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Architectural gems in Brighton and Hove that need to be saved before it is too late
WHITE LODGE ON THE CLIFF argued for by Kitty Edwards Jones
Having one knighted architect responsible for your creation is generally enough to preserve a property’s status but the White Lodge is doubly special in that it combines the work of two leading architects.
Roedean School architect Sir John Simpson created the initial designs for its construction in 1903 while Edward Lutyens, the mastermind of the Cenotaph, added elegant wings to the original house and sumptuous gardens which remain to this day.
The house in Roedean is also the story of a great love affair between Lutyens and owner Victoria Sackville-West, who playfully referred to each other as MacSack and MacNed.
The house, now divided into seven flats, is the world-renowned Lutyens’ only significant building in the city and as much a Sussex Bloomsbury landmark as Charleston House near Lewes.
Kitty Edwards Jones attempted to get the house listed in 2001 and had the backing of many esteemed groups including the 20th Century Society and the Ancient Monuments Society.
She said: “It was unforgiveable behaviour by the council to allow the developer virtually free rein to destroy a symmetrical wing of a Lutyens’ house and removing the unique Lutyens roof and allowing the original tiles to be replaced by a bright green roof.”
2 PORTLAND PLACE argued for by Sarah Gibbings
No one of note is ever believed to have lived in 2 Portland Place and nothing of particular interest ever took place there.
And that is precisely why, according to Sarah Gibbings, it should be retained, revered and restored to glory to mark the everyday lives that were played out within its walls.
The “beautiful, elegant house” was designed by Brunswick Squire mastermind Charles Busby as part of Brighton’s building boom of the 1820s.
In recent years the home had been part of an attempted renovation which had seen 11 skips of period interior removed.
She said: “I choose this house because there are thousands like them at risk, at risk from a lack of knowhow, at risk from neglect, at risk from the seafront water and risk of mismanagement.
“People lived out their lives and that was it and that was what the house was built for.”
ROYAL SPA PORTICO IN QUEEN’S PARK, BRIGHTON argued for by Delia Forester
Thousands used to flock to the Royal Spa for the latest in lifeenhancing treatments but now the pitter-patter of children at the nearby nursery is the closest it gets to the mayhem of a shopping spree.
The Spa was originally built in 1823 for Dr Struve of Dresden, who sold manufactured spa water from taps in the building to wealthy visitors in spite of the obvious hurdle that there was no spring in Brighton.
The Spa had its heyday in the 1830s and such was its popularity a large hall of up to 60 feet in length was constructed to meet demand.
It was changed to the Royal German Spa in honour of the King although the German part of the name was dropped after the Second World War.
As its usage as a spa declined it was converted into a factory making mineral waters before that closed and the site became derelict.
It survived the prospect of becoming a casino in the 1970s before becoming a nursery which saw the majority of the old building demolished and just the portico retained.
The iconic columns still form an elegant background to a variety of community events including parties, performances of Shakespeare and, in the future, weddings.
Ms Forester said: “Unfortunately, maintenance of the portico has not been a priority and especially after the savage storms this winter it is now in a sorry state of disrepair.
“The council has cordoned off the worst bit to prevent masonry falling on the nursery children’s heads, but it seems there is no money to do proper repairs.
“It would be a great shame if this well-loved, elegant Grade II listed piece of architecture should be lost to the community through a lack of basic maintenance.”
A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said: “We have only just received notification from the Regency Society about their concerns over the Royal German Spa and will be investigating.”
AMEX HOUSE IN EDWARD STREET, BRIGHTON argued for by David Robson
Amex House may seem like an unlikely choice for a conservation group to champion having only been completed 37 years ago.
But society member David Robson argues that its relative young age, just half the average lifespan of a building, is partly the reason the house – affectionately known as the wedding cake – should be preserved.
He argues that the nine-storey building remains of use and with a little upgrading of its interiors could be used as office space for up to 200 small businesses.
Mr Robson claims the office block in Edward Street is “arguably one of the best surviving modern buildings of the 1970s in Brighton” and should be retained as a monument to the architecture of that period.
More than 100,000 tons of chalk were removed during its construction while 45,000 tons of concrete and 4,000 tons of steel were used in its superstructure, all of which Mr Robson argues represents a huge amount of embedded energy which will simply be wiped out when it is demolished.
Finally, Mr Robson argues that while Amex House cost £15 million to build in 1977 it would cost about £80 million to replace it.
He added: “Amex House is unique amongst the buildings that we are considering because it’s the only one that really is at risk, it’s actually been scheduled for demolition.”
A Brighton and Hove City Council spokeswoman said: “The requirement to demolish is two months before the sixth anniversary of the commencement of construction of the new office.
“It is enshrined in the S106 agreement so it is a legal obligation on American Express’s part.
“The Regional Design Panel stated that demolition would offset the impact of the new office on views from Pavilion Gardens.
“English Heritage insisted on the demolition of Amex House or the visual impacts would be unacceptable.”
THE OLD VICARAGE argued for by John Wells Thorpe
London Road is undergoing a major transition at present but it is hoped that its history will not be forgotten.
Another Charles Busby gem, built in 1825, the Old Vicarage was not built as a vicarage but took on that role with the construction of St Bartholomew’s.
Regency Society founder Anthony Dale described the elegant house as the “finest individual regency house in the city”.
For the society’s vice president John Wells Thorpe it is the small size of the house that makes its rescue feasible.
He is desperate for the site not to suffer the same fate as a similar gem in Richmond Place which was inhabited by squatters and damaged by fire.
He said a similar sense of neglect is beginning at the Old Vicarage, noting that a top window on the property has remained open for more than 17 weeks, allowing all the elements into the house.
Mr Wells Thorpe said he had been finding new uses for buildings for 45 years and saw the premises as an ideal site for a GP or medical centre.
He said: “When you get that downward spiral, it’s difficult to halt that momentum.
“This is a project that is do-able, can be turned around in a matter of months and would be financially viable.”
MARLBOROUGH HOUSE argued for by Nick Tyson
Marlborough House should be held in the same esteem as The Royal Pavilion, argues Nick Tyson – it just needs the right dedicated owner with deep pockets.
He believes that the Grade I listed building could once again become a jewel in the city if rejuvenated as a bath house or even if it became the private home of a rich individual as it had been in the past.
Architecture guru Sir Nikolaus Pevsner no less proclaimed it to be “the finest house in Brighton” while Mr Tyson said the building is an example of leading architect Robert Adam’s sublime skill to weave his extension around the existing building in the 1780s.
He wants a more proactive council to ensure that the current owner meets the obligations of having the keys to one of the city’s grandest buildings or find someone new with the resources and the will to do so.
He said: “Owner and local authority must do better or at least, they must fail better.”
A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said: “We don’t own the freehold of Marlborough House so can’t recall the lease.
“However, we have recently served the owners with an enforcement notice over unauthorised works.
“We have also received a planning application related to the building which is obviously relevant to its future protection.”
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