Then and now

Kemp Town Enclosures
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The gardens were landscaped in 1828 at about the time that the Kemp Town Estate was being constructed, and each freeholder paid a sum fixed by the Garden Management Committee towards their upkeep.

During the last century the gardens suffered major setbacks. Most of the garden was requisitioned by the military for the duration of World War II. This included the gardens in front of Chichester and Arundel Terrace, and the slopes going down to the sea. The north garden housed water tanks as a precaution against fire. All the cast iron railings were taken away to be melted down for the war effort (although it is debatable whether they were used), and replaced by a picket fence which remained until the 1960s when the railings were reinstated by residential subscription.

During the 1940/50s when the houses were divided into flats, payment of Garden Rate became voluntary and residents were given a key upon payment of a yearly sum – again fixed by the Committee. Locks were changed every spring to ensure that residents paid their Garden Rate.

The Great Storm of 1987 did untold damage. Over 30 huge Monterrey Cypress were toppled and every other tree was ripped to pieces. Consequently there was little shelter from the wind and the garden started to decline rapidly. In the mid l990s a screen of mainly evergreens was planted in the south west corner, and which now combines the dual benefits of shielding the garden from the south west wind, and the sight and noise of traffic from the surrounding roads.

In the 1980s/1990s costs of maintenance were going up, and fewer residents were paying the Garden Rate. Consequently, the Committee decided to investigate the earlier Thomas Kemp system of each Freeholder having to pay a fixed yearly sum, which would in turn be shared by all the lessees in the house.

At the same time, the freehold of the Enclosures which was owned by the Dunne Family, was offered to the Freeholders of the houses in Sussex Square/Lewes Crescent, Chichester and Arundel Terraces. The purchase price was a very nominal sum and the legal fees would be borne by the Committee funds.

Much research was carried out and Freeholders were notified of the change of payment. In 1995 the Freehold was purchased and the new payment system was put into effect. The current annual garden rate is £300.

A Board of Management for Kemp Town Enclosures Limited was voted in and an AGM is held every year, usually in October, and the Freeholders are invited to be present.

Comments about this page

  • There is/was also a Constable and Head Gardener’s cottage at the end of the tunnel which goes under the coast road and down to the beach front. These two have now been developed. There is a placard in the tunnel still, regarding ringing the bell for the Constable if he is required to evict any unsavoury guests! The Constable originally wore a green uniform.

    By The sign of the thymes (04/01/2007)
  • Coincidence is funny and I have a short story about ghosts. My daughter rang this week to say that there was definitely a ghost in her house. Her partner and her had experienced, both together and separately, strange happenings in the house – shoes being moved, bog lids opening themselves etc. etc. I suggested that they looked into the history of the house and who had died in the house. “Dad, it’s been unused for the past 100 years,” she replied. She lives in the Policeman’s Cottage at the end of the tunnel mentioned in the previous thread.

    So in an effort to find out about the enclosures’ history I ‘Googled it’ and came across this site and an article about the Kemp Town Enclosures! So maybe in the future, someone who knows about the history of the Policeman’s Cottage could enlighten us or even paste in a link to a useful site.

    By Chris (15/05/2007)
  • The “Policeman’s Cottage” in Kemp Town / Brighton appears to be for sale. It was featured in the Telegraph today [12/2/11] under their “Romantic Homes” for sale section in honor of St. Valentine’s Day. I wonder if the ghosts are romantic?

    By K. Kelly (12/02/2011)
  • I used to play with Tommy Owen, son of Bill Owen of Compo fame. They lived in Sussex Square where residents had keys to the communal gardens. One day we were playing in the garden when Tommy lost his key. He told his dad that I lost it, which was incorrect, and I received a verbal ear bashing from Bill Owen.

    By Paul Thayre (20/09/2011)
  • I used to live in No 18 Sussex Square from 1946 to 1953, a council requisitioned property at the time. There weren’t many kids of my age in the Square but the few of us that did live there managed to get inside the gardens by inserting our little fingers inbetween the triple latches of the lock on the gate and the keep on the fence post and moving back the three latches. We were often chased out of there by a tall elderly man who was known as the ‘Colonel’, he certainly looked a retired military man. Hardly anybody with keys ever used it as far as I can remember, it seemed such a waste of lovely green space.

    By Vic Bath (03/05/2012)
  • My nan (Grace Pritchard) used to talk of a house they went to in the summer with central gardens accessed by a key and I have a vague recollection of a tunnel being mentioned. Her parents came to Brighton each summer and must have rented or been given access to somewhere in Sussex Square I believe -she said it was the same square that the King went to so that is my deduction. My nan’s brothers sang were choristers at St Paul’s Cathedral and sang at the coronation of Edward VII and my great grandmother had one of the first Samoyed dogs in the country – following in the footsteps of His Majesty. I would dearly love to find out which house they rented and see the gardens but I think they are closed to the public. I assume the tunnel is the same one allegedly inspiring the famous author! If anybody has any thoughts on the subject I would be interested to hear them!

    By Janet Shell (25/09/2015)
  • That sounds like Sussex Square and Lewes Crescent to me, I was a paper boy to that area. There are two gardens which are divided by Eastern Road that goes east to west and divides a section of houses that are Sussex Square and the curved section which is Lewes Crescent. The gardens are locked and not opened to the general public. I am sure that there is a tunnel in the Lewes Crescent gardens at the far south end which is nearest to the seafront. I can recollect a large wooden door for a tunnel that goes under the top main road that goes towards Rottingdean. I lived in Brighton from late 1944 until 1958, when I had to do National Service.  I served three years in the RAF after which I found work in north west Berkshire, which is now in Oxfordshire and where I still live. I still remember my enjoyable time living in Sussex Square.

    By Vic Bath (09/05/2017)
  • Hi Vic. Like you, I was a paper boy around Sussex Square / Lewes Crescent. I worked for Brown’s Newsagent in Rock Street. I’m sure that the wooden door you mention was on Duke’s Mount and was almost certainly the main entrance to Brighton’s Victorian sewer network.

    By Tom Paul (09/05/2017)
  • Hi Paul.  I was a paper boy at “The Kiosk” at 7/6d a week for mornings, evenings and Sundays, then after about a year I went to Browns in Rock Street for ten shillings a week until 1953 when my parents moved us from 18 Sussex Square which was requisitioned during WWII for billeting Canadian troops and after the war given over to the Brighton Council for temporary accommodation. Then in 1953 we went to live in Sylvan Hall estate at the bottom of Ditchling Road. I often wondered what that wooden door was for, but the name Duke’s Mount is not a name I have ever heard of before. Yes, a sewer network at that position would be what was behind that door, a tunnel under the main road would not be practical because of the height of that road above the parallel road below at beach level.

    By Vic Bath (12/05/2017)
  • Hello again Vic. If you look on Google maps you can see Dukes Mound which climbs between Marine Drive and Marine Parade. The only reason I know of the access to the sewers is because my dad worked for the council and once took me to see them during the school holidays. I understand that you used to be able to book accompanied tours of the sewers but I’m unaware if this facility still exists.

    By Tom Paul (15/05/2017)
  • Hi Tom and Vic. I think you may both be right about the tunnel from the garden and the sewer access. If you look on Google Earth, you will see two wide cream-coloured structures around openings which are to the east of the road called Dukes Mound. One is at a higher level than the other, and both are in line with a path which leads southwards directly towards them from the Lewes Crescent gardens.

    The upper one is on the south side of Marine Parade, and could be the exit from the garden tunnel. The lower one is separated from it by a wide pathway (which runs from Dukes Mound to a point just south of Marine Parade’s junction with Arundel Road), and could possibly provide access to the sewer system. There appear to be several much smaller round-topped access doors at various places along this pathway.

    Vic – When I lived in a flat below you at the Limes at Sylvan Hall in the 1960s, I knew another family on the ground floor who had also moved from Sussex Square. I wonder how many other families made that same move!

    By Alan Hobden (15/05/2017)
  • Hi Alan – Yes, you are quite right, that would be Mr & Mrs Denis Moore. Mr Moore worked for the Brighton Town Council in the Town Hall I was led to believe. My parents lived at Sylvan Hall until they passed away, I myself basically left the ‘Limes’ in November 1958 to serve my National Service in the RAF, I had been deferred for five years and signed up to serve three years as a regular. I only went home at weekends and on leave. I got married in October 1961 just before demob, and was given a job at AERE Harwell who provided housing accommodation in the area. I have lived here in Oxfordshire ever since, although the town I am living in was once in Berkshire until the early 70s.   

    By Vic Bath (14/07/2017)

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