spacious residence of
Lady Edwardes’s Residence at 21 Palmeira Mansions, and see the lavish furnishings of the Victorian / Edwardian era. Just how large Lady Edwardes’s home was can be gauged from the fact that by 1907 it had been divided into no less than five flats.

copyright © G. Glastris
The almost hidden gentleman is Major James Murray Irwin,
Lady Emma’s nephew, and the rather stern-looking woman
is his wife Nora with their daughter Edna on the left –
the trio overlooked by the bust of Sir Herbert Edwardes.

Lady Emma Edwardes (1823-1904) lived at number 21 from 1892 for a period of twelve years until her death, and she enjoyed the services of four domestic servants, as well as her personal masseur, while her butler was an Indian-born ex-British soldier.

In 1850 Emma Sidney married Sir Herbert Benjamin Edwards (1819-1868) while he was on furlough from India. She dutifully accompanied her husband back to India where he had important duties. But she found the climate so enervating and impossible to bear that she was obliged to return to England after trying to endure it for eight years. Her concerned husband applied for furlough and returned to England in 1862, retiring in 1865. However, the climate and overwork played havoc with his health as well, and the following year he died.

Lady Edwardes married William Tollemache in 1875 and she was allowed to keep her courtesy title, but her second husband died in 1886. Lady Edwardes lived in Onslow Square, London, where she devoted her time to writing a massive work in honour of her first husband entitled A Memorial of his Life and Letters by his wife. She obviously still carried a torch for him and a bust of him stood in pride of place in her library at number 21, and when she died, she was buried in Highgate Cemetery where he was also buried.

After her writing was finished, Lady Edwardes decided she needed some sea air, and moved to Hove in 1890 where she lived in Fourth Avenue. She was not lonely because her niece Catherine Layard lived there too. Poor Mrs Layard had been recently widowed and was left with two small girls to bring up, aged four and one. In 1892 Lady Edwardes moved to Palmeira Mansions, and Mrs Layard went to live in Bath.

copyright © G. Glastris
On the left Lady Edwardes' Drawing Room with paintings of India on the wall along with a drawing of Sir Herbert, on the right the hallway from the Drawing Room.

As regards Sir Herbert Benjamin Edwardes, he became a great hero in British India, and finished his career heaped with honours and letters after his name. This was after an inauspicious childhood and youth because both parents had died by the time he was four years of age, and he was brought up by a strict aunt, being packed off to boarding school when he was aged ten. He dreamed of going to Oxford but for unknown reasons, his guardians would not allow it; however, he did attend King’s College, London.

copyright © G. Glastris
Lady Edwardes' boudoir

In 1841 Edwardes set sail for India and the following year he was to be found serving as a 2
nd Lieutenant in an infantry regiment. He obviously had a rare talent for languages and soon mastered Hindustani, Hindi and Persian, passed his exams, and was an interpreter by the age of 26. Edwardes wrote three important articles that impressed his contemporaries, and in November 1845 he was invited to be on the personal staff of Sir Hugh Goff, commander-in-chief in India, and later on worked in co-operation with Sir John Lawrence. In fact Edwardes was described as a brilliant soldier-diplomat. He did sterling service in the Sikh Wars and Indian Mutiny.

copyright © G. Glastris
Another view of Lady Edwardes' boudoir

In fact, in his memorial located in the north aisle of Westminster Abbey, the eulogy contains the following – he ‘greatly contributed to the security of the frontier and the salvation of the British Empire in India.’ Strong words indeed. The bust in Lady Edwardes' library is similar to the bust of white marble in Westminster Abbey, and was given to her ‘by some of the many friends who loved and admired Sir Herbert Edwardes.’

It is interesting to note that although he died in 1868, Lady Emma Edwardes continued to use her title, although she later married William Tollemache, and it must be admitted that Lady Edwardes has more of a ring about it than Mrs Tollemache. What Mr Tollemache thought of the situation is not known. But it was certainly Lady Emma Edwardes in the Directories. Perhaps she still carried a torch for her late husband because she diligently wrote a book called A Memorial of his Life and Letters by his wife.

Number 23

Major General Robert Crosse Stewart C. B., D.S.O., (1826-1914), was born in Belfast and lived at 23 Palmeira Mansions from 1901 until 1914 after moving from Wilbury Road. In 1845 he was recommended for a non-purchased commission in the army by the Duke of Wellington to Queen Victoria because of Robert’s late father, Major Archibald Stewart’s military service in the Peninsula War and the Battle of Waterloo.

Robert trained in Madras as a Hindustani interpreter. Captain Stewart served as Assistant Executive Engineer in Rangoon, Burma. He later transferred to the 7th Hussars and saw action at Meangunge in 1857 and the Relief of Lucknow in 1857, where he was wounded, mentioned in despatches and honoured with a medal for his bravery. Later in his army career he served as Assistant Military Secretary in Ceylon, Adjutant General for the Madras Army and represented Madras at the Imperial Assemblage at Delhi in 1877. Major Stewart was an expert of the Enfield Rifle, he gave lectures and wrote a book for servicemen on the subject.

In 1879 he was appointed Governor and Commandant of the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley and had the honour of receiving Queen Victoria when she was visiting men wounded in the Zulu War. It was on this occasion that the Queen decorated Private Fred Hitch with the Victoria Cross for his heroism at Rorke’s Drift. In 1880 he returned to India to serve as Commandant of Madras and retired from military service in 1884.

All three of Major Stewart’s sons served as Captains in the army. One of them was killed in the Boer War in 1900. His eldest daughter served as a matron in Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and was awarded the Royal Red Cross for her service in the Boer War. When Major General Stewart died in 1914, a number of newspapers around the Empire headlined their obituaries as ‘Hero of Indian Mutiny passes away’.

Number 33

This house deserves a special mention because of the impressive interior, fitted up to the specifications of wealthy Arthur William Mason. This was not the first Hove house Mason occupied because his previous rental property was at 11 Palmeira Mansions. Perhaps this house came to have sad associations for him when his first wife died in 1889 of ‘disease of the ovaries’, leaving a five-year old daughter called Christine.

The first occupant of number 33 was Mr R. Gillespie and in 1889 he sold the property to Mason, who was well able to afford it because his father had just handed over his business to his three sons. It was thought that after the business was floated on the stock market, the three brothers, as managing directors, were able to pocket some £55,000 each.

The business in question was an ink manufacturing enterprise that George Holt Mason had founded.

Arthur William Mason

A.W. Mason was obviously proud to have joined the ranks of polite society and he commissioned a coat of arms and adopted the motto Facta Non Verba (Deeds not Words). He made extensive use of his coat of arms and it appeared on his cutlery, dinner service, on the side windows of his cars and in stained glass windows in his house. At first glance the subject of the coat of arms looks like a domino of sorts. In fact it is a try-square, a tool used by masons and others to mark a right angle and check its accuracy. Traditionally, the tool had a steel blade and a wood stock secured by rivets. Mason used this device as an allusion to his surname whilst the five rivet holes signified the five letters in the name.

On 17 December 1891 A.W. Mason purchased a piece of land from the Goldsmid Estate for £720 in Palmeira Mews Road (now called St John’s Road). He had stabling and a coach house plus living quarters erected on it. Later on the stables were converted into a garage to hold his fleet of cars consisting of two Rolls-Royces and a Daimler.

In March 1899 Hove Council approved Mr S.H. Diplock’s plans on behalf of Mr Mason for a new porch at number 33.

The interior of the house in its heyday must have been a wonderful sight. Fortunately, much of it remains to this day.

A.W. Mason was married three times, His second wife was called Grace and they married some two years after his first wife died. They had no children and she died in 1929. Although Mason was by then 72 years old he decided to marry for the third time and his bride’s name was Florence. She was some thirty years younger than he was while his first wife had been five years older than her husband.

Mason died aged 80 in June 1940, the cause of death being lung cancer. In September 1940 there was a two-day sale of the house contents.

Later Occupants

Number 33 became Palmeira Nursing Home and was in operation from 1940 to 1961. In 1953 Ada Marian Jacobs ran the establishment. Her career extended back to the Great War when she started a nursing home at 31 Brunswick Road, which by 1917 had expanded to number 33 Brunswick Road. But the lease on the Brunswick properties expired in 1953.

In 1961 the English Language Centre acquired number 33 and remain the owners to this day. Glen Davie, principal from 1962 to 1987, said he found the interior very shabby when they took over and he personally sanded the floors.

Marble Halls and Staircase

The entrance hall leads into a vestibule lined with white, veined marble with a stained glass window on the right hand side depicting the coat of arms. A startling wall-sconce light features a serpentine dragon of iron rearing over hot coals at the top of the lamp. The dragon has a ring in its mouth, which probably once held decorative chains. Steps lead into the main hall and immediately in front of you there is a huge, oval mirror framed in dark wood and decorated with cherubs, foliage and flowers. The hall is richly embellished with Italian marble in colours of black, green and tan together with alabaster from Derbyshire. The floor has a geometric design of red, grey and white tiles and the pink, flecked pillars are fluted. The walls are panelled in pale alabaster.
The curved staircase is also a marvel in marble. The newel post is pale green on a black base, the balusters are rose while the rail is flecked black. According to researcher Jackie Marsh-Hobbs there are similar marble balusters on the grand staircase in the Foreign Office in London.

 copyright © J.Middleton
The marble staircase inside number 33.

Ascending the staircase, original light fittings can be seen as a spray of three flowers sprouting from the top of the wall. There are stained glass windows on either side of the west wall. The pattern consists of stylised leaves with red poppy-like flowers, bright blue roundels and the coat of arms of course. Jackie Marsh-Hobbs also thinks the wall over the staircase was once home to an important painting by Lord Leighton entitled Dante in Exile. The painting measured an impressive 10 feet by 6 feet and there was not enough space in the rest of the house to accommodate such a large work. The full view from the staircase cannot be appreciated today because of the partition erected on the landing to meet fire precaution requirements. Originally, it was seen from below as an open plan area.

Front Room, ground floor

This room has the most extraordinary ceiling in Moorish style with scalloped roundels. It looks heavy and rich but was actually created from papier-mâché and painted green and gold. There is a marble panelled dado in colours of red, black and green. The marble fireplace has a rose coloured over-mantel with columns on either side and rose and cream insets. The ogee arch in the chimney-piece matches the ogee arch above the door frame. The room was designed as the dining room where guests dined from a 10-foot long mahogany table while seated on mahogany chairs embossed with Moroccan leather. Against the west wall there was a 12-foot long sideboard designed by Grohe of Paris in Empire style. Above it hung a painting by Alma Tadema entitled The Education of the Children of Clovis; the painting once belonged to King Leopold of Belgium. The opulent style of the room is apparently similar to those to be found in the Foreign Office.

  copyright © J.Middleton
The ceiling of the erstwhile dining room must be the most magnificent one in Hove

First Floor

Upstairs the passage has two Moorish horseshoe arches and there is a painted and gilded ceiling that continues into the conservatory. This conservatory, or enclosed balcony, is the only exterior hint at the riches within. The stained glass is a swirling pattern with the colours of green and yellow predominating. There is a wooden fireplace with an over-mantel decorated with engraved mirror insets.

  copyright © J.Middleton
The conservatory / glazed balcony belonging to number 33 
was sketched in 1979.

Conference Room

It is probable that this was once the morning room and the most interesting part is the chimney-piece. The over-mantel is a glorious riot of crystal and glass executed by Osler of Birmingham, the firm who supplied chandeliers to Buckingham Palace. The central part consists of nine small columns with two larger ones on either side plus two more at either end all created from brilliant crystal. A most unusual feature is a row of detachable glass ink-pots. The fireplace is cast iron with some lovely tiles in yellow and brown featuring snowdrops. The wood of the over-mantel is light coloured with pretty graining – perhaps boxwood. There is an ornate door-case and an ink-pot motif elsewhere in the room.

Second Floor

The room A28 has a fireplace with country views painted on five panels in a vertical line, a different view being featured on either side. There is a magnificent door with six panels. The top four depict dancing girls while the bottom two contain stylised flowers.
There is another unusual fireplace in the Teacher’s Room that has a concave decoration at the top of the over-mantel.

 copyright © J.Middleton
The Doulton chimney-piece in the former 
Billiard Room is just one of the elaborate 
fireplaces to be found inside number 33.
Third Floor

Room A31 was once the billiard room and it has a reinforced floor to support the enormous weight of a full-size billiard table by Burroughes & Watts. The room contains a fine patterned parquet floor, which is similar to other floors in the house now covered with carpet to save wear and tear.

There is an elaborate Doulton ceramic chimney-piece with embossed and beaded tiles in colours of predominantly brown and green. On the hearth are tiles depicting sunflowers with the motto ‘Think of Ease but Work On.’ The door contains a central panel of a dancing girl.

Room A34 was once part of the billiard room but has now been partitioned off. It has a rococo-style wood and plaster chimney-piece incorporating a mirror over-mantel; Walter Crane designed the hearth tiles. 

Beatrice Nunberg Enes – She was a portrait painter who lived in a flat at Palmeira Mansions in the 1960s. She had studied in Paris and she was taught by Walter Sickert (1860-1942), who strangely enough, used to enjoy spending weekends at Walter Taylor’s house in Brunswick Square. Among Enes’s paintings were portraits of King Constantine, Lord Nuffield and Professor Joad.


Brighton Gazette (21 February 1885)
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Mr G. Glastris
Hove Commissioners. Minutes
Internet searches
Kingsford, P.W. F.W. Lanchester. Life of an Engineer (1960)
Research by Jackie Marsh-Hobbs
Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Site visit to number 33 on 24 June 2002

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