Strong foundation

First published in Celebrating Sussex by

While best known for Regency period gems including the Royal Pavilion and Brunswick Square, Brighton’s architecture continued to flourish into the 20th century, with the arrival of buildings such as Saltdean Lido and the Savoy Cinema in East Street.

In local historian Geoff Mead’s new self-guided tour, designed to encourage appreciation of Brighton’s built treasures, he recommends a trip from Saltdean to Hove where one can take in numerous interesting and notable local buildings.

Mead suggests starting out at the Grand Ocean building.

Formerly the Ocean Hotel and later taken over by Butlin’s as a holiday camp, it has now been converted to luxury apartments but retains much of its original art deco frontage.

Nearby, and built by the same architect (RWH Jones) in the same year (1938), is Saltdean Lido. A classically deco streamlined building with an aeroplane-like central projection and curving wings, it was hailed at the time as the most innovative design of its type in Britain and is the only lido to be featured in London’s Design Museum.

In Rottingdean, Mead highlights Roedean school, built in 1889 to replace the earlier location of the school in Kemp Town and ambitiously combining all educational and residential facilities under one roof.

Head into Kemp Town and take a look beyond Marine Gate at the Regency estate designed by Busby & Wilds for Thomas Read Kemp in 1825.

The original appearance was as it is today, as the builders only erected the façade. It was up to the buyers to have the houses behind built.

Along the seafront on Marine Parade stands the Van Alen Building, which, although built in 1999, reflects the feel of the 1930s architecture seen in Saltdean. It was named after William Van Alen, architect of the Art Deco Chrysler building in New York.

Past the Royal Pavilion – originally a farmhouse that the Prince Regent had transformed into the exotic palace of today – and along East Street stands the former Savoy cinema – what Mead describes as “a classic interwar super-cinema on the site of the 18th century Brills bathhouse. An impressive frontage with columns of ‘fasces’, the Roman punishment rods that came back into fashion via Mussolini’s Italy in the interwar years.”

On the seafront, Brighton’s Embassy Court is a wellknown example of early Modernism but it’s not the only one in this area.

Mead advises also making the journey to 4 Grand Avenue, built in 1938, where it’s possible to admire deco-curved balconies, bas-relief ornamentations and famous Crittall windows, and Viceroy Lodge at the foot of Hove Street.

A severely Moderne brick seafront block, with a sun balcony for every flat, also boasted “refrigerators and wireless points” when first built.

The route ends at Barford Court, 157 Kingsway, built between 1934 and 1937 by Robert Cromie for a Northern steel tycoon. Cromie was a cinema designer and Barford Court “has all the style and panache of an interwar picture palace, both inside and out,”

says Mead.

Mead, who runs tours on themes from Graham Greene’s Brighton to the city’s Regencyperiod slums, produced the walk for Visit Brighton.

* For more details, email g.mead@sussex.ac.uk

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