Newsletter, September 2012
Time again for the annual review of our activities. We have had an exciting and busy year.
Much time was spent trying to influence the future planning of our city as well as commenting on individual development proposals. The biggest one which has taken much of our energy has been the Rampion offshore wind farm proposal. But apart from commenting on the ideas and proposals of others we have also started to develop our own initiatives and the proposed Hove Plinth and Restoring our Victorian Tree Heritage campaign are moving ahead briskly. I firmly believe that this is an area where there are many opportunities and our Society could go far. In the background, but nonetheless essential, we have launched our new website, which to the delight of the younger members of the committee now connects to Facebook and Twitter. Our new leaflet has been published and we now have an electronic register of members which dovetails with our financial records. We notice that membership is creeping up and we are working on a number of ideas that will help us increase membership further. Much of the information on our activities is now on the website together with supporting papers and representations which we have made, so let me just emphasize some areas here.
Planning: We have commented in great detail on the draft City Plan and also submitted background papers to the Council. Our comments have focussed on the need to make the city less dependent on fossil fuels, and we have provided detailed comments on how renewables could play a larger role in the city in future. We feel strongly that district heating should be seriously considered as part of the large new developments proposed for the city. We have also reiterated our view that new housing developments must meet better standards in terms of size and we have urged the Council to adopt the standards they currently use for public sector dwellings for all new developments. In addition we have commented on transport issues and emphasised the need for more public art and street trees.
We expect to engage fully in this process in the next year especially as some of the development areas in the City Plan are already shaping up as proposals. I suspect that the Hove Station area and Toad Hole Valley will occupy much of our time next year.
Renewables: We submitted reserved support to Eon on the proposals for the 700MW Rampion offshore wind farm. We also managed to broker a meeting between the Council and Eon to discuss potential investment in the city and we look forward to progress in that area.
Public Sculpture Initiative: Having discussed the idea of the Hove Plinth (to emulate the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square) with many officials we received a very positive response to our pre-planning application. We are now at the stage of commissioning a design, which we plan to submit as a formal planning application later in the autumn. We would like to see the plinth used for a variety of public sculpture and regard this as the start of a wider introduction of public art in Hove.
Restoring our Victorian Tree Heritage: We have started a survey of all (pre-1919) streets in Hove to allow us to assess where tree planting is needed to help improve our street scenes. We have some suggestions where new tree planting should go, and I am very pleased that we have managed to attract a grant of £2,500 from the Council to add to the funds we have already received as donations. By the time you read this we will have had to make the decision where the tree planting for 2013 should take place – please see here for updates. We see this as the beginning of a longterm project and could do with some more help both in terms of identifying suitable areas and in terms of volunteer street wardens who are prepared to keep an eye on the trees once planted. Please contact us if you would like to get involved.
Finance: Our accounts for the year 2011/12 are enclosed with this mailing. We had some exceptional costs during the year both for the website and the tail end of the 50th anniversary of the Society which required us to draw on reserves. On the positive side you will notice that both membership income and donations have grown. I am confident that the finances are on an even keel.
I am sure members understand the large amount of work involved in our various activities and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the committee and our various working groups for the extensive work they have done during the year. I would also like to thank members for their continued support.
I believe we are on an exciting journey and that the Society has the opportunity to strongly influence how Hove (and Brighton) develops and changes for the better. We can do this if we have strong member support with a willingness to engage. I also believe we can influence matters more strongly if we can provide seed money for initiatives. Such moneys always help to attract further funding. In this vein I am calling on members to continue their donations for our various funds.
With best wishes
We are very grateful to the Council for their financial support for the Society’s “Restoring our Victorian Street Tree Heritage” campaign. The one-off grant of £2,500 should help us to get things started. We will have decided where the first tranche of planting should take place by the time this newsletter reaches you, but we need help to prepare next year’s planting, including local community engagement, street tree wardens to look after the newly planted trees and fundraising for future planting. So please contact us if you are willing to participate.
One tree costs £240+VAT and for each tree donated the Council will add another one. With relatively small sums we can therefore help achieve substantial planting and a change of many of our street scenes for the better. If you are considering making a donation, please use the form on our leaflet which allows you to Gift Aid the donation.
A dip into history
I once read that Hove is thought to be of Scandinavian origin, “Hoove”. I was therefore not surprised to learn that there is a town in Norway called “Hove” (although it does have the same spelling as ours). However, the Hove Festival (Norway), which was widely publicised, featured heavy metal, reggae and hip hop. I say, chaps, not quite Hove actually, what?
Visiting the Mayberry Centre in Old Shoreham Road, Portslade in June, I found it is only yards from the West Sussex county boundary. On the north side of the road I was intrigued to see a beautifully maintained flint wall alongside a footpath leading north between 20th century houses. It disappeared into a profusion of greenery and I could not resist finding out where it led. What a treat was in store! Within a minute the busy road was left behind and the footpath was bordered with mature trees, birdsong and tranquil allotments stretching away on the left hand side. In places the flint had been replaced with brick and occasionally timber but always a sturdy wall. In the 70s the county of Sussex was divided into West and East, so the footpath was never a county boundary. It would be interesting to know how far back it can be traced. After a while the footpath crossed Mile Oak Road, with another West Sussex sign, then continuing upwards it finally reached the long views of open Downland: well worth the effort.
Whilst on the theme of vernacular building materials, I was delighted to see that at long last the handsome cobbled boundary wall of St Andrew’s church, below left, (happily preserved when the Hove Tesco was built next door) was being repaired. The core is made of rubble and mortar but the facing wall is row upon row of round cobbles. A sizeable section had fallen away over many years. I was fascinated to watch the skill involved and asked the builder what sort of training he’d had to be able to carry out this technique of yesteryear. He said he’d trained as a bricklayer and had gradually learned how it was done. He was now called upon for specialised work such as this. First he had to dig the cobbles out of the earth at the foot of the wall, then he mixed the mortar in a large bath with black colouring so that the new work blended with the old. Have a look – he’s done a first class job.
Since Brighton and Hove became a city, Hove has been particularly overshadowed in the Press. (For example, the Argus states that Adele’s new home overlooks Brighton beach, whereas it is most definitely in Hove.) I was therefore rather cheered to see in the Yorkshire Post’s British weather statistics that Hove is listed alongside Bournemouth and Margate – no mention of Brighton.
Another item in the Argus names the most popular areas in Britain for aspiring young professionals to live. Hove and central Brighton are the only areas outside London to be in the top 20, with Hove in 5th place and central Brighton in the 11th. Three cheers for Hove!
Coalhole covers of Hove
Brighton and Hove is lucky to be stuffed full of fine buildings, many of them reminders of the (first) time it was the most fashionable resort in England, if not the world. This means that it is often easy to overlook the reminders of when it was also an industrial town. The reminders I particularly love are the circular iron plates found in pavements – coalhole covers.
For much of the 18th and 19th centuries, coal was the main way of heating houses and fuelling stoves. Delivering it was a messy business. To make things easier, the Victorians built coal cellars and put circular coalhole covers in the pavements. The cover would be lifted and the coal shot straight down into the cellar, from where it could be taken by the householder or servants to the hearths and stoves of the house.
The covers were given patterns to reduce the chances of slipping on them and, over the years, the manufacturers or occasionally ironmongers would put their names on them as well. They also developed self-locking mechanisms as there were occasionally nasty accidents when people fell down them. The patterns evolved into very pleasing forms of Victorian urban street art including circles, stars and floral designs, and some coalholes had windows in them.
As coal largely stopped being used as a means of heating or cooking and Councils re-surfaced pavements, coalhole covers have largely disappeared from view. However, parts of Hove are among the best places to find them. They are usually found in pavements near to the front boundary walls of properties. Good places to search for them are Third and Fourth Avenues and along the seafront, but you will find them scattered around the older parts of Hove. An interesting contrast I’ve found with Brighton is that most of them appear to have come from London, not the foundries in Brighton (Regent, Star, Every and Newman and C&J Reed). Was this an early manifestation of Hove residents looking down on Brighton?!
I have taken rubbings from some coalhole covers and started photographing them in 2003. Recently I’ve started a blog (coalholecover.blogspot.com) and put photos on there from Brighton, Hove and London. I’ve also found there is a healthy (or some would say, unhealthy) interest in coalhole and manhole covers out there on the internet.
If you still use your coalhole cover, I’d love to put photos of them in operation on the blog. I’d also like to hear from anyone who knows more about the other Brighton (or even Hove) foundries that made them. So please leave a comment on the blog with your details or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew ‘Coalhole’ Coleman
New development proposals
Members will be aware by now that two major developments are happening in Hove in the near future. These are the Hove Station Development, a mixed residential and commercial development on the site of the current bus garage, and Toad Hole Valley, a primarily residential development on green land. As members can see from our representation to the Council on the City Plan we support development in both cases, but we have made some general comments about both locations. As far as Hove Station is concerned we believe that there are major opportunities to improve the environment around the new proposed development, not least in terms of accessibility across the railway. As far as Toad Hole Valley is concerned we believe that the approach should be akin to a garden city, albeit probably at a higher density.
Your committee believes that it would be helpful if a small working group of members got ready early on as plans take shape to engage in a dialogue with the Council and developers to make sure we get the best results for the area. To do this we need a few more members to help out over the next year or two. Please contact us if you would like to help out with this important work.
New sculpture in Hove Park
The Public Sculpture Group has been delighted to hear about an initiative by Hove Civic Society member Bernard Chibnall to commission and fund a new sculpture, which is now installed in Hove Park.
Mr Chibnall, who has lived by Hove Park since 1967, commissioned the work for two reasons: to add a feature to a much loved and beautiful park, and in memory of his wife Joan, who died in 2010 at the age of 88. Joan had been a very successful primary school teacher specialising in teaching children to read. The sculpture, which is carved from a block of oak, consists of a richly decorated chair surrounded by a circle of seats, for children to have stories read to them. An adjacent plaque explains that Joan felt listening to stories was an essential step for children learning to read for themselves.
The plaque commemorates Joan as “a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother and a one time primary school teacher”. The design and installation of this work was a successful collaboration between Mr Chibnall and Brighton and Hove Council, with Mr Chibnall emphasising “all credit to the Council” for the way they responded to his initiative.
Hove Civic Society applauds this new installation and hopes we will see many more sculptures adding interest to public spaces over the coming years.