A sad tale of woe

by robertmcnicol

Hi both, hope you’re well and enjoying your respective Valentine shenanigans. A while back I was pootling around Lewes road and – as is my wont – I spotted a bit of redbrick loveliness down a side street.

That’s nice, isn’t  it? Pleasing composition, dominates the (very narrow) street, but not ridiculously. There’s some nice terracotta pinnacles and some lovely details in the brick coursing and the trims around the gable. It’s in a loose Italianate style, I suppose. I particularly like how the depressed semi-circular arch in the gable end, with its three small round-headed lancets, meets the oversize keystones of the main window arches.

The whole facade has something of a strident verticality, emphasised by how the roofline continues over the aisles. But even there it isn’t simple – there’s a decorative interruption two-thirds of the way down in the form of another terracotta ball, like the one at the pinnacle of the roof. This, and other features, give the facade a very pleasing rhythm; clearly this is a design of some thought and creativity.

I’ve no idea who built the thing. According to the good people at My Brighton & Hove, there was a hall behind and the building was part of the Connaught Institute – a soldiers’ home and mechanics’ institute. I can’t find out much more using the wonder of Google. As you can see from the signs, the building has recently changed hands.

Sadly, it’s now no more. I was up that end of town today and thought I’d check to see what had become of it. It’s a sorry site. I didn’t have my camera on me, and frankly you don’t really want to see that sort of thing. The ground floor is all that remains, and not much of that, and there’s hoarding and rubble aplenty.

I’ve checked the planning register and it’s all kosher – just your average demolition of an 1879 former community hub. Reading between the lines of the planning register, it looks as if a few applications have gone through over the past four years or so, none of which met with the exacting demands of the planners, until the developers simply put an application in to demolish it. Fair enough, I don’t know the details. But it seems a shame that nothing could be done, that no-one in that process could come up with a way to use the existing structure as part of a decent development, and that the years left dormant should damage this pretty building.

Anyway, it’s not just me that’s noticed. The thoroughly adventurous people at ghost of took a good look around prior to demolition, with pictures of the rear of the hall, which show its sorry state.

Farewell, fair hall.