Kemp's Temple

By Steve Myall

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Kemp's Temple' page

The above aquatint engraving by William Daniell, published in 1823, shows Thomas Read Kemp’s new home, The Temple, on Montpelier Road. This shows the house as it was first built, before various alterations were made. The house is still there today, although much changed, as the Brighton & Hove High School for Girls, and the tall flint stone boundary wall still surrounds it.  In the immediate foreground is the track way that became Clifton Hill, so named in 1845, but previously known as the Road to Blatchington. The corn field in the middle distance, in the process of being harvested, is the land on which Powis Square, Powis Road, St. Michael’s Place and Denmark Terrace now stand.

In 1819 Kemp sold Herstmonceux Place, together with the ruined Castle, and on land he now owned in Brighton had this large mansion built, the Temple, in Montpelier Road. Kemp, of course, had a wide choice of sites for his new Brighton home. But rather than taking a hilltop view over the town, a fair proportion of which he owned, or building to the east near his uncle and trustee, he went west, out of the town and out of view behind Church Hill. His reasons may be explained partly by a wish to be away from the social whirl of the centre of town, but also by an article in the Brighton Gazette, June 17th 1824, recommending the Chalybeate, (now St. Ann's WellGardens)  the curative mineral spring beside Kemp's chosen site:

"Surrounded on the northern and western sides by a plantation of firs, and open on the east and south, (this area) commands a beautiful view of cornfields, meadows etc., to the ocean, and is unquestionably one of the most pleasant and rural situations in the vicinity of Brighton".   

It was certainly a lovely area for Kemp to build his Temple, and the famous Chalybeate waters nearby, which a few years later became a favourite venue of Queen Adelaide, were claimed to cure most ailments. It is also recorded that in the early nineteenth century ‘Rustic Fetes and Public Breakfasts were much in vogue in fashionable society, and one of the principal places of rendezvous was the Chalybeate and grounds on the Wick Estate’. Kemp had the Temple built by 1819, so Montpelier Road was probably established as a carriage-way sometime between 1815 and 1819, and probably nearer to 1819 as it is not mentioned in the 1820 Brighton Directories.  The Wilds father and son are generally thought to be the architects of the Temple.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Kemp's Temple' page

This second view of Kemp’s Temple, published in 1835 after the local artist George Earpe, illustrates the alterations that Kemp made to the original design. He built up the second floor and put in the four chimneys around the central dome, mimicking the four minarets with which Nash surrounded some of the Pavilion domes.  In the immediate foreground, the two figures and the boy playing with the hoop, are standing on the present day Dyke Road, and the field just to the right of the boy is the land on which Clifton Road was later built. The artist was standing where West Hill Road now joins Dyke Road, and the field in front of the Temple is the same corn field seen in the Daniell print.

During 1827/28 the Temple was let to a banker named Dorrien, then in the latter part of 1828 it was leased to the Rev. Robert Fennell at an annual rent of £300, becoming a young gentlemen's academy. It remained an academy until it was taken over by the Girls Public Day School Trust in 1880.

These two engravings show the view that inmates in the Church Hill workhouse would have seen from their top windows. In Earpe’s print the strange domed structure on the left was the Antheum, a glasshouse for tropical and oriental plants, a project by the botanist Henry Phillips, designed by A.H.Wilds. It was constructed on land just north of Adelaide Crescent, but by a dreadful accident had in fact collapsed a year before this print was published. The small home just left of the Temple is Wick House, the home of the Rev. Dr. Everard who looked after the Chapel Royal – it was demolished just before the outbreak of the second world war.

With Kemp’s Temple being built by 1819, he sold land for the Workhouse to the Church Commissioners the following year, and obviously did not mind his new home being overlooked.

Kemp moved out of this home, and into 22 Sussex Square, in 1827, so had its elevation changed from its original design before that date.  The dome was an obvious parallel to that feature on Henry Holland’s early design for the Pavilion of the late 1780s, but by 1825 Nash had surrounded several of the Pavilion’s domes, now onion shaped, with four ‘minaret-like’ structures, and shortly after that date there are four chimneys surrounding the Temple’s dome.

There are seven known Georgian and Victorian engravings of the Temple. 

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Kemp's Temple' page


A very rare line engraving entitled  ‘The Temple, seat of T.R.Kemp Esq’  c1825.


This page was added on 15/04/2011.

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