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History of Westdene estate

On 11 October 1938 Brighton Corporation and the builders Braybon Limited signed an agreement to develop a site of about 168 acres in the Withdean area to the north of Brighton. The estate was ‘known or intended to be known’ as the Withdean Estate West.

Braybons the builders owned the land
Braybons owned most of the land, having legal charges dated 19 June 1937 and 13 November 1937 to acquire portions of the land from George Francis Donne, a partner in the law firm of Nye and Donne of 58 Ship Street, Brighton. A previous agreement made between Varndean Estates Ltd and Elizabeth Caroline Colebrooke (and?) Gordon Curwen on 25 October 1935 for the remainder of the land was also assigned to Braybons.

The proposed estate
It was proposed to build houses and bungalows with a density between 8.5 and 9.6 homes per acre with two business areas. The layout of the proposed estate, drawn up in May 1938, was attached to the agreement and is shown on this page. Unfortunately, the copy of the plan from which this scan was made had been repaired with sticky tape at some time in the past and not very accurately aligned. This had then been photocopied again, resulting in its poor quality. An attempt has been made to clean it up to make it easier to read. Nonetheless, anyone who knows the area can compare the proposal with the way the estate was actually built.

Main development in the 1950s and 1960s
The 1930s had been a time of development in the part of Withdean west of London Road. Valley Drive, the earliest part of which was previously known as Reynolds Avenue, had been developed as far as Valley Close. Colebrook Road, the name of which came from the land-owning family (see above), and Hillbrow Road had already been developed patchily with mostly detached houses by the late 1920s, as had Croft Road. Withdean Stadium had opened in 1936 with the country’s best tennis facilities apart from Wimbledon. But, as it turned out, with war looming, 1938 was not the best time to propose new housing estates and, in fact, most of the building of the Westdene Estate did not take place until the 1950s and 1960s.

Map of the Westdene Estate - Brighton
From the private collection of David Fisher

Comments about this page

  • Excellent. Used to live in Mill Rise, Westdene in the 1960s. Moved to the Lake District in 1969, still have friends at Westdene and lovely memories.

    By John Lovelace (23/10/2004)
  • David, What a fantastic site and such wonderful information. I wish we knew of you 18 months ago when we started this huge battle with Braybons who are trying to build 112 social housing units on the Redhill Sports Ground. Thank you. From Michael Whitty, Chairman of the Westdene and Withdean Community Association.

    By Michael Whitty (27/10/2004)
  • To David Fisher, found your history of Westdene very interesting, I have been working on the History of Redhill Sports Ground in case Braybons ever get planning permission to build on the sight. The restrictive covenants seem strong, but I can’t take them to court until after they get planning permission. If you let me know your email address I will send you a copy. I have lived all my life in Withdean and played on this ground as a child in 1945. Until I retired in 1996, I had lived at the bottom of Valley Drive, within 100yds of the Sports Stadium, for over 50 years.

    By Alan Gower (27/10/2004)
  • My wife and I bought our first house in Fairview Rise in October 1959! I remember the coal lorry overturning into the valley one winter’s day.

    By George Pickett (02/11/2004)
  • I lived at 26 Glen Rise from 1959-1970 and it backed on to the cricket field. I have great memories of playing in the trees as a child and also watching Sunday cricket during the summer. I’d hate to think that the field could be built on as we were told when we moved there that this would never happen.

    By Sally-Ann Bennett (04/11/2004)
  • Elizabeth Caroline Colebrooke Gordon Curwen (nee Cameron) married Chaloner Frederick Hastings Curwen on October 20th 1892. He died on March 14th 1897, leaving two children. She then became a trustee of the Curwen estate, which owned all the farmland on which the Withdean, Westdene, Varndean, Surrenden and Carden Avenue housing estates were built. They sold a lot of this land between 1900 and 1938 to Braybons builders, and her name appears on most deeds. All residents of these estates should know that they always put restrictive covenants on their land to prevent nuisance and disturbance to the neighbourhood and to restrict the number and type of home on each site.

    By Alan Gower (13/10/2006)
  • Does anyone know if any of the covenants on the land in Westdene can be enforced? My neighbours are about to build a “gym and studio” on land at the rear of their garden in Bramble Rise, it doesn’t require planning consent/permission etc – I have investigated this already – but the covenants state that the company’s permission must be granted for any extra building on land and that any building must not be a nuisance, annoyance etc to neighbouring properties or the company.

    By Kristina Banham (01/08/2007)
  • Is Braybons Limited still trading? And, if not, who do you get permission from re any convenant restrictions lifted?

    By Chris Ainsworth (03/03/2014)
  • Hi Kristina and Chris. This is not really the forum for answering your queries and you would be best advised to seek proper legal advice. I am no expert on the subject, but as I understand it, a covenant is a promise made by the buyer that they will not undertake certain actions that affect the property. Although Braybons may be long gone, a covenant can be enforced by another beneficiary, for instance their successors. It might be arguable that on an estate development other residents are beneficiaries of a covenant that sets out certain requirements to retain the overall design of the estate. However, it would still need to be pursued through the civil courts and there would obviously be a cost to this. Regards Andy

    By Andy Grant (05/03/2014)
  • Hi Andy. Thank you for being so prompt in replying, your answer is really much appreciated. Regards Chris

    By Chris Ainsworth (06/03/2014)
  • The covenant binds the original buyer only. If they required a similar covenant from the 2nd buyer when they sold – and so on until today – the covenant is still enforceable by the company. If not, not.

    By Christo (26/12/2016)
  • This comment goes back to David Fisher’s way back in 2004! I live up in Hollingbury which to all intents and purposes is a late 1940s council estate, however when I was researching this area for my PhD I found at ESRO[now The Keep] a plan by Braybons for Withdean Estate EAST, which is what Hollingbury was destined to be named in 1938. The road layout is discernible as it is today but was changed quite significantly by Brighton Corporation from the original Braybons plans. My road, Hartfield Avenue, was shown as running into an estate ring road, part of which is now Carden Hill. It would be interesting to know if other local authority housing built post WWII were in fact pre WWII private housing schemes. It is intriguing, as most people tell me all the houses were built for the Hollingbury estate factory workers and for military and police personnel, however these houses would have been as suburban as Withdean Estate West became…but maybe not as posh…as we are the ‘East End’ of the developments![Geographers joke…]

    By Geoffrey Mead (27/12/2016)
  • In the 60s I worked for George Freeman, Builders Merchants. Braybon were our largest customer. When I became a rep I would call on their sites. It was a case of being the first rep to get on site early in the morning would get order for cement etc that day, then it was find the nearest phone box and phone the order in so delivery could be made within an hour. Also a site foreman would ring in after 4pm and order 25 pieces of sheet lead of various sizes to be delivered first thing the next morning. We then had an hour to roll out large heavy sheets of lead measure and cut pieces out. Braybon were our best customer so what ever they wanted we did. These were the days when excellent service was more important than the price.

    By John Hewitt (28/12/2016)

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