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)

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