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|A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton
by Paul K Lyons
19 - A confusion of Montpeliers, not to mention high urinals and a wondering chapel
The south side of Montpelier Terrace is architecturally more muddled than the north. Modern flats, Heather Court, sit close by a freestanding house called Montpelier Hall. According to the Regency Town House website, it was built in 1846 from designs by Amon Henry Wilds and has four floors with 22 rooms. Home to several past Brighton mayors (one of whom, Henry Smithers, was its original owner) these days the house is open to paying guests, and occasionally for tours to look round. The garden is said to be 'quite fantastic' with a 100-year-old mulberry tree.
I arrive at another crossroads, this one is with Montpelier Road both north and south; it's also the B2122. Despite looking at several maps, I can't find the route of the B2122 beyond Brighton, although it does seem to have a presence near Leatherhead. There are very grand houses, although all terraced, on Montpelier Road both up and down, and many are listed buildings. On the north side, the properties have glorious bow fronts, not just at ground floor level, but all the way up three storeys; and on the south side, the houses are flat fronted but have elaborate stucco work.
I am slowly straying too far north of the 450 northing and need to take one of the streets to the south, but, because of the rules I've set myself for this straight line walk, there is no obvious or clear-cut exact route. I could take Montpelier Road, but I decide to delay my left turn a little longer (I know I must walk along Western Road for some distance, and perhaps I'm not looking forward to the bustle of such a main street).
So, I am now in Montpelier Place. What is it about the name Montpelier? Why are there so many of them? The Allthemontpeliers website gives five reasons why the name Montpelier is so common. The most common reason, it says, is that an area was thought to be healthy or well-situated. This is because the French city of Montpellier, in the south of France, an early favourite with foreign travellers, developed a reputation for being relatively malaria-free (the website even explains the missing l).
The block on my left is broken by two roads that run down to Western Road, both with attractive well looked-after terraces built in the 1830s. The first is Temple Street. A detailed Ordnance Survey map, dating from the 1870s, shows there was a brewery - The Temple Brewery - on the west side. The second is Borough Street named in commemoration of the creation of the Parliamentary Borough of Brighton in 1832. The Montpelier Inn, taking up three of the terraced properties, stands on the corner of Montpelier Place and Borough Street. It advertises a friendly atmosphere and traditional games. A correspondent on the Beerintheevening website says it is a pleasant, clean, well kept pub but notes that the gents' urinals are placed very high on the wall!
Of most interest in Montpelier Place, perhaps, is the pale yellow church-like building part-covered in scaffolding. There's a door to the side and a sign indicates that it's a day centre for the homeless. Nevertheless, the building has an intriguing history. The interior was originally constructed in 1766 as a ballroom for the Castle Tavern (Castle Square - near Old Steine) to a design by John Crunden, who was particularly keen on including cupid motifs in his ceilings. (He didn't died until 1828, so it is possible - although perhaps unlikely - that he's the same John Crunden who was fined for bathing naked on Brighton beach in 1809.) Subsequently, in 1822, this ballroom became the chapel for the newly-built and nearby Royal Pavilion. When the Pavilion was purchased by the town in the 1850s, the Church Commissioner's claimed the chapel as a consecrated building and then moved it to Montpelier Place, housing it inside a building designed in neo-classical style by local architect George Cheesman. The church was redesigned by Arthur Blomfield in 1889, and restorations were carried out 20 years later. But it closed before the Second World War, and since then has been used by charities.
I decide to turn left at Norfolk Road. Opposite is Norfolk Terrace with the grand-looking Abbey Hotel. Perhaps, once upon a time it was grand, but today it offers 16O self-catering rooms from around £35 a night. On the corner of Montpelier Place and Norfolk Terrace is a modern Baptist Church, all low buildings and light coloured bricks. Until demolished in the 1960s, this is where Emmanuel's stood, a gothic-style Reformed Episcopal church dating from the 1860s with seating for 1,600.
by Paul K Lyons
A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton - along the 450 northing
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