Our Patch 8

The 'Pepperpot'
www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk from a private collection
Queen's Park water fountain
Photo by Tony Mould
Charles Barry's scheme for Queens Park, 1834
Howlett-Clarke, solicitors, Brighton.
Photograph of the original facade of the spa
Private collection, www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk
Garden Temple, Attree Villa, Queens Park, Brighton
Queens Park, Brighton
Egremont Gate (to Queen's Park), Brighton
Choragic Monument of Lysicrates
Queen's Park
Photo by Tony Mould

Queen’s Park, Brighton and other similar land is registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act of 1953, within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by English Heritage for its special historic interest.

(List entry number being 1001319.)

The Brighton Town Council acquired Queen’s Park as its second park in 1892. The earlies park on the site was planned as part of a speculative housing development by John Armstrong in 1822, It was Armstrong who leased an area of the downland on the eastern side of the Steine Valley, his intention was being to develop it as an area of the then new Regency suburbs of Brighton. The central combe was enclosed and then laid out as parkland with a carriage drive, and the land the surrounding plots were sold as development plots where could be built large villa type houses. He envisaged that each of these villas would stand in their own grounds and also have an uninterrupted view of the varied scenery of the park, the downs and also a view of the sea too. This was reported in the Brighton Gazette on the 23rd December1824 and also on the 6th January 1825, Access to ‘Brighton Park’ as it was then called, and was permitted by subscription. Armstrong then leased an acre of land at the southern end of the site to the Royal German Spa, which then was run by Hooper Struve and Company.

By now it was 1830 and the land was then sold on to Thomas Attree, who was a local solicitor. Attree erected a substantial wall around the estate he had recently purchased and also planted a number of major tree clumps in the central park area. Then the following year, in 1831 he commissioned the architect, Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860.) to build him a substantial villa at the very most northern end of the walled site. Attree intended this for his own personal use as a country house on the edge of Brighton. However, he also continued his original idea of promoting the commercial development of a number of other villas around the perimeter of this new park. However, Cowell’s Villa, was the only one that was built at this time.

Queen’s Park

In 1836, the site’s name was changed from ’The Park’ to Queen’s Park.’ This was in honour of Queen Adelaide. Doctor Granville came to Brighton in the 1840’s and visited the site. In his words, he said, “The Park was the only decent plantation to be seen near or about Brighton. (This is quoted in the story of Queen’s Park, 1992.) Although J. C. Loudon who actually visited Queen’s Park in 1842 admired the situation and made particular mention of the thriving trees which were now well established.

Following Attree’s death in 1861, the Park was sold, the auctioneer suggesting that its suitability either for the development of a number of detached villas, or for the use of a public park and a place of recreation, ‘such as most large towns now have. The estate sold for well under the estimate that was suggested. It was finally bought, at the end of the auction by a Mr. Duddell from London. Then, on his death in 1887, the estate failed to sell at auction. However, in 1890 after a number of negotiations with Duddell’s widow, the Race Stand Trustees, namely Alderman Abbey, Brigden and Ridley as well as Mr. Seymour Burrows, purchased the parkland which included the Spa. The same Trustees had been responsible. The total cost of this acquisition amounted to £13,500, out of that sum £9,500 went to Mrs Duddell with another £4,000 reaching the coffers of the Town Council. This was for their work on the roads, sewers, as well as the gas and water. Which was done on her behalf. Then, a minimum value was fixed for the surrounding houses to be erected with a number of restrictions on the design of these new houses. The town then borrowed a further sum of £8,166 which was to complete the layout of the actual park. They also borrowed a further sum of £450 in order to repair the clock tower, the entrance gates (the park was at that time surrounded by high metal fencing and could be locked at night.) and also the various lodges.

Public park

Mr. George Ward, the Town’s head gardener and Francis May, the Borough Surveyor then prepared a set of plans setting out the design of the public park. The park was officially opened to the public on the 10th August 1892. A new circular carriageway was formed right around the park, it’s east gradients which involved a considerable amount of the levelling of certain areas of the ground took a lot of work. However, this certainly enhanced the variations of the natural topography, especially on the sides of the Combe. A path system of just over 2.5kms in length of serpentine, gravelled paths which led from the boundary road through the park were laid out and then a concrete lake was constructed with a rivulet, this area was planted with ferns and a selection of ‘creeping plants was re-arranged. This was crossed by a rustic bridge. Then over 9 thousand new shrubs and trees were planted and new raised and mounded flower beds were planted.

During the Second World War the government called for all iron railings, as well as metal of any kind which included household pots and pans if the public didn’t want them anymore. As a result, the railings which once surrounded the Park were cut off at almost ground level and carted away. The reason that was given was to make new aircraft and munitions of various types. This never happened. The government also promised that the iron railings would be replaced after the war finished. That never happened either.

Having passed into institutional use, Attree’s Villa was then demolished in 1974. A very successful local campaign in the 1970’s improved the condition of the park and that then led to the formation of ‘The Friends of Queen’s Park in 1988. Tree cover in the Park was severely reduced as a result of the great storm of October 1987.

There are several entrances and exits to the park. The two main entrances/exits are at the south end of the site through arched gateways, very impressive. While another entrance at the north end of Egremont place, there are other subsidiary points of entry to the park and they are via West Drive, North Drive and East Drive.

Along the eastern side of the park provision was made for the public to play and enjoy a number of organised games and in 1920 hard court tennis courts were erected as well as a bowling green set into the hillside as well as a Pavilion was built for shelter. The bowling green was built there in 1909 and since then a further bowling green has been built. In 1914 a croquet lawn was built, but that slowly fell out of fashion

Note: – The Clock Tower,

The Clock Tower was built in 1915 from red brick and good English Portland Stone. It is Grade Two listed. This was built as a result with a bequest from Mr. William Goleta, who was a Brighton tradesman.

The Pepper Pot: –

This small building is called by a number of names such as ‘The Pepper Box,’ The Pepperpot,’ or simply ‘The Tower.’ It is a listed building in the Queen’s Park area of Brighton in East Sussex. It was designed and built in 1830 by the famous architect, Charles Barry. It was originally in the grounds of a villa of the once owner of Queen’s Park. The villa was demolished but somehow the Pepperpot survived. The original purpose of the building is totally unknown, maybe it was just a folly to keep the people of Brighton guessing. Over the many years since it was erected, there have been lots of possible explanations but it will remain a mystery forever, I’m sure. It is currently owned by Brighton and Hove City Council. It is currently a Grade II listed building and should keep it protected. The address of this small building is Tower Road, Brighton. There are very few of the original Attree Villa still standing, but the Pepperpot stood in the western part of the Villa grounds. It was built at the same time as the Villa. A certain amount of research was done in 2011 and it was concluded, right or wrong, that the Pepperpot stood above a well and then housed a steam engine which drew the water out for the sole use of the Attree family. This was based on a record in the Arcana of Science and Art (published in 1836.) It was then called ‘The Belvedere Tower.’ But its present name derived by the local people as ‘The Pepperpot,’ due to its shape and is now accepted as the right name.

Since this structure passed out of the hands of the Attree family it has had a remarkable variety of uses. George Duddell bought Attree’s estate in 1863, and used the Pepperpot to print and publish his local newspaper, called ‘The Brighton Daily Mail.’ Then three years later, in 1866, along with the park, the Villa and all the other associated buildings had been passed over to the Brighton Town Corporation, the equiverlant of today’s Brighton and Hove City Council. During World War II, the Military used the 60 feet structure as an observation post. Later, it was put to other uses including the Headquarters of a Scout Troop, an artist’s studio, and, after an extension was built at the base in the 1960’s public toilets for both men and women. The structure was designated as a Grade II listed building on 13th October 1952.

It takes a bit of describing when people ask what does it look like. It is easy to say ‘like a pepperpot,.’ But personally I think it goes a little deeper than that and deserves to be described correctly. (I lived and worked in the area for over 30 years and so I can claim to know it quite well, as well as being inside it.)

It has 10 sides, of cylindrical structure, 60 feet high and standing on an octagonal base. It is topped by a cupola and a green metal urn. There are 11 Corinthian columns around the exterior. The Tower rises in just four stages. The lowest is the octagonal plinth which was extended to the north in the 1960’s when the toilets were installed. (These toilets are now shut, the policy of Brighton Council some years ago.) The short second stage is circular; it’s upper boundary is defined by a cornice. The columns extend all the way up the third stage; at the top of this section and between each column is a small window. An entablature and cornice rest on the top of the column and marks the division with the uppermost stage, which has Pilasters directly above the columns. Another entablature sits between the pilasters and the circular cupola.

The actual design is based on the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, which was widely copied by British neoclassical architects.

The ‘Friends of The Pepperpot Group was formed in 2011 and undertook to promote the conservation of the Pepperpot and try to get it back into use sometime. In May 2011 Brighton and Hove City Council undertook a £50,000 restoration of the exterior. There were ideas about commercial possibilities but to date nothing has been signed. It was in September 2011 that it was stressed that another £50.000 was needed for the outside structure, making the final total £100,000, currently money is trying to be extracted from Charity bodies.


David Rowland

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