Powis Square

History

By Steve Myall

The deeds for 2 Powis Villas tell us that John Yearsley and Henry Faithfull of Brighton, and William Yearsley, solicitor of Welshpool, sold the house and land to Edward Sharp of Brighton, draper, and his trustee Arthur William Woods of Brighton, solicitor, for £480 on 30th October 1849.

Also shown on this deed is an elevation with which any house in Powis Place (now Square) was to conform (next illustration). The deed also states that the houses in Powis Square were to have a building cost of at least £400 and were to enjoy the open area in the centre of the Square. Such covenants ensuring a particular standard of residential development were fairly common. The deeds to 19 Powis Square indicate the ‘releasing and appointment’ of the plot by Yearsley and partners to John Fabian, builder, and Charles Cooper, gentleman on 7th December 1847, before Yearsley owned the freehold.  There is reference to ‘the intended road to be called Powis Place’ and the requirement to ’share expenses of laying out and planting and keeping said lawn and pleasure ground in good order and condition’. The distance of five feet from the public way to the front of the house is also established. However, it appears that this transaction with Fabian did not result in any building work, and the leasehold was returned to Yearsley. The next deed for number 19 is dated 7th June 1853 in which Yearsley and his partners have sold the freehold of the plot to Stephen Davey, builder, and William Parker, cement manufacturer of Shoreham. Davey had already built the house. The land was sold for £156. 15. 0d and Parker bought the new house from Davey for £693. 5. 0d.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Powis Square' page

Illustration from the 2 Powis Villas deeds of 1849, showing the design to which the facades in Powis Square had to adhere.

As in Kemp Town, buyers purchased just the façade and shell, and then created their own interiors. This explains the difference in design and quality of the interiors of these homes. In these deeds the Square is identified by its first name, Powis Place. The entry of ‘Mr.C. Hall’ on this drawing confirms that Yearsley had already started selling off plots for  houses in the square by this date.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Powis Square' page

 

 

Powis Square today, showing how closely their design kept to the original plan in the 1849 deeds of 2 Powis Villas.

 

 

In the 1852 Folthorp Brighton Directory seven residents are listed in Powis Square. The entry then reads: ’14 other houses unoccupied or in part unfinished’. This covers the time when Davey was building number 19, so it is likely that he was building others at the same time. The other possibility is that, with a previously successful association between Davey and Yearsley in Montpelier Street, Stephen Davey was the builder of all the facades in Powis Square, as well as some of the complete houses. Davey certainly seemed to have the finances behind him to do this, in the John Yearsley link it is noted that he held mortgages to Yearsley on houses in Montpelier Street in the late 1840s, presumably houses that Davey had built himself.

Today it can be seen that all the houses in the Square conform to this deed illustration in their main features, except perhaps that the houses are bow-fronted and the drawing seems to describe the original concept as flat-fronted. The architectural details of the houses are described as being ‘of the early Victorian Palladian revival’. But they were not the first houses in the area to look like this, being copies of one of Wilds and Busby’s original designs in the north corners of Brunswick Square nearly thirty years earlier. The same design was used in many terraces in Brunswick Place, Belvedere Terrace, Montpelier Place and Montpelier Road. The Powis Square homes have two fewer floors, and are a little less decorated than the Brunswick originals.

 

This page was added on 17/04/2011.

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