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An historic hall
Hove’s old town hall was one of the most splendid buildings in the borough, with its distinctive clock tower and mass of red bricks.
It replaced a much smaller building which still stands in Brunswick Street West.
Councillors decided they needed a larger town hall because Hove was growing rapidly. They chose an eminent architect for the job.
Alfred Waterhouse was famous for the town hall in Manchester and the Natural History Museum in London.
He also designed the Metropole hotel in Brighton which was then the largest in Britain outside London.
Built in 1882, Hove Town Hall was a handsome Gothic revival building which cost £50,000.
The clock had four faces, each seven feet in diameter. It played Cambridge chimes and there was a carillon of 12 bells.
These weighed nine tons and had a repertoire of 14 tunes, two for each day, ranging from God Bless The Prince Of Wales to the Last Rose Of Summer.
Just as impressive inside was the Grand Hall which could seat 2,000 people, more than anywhere in Brighton.
It had three balconies and was much in demand.
Which is more than could be said for the organ, even though it was built by Henry Willis, the foremost expert in Britain. When it was sold in 1959, it hadn’t been used for a recital in 25 years.
The town hall was destroyed by an enormous fire in 1966 with only a small portion containing the courts remaining.
Flames could be seen for miles around because the blaze was so fierce. Despite this, the mayor’s secretary John Barter went into the building and rescued the regalia.
The organ, now in a Hertfordshire school, survived, as did a dancing girl statue in the entrance which was badly blackened.
It was sold to a resident in Adelaide Crescent.
Councillors and officials moved to a temporary home in Hove museum for seven years and the exhibits were placed in store.
A sumptuous new town hall was built on the original site, involving the demolition of several nearby houses.
It cost £2.2 million, a large sum for those days. The reason was that at the time, there were serious discussions about having one council between the Adur and the Ouse.
Hove wanted it to be at the centre but the super council idea was abandoned and Hove continued on its own until merging with Brighton in 1997.
Designer of the new town hall was John Wells-Thorpe, a local architect with a national reputation.
He designed it in an uncompromisingly modern style, with plenty of glass and concrete.
A matching car park was built opposite. In an echo of the old building, he provided a clock tower but without the bells.
Many people were outraged at the design but it is now generally regarded as a good example of 1970s architecture and is likely to be listed.
The town hall was officially opened by Lord Rupert Nevill in 1974, although it was in use well before then.
It contains several big rooms inside which are much in demand for events. Brighton and Hove City Council stages its meetings there.
Alterations have been made to the building over the years, primarily with the aim of creating more office space.
But externally it remains much the same and it is as distinctive in its own way as Waterhouse’s flamboyant Victorian edifice.
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