Hanging Baskets Year Four

MCHA funds have ensured that floral hanging baskets in Vernon Terrace are once again providing some summer interest and colour for workers, residents, and visitors to the area. It is sad to note how little the City Council is willing to contribute to making our parks, gardens, and streets more attractive. The Council trots out the “government cuts” excuse time and time again but the fact remains that the Council spends freely whenever it chooses. In Regency ward alone £1,000 of Council cash was handed over to “Dan” and “Charlotte” operating under the name of “Art and Believe” rather than pay for the safety test on its own lamp posts which were required for the installation of the floral baskets! The thousand pounds paid for “bright breath-taking geometric murals” according to the “Art and Believe” web site. Its mural on the Bedford Tower, however, has attracted complaints from residents of the Regency Square conservation area; the painting of the Grade II listed bus shelter in front of the Royal Pavilion had no listed building consent whilst the mural inside the Coggins Burger Restaurant in Dyke Road was soon painted over by the new management of Atelier du Vin! Meanwhile the spray paint vandalism this project was supposed to reduce has become dramatically worse In Regency Ward as elsewhere.

The Future of the Montpelier Pub

The historic Grade II listed buildings at the corner of Montpelier Place and Borough Street which comprise the Montpelier pub are currently subject to a planning application for conversion into five apartments. This 2017 photo shows the original pub building dating from the 1830s or 1840s and the “Bakery”. This became part of the pub in the 1984 having been a bakery until the 1920s. The “Bakery” sign was installed by the pub owners in a nod to the Victorian ovens which had been discovered in the basement during building work. The bakery building was used between the 1920s and 1980s by a bootmaker and subsequently by other retailers. This explains the ground floor fenestration (and additional doorway on the left) which is not original. It is hoped that this fenestration will be removed and the bow front re-instated to match the two bow fronts to the right. Having changed hands since this photo was taken the pub closed for the last time in December 2020 following several public order incidents. It was a sad end for the historic “Monty”.

Blue Plaque in Montpelier Crescent

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A blue plaque has been fixed to 24 Montpelier Crescent (now the Seven Dials Medical Centre) to commemorate Elizabeth Robins and her close friend Octavia Wilberforce. The American born Robins had met the young Wilberforce (great-grand-daughter of anti-slavery campaigner William) in 1909 when, after a successful acting career on both sides of the Atlantic, she settled in Henfield. She supported the latter’s aim of becoming one of the second generation of female doctors and together they funded women’s health services locally including the New Sussex Hospital in Windlesham Road (now the residential development “Temple Heights”). Robins spent much of the 1930s based at Wilberforce’s surgery in Montpelier Crescent rather than in Henfield where her country house had been converted to a women’s shelter and convalescent home. She spent the war years reluctantly in the United States, returning however, to spend her final years with Wilberforce in Brighton. Guided tours giving more information about these and other pioneering women who lived in the city are being led by Louise Peskett this summer. Contact historywomenbrighton@outlook.com

A PC Harry Stiles in Powis Square

Being less than “au fait” with boy bands since the Osmonds were top of the pops “Harry Who?” was the present writer’s first reaction when informed that the blue police box which had appeared in Powis Square was part of a set for the latest foray into cinema by Harry Stiles the famous singer, songwriter, actor (and social commentator). Rather than being a prop for another Doctor Who series the blue police box was helping recreate 1950s Brighton for a film in which Stiles plays the role of a police constable. The “Police Box Mk2” seen replicated here was designed (boy band fans need read no further) by the Scottish architect Gilbert Mackenzie Trench and between 1929 and 1938 about 1,000 were installed. By 1969, however, they were considered redundant, and decommissioning began. Now Grade II listed, just two or three of the original concrete and timber Mk2 boxes remain on the streets of England (others are to be found in Scotland). The K6 red telephone boxes on the right of the picture, by the way, were saved from dereliction in 2018 by the Little Mustard Shop of Clifton Hill and are themselves Grade II listed. These are maintained as an artists’ exhibition space but were transformed for the film into appearing as working telephone boxes. The film “My Policeman” starring Harry Stiles and Emma Corrin which is based on the 2012 novel by Bethan Roberts, is expected to be in cinemas sometime next year.

Lamp posts restored in Powis Square.

Three lamp posts, which are locally listed heritage assets, have at last been appropriately restored by the City Council. The posts with their swan neck upper section now boast an attractive lantern featuring a period glass bulb and cover. Re-painting should be possible when the weather improves.  These purpose-built electric lighting columns were erected in the 1920s and 30s after the founding of the Brighton Lighting and Electrical Engineering Company which had the contract to modernise street lighting in Brighton and Hove. “BLEECO” designed the swan neck lanterns although they were often made by J Every of Lewes. The MCHA has thanked  the City Council for bringing some light into our lives in these gloomy times!

Conservation Award for “Montpelier Place”

Photo. by Graham Redmayne

Due to the Covid situation the 2019 conservation award could not be presented at the AGM in June 2020 and so, somewhat belatedly, it was handed to the architects Crowther Associates some months later during a relaxation of the Covid restrictions. The MCHA award co-ordinator, Gabi Tubbs, is seen here presenting the award plate whilst striving to keep a safe distance! The development regenerated the previously derelict Montpelier Baptist Church site at the corner of Montpelier Place and Belvedere Terrace (Norfolk Terrace). The scheme demolished the existing 1960s church,  and in its place a new residential development has now been constructed consisting of: 5 town houses, 19 apartments and a D1 commercial unit, arranged in 3 distinct blocks. The MCHA committee praised the scheme for responding to the surrounding conservation area’s building typology and the tight urban grain of this part of the conservation area. It also thanked Oakley Property for arranging the committee’s tour of the site in 2019 which was hosted by the architect of the development Jay Johnson.

Codrington Plaque Removed Under Duress

In 2009 Admiral Sir Edward Codrington, the hero of the battle of Navarino, an event which paved the way for Greek independence, was commemorated by a blue plaque, unveiled by the Greek Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Last week the plaque was removed on instruction from the freeholder of 140 Western Road whose agents say it was unintentionally destroyed in the process. The freeholder had received a letter from the Brighton and Hove City Council asking for the “appropriateness of the plaque to be reconsidered”.

The agents for the freeholder have said that “the safety of the residents, and protection of our client’s property was uppermost in our minds”. The MCHA, which part funded the plaque together with members of the Greek community, cannot understand why the authorities offered no help or reassurance to the property owners or residents and why no consultation has taken place with the Council’s own Commemorative Plaque Panel which approved the plaque in the first place.

Flint Wall in Dyke Road Restored

Having been brought down by heavy rain and strong winds earlier this year the (privately owned) flint wall at the corner of Vine Place and Dyke Road has been beautifully restored using traditional lime-based mortar. Unlike modern cement-based mortars, lime mortars allow walls to breathe, moisture to evaporate and fine cracks to “heal”.

This is especially important when repairing old brick walls but is also important with harder materials such as flint.

Vernon Terrace Floral Hanging Baskets Return

For a third season flowers will enhance our conservation area thanks to the MCHA’s successful bid to the Co-op Community Fund.

Whilst the picture shows a previous year’s display the baskets now in place will soon develop into a similar spectacular display which can be enjoyed by residents, visitors and those now returning to work in the area, many of whom enjoy their breaks on the green of Montpelier Terrace opposite.