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bits and pieces on Brighton and thee beyond…..

Posts Tagged ‘brighton local history’

Woodvale Cemetery

Posted by Sara on February 3, 2012

A while back, I was lucky to attend a fascinating talk on Death and Mourning in the Victorian era, hosted by Sarah Tobias at the beautiful Extra-Mural Gothic Chapel in Woodvale Cemetery.

The good news is that Sarah has contacted me to say more of these tours are planned for the upcoming year, with a Cemetery walk on July 1st 2012 and the Victorian Death & Mourning tour taking place as part of the Brighton Festival on Bank Holiday Monday 7th May and Saturday 19th May 2012.

I can’t recommend these enough; the cemetery is a beautiful Brighton landmark worth exploring in its own right and Sarah’s talks bring the history of this place to life in such a fun and evocative way.

For more information please visit her website, Sarah’s Events, which is updated regularly and full of other exciting events, including an intriguingly sounding ‘Hidden House’ tour going behind the scenes at Preston Manor.

 Sarah’s Website can be found here: Sarah’s Events

The not so good news is that she has also informed me that The Centre for Community Engagement at Sussex University is being closed down with the loss of 231 associate lecturers plus all other staff.

This centre offers part-time and flexible learning for people from all walks of life and it would be such a sad loss to the community if it was to go. Please sign the petition to keep it open! The petition can be signed HERE (and is also accessible through Sarah’s web page).

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Posted in Brighton Bits and Pieces, Brighton Underground, Brighton Unexplained, Brighton Walks and Talks | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

A Stroll in the Extra-Mural Cemetery

Posted by Sara on November 5, 2009

There’s another great chance to wander the grounds of this glorious cemetery and to learn more about it’s history and beautiful buildings, with a free guided walk scheduled for this Saturday.

A Stroll in the Extra-Mural Cemetery:  7th November 10:00am. Meet at the
Extra-Mural Cemetery gate 116 Lewes Road at Vogue Gyratory.

septview

Posted in Brighton Walks and Talks | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Heritage Open Day

Posted by Sara on September 13, 2009

Stained Glass Detail - Middle Street Synagogue

Stained Glass Detail - Middle Street Synagogue

There has been loads going on this week as part of the Heritage Open Days, in which interesting and historic local buildings open their doors for (free!) public viewing. Visiting relatives and work commitments meant  we couldn’t take full advantage of all we wanted to this year but we did manage a few visits nonetheless.

sussexmasoniccentrestairs

Sussex Masonic Centre

The Sussex Masonic centre is one such place I walk past all the time, wondering what it’s like inside – so what a treat to be able to visit for a very interestng tour and talk, hosted by the building’s curator, Reg Barrow. The centre, first bequeathed to the Masons in 1897, has grown over the years and has  merged with the buildings on either side so it is very spacious inside and comes complete with all the usual features associated with this sort of ad hoc development – including wonky floors and tempermental plumbing and electrics; there are even passages that run right under the pavement, complete with grills allowing one to look out on to Queens Road. We were shown two of the Temple Lodges, including the very grand and beautiful main Lodge on the top floor. There is lots of masonic memorabilia on display and throughout the tour we learnt about the history of freemasonry and the role it plays today.  Charity is one of the fundamental tenets of modern masonry and anyone involved in a local charity was invited to make contact. I was struck at how big the place was, in contrast to how it looks from the outside, and I thought the central staircase was particularly striking.

Main Lodge Sussex Masonic centre showng part of the beautiful wooden domed ceiling depicting the signs of the zodiac

Main Lodge Sussex Masonic centre showng part of the beautiful wooden domed ceiling depicting the signs of the zodiac

Next up was another place  I have long been curious about – the Middle Street Synagogue, consecrated in 1875. What a splendid building, I was in stained glass heaven! The mosaics on the eastern wall and the ornate ironwork railings were also very beautiful and contrasted nicely with the clean, classical layout of the synagogue’s interior. The synagogue has a Grade 2 listing and has been officially described as “an extremely sumptuous example of late 19th Century craftsmanship.”

middlestsynagogue

Stained Glass Detail - Middle Street Synagogue

An interesting feature is the wonderful stained glass wheel of the zodiac above the main door, which we were told is a very unusual feature to have in a synagogue and co-incidently the same was said about the zodiac featured on the ceiling in the Lodge at the Masonic centre – so maybe this proclivity for all things astrological on historic buildings is a unique Brighton thing!

Middle Street Synagogue

Middle Street Synagogue

Last but not least was the wonderful twilight tour of the Woodvale cemetery, with a chance to explore its beautiful mausoleums and to enjoy some stunning views over the grounds at sunset. ..

Woodvale

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The Royal Alex – Appeal rejected

Posted by Sara on June 14, 2009

Great news! I got an email from the Montpelier and Clifton Hill Association last night informing me both appeals by developers Taylor Wimpey to demolish this beautiful building have been rejected. For a little background into the appeals, you can read my earlier post here.

royalalex3The main issues cited by planning inspector John Papworth were the effects the demolition would have on the character and appearance of this important conservation area. He also noted the strong affection still held for the old Royal Alexandra Hospital and the values she stood for. Although the report doesn’t discount the possibility for future total redevelopment of the site, for the moment at least this beautiful building is safe.

The report itself makes interesting reading and takes into account both sides of the appeal. If you want to read  it please contact me and I’ll be happy to email a copy – it’s only eight pages long and  provides some food for thought on  balancing the needs of  urban development while preserving the character and history so important to local communities. Let’s hope something can be done to keep this important and wonderful local landmark safe.

pleaselookafterthisbuilding


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Lucky Stones!

Posted by Sara on May 15, 2009

Pebbled beaches, who’d have them? They hurt your feet and are rubbish for making sandcastles. However, from this day forth I will complain no more, since I have recently discovered that, crunching beneath my poor tortured tootsies, these shingled shores hold an ancient and forgotten secret – the secret of the Lucky Stones.

So what’s a Lucky Stone ? Well, it’s a stone with a hole right through it and there are more found along the Sussex coast than anywhere else in the world. Collected and treasured as talismans from as far back as the Neolithic ages, these holy flints where considered to have magical powers and believed to be able to ward off illness and misfortune. Fishermen would not sail without them, keeping them on board to increase their catches and farmers would nail them to their barns to protect their livestock. In the Victorian days it was considered especially lucky to spit on the stone, and toss it over your left shoulder  chanting:

Lucky stone lucky stone bring me some luck
Today or tomorrow at Twelve O’Clock.
lucky horseshoe

It’s good luck to find a stone, even better to be given one and extra lucky to steal one from someone else. Rub them over any afflicted area of your body to relieve pain and sickness, or wear one for luck and to ward off witches, the devil and the evil eye. It was also believed that a stone hung over the bed of a woman in labour would make the birth go much smoother.

If all this is beginning to sound a bit Finbarr – fear not, for this isn’t something I’ve just hastily scribbled off the back of some  dodgy new age cereal packet. In fact, I recently stumbled across an amazing book at the bookstall down by the West Pier called Lucky Sussex by John Behague. This wonderfully entertaining and informative book contains everything you need to know about flint and Lucky Stones and is a treasure trove of  information and anecdotes on local characters, history and superstition. I loved this book and had great fun reading it. The book was published by Pomegranate Press in 1998 and might be out of print.

luckysussex

Of course if you aren’t lucky enough to find a copy for yourself or if you don’t live anywhere near any lucky beaches, you can always fall back on that old comic book classic and just Rub the Buddha for money.

Good Luck!

Posted in Brighton Unexplained | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Royal Alex

Posted by Sara on May 11, 2009

royal alex2Would you believe this beautiful building is still under threat of demolition from developers Taylor Wimpey? This week, developers Taylor Wimpey are appealing to get permission to demolish this building and replace it with a block of flats.

RA turretsSituated on Dyke rd, in the Montpelier and Cliftonhill conservation area, the Royal Alex was opened in 1881 and was childrens hospital until it’s closure in 2007. Designed by respected architect Thomas Lainson, the Alex is built in a red brick Queen Anne style with terracotta decoration and is a fine example of Gothic revival  architecture. This is an important local landmark, full of character and historical interest and unique buildings such as these, once they are knocked down, can never be replaced.

Shortly after buying the site, the developers have claimed that conversion of the building was beyond economic repair – despite submitting no evidence to show this and despite the fact that this was a fully functioning hospital shortly before they took it over. More worryingly, it is alleged that Taylor Wimpey continue to treat this building with a lack of respect, leaving windows open and the property vulnerable to the elements and vandals.

ra3

Taylor Wimpey put in an application to demolish this building and replace her with 149 flats, a GP’s surgery and 66 parking spaces. This was refused by the planning committee in December 2008 but Taylor Wimpey are appealing the decision against both the refusal to demolish the hospital and the refusal against their application to construct a new block of flats on the site.

The hearing is due to start at 10am on 12th May 2009 at Brighton Town Hall and is expected to run for four days. It should be very interesting and I’ve heard there are going to be some very good speakers in opposition to the plans. The more people who can show up and demonstrate that they care about the fate of this building, the better.

royal alex end

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Journeys end in lovers meeting

Posted by Sara on May 10, 2009

ra2Having spent a fair amount of my childhood growing up in crumbly old houses, hotels and hospitals, I like to think I’m a bit of a connoisseur of creepy buildings. Very few books and films ever manage to capture the essence of what makes some buildings  ‘hold darkness within’ but The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is a genuinely chilling tale that perfectly encapsulates just the right blend of psychological suspense and supernatural menace found in all great ghost stories and hauntings.

BLT

Last night I went to see an adaptation of this book at the Brighton Little Theatre and it was fab. I won’t say too much, as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone going to see it, but the set and the cast were brilliant and did a fantastic job of bringing  Hill House to life and staying faithful to the eerie, sinister atmosphere of the book. It’s on every night from Saturday 9th to Saturday 16th May. Tickets only £8.50. Some still available from their box office.

ra3

And talking of Gothic Victorian Mansions, please look look out for updates on the fate of the old Royal Alex Hospital. Situated on Dyke road this beautiful local building (photographs above and the subject of most of my ‘spooky house’ photos) is still under threat of demolition from developers Taylor Wimpey. A hearing to decide the fate of this unique and important historical  landmark starts at Brighton Town Hall on 12th May at 10am. The more people who attend to show their support for the Royal Alex the better. Please don’t let them destroy this beautiful building.

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The Station Tour

Posted by Sara on August 24, 2008

The station tour

Brighton station tunnel

Brighton station tunnel

On Sunday July 27th we went on a tour of Brighton Station as part of the Fabrica Hidden Architecture event. Fabrica is a visual arts organisation based in a former Regency church in the heart of Brighton, for more information check out http://www.fabrica.org.uk

The tour was free and we met up outside Brighton station for 12pm. Our tour guide was Jackie Marsh Hobbs. We were led through the station to the office space located above the ticket office to the front of the station. After a talk on the history of the station we were led around to the entrance on Trafalgar Street which leads to a tunnel that now runs under the station. We entered through the large wooden doors, seen opposite the Prince Albert pub, into a tunnel which runs through to the end of platform eight. It has a cobbled floor and lies directly below the train tracks. A train was waiting directly above us and as it left the platform we could follow its progress by the changing lights through the gaps in the ceiling above.

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