The Battle for Madeira Drive

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During lockdown, Brighton and Hove City Council decided to close Brighton’s historic Madeira Drive ‘temporarily’ in order to provide ‘more space to exercise.’ Two months later movement restrictions lifted and the traders were told by a visiting council officer that there was a plan to close the Drive permanently. No public notice. No public consultation.

115 years of celebrating motoring and motorcycling history gone. Just like that. 37 traders, some of whom had been trading for decades, facing the end.

Local Mod, Ollie Wilson, and his partner, who just happens to be our Hon Secretary Laura King, decided to start a council petition to re-open Madeira Drive to all users. They also began holding regular protests by Brighton Palace Pier, assembling mods and bikers and founded a facebook group Reopen Madeira Drive To All. They appeared on local radio and television and even made the national press.

Of particular concern to Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission is the risk that the closure of Madeira Drive puts to the restoration of Grade II listed Madeira Terrace, and just when enough money had finally been raised to commence work via a Crowdfunding campaign on the first thirty arches (out of 151). In fact the Commission itself made a donation and was anxious to hear of a start date for the works.

Behind the Terrace is the longest and oldest ‘Green Wall‘ in the country and one of the earliest known attempts to intentionally create the equivalent of a ‘hothouse’ in the open air to complement the sheltered walkway of Madeira Terrace, an eco innovation which has survived to this day and is an integral part of the Terrace.

The heritage of Madeira Drive has proved the ideal backdrop to heritage vehicle events such as The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run and other events celebrating bikes, scooters and vehicles which have long outlived their carbon construction footprint, and may indeed have something to teach the modern vehicles of today with their efficient and more repairable mechanisms. Madeira Drive has also been home to the speed trials since 1905. It is seldom used as a through road, but as a destination and a spiritual home where mods and bikers hang out together at weekends, patronising the local cafes as they keep an eye on their pride and joy bikes.

On a daily basis 393 parking spaces are now out of commission through the closure of Madeira Drive, and just after the council had agreed that all parking revenue from Madeira Drive could be ploughed into the restoration of Madeira Terrace (not just an integral part of the Drive but part of the structural support for Marine Parade above). Moreover the coach parking is currently suspended which affects the local hotel trade and the disabled and those with electric cars who cannot get to the Madeira Drive charging station are being discrimated against.

An opposing petition was started to try and keep Madeira Drive closed, but has so far reached less than a third of the more than 10,500 signatures collected so far on the Reopen Madeira Drive to All petition.

So what can YOU do to help?

  1. Please sign and share the petition here to reopen Madeira Drive if you have not already).
  2. Please take a few minutes to fill in the belated council consultation on Madeira Drive here.
  3. You are also welcome to join Reopen Madeira Drive To All  Facebook group here, now 1300 members strong.
  4. Come to next protest on Sunday 9th August – from 10am – Madeira Drive – photo shoot at 1pm. All welcome!

The petition was supposed to go before full council on 26th July, but regrettably owing to sudden change of leadership to the Greens, it will now be discussed on 13th August. Brighton and Hove City Council have however conceded that offical events can resume, though this decision comes too late for 2020 and does not take account of the smaller or unofficial events. Nor that the traders need trade year round and not just for offical events.

Now after two worrying fires in a week (one at Black Rock toilets and one actually under the Terrace in the old Reading Room) as inevitable dereliction of Madeira Drive takes hold, we hear worrying murmerings about the future of Madeira Drive having to be ‘re-thought’.

We would disagree. Madeira Drive has always had a clearly defined role and purposes in this city, which remain popular and money-spinning to this day, if allowed to continue. Madeira Drive doesn’t need ‘rethinking’. It just needs reopening. Before any more risk or damage to its heritage can occur.

Cyclists and walkers already have a wide expanse of dedicated space opposite and once Madeira Terrace is restored that will re-open a lot of additional pedestrian (and commercial) space currently locked within for safety reasons including a mid terrace walkway above the sheltered walkway. Interestingly daily photographs taken by members of Reopen Madeira Drive Facebook group are showing that Madeira Drive itself is scarcely being used by the cyclists and walkers it has been given over to, who tend to stick to their designated cycle path and wide pavement area.

All Saints Hospital, Eastbourne – a heritage conversion success

Visiting Eastbourne with a heritage colleague recently we were struck by the stunning conversion of All Saints Convalescent Hospital in the Meads area just below the cliffs.

Erected in 1869 by architect Henry Woodyer in high gothic style, All Saints Hospital was the vision of Harriet Brownlow Byron, Mother Foundress of the Community of the All Saints Sisters of the Poor, to provide the first purpose-built seaside convalescent hospital in Great Britain. The All Saints Sisters tended their patients and establised a philosophy of care which continued for over a century.

This former Grade II listed hospital is contained in around 10 acres of grounds, not unlike the Brighton General Hospital in size and scale, and was cleverly converted after its closure as a hospital in 2004 by Berkeley Homes.

Without obvious compromise to the historical integrity of the exterior, Berkeley managed to fit in additional floors and still ensure that all residents had their share of large windows and high ceilings. Sensitive additional units were discreetly and almost seamlessly inserted in the gaps with a range of handsome garages by the gate house, which may or may not have originally comprised a stable block, as far as the untrained eye is concerned.

We spoke to a couple of residents there, one of whom had lived there for around ten years and they couldn’t have been happier. They said there was a real community feel to the place.

There are 105 housing units in all with the chapel separately owned and maintained as a special event venue and community space for hire.

What a wonderful example of what can be done with a former hospital!

Let Brighton & Hove City Council take note when Brighton General Hospital site becomes available.

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Repair to Madeira Drive 1870s

Madeira Road 1872 -77Madeira Road Drawing (reverse)

Madeira Road, Brighton, looking east. Drawing by H.S. Hine

Circa 1872-1877

In the collection of (and by permission of) R.V.Amerena Esq.

This is a fascinating view of workman repairing the wooden guard rail along Marine Parade from suspended scaffolding with a swooping seagull beneath.
The Victorians did not often record tradesmen at work, particularly for a guard rail repair, so this drawing is rare.
The artist Hine was sat at a spot immediately beneath 127 and 128 Marine Parade. Madeira Road was constructed and named as such in 1872 which ran along a new sea wall, after the Aquarium was built, to Duke’s Mound then up to Marine Parade. Duke’s Mound was named after His Grace the 6th Duke of Devonshire who was at 1 Lewes Crescent for thirty years until 1858.
As there is no evidence of Lockwood’s Madeira Terrace structure of the 1890’s in the drawing, and also no record of the Paston Place Groyne, known as the Banjo Groyne, built in 1877, this view then has to be drawn by Hine between 1872 and 1877.
The Great Sea Wall was constructed between 1830 – 38, with the wooden guard rail the whole length of Marine Parade at its top. The present iconic iron railings with dolphin motifs also designed by the borough surveyor Philip Lockwood replaced that wooden structure from 1880.

Save Brighton General Hospital! – the story so far

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With thanks to Bill Hunt of TopDog PR for his excellent blog post detailing the story so far.

There are MANY discussions and debates still to be had before the future of this unique site is decided. It is only the Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust who appear to be in a hurry to get Brighton General Hospital sold off out of public ownership and at the highest price.

University of Sussex – new West Slope Development

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The University of Sussex has launched its consultation period for further expansion following its East Slope development.

Of concern to the Commission is that the West Slope development (artist’s impression above) will involve the demolition of several Basil Spence buildings forming the original curtilage of the 1961 university site.

These are York House, Kent House and Lancaster House.

The planning application is available here for comment.

An exhibition of the development will be available for public view at the Jubilee Library, Jubilee Street, Brighton: Saturday 25-Sunday 26 January and Saturday 1 February 10am-5pm (except on Sundays when library opens at 11am).

Have Your Say on Brighton and Hove City Plan Part 2

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As publicised in Brighton Argus this week, consultations have opened for Brighton and Hove City Plan Part 2, Please stand up for the retention of heritage, consideration of streetscape and provision of green spaces.

The dangers of ‘low cost’ housing are 1. It seldom exists. 2. It is often an excuse to build shoddy characterless boxes only designed to last around 50 years, which add nothing to our stunning location between the Downs and the Sea.

Consultation notes and portal here.  Ends 13th September 2018, so please ensure your comments are in BEFORE this date!

Moshimo Mash-up


Japanese-restaurant Moshimo has submitted new plans for a major £4 million expansion at their existing Brighton premises in Bartholomew Square in the form of new concrete box in the sky according to the Brighton Argus.

Extraordinary as this seems (how many restaurants, after all, have a spare £4m to spend on an extension, and how do they intend to recoup this investment?), this is worrying on two counts:

A: It is completely inappropriate in style and scale for Brighton and will be obtrusive and visible from many vantage points.

B: If approved it would set a disastrous precedent for other brutalist planning applications to get the green light (and increasing numbers seem to be joining the planning application pipeline).

We urge all heritage lovers who feel as we do to oppose this planning application here

We concede that Bartholomew Square is not the prettiest and has already been largely ruined, but this addition will not help and will infringe on the rest of the city.

Nor can this project be regarded as ‘progress’ as it is simply harking back to the 1960s love affair with concrete and box shapes.

Brighton is predominantly a ‘Regency’ city in style.  New developments should respect this and be sensitive and appropriate.

We allow our civic character and identity (not to mention USP) to be destroyed at our peril.

Celebrating Middle Street Synagogue

250th Anniversary Poster

As part of the 250th anniversary celebrations of the Brighton and Hove Jewish Community this year, there will be a number of events co-inciding with Brighton Fringe in May raise money for ongoing restoration works to the splendid Grade II* listed Middle Street Synagogue, designed by Thomas Lainson (designer of many fine buildings in Brighton and Hove) and opened in 1875. Early booking is advised, and includes opportunities to marvel at the breathtaking interior first hand. The Synagogue, described as the second most important historic building in Brighton and Hove after the Pavilion, is still used for special events, and remains a landmark to Jewish history in England.

Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission are proud to support their efforts to maintain this architectural gem, right next door to another gem – the Brighton Hippodrome – hopefully now also on the road to restoration to its former glory. Also taking place:

Brighton & Hove Jewry 250

The Sussex Branch of the Jewish Historical Society of England presents:

A Special Anniversary Lecture by Dr Sharman Kadish

Director, Jewish Heritage UK

Middle Street Synagogue and the Architectural Heritage of Brighton & Hove’

Tuesday 10th May 2016 at Ralli Hall, Denmark Villas, Hove BN3 3TH

at 7.45 pm (Doors open 7.15 pm). Refreshments served after lecture.

Tickets £6.00 (JHSE members free) – available from Brighton Fringe website or on door.


Latest in Battle to Save 15 North Street


23/07/15 Update. Sadly this is a battle BHHC has lost. Apparently the developer organised a PR exercise which entailed the Secretary of State being bombarded with letters calling for the demolition of 15 North Street which has unfortunately succeeded. RIP Timpsons, oldest commercial premises in Brighton.

We have been receiving some good publicity in our campaign to save 15 North Street including this article in the current edition of Private Eye and articles in The Georgian Society magazine, The Brighton Argus, The Brighton and Hove Independent and the Archaeology UK newsletter, among others. 15 North Street itself is currently enjoying a ‘stay of execution’ as the Secretary of State (to whom Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission have appealed) takes time to consider additional information.

Battle to Save 15 North Street makes Private Eye