Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission to apply for Conservation Area status for Brighton General Hospital

Brighton General Hospital

Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission has been in high level discussions with Brighton & Hove City Council concerning its proposal for the historic Brighton General Hospital site to be designated as the city’s 35th Conservation Area. The reasons are many. It is the last almost complete “workhouse complex” left in the country, the Kitchener Indian Hospital from 1916-20 where hundreds of wounded sepoys were nursed and then the Brighton Municipal Hospital, and has been a landmark across the city for 154 years.

Backing for the idea has proved unanimous from the many local amenity groups that have so far replied to the presentation. They include the Regency Society, Hove Civic Society, Brunswick Town Association, North Laine Community Association, Ovingdean Residents Presevation Soc, and Rottingdean Preservation Soc.  This enables the proposal to be put forward for public consultation. Save Brighton General Action Group has also been positive.
Details of that presentation are below;
REQUEST FOR THE CONSIDERATION AND SUPPORT FOR THE BRIGHTON GENERAL HOSPITAL SITE BE DESIGNATED AS THE 35th CONSERVATION AREA
The site is the last virtually intact Workhouse complex left in the country, occupying a large acreage at the top of Elm Grove. The first buildings were opened in 1867 (area 1 on the attached plan) finishing before 1900 (area 2 on the attached plan). Although the Arundel Building was listed Grade II in 1999 the rest of the buildings were not. However they do have a very important “group value” for the site. See attached annotation plan. The proposed CA would be Area 1 (amber) and Area 2 (pea green) on the attached BHCC Listed Building Curtilage Map dated 10/01/2007. Area 3 (blue) would be excluded as SCFT plans indicate the northern part of this area will be the site of the new Health Hub.
Not only is there architectural value to these buildings where local vernacular materials were used, but the not listed buildings’ past uses were very specific, such as the Lunatic block, and Asylum Wings, and the Bread Token house. Moreover, the site has an unequalled social history. A workhouse, then in 1916 the Kitchener Indian Hospital for hundreds of wounded Sepoys, Subedars were placed at the Pavilion and Dome. Then in 1920 it reverted back to the workhouse, in 1934 the Brighton Municipal Hospital (run by Brighton Corporation) and finally it became the NHS hospital in about 1950.
The palatial listed Arundel Building does not give the true picture of what life was really like in the workhouse, other buildings do that.
At present technically all could be demolished without needing permission other than the listed building. I have met with Lucie Carayon the director of Ancient Monuments Society. I have also had discussions with Historic England while on their recent visit to Brighton, who share our concerns that more of the site is not protected.
Discussions have also taken place about the consideration of more buildings being listed, particularly for five others not including the historic flint walls and the Lodge. However my view is that this action would impinge on any proposals for the site’s ideal conversion into low cost housing, thus the formation of a Conservation Area will allow for much greater flexibility for plans for conversion but also protect the site in the meanwhile. A CA would allow for greater examination about what could be retained for conversion and what could be demolished, with a view to allowing sympathetic new build on areas such as on part of the present large car parks.But still maintaining some open spaces. The mathematics of major demolition and rebuild will not result in low cost affordable housing
The site’s designation as a Conservation Area does not mean the buildings are preserved but are protected, subject to demolition consent being granted. This procedure forms the legal part of the planning process for development in a conservation area.
The key is, that once designated as a CA, demolition consent is necessary for any structure within that area, whereas at present no permission is needed for demolition. Even the historic flint walls are technically not protected though some believe they are deemed to be in the curtilage of the listed building.
A similar situation occurred with the Royal Alex in 2005 when I started that campaign .The 1881 Lainson building was not listed but in a CA thus demolition consent was needed. The developer wished to remove all buildings on the site.The outcome was that demolition consent was refused for the main building but the group of buildings at its rear, after in-depth discussions with the community, were given permission to be demolished.
I would cite another example with which I was involved being a member of  CAG. The Carlton Hill Conservation Area. This was the last designated CA in the city in 2008. With the threat of the new Amex development subsuming the Mighell Street farmhouse and even seeing its demolition, together with the Thwaites Garage site adjacent ear marked for offices, there was a need to create a CA to give a greater control over what could be done in the 1 1/2 acre area which included Tilbury Place. The result was that the farmhouse was secured and on the garage site next door there has recently been completed a very sensible housing development, The application came to CAG in many forms but the result, which is now satisfactory, respects the setting of the listed farmhouse’s position within the CA and adheres to CAG’s request to reinstate the historic flint wall on Carlton Hill. The result would have been much more difficult to achieve if this area had not been designated as a Conservation Area.
On Tuesday 5th May I presented the proposal to CAG at its monthly meeting. The result, I am pleased to say, was a unanimous support for the initiative. The city’s amenity groups have been written to, and amongst those the Regency Society, Rottingdean, Ovingdean, Kemp Town Society North Laine, Brunswick Town, Montpelier and Clifton Hill and Hove Civic have already given their agreement to the idea, with others yet to reply. Membership structures are different in each group but of the mentioned collection of societies we calculate they represent some nine to ten thousand people.
Thus,we have an excellent opportunity of satisfying the needs of the community as well as securing the city’s built and social heritage for future generations.
Roger V. Amerena
Chairman
Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission
Joint Chairman
Brighton & Hove City Council Conservation Advisory Group

Risk to Conservation Areas of LED lighting

victorian lamp 1

Around the country heritage lamps (above) are being replaced by modern LED lamps (below), even in some Conservation Areas.

Led light 2

This may save councils money (some decades after paying for the enormous initial outlay of replacing so many lamps at several thousand pounds each in some cases) as LED lights are said to last longer (not yet proven) and use less power, but it is disastrous for heritage as they are wholly unsympathetic in light and style (though occasionally LED bulbs are inserted into heritage lamp fittings with less than acceptable results).

Aside from the sheer ugliness of modern LED lamp posts, LED bulbs emit a harsh and dazzling blue-tinted light which has been associated with health issues including migraines and blamed for interrupting sleep patterns in various areas where they have been installed. There have even been protests against them in many European cities including Glasgow and Rome.

Certainly you wouldn’t want to find LED lights on any postcards, advertising or tourist brochures as they are deeply unflattering to the streetscapes around them, possessing all the ‘charm of a shower unit.’  They could never replace architectural lighting either to showcase our greatest architectural gems.

Ultimately these lights need to go back to the drawing board until they can replicate the flattery of incandescent, halogen or soft sodium fittings which sit easily in heritage lamp standards, as LED are not fit for heritage or conservation area use. Nor can they be dimmed. Montpelier Road is a good example of how LED lights can destroy the look and special ambiance of a Conservation Area. A range of LED bulbs are said to be available but they are certainly not being procured for street lights if so. In fact we have only found examples intended for indoor domestic use.

Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission is against the use of LED street lights in Brighton and Hove and were pleased to see the recent letter from Graham Chainey in the Brighton Argus (reproduced below).

We hope this ridiculous EU directive will be abandoned post-Brexit.

It also turns out that long life bulbs have been possible, almost from the start of bulb manufacture. There has been a deliberate world cartel since 1924 to ensure built in obsolescence, a practice which continues today, irrespective of environmental concerns.

Petition against LED streetlights in Brighton and Hove here. Please sign.

LED lights letter

Wall of Windows exhibition

Wall of Windows exhibition

If you missed the excellent Wall of Windows exhibition at the University of Brighton Gallery in Grand Parade earlier this year sponsored by BHHC in conjunction with the University of Brighton and The Brooking National Collection, LINK here is the story.

The Brighton display followed major success at the Venice Biennale and included windows that ranged from a 17th century wrought-iron casement window from a Hampshire farmhouse to a 1960s window from Portsmouth’s Tricorn Centre

Windows have a fascinating history.

The word ‘window’ – apparently originated as ‘wind hole’ or ‘wind eye’ from the Old Norse in the days before glass was invented and an animal skin was typically draped across the hole for most of the time to keep the elements out.

The following facts about windows are from Wikipedia

Because glass was so hard to make and thus valuable, there was a property tax called the Window Tax based on the number of windows in a house. It was a significant social, cultural, and architectural force in England, France and Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries. To avoid the tax some houses from the period can be seen to have bricked-up window-spaces (ready to be glazed or reglazed at a later date). In England and Wales it was introduced in 1696 and was repealed in 1851, 156 years after first being introduced. France (established 1798, repealed 1926) and Scotland both had window taxes for similar reasons. Windows were also at risk of being stolen owing to their value!

Early Use The earliest-known use of sash windows in this country was in the later part of the 17th Century, at Chatsworth (c1676-1680), Ham House, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace. Royal patronage, and its adoption by Wren, made sash windows very fasionable in both old and new buildings, and it immediately became something of a status symbol. Sash windows were ideally suited to Palladio’s “perfect canons of proportion”, that were practised in England by Inigo Jones.

The development of sash windows was timely, because it had enormous aesthetic and practical superiority over the older casement windows.

The wrought-iron hinged metal casement, with its mullions and lead cames, was not only dark and draughty, but the leaded casement restricted the use of larger sheets of glass, owing to the relative weakness of the lead. Casement windows, when open, detracted from the facade rather than enhancing it, whilst the new sash windows were enhancing with their white frameworks and larger sheets of glass. The crown glass in these early sash windows created beautiful reflections that could not be matched by the small panes of earlier windows.

People who could afford the new sash windows ruthlessly cut out their leaded-light windows, which explains why so many larger 16th and 17th Century houses have early 18th Century windows. This fashionable modernisation was often lavished only on the principal facades, and early casement windows often survived on the less prominent facades. The earliest sash windows had thick glazing bars to the sashes, which were usually constructed of oak, the weight box being set almost flush with the outer wall.

The invention of plate glass in the 19th century as a building material was a revelation and enabled windows to move away from multi-paned windows full of impurities. This innovation was heralded by The Crystal Palace of 1851, built by Joseph Paxton to house the Great Exhibition. Paxton’s revolutionary new building inspired the public use of glass as a material for domestic and horticultural architecture. The requisite technology for the construction of plate-glass had been made possible just a few years earlier by James Hartley, working for the firm Chance Brothers. In 1832, Chance Brothers became the first company to adopt the cylinder method to produce sheet glass with the expertise of Georges Bontemps, a famous French glassmaker. The glass was taken from the furnace in large iron ladles and thrown upon a cast-iron bed of a rolling-table, where it is rolled into a sheet with an iron roller. The sheet, still soft, was pushed into the open mouth of an annealing tunnel or temperature-controlled oven called a lehr, down which it was carried by a system of rollers, which enabled the manufacture of curved plate glass too.  Hartley introduced the Rolled Plate method in 1847. This enabled a ribbed finish and was often used for extensive glass roofs such as those found in railway stations.

The mass production of glass was developed in 1887 by the firm Ashley in Castleford, Yorkshire. This semi-automatic process used machines that were capable of producing 200 standardized bottles per hour, many times quicker than the traditional methods of manufacture. Chance Brothers also introduced the machine rolled patterned glass method in 1888.