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|A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton
by Paul K Lyons
30 - An old ship goes froggy, more aging freemasonry, and a sagging Sackville
A square of fenced-off unused scrub land sits next to King Alfred's. At the front there's a small cuboid, built of the same bricks as the leisure centre, but without any clue as to its purpose - unless it's to hang a large white advertising banner: 'A wide range of sporting and leisure opportunities . . . not just swimming'. And, even more strangely, in the middle of the wasteland is a small square of land completely surrounded by high wire netting and aggressive-looking metal barbs. A similar-sized plot of land to the west serves as a car park. A large hoarding with an Orange advertisement shows a picture of some children's embroidery spelling out the command: 'If you love something, set it free.' Opposite is Lancaster Court with an office building in the forecourt occupied by Enterprise Rent-a-Car, one of its 300 locations in the UK and Ireland. At least one of the Lancaster Court's occupants has a poster in his/her window stating simply: 'No Seafront Towers'.
The next road to run north from Kingsway is Hove Street. This is one of Hove's oldest places, and used to lead inland from the fishing village. Just round the corner, next to Lancaster Court, in Hove Street, is Le Bordeaux Gastro Pub Restaurant. Until recently, this used to be the Ship Inn, Hove's oldest hostelry. The earliest reference to a pub in Hove, probably on this site, dates back to the 16th century. Latterly, a Ship Inn is said to have been built or rebuilt in 1702. At the start of the 19th century, it served as a venue for entertainments such as cock-fighting, bull-baiting and bare-knuckle contests. At various times it also seems to have serviced both sides of the law, as a meeting place for smugglers (until a coast guard station was erected in 1830 near this junction) and, before any local authority buildings existed, for inquests. For a good part of the 19th century, the pub was owned by the brewer Vallance, but it was pulled down in the early 20th century, and a new building - the one that exists today - constructed with three gables and mock tudor beams on the upper floors. A round plaster cast above the front door shows a ship in full sail. Now, under the ownership of the Golden Lion Group, it's become a hybrid gastro-pub with a name intended to sound like it should be on the other side of the Channel.
Further along the north side of Kingsway is the modern Princes Marine Hotel, part of the Best Western International, a company that claims to be the world's largest hotel chain, with over 4,000 hotels in 80 countries. Best Western says it is the most distinctive brand in the industry: 'Nowhere else will you find hotels that were formerly castles built by Napoleon or hotels that comprise part of a drive-in movie theatre.' This may be true but there's nothing evidently distinctive about the Princes Marine Hotel. A few metres further on, though, there is a very unusual property. A long continuous wall of refreshingly silver-grey bricks (after so many red brick and yellow brick buildings) curls round from one side of Princes Crescent to the other - although the address of the property inside is 157 Kingsway.
Only half visible is a house built, in the mid-1930s, of the same bricks for the millionaire Stewart Miller to an art deco design by Robert Cromie (otherwise renowned for his cinema designs). Miller was a man who made his fortune in iron and steel in the north of England, but he also turned his hand to directing films. After the war, Hove Hospital purchased the building and grounds to use as a home for its nursing staff. In the late 1980s, Brighton & Hove School of Nursing, as it was then, moved to the Sussex University campus. In 1993, a proposal for Hove Museum to take over the decaying property was defeated by one vote. It was not until 1996 that the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI), with financial support from the Department of Health, reopened the renovated and extended building (renamed Barford Court) as a nursing and residential care home. The Masonic Grand Master, the Duke of Kent, performed the official ceremony. The RMBI, which houses over 4,000 older freemasons and their female dependents (and looks after another 3,000 in the community), established its first such home as far back as 1850.
Still on the north side, a little further west, is The Sackville Hotel - but not much of it. Half the front of the candy green Victorian facade has fallen down, and the whole building is now surrounded in protective fencing stretching across, and closing, half of Kingsway to traffic. A security guard tells me renovations were in progress when the upper floors gave way, a couple of weeks ago, and, since then, it had been decided to pull the whole structure down. Originally, at the turn of the century, the building was a terrace of four houses called The Lawns, and the eye-catching domes were gilded. By the 1920s, the four properties had been converted into Sackville Gardens Private Hotel.
According to one writer on the Curious Fox website (a 'village-by-village contact site for anybody researching family history'), his grandfather, Samuel Legg, owned the Sackville Hotel, and the Legg family also owned the Montpelier Arms (further back on my route). The building was extensively renovated in the early 1960s, but suffered a fire in 1990. As recently as 1999, it was still swish enough to accommodate a US basketball ace playing for Brighton Bears. There's a very sweet (!) picture of the hotel, prior to its collapse, on the Make Multimedia History website.
by Paul K Lyons
A Straight Line Walk Across Brighton - along the 450 northing
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