I have lived in Brighton and Hove for most of my life. I first came here as a student in 1979 and never really left. For the last 15 years I’ve lived in Hove, mostly in Central Hove and although I live in Aldrington now, it is the central area which first captured my heart. Having said that, I first ventured into Central Hove as a student one evening with a group of friends, back in the winter of 1979, to explore the pubs and nightlife and it seemed a very different place then. At that time Hove had a slightly staid and stuffy image and I have to say that as we sat in the rather gloomy and cavernous Cliftonville Inn adjacent to Hove Station we didn’t find a great deal to make us change our minds.
Today, Central Hove is a very different place. Church Road abounds with restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars and part of its charm is it’s obvious appeal to people of all ages. For me however it is the buildings and architecture of Central Hove which are it’s greatest attraction along with the seafront and Hove Lawns.
Central Hove boundaries
Central Hove stretches roughly from Hove Street in the West to Grand Avenue and Palmeira Square in the East. To the North it reaches to the Old Shoreham Road and the English Channel marks it’s southern boundary. As with much of Brighton and Hove however, the boundaries are somewhat arbitrary and many residents and visitors to Central Hove would perceive the area to include other adjacent streets.
A brief history of the area
The original heart of Hove was centred on Hove Street in the West of the area and it was originally a small fishing village, although farming and smuggling were also popular activities. Roman remains have been found, showing that it has been a centre of population for centuries. The growth of Hove was initially slow however, and even during the middle 19th Century there were still market gardens and fields of crops to be found in what is now regarded as Central Hove.
Large-scale housing development was catalysed by the building of Brunswick Terrace and Brunswick Square, which borders Central Hove to the East. Building work started in the early 19th Century although by the mid 1840s much of Central Hove still consisted of farmland. A map of the area drawn in 1844 shows the town starting to take on the form we recognise today with Hove Street, the Ship Inn, Adelaide Crescent and Holland Road all clearly visible. The land above what is now Church Road is one area that remains almost entirely agricultural.
The next major housing development was in the Cliftonville area in the middle of the 19th Century and during this period the current day street plan (incorporating streets such as Osbourne Villas and Medina Villas) was further developed with the creation of this popular neighbourhood. Cliftonville was developed on a piecemeal basis and a walk through its streets shows a wide range of styles and architectural features which contrast quite sharply with the more classical architecture to the West. More modest housing was built around George Street and further north towards what is now Hove Station. Even here however there is much of interest. Many of the houses in Denmark Villas represent attractive examples of domestic Victorian architecture and just north of the station is the old Dubarry Perfume factory. The attractive green and white mosaics on the walls will be the first thing many visitors to Hove will see when they get off the train and they perfectly illustrate the architectural and design features still to be found on many of the buildings.
The Stanford estate
In the late 19th Century the Stanford estate was developed in the heart of Central Hove adjacent to the seafront. It was then that the majestic family residences of Grand Avenue and the adjacent Avenues (numbered First to Fourth), which give Hove so much of its character today, were built. Sadly many of the buildings in Grand Avenue were subsequently demolished to make way for smart but anonymous apartment blocks. Although it remains a wide and pleasant thoroughfare, it is necessary to explore the adjacent streets to get a real feel for what Victorian and Edwardian Hove must have been like.
Retaining its beauty
Despite the worrying current day trend towards demolishing old family houses and constructing modern apartment blocks, Central Hove still has many streets which contain beautiful examples of Victorian architecture. It is an area that is best explored by foot, especially since parking can be difficult and parking regulations are strictly enforced.
Central Hove has something for everybody and the links below will take you to more information about many notable places in the area.
All Saints Church
Gamley’s shop, Church Road
Gasholder (demolished), Church Road
Goldstone Ground (demolished)
Hove Town Hall
King Alfred Centre
Neptune Inn, Kingsway
St Andrews Church
St Christophers School, New Church Rd