History from 1840 to 1855

with links to individual streets

By Steve Myall

June 1830, from deeds of Upper North Street, appears to be the earliest date of T.R.Kemp selling off small parcels of land on Church Hill. Francis and William Hallett were important developers and builders on Church Hill, and other parts of the town, and other specialists on the Hill were the builders Thomas Wisden (a previous generation to the Wisden cricketing records) and Stephen Davey (who built some if not all of the Powis Square facades). Working with these names were Henry, Edward and George Faithfull, the Baring family of bankers,  and the Welshman John Yearsley, as financiers and developers, together with a range of other small local traders and businessmen.

John Yearsley, owner of a local foundry and ironmonger’s business, was originally  from Powys, and it was assumed from notes by James Gray that he named his ‘Powis’ part of this development after his homeland. However, John’s brother, William Yearsley was probably the most successful solicitor in Welshpool in his day, he provided services to the Earl of Powys, and from a distance was influential in John Yearsley’s plans. The second Earl was killed in an accident on 17th Jan 1848, and the name of Powis appears in Brighton, on John Yearsley’s land, that year, so the new thinking is that John and William used the name Powis in memory of the Earl, not the land.

A plan by A.H. Wilds for Hampton Terrace was published in 1825, by 1838 the first two homes in Victoria Road were built, and at the beginning of the 1830s Hampton Villa was built on the corner of Montpelier Street and Upper North Street. The canopied villas between Montpelier Villas and Montpelier Street were started in 1843. 

Victoria Street was started in 1840 and still being built in 1850.  Victoria Road had several traders by 1850, the leasehold land for Powis Villas was sold by Thomas Read Kemp’s widow to John Yearsley in September 1846 with the first houses, numbers 2 and 3 Powis Villas, listed in street directories of 1848. Montpelier Crescent was built between 1843 and 1847, the land for the southern end of Clifton Road was sold for development in March 1845, Powis Square was started in 1849/50,  Powis Road was started in 1852 and St. Michael’s Place in 1868.  The first house in Clifton Hill was number 13, built and trading as a laundry service by 1839, number 7 was built for John Yearsley in 1845, numbers 1 to 4 were built between 1848 and 1850 and on the south side, close to the corner with Powis Villas, the pretty bow-fronted terraced homes are on land first sold for development in 1846.  Opposite these, numbers 8 and 9 Clifton Hill were built in 1851. Clifton Hill was so named in the latter part of 1845. While all this development was gathering pace on the west side of Church Hill, over on the eastern side Brighton Station was opened in 1841, which was a spur to the development of Western Road as a shopping and retail centre and to Church Hill West Side as the residential estates of Clifton, Montpelier and Powis.

The period from 1840 to the mid 1850s saw intense building activity on the original farming and grazing land that is now the Clifton, Montpelier and Powis estate. The bulk of the development was in these years, and a few brief facts illustrate its importance to the architectural history of Brighton and Hove. It was the first large scale Victorian residential development in Brighton. It was the first example of the landed gentry selling land that was to be developed by small local businessmen, and to be built by local craftsmen/carpenters, bricklayers/builders, who also often had a financial involvement  themselves.  Compared with the grand terraces of the earlier Georgian developers, our area saw the first examples of the relatively small, detached and semi-detached family town-centre houses of the middle classes 

It is also interesting to remember that these new homes of the richer middle class merchants and business owners were side-by-side to the new homes of the Brighton builders, carpenters and craftsmen, who while building larger houses for their richer clients, were creating small classic terraced homes for themselves in the same area. Clifton Terrace and Upper North Street are good examples of this.

Couple these facts to the unique examples of the small detached villas that make up the west side of Powis Villas, the unique early Victorian street of semi-detached houses in Montpelier Villas, also the two pairs at the bottom of Clifton Hill, together with the ‘link-detached’ mansions in Montpelier Crescent, all having been built between 1843 and 1850, and it becomes clear that this conservation area is a remarkable and unique example of the emerging architectural style of the early Victorian middle classes. 

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'History from 1840 to 1855' page

The above is a detail from the ‘Panorama of Brighton’, drawn by A.H. Wilds and published in 1833 by Mason in Brighton and Ackermann in London. It gives a rare view of the seaside end of our area and from the text at the base of the print it shows the junction of Montpelier Road as it joins the King’s Road, together with a view of Oriental Place, at the top of which is Sillwood House, the home of Sir David Scott.  Sillwood House flats now occupy that site.  


This page was added on 17/04/2011.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.