A potted history

Postcard of St Anne's Well Pump Room
Submitted to website by Pat Benham, 6-12-2002

St Ann’s Well Gardens is a popular public park in Hove of ancient trees and winding pathways about half a mile inland from Brunswick Square and the sea. Its amenities include a bowling green, tennis courts, a children’s play area and a well-stocked fish pond replenished by a trickle of water from a much depleted ancient spring.

Taking the waters
In the 18th century the spring water emerged with greater force allowing the place to proclaim itself a health spa at a time when the taking of mineral waters was becoming fashionable as a cure-all for the many incapacities suffered by rich and poor alike. Around 1800 an imposing pump room was built over the spring to house various facilities and accommodate the large numbers who came seeking therapeutic relief. Towards the end of the 19th century the flow of the waters had considerably declined and the enterprise was closed down. The pump room itself was demolished in 1935. A mock well head marks the site today.

The Manor of Wick
In the middle ages St Ann’s Well formed part of the manor of Wick (Upwick or Aldwick), a narrow band of land running from the shore line of the present day Brunswick area to meet the boundary of the manor of Preston in the north. It later became known as the Wick Estate and passed through a succession of private hands until its ownership was eventually transferred to Hove Corporation.

The Estate was in the hands the Stapley family from 1573 until 1701 when it was sold to the Scutts, a family of Brighton brewers. In 1825 the Rev. Thomas Scutt sold off part of the land to the south of Western Road. This became the Brunswick Estate. In 1830 the remainder of the Wick Estate was sold to the brilliant fanancier and philanthropist Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, who moved into the long-demolished property known as The Wick, located just outside the southern border of the modern park. It is believed that Sir Isaac was responsible for setting out the gardens during his ownership of the land. After his death in 1859, members of the Goldsmid family inherited the Estate and were responsible for a considerable amount of building development in the area surrounding the gardens from 1890 onwards.

George Albert Smith
In 1892 the film pioneer George Albert Smith became leaseholder of the gardens. Determined to put the place on the map and make it commercially viable, he organised hot air balloon demonstrations, parachute jumps and added such attractions as a monkey house and a gypsy fortune teller. He used part of the pump house as a film laboratory, producing about fifty short films a year. Here film editing was born and Smith invented the close-up. Building on this success, a glass house film studio was erected. However, he eventually moved to premises elsewhere in the town, and by 1913 Hove Corporation was in full ownership of all the gardens.

Increased amenities
Once it had become a public amenity, a number of existing buildings were incorporated, including Grasshopper Cottage, near the bowling green, and Wick Farmhouse by the Furze Hill entrance. Both these were demolished after World War II. A rustic swiss chalet style cafe used to refresh the needs of visitors prior to its replacement by a more modern building in the 1970s. These changes did not pass without some local protest.

Special character
The parks and gardens department of the local authority must be credited with its careful maintenance of the site to a high standard over the years with excellent floral beds and borders and shrubbery. A one-time croquet lawn in the south west corner is now a scented garden for the blind. In recent years improvements have been made to the fish pond and additional equipment has been placed in the children’s area. Interestingly, the special character of the site which caused it to be set aside and protected long before any buildings appeared seems set to guarantee its enjoyment by future generations in perpetuity.

Comments about this page

  • I am surprised and delighted to read in the history of this park that there was once an ancient spring there. I fell in love with these gardens when I discovered them a few years ago and I have always sensed something special and sacred about the place. My favourite place to sit is underneath the willow tree in the herb garden: I spent almost every night last summer there, talking with friends by the light of hanging lanterns suspended in the willow tree. Memories I will treasure!

    By Charlee Roxx (24/10/2006)
  • I have wonderful memories of St Anne’s Well Gardens; our two great aunts lived at 36 Addison Road and would often take me and my three sisters to play when my parents were at work. The fish pond was oh so beautiful and looking back at the photos today takes me back to those wonderful childhood years.

    By Olivia Mitchell (08/05/2008)
  • St Anne’s Well Gardens was my playground in the early 60s and I remember the old cafe. Marvellous place because it had slatted wooden decking through which people used to drop their change as they came out of the cafe. I used to spend some time scrabbling underneath the decking to retrieve the money and I wasn’t alone! Nice little earner! Another nice little earner was going from bin to bin collecting Coke and lemonade bottles to get 3d return.

    By Renia Simmonds nee Lambor (02/05/2009)
  • Oh, what fun we had! Back in the ’60s & ’70s – I lived in Warwick Court in Davigdor Road from 1965 – 1976 and spent most of my life in St Anne’s Well – played tennis (badly) at the courts down at the lower end of the park by the bowling green, I also used to sit on or under the concrete shelter, mentioned above…That is if the park keeper wasn’t on duty – in fact I think it became his office when his ‘hut’ was demolished! I remember the Wishing Well & blind garden where I would go and cry when my heart was broken by some boy or another and my life was falling apart (you know how dramatic romance was when you were 11!). The people I remember the most would be Rosie & Robin Presland, Dave Garham, Martin Cooke (from the local sweet shop in Montifiore Road) Rob Drummond & Tosh, Tracey Brown (& all her Sisters), Tracey Healey and her cousin Peter Smith and the list goes on. I  moved down to The Drive in 1976, so still would come up with my poodle ‘Honey’ from time to time – those were the days. I also remember walking down the lane, between the house in Nizells Avenue, going down the side of the church (heading towards Montefiore Road) and getting completely freaked out by the huge Jesus that hung on the Church wall – his eyes stared at you! Isn’t it funny what sticks in your mind!

    By Jelli (17/06/2009)
  • I grew up in the area and spent a lot of time in St Ann’s Well Gardens as a child with my brother and family. My schoolfriend lived in Cambridge Road and I was in Lyndhurst Road, and we enjoyed playing in the park; at the time there was a “parkie” who ruled the grounds quite fiercely to our minds. The delight was in exploring the old air raid shelters, one being by the children’s playground and the other at the top of the park where some summers there were outdoor concerts held on the sloping lawn. The highlight was the hide-and-seek combined with swordfights using palings “borrowed” from a fence buried within lots of bushes overlooking the playground area. It was such a shame that the old verandah cafe was replaced by the modern version, as it had lots of character.

    By david shelton (24/01/2012)
  • To Jelli: my crush was Rob Drummond. Used to hang about the same time in the park with an older girl from the Convent called Lesley.

    By Josephine Benyovits (11/03/2013)
  • I remember Robert Drummond. He was a friend of my older brother, Mark Garoghan. I also had a crush on Rob. We often hung outside Rob’s house in Addison Road, sometimes swinging on the street light outside his house. Me and my brothers practically lived in this park during the period of May 1970 to October 1971 as we lived in a B&B in Addison Road and had to be out by 10am. I recall being friends with the McHugh family who lived next door to the bakery on the corner of Addison Road and Montifore Road. And I recall witnessing one of the McHugh kids (Aiden) breaking his leg after falling off a tree in the park. Aiden went on to become a dentist but later, sadly, committed suicide. I recall a milk factory in Davigdor Road, an off-licence on the corner of Lyndhurst Road and Montifore Road. There was also, up from the park on the way to Brighton, a Corona bottling factory where me and my friends would often play. In the middle of Addison Road, there was a shop that I often visited with my aunt to buy sticks of wood for our coal fire. And I recall playing outside Hannigtons funeral directors in Montifore Road. On Boxing Day in 1970, the park was covered in snow and I remember using a piece of cardboard to slide down the small bank that is still situated by the children’s playground. If we weren’t in the park or at school, Dad would often cart us off to the Embassy Cinema where we would stay for most of the day often watching B-rated movies.
    I also knew some of the kids from the convent: Mary O’Connor, Amen and his sister, Pauline. The wooden cafe in the park was where we often gathered. I recall the cafe being built on stilts. I recall buying ice lollies there for 2 new pence. In the summer, deck chairs would be in abundance in front of the cafe, mainly occupied by retired Jewish people. Summers were long in those days and carefree. Oh the memories! I also remember on one occasion seeing Norman Wisdom in Addison Road around this time and watching Dora Bryan being filmed for a TV drama in St. Micheal’s Road, just up from the park.

    By J Palmer (15/05/2013)
  • Hi J Palmer. I would hang around all the places you mentioned, especially remember hanging around Hanningtons funeral directors and the off-licence and the hardware shop you mentioned that sold sticks, coal, coke and paraffin etc. I knew the McHughs too, Selina was a friend of mine, also Siobhan too and Aiden was the eldest brother wasn’t he? I think he was a tad older than me, more Rob’s age I think? I knew he went on to be a dentist but had no idea he committed suicide, how sad. If you knew them, then you probably also knew the Browns who lived next door to Selina and Aiden. Tracey was my best friend and her, me and Selina were probably bombing around on our Chopper bikes at that time. There was a Happy Shopper shop on the corner of Davigdor and Osmond Road and it was a Unigate Dairy. I remember it so well with its big glass window where you could see the milk being processed (pasteurised maybe?). I have Rob OK in my Facebook page and him and Andrew still look exactly the same.

    By Jelli (18/05/2013)
  • A couple of you have mentioned the shop on Addison Road – I live in the building now and was aware of the history as a shop but had assumed it was a greengrocer due to finding an old removal crate with bits of ‘The Grocer’ magazine used for packing material, but given the age of them (1915!) it could have had a few lives before becoming residential. I’m desperate to find a picture somehow, so do any of you have any info like a shop name or owner name to help my search? Many thanks in advance!

    By Ash (12/08/2013)
  • Hi Ash, I referred to the shop as being a Happy Shopper shop, but it was actually a VG shop when I was young- I lived in Warwick Court, Davigdor Road, which is just down from the Addison Road corner, between 1965 and 1978 and then again as an adult in 1983 for a year in the same block of flats, but can’t remember if the shop was still there then? What year was the building that you now live in constructed in? I loved my childhood years in Davigdor Road and have so many happy memories of friends and places around there.

    By Jelli (26/08/2013)
  • I think the grocer’s shop Ash is looking for was John Bishop’s which was certainly there into the 1950s. It was nearly opposite the end of Osmond Road and sold everything: cheese, bacon, eggs, vegetables, paraffin, candles and all the rest.

    By Pat Benham (05/01/2014)
  • We grew up around Montefiori Road and St Ann’s well Park, in the 70s (No Laptops, Mobile Phones, Playstations etc.). Entertainment was just being out. We were a tight knit group of mates.  Myself, Andy O’Callaghan, Roland Frith (Deceased), Aiden McHugh (Deceased), Martin Cooke, John Knight, Paul Kent, Bernie Richards from the (off licence). Our playground was also the empty Hanningtons Storage building which is the now Private Hospital. The Hanningtons funeral directors building was a great way to scoot over the back that led down and to the rear of the sweet factory to the open vans and the goodies, the rest of that area (which is now the Wickes etc) was open storage for Graham Foords and other businesses, a great place to play. Our other playground was the railway bank and under the Montefiori Bridge.  Friday evenings were spent at the Church in Davigdor Road in the basement called the Friday club, Father Rankin used to open it for a couple hours to the local kids, good for a cheeky cider and dancing with the local birds.  We would be in St. Ann’s Wells park to all hours running amuck and hunting each other in the dark. If we had any money, which was in short supply, we would get chips from the Montefiori Chippy and maybe a free can of Fanta from the Bernie’s Dads offy. I could probably write a book with my memories of that lovely place. Good times, good mates.

    By Andy O'Callaghan (01/12/2015)

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