Thomas Read Kemp (1782-1844) A Day of Celebration

The Kemp Town Society organised, principally by Mark Eynon,  “A Day of Celebration of The Rev’d Thomas Read Kemp, M.P.”, who created the Kemp Town Estate and contributed most to the attracting the super-rich from London to live in Brighton. It was held on September 25th 2010. It was three events on one day: Tour, Symposium, Concert and Supper.

This event was, in part, inspired by the valuable contribution and community outreach of St. Georges Church, where the afternoon, Symposium , Soiree concert and supper were held. It proved to be a perfect setting for all three events, ably supported and catered by volunteers from the Church.

It was perfect day altogether with sunshine and clear skies, allowing the Estate to be seen at its best for those who gathered from across the city.

The booking arrangements for the day, the Soiree Concert and evening events were much aided by Brighton’s Early Music Festival, which permitted the day’s ticket sales through Brighton Dome’s box office. The Concert programme is at the end of this article.

The day commenced with of the Tour of the Estate. A group of 60, a sellout crowd, met at The Rock Inn, where Dr. Sue Berry gave an initial talk, after morning coffee was served. We then broke into four groups of 15, led by Andrew Doig, Paul Phillips, Michael Osborne and Dr. Berry. Each followed a planned route around the Estate, to arrive at the two private houses, which their owners had generously opened for the Tour members to see at allocated times.

Each leader had gathered important historical information to point out the architectural features of the houses to their group, the design changes of the differing facades and the classical palladian influences across the Estate. There is so much to know and so much more to be learned. Fascinating to all, was learning more about the original owners and their guests, who purchased their property from Thomas Kemp, and where they came from. They were by and large the social elite at the time, along with a rising number of  wealthy “industrialists” emerging from the trading successes from the Empire. The Duke of Devonshire (William Cavendish, of Chatsworth fame) and The Marquis of Bristol were some of the original names, who completed the interiors of their homes to suit their style and extensive family and house keepers needs.

Many of the lavish interiors were borne of the demands to impress those attending their homes for business and political gatherings and the Balls and parties of the day. The interior of the two homes exposed not only the taste of the original owners, but of the pride in the current owners in restoring the original period features, where changes of a more contemporary nature had been inflicted by previous owners. A tour of the wide internal “suspended” staircase in one of the houses was given by one of its occupants, Rev. Colin Still, who is one of the experts of the Estate’s history.

The groups were then taken into the Enclosures, the Grade 2 Historic Garden, which reflects the early residents taste to have an “estate garden” in which to roam. One can still imagine them ambling among the newly discovered exotic plants in their flowing clothes, perhaps gathered from across the globe by the Victorian plant hunters. The original formal lay out by Henry Phillips, botanist, and one of the Regency period’s ambitious garden designers planting 20,000 plants, has been rather lost as a result of the need to protect the gardens from the exposure to the wind and salt air. Gardening was gaining in importance for the newly emerging middle class, from the Industrial revolution, exemplified by Samual Courtholds, another new owner on the Kemp Town Estate.

The tour ended after going down through the “Alice in Wonderland” tunnel, (Lewis Carroll was a long time resident on the Estate) on the lower slopes. At its entrance facing the sea, where the two cottages were once occupied by the Estate’s private policeman and the gardner, Dr. Berry concluded the tour with a further bit of  history of the Estate and the remarkable contribution of Thomas Cubitt, the builder of much of London during the early nineteen century, who over saw the building of the lower retaining walls and pathways and structures of the “lower slopes”, designed by Henry Kendall (Architect, Founding member of RIBA) and Sir John Paxton (Duke of Devonshire’s head gardener at Chatsworth and designer of the Crystal Palace, for the Great Exhibition of 1851), now owned by Brighton Council. This area remains in the Conservation Area of the Estate all the way down to the low-tide water line – so uniquely includes the public beach!

The Symposium was held in the afternoon. It was a remarkable unfolding of the life of Thomas Kemp. It remains a benchmark day of discovery of the importance of a man who was not only an huge influence on Brighton, but equally significantly, brought his great influence in London to his seat of power in Brighton.

By kind permission of the contributors to the Symposium, we set out the lectures given by Dr. Sue Berry, Michael Osborne and Prof. Stephen Adutt as a result of the transcripts from the recordings made from them by Shirley Collins.

The photographs accompanying these talks are not currently available -so they have to be imagined in the interim.

TALK 1: “Thomas Read Kemp, M.P., Preacher and Gentleman Developer”

Dr. Sue Berry                 St. George’s Church, Kemp Town       25th September 2010

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, the first trick of the act is not to fall over any of the wiring.  I think I’ve managed that bit.

We’re going to be looking at Kemp in two ways.  I’m going to look at his development into a business man, his social background and some of the other things he got up to and then Mike at the front here is going to look particularly at Kemp Town.  We decided to split the two.  We felt that that would work better.

Now he comes from a family on the make, on the rise, his father was MP for Lewes, his father was also a dealer in wool and he marries a member of the Read family from the Kent borders and they’re graziers so it is a prosperous family with ambitions.  The parallel to this type of family are the many wealthier families of an earlier generation in Wiltshire and round there who made their income out of  wool and similar activities.

The Kemps were very lucky.  They were well connected in this area and through that inherited land, particularly from the Friend family who owned a lot of land in Brighton.  So that’s how they got their paws on that.  They also inherited Lewes Castle:  The good news is you’ve inherited a castle.  The bad news is it is a ruined one.  By the time they inherited it it wasn’t in a very good condition but they also inherited land around the castle as well and one might like to think that the connection between the aspiration to be an MP and the inheritance of this land to add to what they already owned in Lewes linked together quite well.

PIC 1. Thomas Read Kemp is, at heart, in many ways a Lewes man. That’s where his political base is; that’s where he does what all good Georgians did, which is to get the electorate to vote for him with the usual drunken bribery that went on.  So that gives you a bit of background. PIC2

Thomas and Ann have great aspirations for their son and he is sent off for a good education.   Thomas is sent to school in London, where goes to Westminster School, then he goes on to Cambridge.  So this is a gentleman’s education.  Westminster School then was a school many other landowners sent their children to.  He was probably a little bit older than another well-known schoolboy at Westminster which is Thomas Pelham of Stanmer Park who didn’t enjoy it very much and always beseeched that he could go home to Stanmer every holiday. 

The family clearly had it in mind that he was going to marry well at the end of this because they put a lot of resources into this education. From Westminster off he goes to Cambridge and there he does, in a way, a general degree with Classics, etc. in it.  I’d have thought he probably did Theology but I have been put right by Mike, that he couldn’t have done.   And having done that the big question is, what do you do next with your young man?  He is not yet ready to inherit so what do you do with him after that?  So you send him to London and he studies law.  So this is a very typical background for a young gentleman of the period.   And then, after that,- this is beginning to sound very Jane Austenish isn’t it, yes ? –  the next thing you need is a good marriage.  You do, you need a good marriage and it appears that, probably at Cambridge, he encountered the Barings, the bankers, and in due course he marries Frances Baring, one of the daughters.  So he marries into a banking family.  He is not unique in this area doing that.  The Gages of Firle one of the daughters married a Simion, he  was in banking and I can think of two or three others where you have that sort of link which puts you in the interesting position that you have land in Brighton, you have a young man with a gentry lifestyle because they buy Herstmonceaux Place for the newlyweds to live in, right up by Herstmonceaux Castle.  So you’ve got everything going there.  But this family doesn’t have a political income and so he’s got to have some other form of income.  So the next thing they have to think about is where are the income streams going to come from to sustain the lifestyle.  Frances has a good settlement and this is the beginning of the thinking about development.

Now if you go to Lewes and you know the Castle you probably know Barbican House which is nearby where the Museum of the Sussex Archaeological Society is.  That’s the area of land that they had.  PIC 3. This is Coneyburgh to which Thomas and Ann moved out, having felt that it was time to start a gentry lifestyle.  Coneyburgh is up at Barcombe.  It is now demolished.  PIC 4 *This particular one is demolished.   Interestingly like many people who go to these houses, they rent.  He doesn’t buy he rents.  It was much more common in this period than you might imagine.  Some people do it because they are not sure where they want to live.  Others do it because they want the lifestyle but they don’t want the responsibilities and if you can rent a house, garden and 40 acres for  £124 certainly in modern money that would be very tempting, wouldn’t it?   That’s the sort of rental they were paying. The house was probably towards the end of its life because it was demolished in 1816.  The next one then caught fire so it probably wasn’t a good place to build a country house.

So gentry lifestyle is sort of breaking Thomas in, PIC 5  then off to Westminster and at Westminster he is given an education. Now people like me with terrible concentration imagine being tutored, one class, two classes, three classes, four classes,* just imagine being taught like that!  He then goes off and PIC 6 this is the accommodation at Westminster -. thank you to Mike for the illustrations –  a bit basic shall we say?  You can see why the kids implored to come home for the holidays can’t you?   No privacy, no real comforts. It was not unusual to lose your son and heir to mysterious disease whilst at school.  Now you see that you know why. 

He then went off, as I said, to learn law and he stayed in this rather classy building by Holland The Albany.  It is still there. And he had a really enjoyable time, one would think, in London and he then has this question of what to do when he inherits his land. PIC 7* Now this looks a little bit like knitting here but this is the old open fields system, the arable area here, the five Laines.  This is Black Rock Down and those of you who came walking this morning walked all over that.  Over here you’ve got East Laine, Queens Park is about there and Montpelier is over here in that area and the London Road development runs up here, that Kemp gets involved in.   But when they inherited the land a lot of the arable is in strips with everybody else’s in this area and Thomas Senior starts to enclose by agreement and gets cracking with turning some of West Laine here into freehold fields and that enables Thomas Read Kemp to get on with building. 

They also do some exchanges over here on this side.  Now the other thing that Thomas does, Thomas Senior, is to build one or two lodging houses.  PIC 8 There it is in glorious colour and you can see how complicated the land ownership was and you can see over here the beginning of enclosed fields which explains places like Bedford Square and Regency Square which you all know on that side of town.  PIC 9 And this is, I’m not going to bore you with this but I just want to make one point….  the holdings in Brighton were held in something called a yardland and yardlands gave you arable land in those fields and also an entitlement to pasture animals on the surrounding pastoral area.  These people all owned yardlands  in the 1780s and in 1792.  The main point I want to make here is that the Kemp family, first of all Thomas and then Thomas Read, dominated the land holdings and just to make it nice and difficult historically  they were held by different manors, PIC 10 one, two, three, four manors – an absolute nightmare.

Thomas Kemp knew he had to get more holdings in order to increase his grasp of land and he bought some of them from Thomas Western of Preston Manor to try to increase that holding and this enabled Thomas Read, as we shall see, to get PIC 10 all of this enclosure organised all around there and down here and helps to explain the development we are now going to explore

So Thomas father lays the foundations at a time when the town is developing as a resort.  Remember that Brighton was a flourishing seaside resort from the 1750s.  I get quite murderous when I see copy written by marketing departments describing it as a fishing village that was turned into a seaside resort when the Prince of Wales arrived.   Would a young man want to build a great big house next to a fishing village?

So it is a seaside resort to which the Prince of Wales comes and fortuitously, because he wants to come and stay he decides to use Thomas Kemp’s house and Thomas Kemp’s house is the basis of the Royal Pavilion and amongst the things that they did was sea-bathe on the coast and use the spa PIC12  at  Wick?  ….. and she’s just skulking away from the spa, beautifully dressed and looking as though she has been up to something but she’ s been to the spa.

PIC 13 Now this is the house over at Herstmonceaux which is designed, this side, by Wyatt, a well-known architect of the period who would have worked on the Royal Pavilion had he not died.  He was going to be one of the architects for the Royal Pavilion and this is the building they lived in from 1807 onwards. At the same time they had a London house. Thomas more or less inherits his father’s post as MP, that’s what I mean about bribery and corruption in Lewes. When Dad dies dear old Thomas more or less takes over and he has this house in London.

PIC 14 Here are the Barings into which they married.  This is another family on the up. They developed as Merchant Bankers as we all know but they began the business  in Exeter and went on from there  and then, of course, become  well-known and titled but at a later stage.  PIC 15 This is where he starts working, his Barbican House, the Castle, in which he had a chapel and this PIC 16 is the view along the High Street at the beginnings of Thomas’s ideas. That’s where Thomas Read met the Wilds, Amon and Henry, it is very confusing, you can’t always tell who did which and just to remind you that in Lewes on Mantel House PIC 17 you start to see the sorts of decorations that these people did.  Bear in mind that builders very often designed in this period.  We hear an awful lot about architects but far less about the very important local and regional builder architects, who if you asked them to run up a chapel, ran you up a chapel, run you up a house, yes sure we’ll do that, shops?, yes,  a brewery, they built the brewery for the Tamplins, a classical style brewery which was later on replaced.

Now Thomas Read knows he’s got something very significant.  He’s got part of the lordship of a manor which means that when he decides he is going to try organising everybody into enclosing land he can enfranchise it and make it freehold.and he set about doing that. PIC18 Sooner or later the             lifestyle of these little chaps on the Downs of Brighton was going to come to an end because housing was much more profitable.

PIC 19. In 1822 – this map is produced from a  Street Directory by Baxter  very fortuitously – and  here you see where he starts to develop   over in Montpelier, and he also starts to develop down the London Road and this is just before he starts over here,  we know that from the dates of Deeds, and he puts the Temple over here, which we will look at in a minute and his long-suffering sister also builds a Villa here and one or two other worthies that Kemp knew.  This was intended to be a Villa development.  He had a thing about villas.  He put villas up on the London Road, some of which are still there, and he wanted villas in Queens Park.  He thinks that a great idea.  Meanwhile he goes off and has a slightly, one could say, “funny” phase like lots of wealthy men did.  Yes, that’s something you can afford to do isn’t it?…. have a funny moment?  Envy! envy!  He decides that he is going to follow the Evangelist set that Harriet Baring, who became better known as Harriet Warr, was a leader of and becomes the Reverend Thomas Read along with the Reverend George Baring PIC20  and he starts to preach at his uncle’s chapel  in St. James’s Street and he starts to preach in Lewes in his chapel he has built in Lewes   By all accounts not a very good preacher, but there we go, he thought he’d have a go  and Uncle Nathaniel doesn’t seem to be very keen on this and so young Thomas Read goes off and builds his own chapel  in Ship Street.

The chapel in Lewes Castle goes in down by the Barbican and this is the view of the whole area before he civilises it a bit more. PIC 21  There’s what he built, the Wilds do it for him.  Not the prettiest of buildings is it?…with this great, sort of, edifice. This is probably  a very poor drawing but notice   the portico, see the detail there.  This was up and running with a heated floor in 1816.  The Reverend George Bering does the main celebratory opening service and unfortunately Thomas Read gets bored with it, maybe the congregation was getting bored with him because he sells it on to Solicitor Faithful, who in turn sells it on to Anderson who refaces it.  PIC22 Now this is interesting, take a look up there, take a look across here so it looks as though this facade was brought forward a bit but they still leave this on top.  It’s still there.  Do you know Fabrica (?), the flint fronted church there? That is Thomas Clarke’s refacing

Meanwhile he’s still got a London house.  He’s still renting and he moves around in London and he has good experience of large estates.  He knows very well the development at Regent’s Park and he knows about Belgravia where he has this place put up which is the Spanish Embassy now and looks nothing like this and this was designed by Kendal so we start to see the London links coming through.  PIC 23 There it is, that’s the original design – nice size house.  PIC 24 There’s the outside, there’s the inside.  As I say, the Spanish Embassy has considerably altered it between the wars.

Now he still keeps this and why does he keep this and why does he spend resources over  in Lewes? Because Brighton doesn’t have an MP.  It doesn’t have one until the 1830s.  So bear in mind that he is sort of developing links in the two towns all the time. PIC 25 I rather like this – this sandpit look.

Now Brighton he knows by the 1810s is in need of large houses.  If you think of the Georgian houses in Brighton built in the 1750s onwards you will notice that most of them are tall, narrow, thin houses.  You need proper entertainment palaces and Regency Square in 1818 is a start in that way.  That’s being developed by a Londoner and also from that you get the development of Kemp Town and Brunswick, big, substantial houses.  And those of you who saw the interiors of the two houses this morning will get the sense that they are designed to impress. PIC 26 Still seabathing and you can see this motley area  isn’t really what you want if you are used to the great designs of London houses.

PIC 27 So he starts over here and he puts this in, the Dome, as it became sometimes known as, and more familiarly, the Temple.  Different versions of it show different sort of images of how it was finished – done by the Wilds and he also encourages villas in the surrounding area.  We know that Frances and eight children move in here in 1818.  It’s an awful lot of kids – that is why you probably want a big house.  PIC28 This is the mysterious staircase inside. Apparently that is where the main staircase originally was and this is later.  Food for thought!  A very strange house!  It’s no surprise it has a very strange inside is it then?   And amongst the best known is Lord Fauntleroy’s house.  He was a banker, topically Vince Cable will be very pleased to hear that he was actually hung for his banking activities.  Probably cheer him up enormously.

By the 1820s Kemp knows the Prince of Wales, he is a superb horseman, he hunts, he competes as a horseman, he is a Mason he is involved in various movements such as the Reform movement.  He is pro-Reform – up to a point.  He is pro-Reform even though he recognises he might lose control of his seat. And these links are very well when he starts to get involved with these projects in the 1820s  He is both an investor in the Chain Pier PIC 29? and also with the Lord of the Manor of Brighton.  The manor of Brighton gives access to the foreshore without which it couldn’t have been built.  He knows it is going to give a good berth to the steam ferries that are important to Brighton because they go to Dieppe from 1815 onwards.

He gives land for St. Peter’s Church, PIC30?with spire as hoped for by Barry, but it wasn’t built and he gives land with the other freeholders of the pasture and open spaces, all of whom had agreed with him to enclose.  He becomes the Treasurer for this church and, unfortunately, when they run into trouble over money he can’t find the account book.  Now along with his other freeholders, post enclosure of all of this area, they start to lay out roads and walls.  This doesn’t go down very well with some Brighton people who are sort of Regency dog walkers and assume they can wander where they want, so to speak, and take their children to play.  There are complaints about the number of changes that are going on.  But Kemp presses on and he gets on with three projects:  Ireland’s Gardens,  Brighton Park, and this.   PIC31 This is in Commercial Garden which is put right up here above St. Peter’s Church.  There it is, known as Ireland’s Gardens after the manager. Ireland was a bit of a pain.  Kemp put in most of the capital for the landscaping.  Ireland was terribly absent-minded when it came to paying up the rent and eventually they sent bailiffs in.  This is a Wilds’ development, here Hanover Crescent which would have had this wonderful view of the gardens over there.  There is St. Peter’s Church to give you your bearings.PIC32  Brighton Park here, now it is Queen’s Park,   laid  out from the start with the intention of having villas, Kemp again puts in the landscaping but eventually this was bought by Attree and Attree continues the villa idea but it never ever seems to work.

Now he then gets on with this which Mike’s going to talk about so I’m going to avoid it.  All of the same sort of period.  He puts this church here, PIC 33 this is St. George’s by  Busby  with this wonderful Greek look about it.  It cost £11,000 and it acts as a landmark.  As you come down Eastern Road down through  there.  This is a reminder that it is all Kemp land.  The interior was with rented pews and up on the top there –  the galleries.   The back of it had a very big pulpit.  This wasn’t here.  This was much later.  It was a preaching house so he put into here a very good preacher to ensure that it ran well and brought in income and Queen Adelaide came here.  He gave land for the hospital, this is by Barry, open competition, and became one of the people on the Board.  He meanwhile decides he doesn’t want to do preaching anymore.  He goes off to Arundel and becomes MP and he acquires this house called Dale Park just to the West of Arundel.  This is now no longer with us.  He tires of this – he gets about a bit doesn’t he? –  and he decides that he is going to sell up and he is going to go back to Lewes and he fights at  Lewes and gets in.

Interestingly it is a banker who buys the house and the banker’s name is Cubitt who, of course, Kemp already knows. PIC34 Meanwhile, while Kemp is doing these various things, he has a good lawyer, wonderfully named Mr. Faithful, and he has Budgen who does a lot of his surveying work and then he has Mr. Harris as his later steward.  They not only manage the selling and development here between them  but, I suspect, Faithful is the person who negotiates all his enclosure work.

PIC35 Just to put this up.  If you look there is no sign of Eastern Road and he has to buy up all these poor? pieces

All these long narrow strips otherwise he doesn’t get it through and he also develops in the area of the Church and has to buy those he doesn’t own here.  It’s a long job and particularly when they start to hear that you are in the business of poor pieces the price goes up.  So it made a lot of sense to build on his own freehold land.

He remarries in 1832 some years as you can see after the death of his first wife.  He marries Frances Harvey who was Frances Shakely Kemp eventually and he announced he was going abroad for the sake of his health and they took their son and one daughter who was thought  not to be very well and off they go on a sort of Grand Tour. They go down to Italy and come back to Paris.  Bear in mind that there can’t be too many problems. Fanny Kemp is still in the Belgrave Square House, that is  one of his daughters, in 1839 and the general sense is from the correspondence that has survived  that they are enjoying themselves and they are living comfortably.  There is no sign of poverty and she is a wealthy lady in her own right.

Now what happens here?  Mike and I differ here.  It is always fun to have a different view.  Thomas Read Kemp has got the development well under way, mid 1820s, but Brighton like lots of other towns becomes overbuilt and a recession starts which gets quite a grip and he knows it gets quite a grip and he gets involved in the railway company.  He is a very far sighted man and he is hoping later on to be able to sell land to them because they are obviously going to come through the north end of the parish to have a railway station.

Off he goes abroad and he has unsettled debts and this is where the story of the outlawing comes from. If people don’t settle debts what you can do is to declare them an “outlaw” in this period.  Sounds a bit much.  Sometimes even nowadays creditors must be sorely tempted when people won’t pay up.  And there are wonderful stories of these notices being put  up on the church door.  The records and the National Archives show that they didn’t know these bills were being looked for and these declarations of outlawing are rescinded and everything is supposedly sorted out.

He is in difficulties in terms of cash flow but he does have plenty of land.   In the 1830s and early 1840s the town has a recession.  It is difficult to sell land – that is his problem.  It is very difficult to sell the land and it becomes difficult to sell property.  Property slows down. It is remarkably like the recession  that we’ve come through where everybody goes “ooooh” and doesn’t want to spend money and the banks take a deep breath and start to wonder whether they need to call things in. It has a lot of characteristics of the current one.

However, bear this in mind, when he dies his second wife inherits over four hundred acres is that a poor man?   It is not a poor man.  It is a man that might be  having  difficulty with cash flow but he is certainly a man with a lot of assets, the very assets that he is setting out to develop.

She is very interesting.  She decides that she is going to call in some of the cash and sort out some of his affairs and she seems to be one of the people behind the sales of land in the l840s.  By the early 1850s the town is flourishing and a lot of his projects are being to be developed much more effectively and  Montpelier becomes a very interesting development. Some more villas are being  built up the London Road.

If it weren’t for him the big projects that are so much of the Brighton history now would never have been built.   If he hadn’t done that enclosuring, if he hadn’t taken the risks he had, hadn’t had the rather idiosyncratic ideas about religion that he had for a bit as well,   many of the things that are so interesting in this city would not have happened. 

He is very intriguing as a person in his own right and he was clearly prepared to take huge risks and out of huge risks comes that legacy.


TALK 2: “Thomas Read Kemp – Evolution of a Developer”

Michael Osborne. Owner of 23 Sussex Square. Economist.

Michael Osborne is to provide a new edited version of his talk with selected slides. Feb 2012. Chairman

“from the past – Kemp Development and Architectural Design Today”


Professor Stephen Adutt.       Consultant Architect, former Head of Architecture, Brighton University.

(This talk is being edited and the new photographs being inserted shortly).

Good afternoon 

This part of the session will try to do three things.  I’ll try to set the main Kemp developments into the briefest architectural context.  Secondly I think all of us through some images which I’ll kind of  wash over you, we’ll do a walk along the Marine Drive and through to the originally named Kemp Town.  Thirdly we can ask ourselves what happens after Kemp?  What lessons can we learn from this kind of development today?  Can aspects of this typology of architectural form, illuminate the way we build today?

We begin, as Michael did, in  Regency London. The date is 1818 Kemp would have been about 29 years old and the Marylebone Park Estate, later called Regents Park is being built by John Nash. The whole development in a classical revivalist style has been informed by the formal Italianate Palladian style which Michael talked about from the 16th century.  The style which in itself was, of course,  a revival with modifications, sources being of buildings in Greece and Rome.

So we have here on the east side a simple classical architecture and on the west side, Michael showed you the drawings the same,  and when we come to Regency Park Terrace  we get this coolest of curves, detailed only on the columned ground floor, plain classical first and  second floor with a corniced third floor with a parapet.

Shortly afterwards in Bath, actually slightly earlier 1767- l774 John Wood the younger was designing and was building the great Crescent, again Michael had drawings: the rusticated ground floor, the powerful two floors of Ionic columns, the parapet and the recessed roof – very powerful, grand scale.

Seaside towns were beginning to vie with the spas and following from Bath and in parallel to Regents Park two seaside squares were beginning to be built at Brighton.  Three architects were involved, we’ve heard of them all Amon Wilds Senior, Amon Henry  Wilds,his son, and John Busby their partner.  The first man lived to be 71,  the second to be 73, and Busby died at the age of 46.  All were local men, none famous like Nash and sometimes it is difficult to attribute the particular work .to each of them, as you have already discovered from our previous speakers.  But we try to tell from the      design idiosyncrasies of each which architect and builder designed what.


Regency Square was followed by Brunswick Square – Charles Busby – and here we have much more exuberance within the whole, great variety of form and detail and the terraces face the sea completing the square.  Meanwhile on the east side of the Steine the East Cliff retaining wall had been completed in 1827 so the cliff was no longer crumbling and Marine Parade, here at high level, and Madeira Drive, at the lower level, were established.  And so now could begin, over some 25 years, what was perhaps the longest, it is one and a half miles long, stretch of seaside facade-scape from a single architectural period in England.   It was to lead to what Anthony Dale called at its east end “one of the finest estates and of the largest proportions also in England.”

When buildings are stretched in parallel to the seafront you can see that not very many dwellings can actually look at the sea.  However as soon as you have indentations from the parallel line with the sea we get many more dwellings able to look, albeit diagonally, out at the sea and   it’s that principle which applies to us here on the Marine Parade frontage.

What I’d like us to do now…. here you can see the indentations endlessly, there is very little straight line parallel to the sea architecture….. so .what I’d like us to do now…  we are going to take a walk along that frontage.

We’ve missed Royal Crescent which had been built earlier, 1799, architect unknown, for the  West Indian developer, Jamie Otto, and our walk begins here at  Marine Square, 1824, for solicitor Thomas Attree.  A lot of variety, a somewhat intimate square, some of your friends may like living here.  Portland Place was built at about the same time, 1824, attributed to Busby, of course St. George’s Church, also at the same time, also Busby in the distance.  We think it is Busby because the detailing followed what happened later here at the east end of Brighton in that he has these very powerful two storey applied pilasters with Corinthian capitals sitting on a rusticated ground floor  and, as you will see in a minute, when  you look down the street – what he does is he builds a high building….  he builds in groups of three… he builds a high building with the applied pilasters, then two dwellings which are plainer next to the high building and then he begins his trio again: another high building, two plain buildings, one two, one two and he does that all the way down Portland Place.

In Belgrave Place we get back on the seafront  variation – a beautiful small curve, so that the two faces look towards the setting sun, towards the west, and we get a simpler first, second and third floor sitting on porticos with  Ionic capitals.

We now reach Belgrave and it is very tight, very axial, but it is again a very powerful scale which when we, again, begin to  look further eastwards is going to be continued in an unstretched line all the way to the horizon.

Percival and Clarendon Terraces follow next.  Percival is, perhaps, slightly grander.  It is interesting because here, although the buildings are parallel to the sea, the series of ten undulating bow fronts enable the occupants easily to look east and west.

That leads us to Number One of Chichester Terrace.  Which begins the great development of Kemp Town proper.  This Number One or Chichester House is fascinating because it has again, we think it is a Busby, it has got his design flair in that we have an asymetrical composition, we have giant two storey Corinthian pilasters, sometimes singly, sometimes in pairs, – a great variety within the one house. 

Looking further along the Terrace we can begin to see the ground floor porches with their Ionic capitals surmounted by these marvellous tent roofed verandahs.  I think Paul you live in one of them. There’s one of the porches, fluted columns.

If we move towards the east end of the Terrace we are beginning now to see the junction between the Terrace and the beginning of the Crescent.  You can see the half round quadrant which turns the corner giving us the change of direction which leads to the west side of the Crescent.  The buildings curve, they climb the Crescent and they then follow this sub-division of two one, two one, two one buildings: the applied pilasters, the plain applied pilasters, the two plain houses, the applied pilasters, two  plain houses and so on.  The heights here are generally five storey, although there’s a six here where we get a basement, the  rusticated ground floor, brickwork behind it but stuccoed, the two floors of pilastered work, cornice, another floor, parapet. 

As we curve round we get the anticipation of what’s going to happen around the corner and we see for the first time the west side of Sussex Square – very long – unfortunately, I think, truncated by Eastern Road but there it is. 

As we jump across Eastern Road we see the flank wall of the north end of the Square and now with the north wall of the Square we begin to see some of the brickwork which Michael referred to, the facing brickwork behind the stucco.  Apparently some of the covenants  weren’t enforced so some people left brickwork.

If we look into the corner of the Square we do realise that it wasn’t all perfectly laid out.     The setting out didn’t allow that column head to work in the left hand corner so it was a kind of three quarter column head.

 But we move on past the great man’s house, there it is, and we look at the centre of the Square itself.  Michael  had a drawing of this – very powerful, totally different in composition from anything else in Kemp Town  because it is on a compositional axis of the whole lot.  There it is – a very powerful set-up. 

Back into the further corner – again the high and the low developments.  We turn southwards in the evening sun.  We see the beautiful Ionic capitals and we move further south, still the Square.  We are about to turn a corner again at the final curve, the east curve of Sussex Square with a mixture of porticos, some single, some double, this may now be one property, someone may be able to tell us and we reach the corner of the curve and we are on the final leg of the walk and we see the beginnings of Arundel Terrace which is reckoned by everyone as the most lavishly designed in the whole development.  It is totally symmetrical with thirteen houses.  This central  dwelling with its only tripartite free-standing columns which, it is thought, that Wilds and Busby and whoever else was involved, they wanted this kind of terrace to be also at Chichester but it never was because 25 years later the money ran out.  But it was this kind of development that it was hoped would form the two arms facing the sea.

Now this will interest you,  I tried to draw the scale of the footprints of some of the stuff we have been talking about.    You haven’t yet seen this little thing, I am going to show you that, which is the Barbican Crescent but the other three Crescents you have seen.  There’s Bath in yellow, there’s Regents Park, and yes truly the same scale, beneath the Park there is our development with the Square behind it and the two arms.  We did this study from Ordnance Survey maps and it is clear it ties up with what Michael and Sue have said, that this was the grandest scale of development.

Perhaps if we can now leave the memory of all this – this painting perhaps 1870, the photograph of maybe 1890 Pevsner used to say this is so big you can that you can never see all the sides of the square but here, in fact before Henry Phillips’ gardens grew you could see them.  Maybe Pevsner couldn’t see them because by that time the vegetation had grown.  Here is this lovely lady with her parasol walking in about 1904 on the esplanades against the sea.

Michael has reminded us that everyone before Kemp, during Kemp, and perhaps for 200 years after Kemp liked to live in the equivalent of a palace.  This is actually Schonbrunn about 1760, an Austrian architect Fischer von Erlach.  Look at the proportions!  The proportions are about, what we’ve been looking at in Kemp Town.  We have rusticated ground floor, two major floors with applied pilasters, cornice,  parapet and a recessed roof.  That is it.  Once Classicism wasn’t being used so much in the 20th century, nevertheless, other perhaps poorer people, not the middle class or the upper middle classes, that we’ve been talking about before, wanted to live in these powerful overall buildings. 

This is Socialist workers’ housing in Vienna at about 1930.  Their designers were, perhaps, giving them the fortress to live in and so the individuals were subsumed by the overall as were those who lived in palaces.  Later architects who weren’t using Classicism tried to do the same.  This is Rob Krier, a Luxemburg architect who was trying to raise the order of things for ordinary people.  This is an estate near Vienna called  ——–strasse  at about 1980 and you can see, in trying to do without Classicism, what we’ve been looking at just now.  It becomes a bit like Noddyland if it’s not done right and other architects were trying to do the same.

This is Ricardo Bofill a Spanish architect, trying to design almost his own orders and giving people a kind of overpowering Fascistic architecture. How about that!  That is really Fascistic!….to live in!    Well, people were prepared to do that in order to live in something bigger than themselves.

Of course, here in dear Brighton we have Marine Gate 1937 – 39 architects Winfrey Simpson and Guthrie following Thirties’ Modernism living in something bigger than themselves.  One of my colleagues who is sitting in the audience here is going to live in one of these but no-one will know if he is on the third floor or fifth floor – they are the same.  But he is happy to do that because he is living within in a greater whole than his single flat.  

Corbusier was trying to kind of follow the trend.  Here he is trying to persuade us to live in slab blocks.  This is Unite d’Habitation in Marseille 1947- 52 sort of thing.  People enjoyed living in it. 

Monumentalism does work sometimes.  Here we are in the Barbican.  I wanted to show you Frobisher Court which is, kind of, somewhere up there in the Barbican. There it is up there  – another Crescent which, I suppose as an architect, I think is stunning.  Those people who don’t like brutalist Modernism, of course, don’t think it is stunning but it is interesting that you can’t buy a flat in the Barbican easily because everyone likes living in it.  That’s interesting isn’t it?

And so, the last question – what now?  Our world is very, very different.  People want individuality, and yet we know that we are in a world where populations are growing, populations are on the move, there’ll be greater and greater density in our cities, people will have to live closer and closer together if we are to keep any of the countryside that is left.  What lessons can Kemp and his kind of developments give us in that situation?  Well, he has given us one lesson:  he built densely, very densely even in fields and that we are going to have to do.

I am ending by showing you the work of one modern architectural group.  They are a Dutch firm and they are trying to do several things to help dense developments  become all right, likeable, liked by all of us.  Here is a development, that is not a plan that is an elevation.  Buildings, great buildings that have great holes in them. This is a vertical development of  what Basil Spence did on the ground at  Falmer really, he put holes in Falmer House and so the idea is that you are still in touch with Nature even though you live in a megalith.   You may not like that.

Another possibility is to apply much more colour.  So that even if all the floors in a high building are much the same  colour coding gives you identity.  You may not like that either.

The same firm in Amsterdam is building these artificial islands with water running between them, obviously and what’s happening here is that a powerful idea of residential strip development is then handed over  not to one firm of architects designers but to many architects and many designers so that any single dwelling in this long run, there’s one of them, can be designed to be  different – same plan as that, but different designers and that gives the variety, the diversity which most people today would crave.

In England there are other architects, these are called Urban Splash, who are trying to do the same thing.  This is not built, it is a project for Manchester and it is these kinds of ideas which are on drawing boards now.

But in the meantime we’re still living in 200 year old dwellings, very comfortably, there are no carriages at the doors but we like living in them because we can still walk out of our communal front door in the evening and look at this great space, dense architecture connected to  planting and if we walk a bit further we can look at the sunset.

Thank you.

The Day was followed by a concert, consisting of the following programme.





 St George’s Church, Kemptown

Saturday 25th September 8.00 p.m.

 April Fredrick, soprano, Camilla Scarlett, violin, Amy De Sybel, fortepiano


‘L’Amero saro costante’ from Il Re Pastore by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


‘A Pastoral Song’

‘She Never Told Her Love’ from Canzonettas Hob. XVI by Joseph Haydn


‘The Shepherd on the Rock’ D.965 by Franz Schubert


‘The Lark’, ‘Sleep Gentle Cherub’, ‘O Ravishing Delight!’

Songs by Thomas Arne


Sonata in E minor K.304 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Allegro ~ Tempo Di Minuetto


‘Sunset’, ‘Oh Onochri, Oh’, ‘O Swiftly Glides the Bonny Boat’

Scottish Songs Op.108 by Ludwig van Beethoven

April Fredrick began her musical training as a violinist, combining her musical and literary interests through the course of undergraduate vocal studies at Northwestern College in Minnesota and an MMus and PhD at the Royal Academy of Music, where she studied with Jane Highfield and coaches Iain Ledingham and Dominic Wheeler. She was a semifinalist in the 2009 Kathleen Ferrier Awards and the 2009 Wigmore Hall International Song Competition as well as appearing on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Robert Winston’s Musical Analysis: Ivor Gurney’. She has performed at St. John’s Smith Square, the Holywell Music Room and Queen Elizabeth Hall. Recent performances have included Poulenc’s Gloria and Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, and forthcoming engagements include Bach’s B Minor Mass, Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, and Mahler’s Symphony no. 4. She has recently finished a doctorate exploring how performers and audiences engage with the late songs of Ivor Gurney.

Camilla Scarlett read Music at Magdalen College, Oxford where she held the Domingos Vasconcellos Award and was granted a Joan Conway Scholarship for performance. She subsequently won an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant to study violin with Howard Davies at the Royal Academy of Music, gaining her Postgraduate Diploma with Distinction. Camilla later studied historical performance with Rachel Podger also at the RAM, receiving a Bache Fund award on completion of her studies. During this time, Camilla led the RAM Baroque Orchestra under Laurence Cummings in the UK premiere of Rameau’s tragedie-lyrique ‘Dardanus’ and performed under Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Trevor Pinnock and William Christie. In 2007 Camilla was a member of the European Union Baroque Orchestra, touring across Europe and The Balkans. She was also a 2007 ‘Young Artist’ on  Brighton Early Music Festival’s ‘Early Music Live!’ scheme. Since then, Camilla has performed with many of Britain’s top period instrument ensembles including the Gabrieli Consort and Players, La Serenissima, London Handel Orchestra, The English Concert and The Sixteen. For more information about Camilla and Amy’s duo please visit  HYPERLINK “”

Amy de Sybel was educated at City of London School for Girls (where she received a full Corporation of London music scholarship), the Junior Royal Academy of Music, the Krakow Conservatory of music (where she obtained a postgraduate diploma with honours), and Oxford university where she achieved an instrumental scholarship, a Joan Conway Award for performance and a starred first for her final recital. Amy recently graduated from the  Royal College of music with a Distinction in solo performance. She is the recipient of a Pro Musica award and a Marylebone Educational Trust scholarship. Amy studies solo piano with Gordon Fergus-Thompson, accompaniment with Roger Vignoles and Fortepiano with Geoffrey Govier. She has given performances at all the major London Guild Halls, St Paul’s Covent Garden, the Purcell Room, the Holywell Music Room, Christ church Cathedral (Oxford) and the Wigmore Hall, where she won the Sir Henry Richardson Award  in May 2008. She was also a finalist in the Yamaha Accompanist of the Year competition. Recent performances include a recital of Britten, Schumann and Hindemith at the Royal Festival Hall with the violist Simone van der Giessen and numerous performances with soprano April Fredrick. April and Amy were ‘Guests of the City’ at Ypres Armistice Day in Belgium last November and will be returning this year to the city’s main theatre for a recital of First World War songs.

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