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Secret government depot?

Built as stables/laundry

Kemp Town Mews, now private houses, was built as the stables and laundry of 16 Lewes Crescent. It was the Brighton home of Samuel Courtauld, manufacturer of the black crepe textiles, so beloved of the Victorians. After sixty years use as stables, the mews became available as factory premises. In May of 1918, the Rayner Optical Company was formed and took a lease on the property, to be developed as the company’s optical workshop.

Ministry of Munitions

Although only spectacle prescription glazing had been planned for this workshop, the new company immediately found itself taken over by the Ministry of Munitions to manufacture optical instruments for the war effort. Prior to the war Britain had relied on imports of optical glass from Germany but now had to hastily develop a home industry, co-opting private firms into a government-led push to produce optical glass for binoculars, gun sights and the like. Rayners moved from their Arundel works to premises in Hove, some time after 1935.

Remember the works under government control and what went on there?Please post a comment below

A government establishment

The mews emerged from the second world war under the control of the Ministry of Works as an ‘engineering depot’. It remained in government hands, still described as an engineering depot, at least until 1973, when the last street directories were published. Residents of long standing in Arundel Place remember the mews being a government establishment. It was unmarked on the outside, its purpose obscure; the story ran that it was a secret establishment of some kind.



Comments about this page

  • This was a Ministry of Public Works building, this department changed its name to the Property Services Agency, part of the Department of the Environment. I worked in this building on and off from 1975 to 1985 when they removed the missiles.

    By Martin Hedgecock (07/09/2015)
  • Missiles? Did you sign the Official Secrets Act when you left? Where did the ‘missiles’ go after that? I feel we should be told.

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (10/09/2015)
  • Oh no! Something else to worry about!  Missiles in Kemp Town until the 1980s. Surely there must be some good news?

    By Philip Burnard (11/09/2015)
  • Oh well, another juicy conspiracy theory bites the dust! Martin, if you worked at the mews, perhaps you could help me understand how the buildings were altered and used prior to their conversion as houses. This would complete the history of the mews I have been writing. Please do get in touch.

    By Andrew Doig (13/09/2015)

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