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Posts Tagged ‘victorian’

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 »

Dracula at The Brighton Little Theatre

Posted by Sara on December 18, 2009

Liz Lochhead’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic is a tale of tragedy and the madness that comes with desire and power. Lochhead brings this nightmare to life against a backdrop of the death of the 19th Century and a world  where the line between sanity and insanity is difficult to distinguish.

Tickets are still available for this cracking adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, written by Liz Lochhead and directed by Tess Gill, at the Brighton Little Theatre – but hurry, the last performance is tomorrow. As well as some fine writitng and acting, this play has  some genuinely chilling moments and loads of atmosphere. I loved it. And for extra seasonal splendidness, treat yourself to a delicious glass of mulled wine served at the festively festooned bar during the interval.

For more informaton click here: www.the-little.co.uk

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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.

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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.”

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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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Phoenix Art Junky Indoor Market

Posted by Sara on July 14, 2009

Art-Junky-frontSunday June 28th – Still trying to fill the Sunday morning browsing gap left by the relocation of our beloved boot fair it was fun checking out the one day flea market down at Phoenix Brighton. This summer bazaar brought together a variety of affordable art and jewellery made by local artists as well an eclectic mix of stalls selling books, badges, buttons an’ bows and all things arty and junkalicious in between. With loads of interesting stalls to look through, some yummy home made refreshments on offer and all indoors so sheltered from the British summer, this ticked all the right boxes in the rummaging stakes.

artjunkyBest buy was this beautiful bracelet made by Lux & Love. Check out her web page for more precious jewels, voodoo gems, vintage and reclaimed jewellery.

House Pics 079And speaking of all things gorgeously Mexican, Voodoo and Gothic, check out Brighton artist Mahni Dare’s awesome props, puppetry and much more at Mahni-Monsta.com.

mahnimonsta

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

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.

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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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Victorian Death and Mourning

Posted by Sara on May 6, 2009

angelBank Holiday Monday. While most of Brighton was busy rioting away on the seafront we  were peacefully ensconced up in the blissfully tranquil Woodvale cemetery and crematorium for an illustrated talk on Death and Mourning in the Victorian era.The venue was the Extra-Mural Gothic Chapel, built in the 1850’s and our speaker was the wonderfully informative Sarah Tobias.

windowthumbnailUnlike today, death was very much a matter of fact part of every day life in Victorian England and with big families and high mortality rates, many people were often in constant mourning. Mourning itself was an intricate and symbolic affair filled with ritual and lasting for up to two years (Queen Victoria herself was in mourning for forty years). As such it spawned a whole industry dedicated to remembering the dead – including clothing, photos, jewellery, death masks and casts of limbs. The talk was illustrated with slides featuring all aspects of Victorian undertaking, including dress fashions, accessories and memento mori. For added atmosphere we were joined half way through by two mysterious figures kitted out for the occasion in full Victorian mourning dress.

We were told about some of the fascinating aspects of this part of  Victorian life, as well as some of the more unsavoury – like the rise of the resurrectionists who made their living robbing graves to supply the medical industry (That dastardly duo Burke and Hare being a famous example) .Particular reference was also made to local history and Extra Mural cemetery itself. In the mid 19th century the dead were buried in local churchyards but disease and overcrowding led to the creation of large rural cemeteries. These new cemeteries, of which Brighton’s is one of the most beautiful, were called Necropolis – City of the Dead and were laid out as cities complete with avenues and streets.

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We learnt about the two stages of mourning, and the etiquette involved in visiting the dead -including the importance of the Victorian death bed and why the use of narcotics was discouraged so as to keep the dying more lucid – in the hope their last dying words would contain something revealing and enlightening. Bodies could be laid out in the home parlour for up to 12 days (though this practice was frowned on for health reasons and 5 days deemed more sanitary) and during this time, straw would be strewn on the road outside to muffle the noise of the horses. The correct etiquette in dress was very important; though men  need only worry about the correct width of hat band, women were required to be cloaked top to toe in dull black fabric for at least a year and a day, with nothing allowed to shine lest the souls of the departed catch their reflection and become confused.

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This was a fascinating talk full of interesting and revealing insights into Victorian life. There is another date scheduled for this talk on 16th May. Coming up in July, Sarah will be conducting a guided walk through the Victorian part of the Extra Mural cemetery. This cemetery is a beautiful place steeped in history and the grounds are vast and enchanting – full of grand mausoleums, beautiful stone statues and some nice examples of 19th century Egyptian-style funerary monuments  – all surrounded by ancient trees and wonderful wildlife. The Great Cemetery tour will be taking place on July 5th at 11am from the Bear Road entrance.

If you can’t wait tilll then there’s the Original Brighton Cemetery Tour Special taking place Surndays 10th, 17th and 24th May as part of the Fringe Festival. Starts at 1.30pm at Woodvale Lodge, off Lewes road.

For more information about what’s going on at a cemetery near you – click here.

bluebells

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Bathroom DIY

Posted by Sara on April 26, 2009

This year I learnt how to put tiles on a wall. It was much more fun than I expected and I’m petty chuffed with the results, although – as with any of my DIY projects – it seemed to take weeks longer than it should have done!

Here’s the before:

bath20081

And here’s the after:

room11The sink? We bought her for £12 at the Brighton boot fair, she’s old and still beautiful. I rather fancy she’s haunted – imagine, a haunted sink! Alas there have been no mysterious midnight mutterings emerging from the pipe work as yet.

sinksideThe stand cost a little more but is worth every penny, it was custom made and fitted by the lovely Alan from Anvil Ironworks. Anvil are a small group of Brighton based artist blacksmiths who specialise in hand crafted contemporary and traditional metalwork. Check out the web page, the sculptures are amazing. The tiles come from The Tile Depot.

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Things to do in May

Posted by Sara on April 22, 2009

May looks so choc full of fabulous gothicky goodness I thought it might be better to write about things before they happen for a change.

ev2008_01498First up is the cheerily titled “Death and Mourning in Victorian England” Taking place in St John’s Chapel, Woodvale cemetery, this is an illustrated talk on how Victorians fused fascinating rituals with elaborate etiquette in order to mourn their dead. This vast, enchanting cemetery is steeped in history and worth a visit in itself. 4th and 16th May 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM. Entrance Fee: £6.00, (£5.00 Concessions)

For lovers of all things Steampunk, The Steam Punk Hidden Circus are landing in the Marlborough Little Theatre for one day only to present remarkable acts ‘from a future seen in the past’. Thrills and spills guaranteed and comes with an all day Steampunk market and all. 3rd May 1pm – Midnight. £5.Marlborough Little Theatre, 4 Princes St.

haunted1

“Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. ….silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

Published fifty years ago The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is a genuinely scary read and The Brighton Little Theatre are bringing their adaptation to the stage from Saturday 9th to Saturday 16th May. Tickets only £7.50.www.the-little.co.uk

Meanwhile over at the lovely, amazing Sealife centre:

frying-nemo

And last but certainly not least, every Wednesday, upstairs in the haunted room at Northern Lights, Brighton’s very own Ghost Walker, Rob Marks, will be appearing in one of his many guises as Charley Jeremiah Tench, showcasing his new performance ’Ghosts Upstairs’. Enjoy an hour or so of ghostly tales told by candlelight accompanied by a glass of ‘fisherman’s friend’ to chase away those chills. Mr Marks’ exceptional storytelling skills, coupled with some genuinely gruesome tales that are all based in local history, makes this a great night out for ghost hunters and historians alike.

Starts for 8.30pm, Wednesdays.

candlelit


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