Brighton General Hospital – last intact workhouse left in Britain

Brighton General Listed Building Curtilage Map-page-001Kitchener hospital Brighton workhouse Peter Higginbotham Beighton general 7 Brighton general 6 Brighton general 34 Brighton general 19 Brighton general 24 Brighton general 25
Brighton General Hospital 2 Brighton General building 2 Brighton general 35 Brighton general 13 Beighton general 7 Brighton general 17 Brighton general 10 Brighton General building 2

 

A small delegation of us decided to walk around the Brighton General Hospital site at the weekend in response to the plans to redevelop it (included are just some of the photographs we took above, along with some more historical images and a map).

Despite the overcast conditions, we found ourselves blown away by the sheer size of the site and wealth of buildings on it of historic interest, not just the one Grade II listed building (Arundel), but pretty well all of them outside a few unsympathetic 20th Century additions. The quality of many of the buildings and the curving stone walls is outstanding. Some buildings even retain the original Victorian bollards on the corners to protect them against carriage wheel collision.

Why on earth does the site need to be redeveloped? we found ourselves asking.  It would probably be possible to get a good 2000 flat conversions out of what is already standing, and much more characterful homes into the bargain, with the odd cottage or individual house for good measure.

Furthermore the site is already laid out in village-like configuration and already geared up for ‘mixed use living’ with industrial/work spaces, green spaces and car parking liberally dotted around with a network of roads connecting all. All that would be needed would perhaps be a convenience store and some community spaces. Many groups of buildings are already sensibly constructed around sheltered internal courtyards – presumably for former patients to recuperate and staff to have their breaks in. This would work equally well for parents seeking safe spaces for their children or adults seeking a sun trap out of the wind on Elm Grove hill. Moreover large picture windows offering light and space and high ceilings abound. One of the most common complaints regarding modern flats is the lack of light and space in many and the low ceilings.

If any new buildings were to be built (ie a proposed ‘heath hub’), it would be better to sacrifice a car park for the purpose than most of the existing buildings or gardens and green spaces.

Brighton General hospital is said to be the last intact workhouse in Britain. Moreover it was converted into Kitchener Indian Hospital during WWI and later officially became a municipal hospital in 1935 – joining the newly-formed  NHS in 1948. It is surely worthy of an imaginative and sensitive scheme which honours its history whilst making it fit for today’s standard of living.

Sadly the wonderful Nurse’s Home on the right hand side of the hospital has already been demolished in 2011 (a rather splendid 6-storey Edwardian building on the famous steps of which generations of Brighton nurses were photographed after qualifying – the Brighton General even issued its own nursing badge.) What has been built it in its place is not a pretty sight, commanding an undeserved hillside location with sweeping views to the sea with scores of somewhat brutalistic flats, which probably do not accommodate any more people when all is said and done, and certainly not affordably.

BHHC believe a sensitive conversion of this valuable historic site would not only be more appropriate heritage-wise but greener and considerably cheaper too. It is certainly the case that today’s new-builds are nowhere near of the same quality or appearance as the heritage which is all too often swept away to facilitate them, with many newbuilds not intended to last more than 50 years, making them little better than pre-fabs.

Do take the time to walk around the site yourselves and drink it in. It is well worth your time, and even more stunning on a sunny day!

Brighton general 15

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.