Montpelier Road

Two grand houses

By Steve Myall

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Montpelier Road' page

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Montpelier Road' page

Fifteen years after Kemp moved into his Temple home in Montpelier Road, The Rev Henry Wagner, the vicar of Brighton, had a new vicarage built for himself.  It was constructed in the Tudor Gothic style by the company of George Cheesman and Son in 1834/35. It stood in two acres of land just south of The Temple, the other side of the turning that is now Temple Gardens, but was then called Furse Hill Road. In a town guide of 1836 the house is described as ‘a splendid mansion – the garden in front is very tastefully laid out’.  Top right is the only known engraving of the vicarage, of c1840, and below right shows the house today as part of the Brighton & Hove High School.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Montpelier Road' page




Moving on down the hill, the next home of C19th Montpelier Road also belonged to the Wagner family.  The house was called Belvedere and was built in about 1837 for the Rev. Wagner’s sister, Mary Ann Wagner.  Mary Ann never lived there, and when she died in 1868 she left the house to her brother’s eldest son, the Rev. Arthur Douglas Wagner.  Mary Ann owned several acres of Montpelier land and was behind the development of houses in Belvedere Terrace, Montpelier Place and the north west corner of Montpelier Terrace, between Montpelier Road and Villas.  Arthur Douglas is described as living a very simple life in Belvedere, his only luxuries being his books and manuscripts. At his death in 1902 his library of some 12,000 volumes took three days to auction. In the C20th the house became the Park Royal Hotel, but was demolished in 1965 and two  blocks of  flats, also called Park Royal, were built on the site. Above is an aquatint engraving after George Earp jnr of Belvedere, c1850, as seen from the back gardens. The spire far right (just in the picture) is that of Christ Church, lower Montpelier Road.

This page was added on 25/06/2011.
Comments about this page

Have just found this item, having been trawling for anything on the old Park Royal Hotel. It is fascinating to see the engraving of how the building originally looked as Belvedere, and wish I could enlarge it. My childhood was suffused with this place, as my parents had friends who lived in the Park Royal, and as a small boy I spent much time here, roaming around unsupervised on long afternoons. I vividly remember the spooky, disused underground balroom, complete with bandstand, bar and snooker tables, all just left, untouched. Also the huge (to me)grandfather clock in the lobby, measuring its slow seconds in the hush, next to the massive Jacobean staircase, all heavy ballustrades, and the 2 huge, scary ebony statues of dragons which stood on the landing in front of the massive mullioned window. Much of the furnishings seemed to be Victorian originals, rather than dating from the 1930's when bandleader Lew Praeger bought and converted it into the Park Royal, in the process adding large extensions to the north elevation to house extra rooms plus the kitchens. Also at the same time a glass sun room was added to the garden elevation, the doorway visible centre in the engraving became the access to it via the hotels dining room. The public rooms I remember as being heavily decorated with lots of mouldings, embossed dados and coffered ceilings, and the exterior was faced with beach cobbles, with stone quoins and mullions, so using a Brighton Vernacular/ Jacobean style. It seemed huge as a small boy, always to my memory virtually devoid of guests and staff, and was a creepy, gothic paradise to explore. The hotel closed in the late 60s, so we could no longer go there, and became a sort of nightclub for a few years. So despite the popular demolition date given as 1965, it was still very much alive and kicking then-It actually wasnt demolished until about 1971. I remember cycling past when I was about 11 (I was born in 1960), and seeing the remains of the great Jacobean staircase burning in the half- demolished shell. It was a winter day, and I felt like crying, as I knew a part of my childhood had gone. I loved that place. 

By Mark Thompson
On 10/06/2012

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