Kemp Town - a brief history

Whether you define Kemp Town as the elegant Grade I listed estate of Sussex Square, Lewes Crescent, Arundel and Chichester Terraces, or Kemptown, the wider area to the east of Rock Gardens, they both bear the name of Thomas Read Kemp (1782-1844). Indeed, had Kemp’s ambitious schemes yielded the financial rewards he had envisioned, there would have been another Kemp Town in Hove: Kemp Town West.

Thomas Read Kemp commissioned the leading Regency architects and builders, Charles Busby and Amon Wilds, to develop the magnificent estate. As there were no streets east of Bloomsbury Place at that time, it was a remarkably bold enterprise that was to take over thirty years to complete and to cost Kemp his fortune.

Busby’s original plan, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1825, called for two more squares and terraces totalling 205 houses and cottages; however, the final plan included only 105 houses. Construction work started in 1823, but lack of capital meant progress was slow.

By 1828, all the facades had been completed, except those in Chichester Terrace, but only eleven houses were occupied. Most of the houses remained shells for several years, held up by scaffolding. The plots sold slowly, mainly owing to their isolated position, and the purchasers were free to design and build their own houses behind the identical facades.

The principal gardens, occupying about four acres, had been enclosed with iron railings when the building work had started in 1823. There were three gardens then as Lewes Crescent was a continuous roadway. However, in 1828, the Enclosures were laid out and planted by the botanist and landscape gardener, Henry Phillips. The tunnel to the esplanade was added in about 1830.

Comments about this page

  • Would you like an engraving of Thomas Read Kemp?

    By Alan Peebles (27/02/2006)
  • Does anybody have a copy of the 1825 plans? I would be very interested to see them.

    By Bradley Taplin (17/03/2009)
  • Hi,
    Kemp Town Brewery:
    I wanted to contact Christopher Horlock to see if he has any records and images of the old Kemp Town brewery, where we have lived since the redevelopment of the Mews in 1973-4 by (that raconteur) Godfrey Parker (he was featured in The Evening Argus and involved with The Theatre Royal). We moved in 1975 after finding his ad’ in The Sunday Times. As an aside, we arranged to meet him on a sunny Sunday, driving down from Surrey. We got here at about 1pm as arranged, however he arrived a little late, wearing white shorts and top! (Anyone for tennis?). He said, “Go and have some lunch and come back around 3ish”. Well, what could we do? So, we did and came back at 3pm. He then asked my Father if he could come to his penthouse suite in Chichester Terrace, then known (and named) ‘Parker House’, at the end of the terrace. I went up with them into a private lift that went straight into the lounge! I then had to wait outside the room where a deal was struck, and my father bought the property. A short time afterwards we were informed that he had gone on a cruise on the QE11! 🧐

    By G.G. Weiner (30/09/2022)

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