Although a settlement of some antiquity, the Hove that we see today is essentially an affluent Victorian new town. Until the early nineteenth century Hove remained a small fishing village stretching from the coast to the ancient parish church. The Church of St. Andrews or St. Andrews Old Church, dating to the early thirteenth century, is now the only building surviving from the original Hove village, though was itself substantially rebuilt from a long-term ruinous state in 1836. At this date the village amounted to little more than a single north-south street called Hove Drove, roughly the course of modern Hove Street, flanked by flint-built and red-tiled cottages. A visitor to Hove in 1835 reported ‘a mean and insignificant assemblage of huts’. Other than the church, the only substantial pre-nineteenth-century building was Hove House (c.1785), later Hove Manor, owned by the Vallance family, the local landowners and brewers. At the bottom of the street The Ship Inn (1702), the oldest pub in Hove, served local fishermen and smugglers, and was the scene of regular bull-baitings, cock-fights and prize-fighting. On the shore were a small cluster of fishermens’ cottages, boatyards and curing houses. The surrounding landscape was farmland and even into the early twentieth century parts of central Hove retained a decidedly rural aspect.
In the census of 1801 the population of Hove totalled 101 residents. By 1901 that figure had grown to over 33,000. Even before the suburbanization of Hove began in the mid nineteenth century, the village was affected by the creation of the Brunswick and Adelaide estates to the east from the 1820s. Agricultural land was turned over to large-scale market gardening and nurseries to meet their requirements, and they also provided the stimulus for infrastructural and industrial development, such as the Brighton and Hove Gasworks (1835). Rapid suburban growth occurred in several stages over the second half of the nineteenth century. While there was never an overall blueprint for development, the establishment of distinct projects or estates, based upon a generally gridlike pattern, was responsible for a more ordered town layout than, for example, the older parts of Brighton, and also for the numerous localised shopping facilities.
In the 1850s a consortium of Brighton businessmen began to develop the suburb of Cliftonville, which came to include much of the area of central Hove. The name Cliftonville probably derives from Clifton Cottage (built c.1825), and still survives in local landmarks such as the Cliftonville Hotel and the Cliftonville Inn. Cliftonville originally grew up as a result of restrictive parliamentary legislation which prohibited building development immediately to the west of Brunswick Town. Developers therefore ‘leapfrogged’ this restricted zone to create a separate and independent suburb further west. The intervening area, now known as The Avenues, remained a wide gap of green fields until the 1870s. Cliftonville possessed a strong sense of identity – Hove railway station was originally Cliftonville Station (opened 1865) – and growth in the 1860s and early 1870s was rapid. There was no centralised plan to development, which combined grander built-to-order residences and rather haphazard speculative building, reflected in considerable stylistic independence and variety. It was the ancient, if smaller, community of Hove, however, that won the battle for local identity, and Cliftonville was formally absorbed into Hove in 1874. Much of the suburb is now encompassed within the Cliftonville Conservation Area (established in 1969 with subsequent extensions).
West Brighton Estate
The green area between Cliftonville and the Brunswick and Adelaide estates was steadily developed between 1875 and c.1910, as the West Brighton Estate. At its heart are the four numbered avenues either side of Grand Avenue, which exhibit an impressive variety of ornate Italianate and Victorian domestic styles. The completion of the West Brighton Estate created a continuous frontage of elegant terraces along the shoreline. Grand Avenue Mansions was Hove’s first purpose built apartment block, while King Edward VII frequently stayed in the adjacent King’s Gardens.
Before 1870 suburban growth was essentially middle class and coastal. Although part of Cliftonville had begun to extend middle-class housing inland towards the railway station, developers had concentrated on the area south of Church Road. The 1870s to 1890s saw the development of the inland area north of Church Road between Sackville Road and The Drive, as part of the Stanford Estate. This was designed to house the many workers employed by the fashionable households and the very considerable commercial activity they attracted to the area.
Much of the original Victorian fabric and layout of central Hove remains visible today, thanks in large part to four conservation areas (Cliftonville, The Avenues, The Drive, Denmark Villas). Only Grand Avenue has undergone substantial, and rather dreary, modern redevelopment. With the exception of the immense red brick Town Hall (built 1882), destroyed by fire in 1966, and the recently demolished gasworks, the main thoroughfare of Church Road has changed very little in aspect over the past century.
Associated Famous People
Sir George Everest (1790-1866), Surveyor-General of India
Measured the height of the mountain to which his name was posthumously given. He is buried in the churchyard of St. Andrew’s Old Church.
Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding (1787-1855), painter
President of the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours, lived for many years at Hove and is buried in the churchyard on the north side of the church, with a marble monument to his memory on the south wall of the nave.
Patrick Hamilton (1904-1962), novelist and playwright
Brought up in First Avenue and educated at Holland House School, Patrick Hamilton is best known for the plays Rope (1929) and Gaslight (1938), both of which were successfully adapted for the screen.
Sir John Hindmarsh (1786-1860)
First Governor of the state of South Australia, lived at 30 Albany Villas.
Sir C. Aubrey Smith (1863-1948)
Captain of Sussex Cricket Team and the England Cricket Team, later a well-known Hollywood actor in the 1930s – 40s, lived at 19 Albany Villas. Buried St. Leonard’s, Aldrington.
Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905), architect
Appointed architect of the new Town Hall in 1878, having already designed the Natural History Museum in South Kensington (1868), and the Manchester Town Hall (1877), Waterhouse was chosen by the Commissioners without holding a competition