Eastside Story

by robertmcnicol

So I took a trip Eastwards on Saturday over to a part of Brighton that’s fairly out-of-the-way and residential but no less levely for that. The major developments, architecturally speaking, in the East of Brighton are mostly along the seafront – the whole Kemptown fiasco. But a little further inland is the lovely Victoriana of Queen’s Park. The park was developed initially in the 1830s and a couple of fine villas built overlooking it to the north, one by Sir Charles Barry (who also designed St Andrew’s Church on Waterloo Street. Oh and some fancy-pants Gothic building on the Thames).

The only remaining villa (Barry’s excellent house was torn down in the 70s, the rotters), which dates from 1851 according to a plaque outside, is this one and it’s very pretty.

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Clearly it’s been extended with an extra couple of bays on the right (though it’s so sensitively done I’ve really no idea when. Sorry, let me rephrase that. It’s so sensitively done it was almost certainly done a very long time ago.) The chimneystacks are very classy:

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After Barry’s villa was demolished, some dreadful houses were built in the grounds but, with a snide architectural leer, the garden pergoda was left stranded in the middle of a car park.

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It’s falling apart rather, but it retains the wonderful tension of fine Neo-Classical architecture.

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At the other end of the garden of the villa Barry built stands this monstrosity, which has gained the moniker of the Pepper Pot.

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Depending on who you believe, it’s been used as a water tower, an observation tower, a publishing press, public conveniences and a sewer vent. I guess it’s meant to look like the campanile of some fine Italian church but to me it just looks like cheap architecture. The balance between the articulated colonnade of the top half and the octagonal base is all wrong and the windows are too big. And whilst the Corinthian capitals are very well detailed, the columns are too close, don’t suit being attached to the cylindrical tower and could really do with a little more in the way of pedestal.

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At the South end of the park the two gated entrances, again by Barry, are better.

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This one above (the Egremont Place arch) is probably the finer of the two, with its pedimented side arches with their dainty cupolas above. But I prefer the Park Street arch:

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It’s more playful and strident in its architecture and I love the great big lick of strapwork that constitutes the keystone of the arch. (I don’t love the roadsigns. Seriously, that was the best place for them? Grrr.)

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Look at that massive bit of stone! Isn’t it obscene? Yes. Yes it is.

But the best thing in the park is the remains of the German spa. As you know, there was a whole craze – especially in Brighton – for the curative properties of both sea water and natural springs such as the one at St Anne’s Well over in Hove. Apparently some German fellow called Frederick Struve opened a spa here and this astonishing colonnade formed the façade.

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Now there’s a nursery school on the site of the old spa and the whole thing’s thoroughly gated off from the rest of the park. But hey ho. It’s one of the nicest and simplest bits of Neo-Classicism in all Brighton and I really like it – as you know I’m a big fan of the Ionic order and its hexastyle use.

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So, that’s your dose of fancy Nineteenth Century architecture for the day. Now – everyone back to the day job.

Note: hat tips to My Brighton & Hove and its contributors as well as the Brighton & Hove Pevsner guide which pointed me in the right directions. Go buy your local Pevsner guide now or I’ll be forced to dig up your petunias.

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