The History of 14 Sussex Square

The History of a Regency House


This is a house history of 14 Sussex Square in Brighton.

It is not actually about the house in the sense of the building, the bricks and the bungaroosh(ii). What it is about is the people who once lived there and my curiosity about those people. What were they like? What were they really like? Those people who once walked across that room and gazed out of those windows and stood on that balcony. We can never know with certainty but the archives yield plenty of facts. Census returns, directories, local newspapers, biographies, history books, company and military records create mountains of information. Then serendipity slips in, gifting an occasional picture or handwritten note. Eventually from all this mass of material patterns take shape. Characters emerge from the shadows. Names become people.

The story of 14 Sussex Square includes: a British Prime Minister, a senior official with the Honourable East India Company, an erstwhile tailor who somehow became part of the Victorian nouveau riche, a barrister who never needed to practise and a Colonel in the Loyal Suffolk Hussars who was much more (and less) than a military man. Their life stories touch upon other stories that carry us back along the highways and byways of Victorian and Edwardian England(iii)

Their stories seem to endorse the dictum that “the past is a foreign country”. As Hartley declared, they did “things differently there.”


  • Chapter 1 Lord John Russell : Home Secretary and a Domestic Tragedy.
  • Chapter 2 Charles William Reade Esq.: Servant of Empire in the Honourable
  • East India Company.
  • Chapter 3 John Darnell Esq.: A Victorian (not quite) Gentleman.
  • Chapter 4 Percy Arden Esq.: Man of Leisure (and High Sheriff of
  • Pembrokeshire).
  • Chapter 5 Colonel Edward Philippe MacKenzie DL, JP, FRS, MCC: Military Man
  • (and much more).
  • Chapter 6 The Modern Age: Flats


Lord John Russell, 1792 – 1878, Home Secretary and a Domestic Tragedy.

Lord John Russell and his family arrived at 14 Sussex Square in September 1838. They intended to stay until January of the following year. The purpose behind their stay in Brighton seems to have been both recreational and medical. Recreational as the autumn months were the fashionable season in early 19th century Brighton and medical because Lady Adelaide, Lord John’s wife, was 7 months pregnant. Dr Robert Tayler, one of the most eminent physicians of the time had trained as an “accoucheur” (male midwife) and was based at The Royal Sussex Hospital, just a few hundred yards away from Sussex Square.

Lord John and Lady Adelaide with their young daughter and (perhaps) Lady Adelaide’s four children by her first marriage arrived from the Isle of Wight in early September but almost immediately Lord John was in his carriage and returning to London. It was clear that for Lord John this was to be a working holiday and political commitments would require regular trips to the capital.

It is difficult to exaggerate Russell’s importance as a political figure in the Britain of the late 1830’s. As Home Secretary and Leader of The House, he was in terms of seniority second only to the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne. Indeed many historians regard Russell as the real political dynamo more than the rather avuncular Melbourne who seemed more preoccupied with mentoring the young – teenaged - Queen Victoria.

Lord John Russell Figure 1 Lord John Russell – the Whig Statesman (Illustrated London News 1843).

The Victorian Statesman

This was the man who arrived at 14 Sussex Square on the 8th September but let us first take a closer look at the public man: the politician and statesman. Lord John Russell was a prominent, arguably the most prominent, Whig politician of the 19th century. His political career began as an elected MP in 1813 (as the youngest son of the Duke of Bedford, “Lord John” was a courtesy title.) His career was to last for almost fifty years and during that time he held just about every major Government Office.

He was:

  • Home Secretary 1835 - 39
  • Colonial Secretary 1839 – 41
  • Leader of the House 1835 – 41 & 1846 – 52
  • Foreign Secretary 1852 – 53 & 1859 – 65
  • Prime Minister (twice) 1846 –52 & 1865 – 66.

Indeed given that Gladstone was the first Liberal PM, Russell can be truly described as the last Whig Prime Minister. He was also for several years Leader of the Opposition - the job that he said he found the most challenging. This impressive list demonstrates how, for more than 30 years, he was right at the heart of British Government.

There is, however, something of a paradox about John Russell for despite his establishment background and aristocratic birth, his instincts from an early age were reformist maybe even radical. As a 14 year old boy hearing of the “acquittal” of Lord Melville by his fellow peers he wrote in his diary: “What a pity that he who steals a penny loaf should be hung, whilst he who steals thousands of the public money should be acquitted.” iv One wonders what he would have had to say about looters who are jailed for stealing a pair of trainers whilst “casino” bankers keep their knighthoods. Throughout his political career he worked energetically if not always effectively for reformist causes: he was one of the architects of the 1832 “Great” Reform Act; he was responsible for Factory Acts and Public Health Acts; he worked tirelessly to democratise the new great cities; not a Catholic himself, he worked for both Catholic emancipation and increased freedoms for Non-Conformists; he opposed slavery; whilst Secretary for the Colonies, he opposed the transportation of convicts to Australia and advocated relaxing the treatment of convicts in Van Diemens Land (Tasmania); shocked by Irish poverty, he instigated well-intentioned measures that, alas, did nothing to alleviate the Great Famine of the late 1840’s. As if recognising the limits of his political success he wrote: “I have made mistakes but in all I did my object was the public good” and in his autobiographical “Recollections & Suggestions” written towards the end of his life he wrote: “I have committed many errors some of them very gross blunders. But the generous people of England are always forbearing and forgiving to those statesmen who have the good of their country at heart.”

Although a towering political figure much comment was made about his diminutive stature (he weighed just 8 stone and was 5 feet, four and three-quarter inches tall) and his old friend Rev. Sydney Smith once joked that Russell used to be 6 foot, but had so often been in hot water that he had “boiled down to the proportion in which you now behold him”

In all of his adulthood Lord John had been preoccupied with public life and by the 1830’s he was a senior Government Minister. In fact in 1838 he was the most trusted member of Lord Melbourne’s Government, serving as both Home Secretary and Leader of the House. He was an extremely busy man whose life was dominated by affairs of state. Hansard gives us a glimpse of this. For instance during the first two weeks of August 1838 we can read of his regular speeches and interventions in the House, dealing with difficult legislation to alleviate challenging situations in both Ireland and Canada. Parliament was eventually prorogued on the 18th August after a mammoth 9 month session but this had not been an easy or successful period of government. That it had been neither smooth nor satisfying is indicated by at least one newspaper’s trenchant summary of its achievement. A leading article in a newspaper of the 22nd August, 1838, thundered that the previous session of Parliament “… has disappointed everyone. The Tories are disappointed because they are not in office, the Whigs are disappointed because though in office they have no power and the Radicals are disappointed because nothing whatsoever has been done for the country.”v We are told elsewhere in the paper that during a particularly heated debate: “Lord John Russell vented much spleen on Lord Brougham”.vi Lord John was quarrelling with a fellow Whig and former Cabinet colleague. Senior members of the government like Lord John, must have been affected by the strain of this frustrating and buffeting experience.

John Russell, Husband and Father

That was the political background in the autumn of 1838, but it was John Russell the husband and father who arrived at 14 Sussex Square accompanied by his wife Lady Adelaide and their young daughter. Perhaps he hoped for a period of rest and relative tranquillity but the next few months were to prove the most difficult and traumatic period of his life.

First we must turn the clock back three years. In April 1835, Lord John aged 43 had married Lady Adelaide Ribblesdale (nee Lister). She was 15 years his junior although she had been married before. She was widowed and already the mother of four young children. Whilst there is a mass of material about Lord John, references to his wife are more elusive. The National Portrait Gallery does hold her portrait and her archival footprint has not entirely disappeared. Two contemporaneous documents give intriguing glimpses into her life and personality. Maria Edgeworth a hugely popular novelist of the early 19th century (more popular in her time than Jane Austen) was also a prodigious letter writer and in a letter of 1835 she wrote to a Miss Ruxton:

“Have you seen in the paper reports about the marriage of Lord John Russell to Lady Russell? All true: Lady Ribblesdale, ci-devant Adelaide Lister, Aunt Mary’s niece, a young widow with a charming little boy. This morning Aunt Mary had a letter from Lady Ribblesdale herself. If she was to marry again she could not have made a more suitable match. He is a very domestic man and save his party violence and folly very amiable and sensible.”

Lord John Russell

Figure 2. An elegantly attired Lord John from around the time of his wedding in 1835.Figure 2. An elegantly attired Lord John from around the time of his wedding in 1835.

Although this is a relatively rare female view it seems to tell us more about Lord John than his wife. The other document - more revealing - is a letter found in The Creevey Papers. vii The letter is dated 20th May 1835 – a few weeks after Lord John and Lady Adelaide’s marriage - and describes their arrival at a ball. “My ears were much gratified by hearing the names “Lord and Lady John Russell” announced; and in came the little things, as merry looking as they well could be, but really much more calculated, from their size, to show off on a chimney-piece than to mix and be trod upon in company. To think of her as having 4 children is really beyond! When she might pass for 14 or 15 with anybody [she was actually 28]. Everybody praises her vivacity, agreeableness and good nature very much so it is all very well…”

Figure 3 Lady Adelaide. Painted around the time of her marriage to Lord John.

Still in her 20’s she had borne four children by her first husband. (N.P.G.)

“Vivacity” and “agreeableness”. Despite the earlier waspish comments, Creevey seems keen to portray Adelaide as a warm-hearted and well adjusted human being. Her daughter (Lady Georgiana) was born in 1836 and by the Summer of 1838 Lady Adelaide (or “Lady John”, as Russell invariably refers to her in his correspondence) was again pregnant.

Kemp Town 1838 – What was it like to live there?

This then is the public and personal backdrop to the tragic events that took place at 14 Sussex Square during the late Summer and Autumn of 1838. But what about 14 Sussex Square, what do we know about the place where those events were to unfold? What was it actually like to live in Kemp Town during the very early years of its existence? Well firstly it was not in any real sense a “town”. Thomas Read Kemp’s original vision of the Kemp Town Estate - 250 grand houses for the rich and fashionable had never materialised. 106 houses were eventually built during the 1820’s and 30’s but sales were slow. Kemp’s dream had finally evaporated and in 1837 he fled to France probably to escape his creditors. Arriving at the Square in September 1838 it must have seemed a rather isolated and slightly eerie place. This immense curved terrace and square situated in open land consisting of completed houses, half completed houses and empty facades must have seemed – to use an anachronistic simile – like a film set. A few of the houses had been sold, as intended, to the affluent. 19/20 Sussex Square – a few doors away from Lord John’s residence – was owned by the philanthropic Marquess of Bristol. The Marquess also bought a great deal of other property in the vicinity, including the purchase of 14 Sussex Square. He must have lent or leased the house to the Russells? More likely the latter. Bristol was a hard headed businessman who had had to sort out the financial chaos created by his spendthrift father and as a Tory, he and Russell were on opposite sides of the party divide. 1 Lewes Crescent, a little further away, was owned by the fabulously wealthy, Duke of Devonshire but many of the other houses were either rented on short term lets or were nothing more than skeletons or facades of buildings viii.

The enclosures with their designer gardens and private tunnel to the esplanade had already been established so when Lord John had a little time away from his personal and public responsibilities perhaps he was able to enjoy the pleasures afforded by the gardens and the sea. If he had walked through the tunnel and on to the esplanade and looked seawards to the West he would have seen in the distance The Chain Pier. The Chain Pier was essentially a working pier and ferry terminal and it was perhaps here that he and his family had arrived from the Isle of Wight a few days earlier. When he looked from the rear windows of his house (the local papers refer to 14 Sussex Square as variously: a “mansion”, “marine villa” “residence”) he would have seen St Mary’s Hall School completed two years earlier in “early Tudor style” ix and the foundations of St Mark’s Church, begun that year with the support and patronage of his neighbour the Marquess of Bristol. Despite all this, the Estate could hardly be described as a “town” - surrounded mainly by open land it must have seemed an isolated place more than a mile away from the Pavilion and the rest of fashionable Brighton.

What actually happened in the Autumn of 1838?

The bare bones of the story are revealed in successive Saturday editions of The Brighton Gazette x with details confirmed and amplified in the Wednesday editions of the Brighton Guardian. Both papers published a regular column entitled “Fashionable Journal” essentially listing the Brighton arrivals and departures of “fashionable” people: the “celebs” of their time.

The Brighton Gazette first picks up the story on Saturday 8th September, 1838 with a brief, slightly gossipy note: “Lord and Lady Russell are daily expected from the Isle of Wight at their mansion in Kemp Town, which his Lordship has engaged for three months”. A week later on Saturday 15th September their arrival is confirmed: “Lord John Russell arrived with his family at 14 Sussex Square, Kemp Town on Saturday last. The following morning his lordship left for London but is expected shortly to return.” This arrival at 14 Sussex Square is confirmed in the Guardian which also disclosed that a Mr. Patterson from the Bank of England “has taken no. 18 Sussex Square for two months”. It is worth mentioning, perhaps, that although plans for a railway station at Brighton were on the drawing board, it would be another three years before the start of regular passenger rail services between London and Brighton. So when we are told that Lord John is travelling to and from London we must assume that he made the long and uncomfortable journey by coach. xi

Six weeks later The Gazette reports on a happy and dramatic development: “Lady John Russell. Her Ladyship’s accouchement took place on Friday 19th inst at the marine villa of Lord John in Sussex Square, Kemp Town and with her infant daughter is doing well. Her Ladyship now has six children, four by her first husband and two by her second husband.”

A week later the tone had completely changed as the story took a tragic turn for the worse. “Saturday November 3rd, 1838. Death of Lady John Russell – we regret to have to announce the death of Lady John Russell which melancholy event took place at 3 o’ clock on Thursday afternoon at the residence of his Lordship in Sussex Square, Kemp Town. Since her recent confinement Lady John Russell’s health has been precarious, and for two or three days previous to her demise little hopes [sic] had been entertained of her recovery… ” The Brighton Guardian tells the story with much greater and rather grim detail: “Death of Lady John Russell. With the most painful feelings we have this week to announce the death of Lady John Russell, which melancholy event occurred on Thursday afternoon at the residence of Lord John, no. 14 Sussex Square. Her Ladyship who was exceedingly partial to Brighton had come here to be confined under the care of Mr. Tayler. xii Lady Russell was safely delivered on the 20th ult of a daughter and suffered less on this occasion than in any former accouchement. From the first however it was observable that her Ladyship was extremely debilitated, she gradually grew weaker and notwithstanding the most careful attention and all the aid that medical science could afford xiii at length became exhausted and on the thirteenth day after her confinement her life was despaired and at three o’clock the same afternoon she expired in the presence of her disconsolate husband. The Duchess of Bedford (her mother-in-law) had sat up with her Ladyship the whole of the preceding night. Her Ladyship was 32 years of age. Her Ladyship was the eldest daughter of Thomas Lister Esq of Armitage Park, Lichfield. She married first the late Lord Ribblesdale by who she had three daughters and a son (the second child) – the present Lord Ribblesdale. On the 13th April 1835 her Ladyship was united to Lord John Russell by whom she had two daughters both of whom are living. Her Ladyship was said to be a most amiable woman and exceedingly fond of literary pursuits. The remains of her Ladyship were placed in the coffin on Friday and will be removed tomorrow under the direction of the family undertaker for interment on Saturday at Cheynies near Chesham in Buckinghamshire. Lord John had engaged 14 Sussex Square until January but in consequence of the melancholy event which has just taken place the house is given up and his Lordship and family will this morning quit Brighton for Bedfordshire. The Duke of Bedford [Russell’s father] and part of his family have already left Brunswick Terrace where they had purposed making a lengthened stay. The Duchess of Bedford takes her departure today.”

After this the newspaper story goes quiet but it is clear that Lord John was utterly devastated. Stuart Reid in Chapter 5 of his biography of Russell records that: “His (Lord John’s) first impulse was to place the resignation of his office and of Leadership in the Commons in the hands of his chief [presumably the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne]. Urgent appeals from all quarters were made to him to remain in post and though his health was precarious, cheered by the sympathy of his colleagues and of the country, he resumed his work after a few weeks of quiet at Cassiobury.” Cassiobury was the Hertfordshire home of the Earl of Essex – an old family friend who seems to have provided a sanctuary and refuge while Lord John physically and mentally recuperated. The young Queen Victoria’s journal of 2nd February 1839 records a meeting with Melbourne in which he reads a letter from Lord John: “ he thought he had been punished by the dreadful calamity he had endured for meddling in other people’s business…” But by early 1839 he seems to have regained sufficient strength to resume his state duties. His time at Brighton was over.

The Letters

The newspapers of the time could only record events and did not, of course, have access to Russell’s private papers and letters. Most of these are now lodged at The National Archive at Kew xiv and they provide some insight into the suffering and the stress that Russell was experiencing during his time in Brighton. We know that he was physically present at his wife’s deathbed. We know that he had two young daughters (one just a few days old) and four step children. We know that he contemplated abandoning a political career that up to then – and he was now 46 years old – had been his life’s raison d’etre. The letters of Autumn 1838, both ones that he wrote and the ones that he received, hint at the inner turmoil that he must have been experiencing.

In September 1838, Parliament was in recess but even then Russell’s place of work was London. He writes a letter on the 3rd of September to Melbourne – the Prime Minister – that he will be “going to Brighton on the 15th” … “after Windsor Castle on the 12th”. He is not exactly asking permission to leave the capital but he is certainly letting his PM know precisely where and when he will be away. There are frequent letters between Russell and Melbourne and between Russell and Foreign Secretary, Palmerston, whose bold, forthright handwriting seems somehow suggestive of the vigorous, gung-ho foreign policy for which he was famed. A letter from Russell to Melbourne written in Brighton is very precisely dated: “9 o’clock Brighton October 18”. It’s an entirely business letter concerned with the troublesome resignation of Lord Durham. In a letter written to Melbourne four days later from Brighton on October 22, he writes of returning “to town on Wednesday” but other worries are intruding: “Lady John… has been a good deal [?? unreadable word] this morning but the accouchear [midwife] tells me it is nothing at all serious or out of the ordinary”. The rest of a very long letter is about political business. It is as if he is trying to convince himself there is nothing to worry about or even using work to displace private fears and anxieties. The next day he writes again to Melbourne with more about the health of Lady John: “Lady John is going on tolerably well and has now had [??] good sleep which she had not had for 24 hours. If I find her in a satisfactory state tomorrow morning, I shall set out but not otherwise”. On the 25th he writes to Palmerston, with whom he had a more problematic relationship, mainly on state matters but includes this sentence: “Lady John is better but I shall be very glad not to leave her for a few days.”

Lady Adelaide died at 3 o’ clock on Thursday, 1st November. Lord John was by her bedside. From the next day onwards the letters of condolence start to arrive. Two are particularly moving. One dated November 2nd is from the Rev. Sydney Smith an old friend from his student days in Edinburgh. The letter begins by touching on their various religious disagreements and goes on: “… but nobody more respects or values you more highly. I feel what has happened to you most acutely and I cannot keep writing this time. Do not think of answering it. God keep and support you. Sydney Smith. 38 Charles St. Berkeley Square.” Three days later there was a letter written from “Windsor Castle”. She had only acceded to the throne a year earlier but the 19 year old Queen Victoria had formed a bond with Lord John and clearly had much sympathy and respect for him. The letter is written in her own neat handwriting: “I have hesitated if I should break in on your grief. I do not venture to offer your Lordship consolation that you can only find in Religion and the resources of your own mind. But I venture to convey to you the expression of my most sincere sympathy …for the irreparable loss you have sustained. Very sincere friend. Victoria.” The underlining is Victoria’s and somehow reminds us of her tender years.xv

The Aftermath

Russell took two and a half months of what we would now think of as compassionate leave but in the end his ingrained and powerful sense of duty sustained him and was his consolation. He not only resumed his political career but, as the history books tell us, went on to reach the highest office in the land not once but twice. Also he remarried. Two and a half years later in July 1841 he married Lady Frances Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound. She bore him three sons and a daughter and remained his wife and beloved companion until his death in 1878.

Lord John Russell is the most famous and publicly important person to have lived in the house. Although he only lived there for a few months it can be argued plausibly that the genuinely traumatic events that he experienced there and was part of and that took him close to political retirement, could have changed the shape of 19th century British history.


Charles William Reade Esq, 1818 - 1884

Servant of Empire in the Honourable East India Company.

13 years after the traumatic events of 1838, Charles William Reade and family were living in 14 Sussex Square.

The UK census of 1851 records that on the 30th March Reade, the married “Head” of the household, was living in the house with his wife Harriette and five young children. His youngest son Gerald had been born in Brighton a few weeks earlier whilst his second youngest, Malcolm, had been born in London in 1850. Two years after this in1852 Charles Reade and family were back living in Madras. He was an “Acting Civil and Sessions Judge” in that part of South West India now known as Chennai. From all of this it seems fair to surmise that Charles Reade and his family lived in the house rented from the Marquess of Bristol for approximately one year.

The Honourable East India Company

Charles William Reade’s life and career was with the Honourable East India Company. We may wonder what it was that brought him to Brighton and fortunately for us the H.E.I.C. kept impeccably detailed records. xviThese records tell us that between 1848 and 1852 Charles Reade had “proceeded to Europe on Furlough”. He spent all of his working life in South West India but by the late 1840’s he and his family were on a mid career break.

Those records also provide us with his detailed and comprehensive CV. Charles Reade was born in London in 1817 but by 1835 (aged 18) he was “a writer” in Canara (in what is now the South Western Indian State of Tamil Nadu). A “writer” was a clerk and the lowest of the four classes of the East India Company’s civil servants. His progress through the ranks up to the time of his mid career break seems to have been steady rather than spectacular: by 1848 he was “Acting Sub-Collector and Joint Magistrate of Canara”. After his return to India he continued up the career ladder ending as “Collector and Magistrate in South Arcot” in 1862 - a rung below being “Lieutenant Governor”. He resigned from the Company in 1871 – a significant date as that was the year that the Company changed its retirement rules allowing all officers who had 25 or more years of service to retire with a pension of £1000 p.a. regardless of final salary. With this - what must have seemed then - very comfortable pension, he returned to Britain and after 13 years of retirement died on the Isle of Wight in 1884.

By the time Charles Reade was employed by the H,E,I,C. it was far more than a trading company. There are clues in the job titles: “Collector”, “Magistrate”, “Governor”. The Company effectively ruled Madras. Backed by its private army it exercised all the important administrative functions. In the 1858 Government of India Act, the British Crown took direct control of India but the Company’s quasi colonial role continued for some years after this date until its final dissolution in 1874. Charles Reade may have been employed by a private company but in a very real sense he was a cog in the great machine of 19th century British Imperialism.

His life that had consisted of sailing away to a remote corner of Empire in youth, living most of his life abroad and only returning to the mother country for retirement was a pattern experienced by hundreds of thousands of 19th century Britons.

What brought the Reades to Brighton?

What do we know about Charles Reade and family’s time in Brighton and what brought them to 14 Sussex Square? At the time of his arrival he was 33 and Harriette was 28. His three eldest daughters (aged 4, 9 & 11) had all been born in the “East Indies”. They must have found the Brighton climate bracing. The fact that his wife was also born in the “East Indies” and married in her teens suggests that she may have been the daughter of another East India Company family. Probably she was experiencing English life for the first time.

Harriette’s two youngest children were boys aged “0” and “1”. With five under the age of 11, the family household must have been preoccupied and even dominated by children even though Victorian child-rearing practices were very different from our own. Illustrative of this is the fact that three of the five live-in servants were nurses. Sarah Curtis, 27, was the “Head Nurse”, Harriet Treadway aged just 15 was the “Nursery Maid” and Maria Steers, 22 and married, seems to have been the youngest boy’s wet nurse.

By the early 1850’s Brighton had lost something of its fashionable upper class elitism but it was extremely popular with middle class families. Brighton Station was open and the rail link with London and elsewhere well established. There were concert halls, sporting events, shops and the Chain Pier. Kemp Town itself had gardens, the promenade and proximity to the sea, so it is perhaps not surprising that this essentially expatriate family should choose to spend a year of their lives away from the tropical heat of Madras sampling the many delights of Brighton in a large house rented from the Marquess of Bristol.

What brought the Reade Family to Brighton? - Proximity to the sea.

This beautiful painting of Kemp Town beach in the 1840’s (note the bathing machines) surely hints at part of the answer.


John Darnell, 1808 – 1890, A Victorian (not quite) Gentleman

John Darnell was the first truly permanent resident of 14 Sussex Square.

He lived in the house for over 35 years - longer than anyone else before or since. From 1854 (by which time Charles Reade and family were back in the heat of Madras) until shortly before his death in September 1890, 14 Sussex Square was the home of John Darnell. We know plenty about his life but the full truth is elusive and a central mystery remains.

The Darnells

The census of 1861 tells us that he was born in 1808 in Market Harborough, Leicestershire and that he was married to Sarah. Sarah Darnell (nee Sale) was 8 years younger than him and came originally from Ickworth in Suffolk. We shall see that as this story develops Sarah’s place of birth is significant. In addition to the married couple, Sarah’s unmarried niece, Elizabeth Nunn, lived with them. Elizabeth was also born in Suffolk in 1830 and was to outlive both her aunt and uncle-in-law. When they died she was the executor responsible for their wills, suggesting that the spinster niece was an integral and trusted member of the family - a quasi daughter perhaps. The rest of the household always consisted of at least three live-in servants (female): a cook, a parlourmaid and a housemaid.

The Darnells were a childless couple and so there is some irony in the fact that when they moved into 14 Sussex Square their house was surrounded by schools. Next door at 15 was “Miss Jefferson’s Ladies School”, 16 was “Miss Langtry’s Ladies School”, 17 was “Miss Cresswell’s Ladies School” and 18 was “Miss Dighton’s Ladies School”. xvii

Number 14 was the exception. In the years leading up to 1854, it was described as a “furnished house” and - as asserted earlier - almost certainly owned by the 1st Marquess of Bristol. The Marquess owned and for part of the year lived in the nearby Bristol Mansions (19 & 20 Sussex Square). As well as this large house in the NW corner of the Square the Marquess had a considerable portfolio of Brighton property including several other houses in Sussex Square and extensive gardens to the North and West of the Square .xviii Property was the Marquess’s business and these properties were, presumably, let out at commercial rents. It is not clear whether

Darnell rented or bought the house in 1854 but we do know that eventually the freehold ownership of the house passed to him. After his death it was reported in The Times that at 3.00 pm on the 11th November, 1890, Messrs Wilkinson, Son & Welch, on the instruction of the executor of the late John Darnell, would sell by auction “the well built freehold family residence known as 14 Sussex Square”. The house contained “nine bed and dressing rooms, five reception rooms and complete domestic offices: garden in the rear with possession”.

Although the couple were childless – Sarah was 36 when she married - the expense of supporting this large house and servants must have been very considerable. In various documents John Darnell describes himself as a “fundholder” although in the later census of 1881, (now aged 73) he describes himself as living from “income rents and dividends”. Sarah died first and in her will of November 1882 she left a personal estate of £9,568 = 6 shillings. When John died in September 1890 he had a similarly substantial – but not enormous - personal estate of £9,961 =16 shillings and 10d.

This second - “Brighton half” - of John Darnell’s life seems to have been spent in investment-supported comfort, wealth and style but there is a mystery surrounding the source of this wealth.

A Victorian Mystery

Neither John nor Sarah were born with money and neither John nor Sarah were born in Brighton. There was nothing unusual about this in mid Victorian Brighton. The rich still came for leisure and pleasure and the railways had brought even more trippers creating the tourist economy that made Brighton a magnet for those seeking employment. It was this that first brought Leicestershire-born, John Darnell to Brighton. Although by 1854 he was living in 14 Sussex Square, the first documentary reference to him is to be found three years earlier in the census of 1851 and what a tantalising reference it is. John Darnell - a man in his forties from Leicestershire - was an unmarried “tailor” lodging at 48 Old Steine in a room somewhere above The Steam Navigation Company’s office. John Darnell was part of that generation of people with crafts or trades – particularly in the clothing industry (milliners, bonnetmakers, dressmakers, tailors) that gravitated towards Brighton in the middle decades of the 19th century looking for work. But what was it that happened between 1851 and 1854 that so transformed John Darnell’s life? How does a tailor become a rich man? Did he suddenly earn huge wealth - enough to enable him to retire in his 40’s and move to a large house in a grand square? Did he inherit money or did he marry it? It’s time to look at the story of his wife Sarah’s life.

Her story began at Ickworth in Suffolk. Sarah Sale (as she was then) was born in Ickworth on the 23rd July in 1815 the daughter of a labourer on the Ickworth Estate. Ickworth was the home of the famous (infamous) Hervey family and St Mary’s Church where Sarah was baptised on 30th June 1816 is the Hervey family church and lies within the estate. By this time, Frederick William Hervey (5th Earl of Bristol and - from 1826 - 1st Marquess of Bristol) had inherited the estate from his father (the “Earl-Bishop”). This is the same Marquess of Bristol who from the late 1820’s owned much of the North West corner of Sussex Square, Brighton. It is inconceivable that Sarah as a child and young woman did not know or know of the Marquess but whether the Marquess knew Sarah is another matter. Sarah’s father, Richard Sale, was a “labourer” presumably a labourer on the Ickworth Estate and so it is possible that a paternalistic landowner might have been aware of the children of one of his estate workers.

Figure 4. The 1st Marquess of Bristol – the Darnells’ aristocratic neighbour.

It is possible as this Frederick William (unlike his spendthrift, peripatetic father) was a financially responsible, business-inclined man who took seriously the duties of being a land owner.

Another part of the jigsaw is Sarah’s “niece”, Elizabeth Nunn. Elizabeth was also born in Suffolk ( Horringer is the village closest to Ickworth). She was born in 1830 and her father, Charles Nunn was a “servant” – again probably a servant on the Ickworth estate. Sarah and Elizabeth then fade from the public record until 1851 but their appearance in the official census of that year provides some utterly astounding information.

Sarah Sale and Elizabeth Nunn are now denizens of Lowndes Square in London. To be precise they are living at 12 William Street in Chelsea. Sarah describes herself as a “fundholder” and a 35 year old “unmarried head of house” living with her 21 year old niece, Elizabeth Nunn. Sarah employs a “cook and two housemaids”. The occupations of neighbours in William Street (including a “consulting surgeon”, the “widow of a Knight”, a Colonel in the Fusiliers, a Rector and a “Baronet’s wife”) reinforce the idea that this is a very desirable and affluent area. It also raises highly intriguing questions. How does the unmarried daughter of a Suffolk labourer come to be living in an affluent part of Chelsea? This is early 19th century England. How is it possible to explain this remarkable social trajectory? How does a young woman born without education or wealth make such a startling rise in society other than by the influence or the patronage of a wealthy man? Was Sarah the beneficiary of some kind of charitable or other attention from a member of the Hervey family? And there is another question lurking in one of those dark corners of history: was Elizabeth actually her “niece”? We simply do not know.

What we do know is that later in that year of 1851, on the 13th September, Sarah married a 43 year old tailor named John Darnell in Ryde on the Isle of Wight and shortly after this she and her new husband and her niece were installed in a grand house in Sussex Square owned by the 1st Marquess of Bristol.

This childless couple lived in this large house with Sarah’s niece, Elizabeth, for almost 30 years. The Marquess may have been their landlord for some of that time but at some point either he or his son must have sold the house to the Darnells.

It is difficult to document any formal connection between John Darnell and the Hervey family although Lord Alfred Hervey - the Marquess’s youngest son - was MP for Brighton from 1842 until 1857 and the evidence from the poll books show that John Darnell voted for Lord Alfred in the election of 1857. It was however to no avail as this was the election that Hervey lost his seat.

The couple lived together in this house until Sarah’s death in 1882. John and Elizabeth lived on in the house until his death in 1890 when Elizabeth also moved out. She was to live into the 20th century and the servant’s daughter from Horringer was still alive in 1911(at the age of 80) living on “private means” at 7 Bedford Square.

The connection between the rich, powerful and aristocratic Hervey family and the occupants of 14 Sussex Square is speculative but what is astonishing and irrefutable is that for 30 years this grand house in the grandest of squares was occupied by a former tailor, the daughter of a labourer and the daughter of a servant. There is mystery as to how this happened but their story is testimony to the possibility of social mobility (however achieved) in Victorian England.

“Very Peculiar Circumstances”

There was, however, to be another twist in the tale of John Darnell. In his late 60’s he had a widely reported brush with the law.

The incident took place in December 1877 and resulted in an appearance before the Brighton Magistrates on Monday 12th December. The report from The Western Daily Express was headlined “Singular Behaviour”. “A middle aged gentleman of independent means named JOHN DARNELL, residing in Sussex Square, Brighton was summoned before the borough magistrates on Monday under very peculiar circumstances. Mr Boxall, barrister who appeared to prosecute, having explained that the summons was for sureties of the peace. Mr Edgar Alfred Bowring CB, formerly MP for Exeter, said that the defendant was a total stranger to him but for the past three or four years had, on his visiting Brighton, subjected him to a peculiar annoyance. It had first happened while he was enjoying a walk towards Rottingdean when the defendant overtook him and without saying a word walked by his side regulating the pace to the rate at which he himself walked whether he went fast or slow. During the present season he had persisted in the same extraordinary conduct and whenever he went for a walk Mr Darnell was certain to meet him and walk by his side. This nuisance although ridiculous in one aspect, had eventually become so intolerable that he determined to ask defendant if he wished to speak with him, whereupon the latter peered into his face, walked round him several times and swung a large stick about in a threatening manner but made no answer. Subsequently he again put the question to the defendant who repeated his menacing conduct and exclaimed: “I’ll stick to you, you cowardly cur” and followed him for more than a mile. It was stated by Mr Cottard, a professor of languages, that defendant had acted in a similar manner towards him, substituting the words “sneak” and “cur”. Mr Nye who appeared for defendant, said his client’s conduct arose from an idea that the two gentlemen were connected with some misfortune into which he had fallen with some ladies. The bench said his behaviour was unwarrantable and bound him over in his own recognisance of £400 and two sureties of £200 each to keep the peace for 6 months”

Figure 5 The Esplanade in Victorian times - a walk favoured by John Darnell that led to an appearance in court.

What are we to make of this bizarre behaviour pattern? The “victim” Bowring was a Liberal MP for six years and whilst Darnell seems to have been a Tory there is no suggestion that political disagreement might have been the trigger. Whilst being a 19th century MP was in itself no guarantee of moral rectitude, Bowring seems to have been a scholar and a gentleman. He was honoured for his work as Clerk to the Royal Commission for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and spent much of his later life translating the Book of Psalms and the works of Goethe into English. It seems unlikely that Bowring did anything to provoke Darnell’s invasive and aggressive conduct. Perhaps Darnell was instinctively a provocative and aggressive man. Perhaps – unlikely as it seems - there had been some earlier quarrel over “ladies” but Darnell’s own lawyer seems to be hinting vaguely at some sort of mental disorder. Darnell was 69 and although he was to live for another 13 years he could, perhaps, have been showing early signs of some form of dementia but his very real anger about the mistreatment of “some ladies” does seem to hint at some earlier misconduct to some ladies by someone.

One of the last printed references to John Darnell is an advertisement in the Morning Post of 22nd October, 1890. It is a melancholy post script to his life. The advert advised its readers that at 3.00pm on Tuesday, 28th October at The Sale Rooms, 188 North Street, Brighton, there was to be an auction of John Darnell’s possessions. Three weeks later the house itself was also sold at auction. The sale and dispersal of John Darnell’s worldly goods marks the end for the tailor from Leicestershire. He was a man who seemed to appear and disappear without trace but he had for over three decades been part of the Victorian “nouveau riche”.

The next occupant of 14 Sussex Square was to come from a very different background.


Percy Arden Esq., A Gentleman of Leisure, 1840 – 1909

Bachelor, Barrister & High Sheriff of Pembrokeshire.

Percy Arden lived at 14 Sussex Square from 1891 until 1909 and during that time - in 1903 - he was appointed High Sheriff of Pembrokeshire. One may wonder how a barrister (albeit a non-practising barrister) living in Brighton came to be High Sheriff of the westernmost county in Wales? In the sharpest of contrasts with John Darnell, Percy Arden’s life was a story of property, privilege and inherited wealth.

A Life of Privilege and Wealth

Percy Arden was born in 1840 in the parish of St Giles in the Fields and baptised in the beautiful Hawksmoor church of St. George’s, Bloomsbury xix. He was the son of a wealthy lawyer, Richard Edward Arden and his second wife, Mary. In 1851 his father had bought Sunbury Park in Middlesex, the site of a Tudor Manor House and had also acquired a family motto: doluere dente lacessite xx. Percy was educated at Harrow and Brasenose and eventually qualified as a Barrister at Law although it seems that, unlike his father, he never practised.

The decadal censuses give a thumbnail sketch of Percy’s life. In 1851 he is an 11 year old “scholar” at a school in Lee Terrace, Lee run by 70 year old “retired Commander John Young” his 54 year old wife and 27 year old son “John Young MA St. John’s College, Cantab”. In 1861 he is a 20 year old “undergraduate” living at home in Sunbury Park xxiwith his 6 brothers and sisters (and 10 servants). In 1871, Percy, aged 30, is to be found staying at The Bellevue Hotel xxii in the resort town of Bournemouth. Presumably he is on holiday. In 1881 he is back at home in Sunbury Park living with his now widower father. He describes his status as “Barrister at law not in practice” In 1891 he is 50, “single” and staying at The Grand Hotel, Brighton. There are dozens of other guests staying at what by then had become the premier hotel in Brighton including several retired generals and many “living on own means”. Percy Arden moved into 14 Sussex Square shortly after this. Perhaps he was staying at the hotel whilst he waited for the completion of legal formalities. In 1901 he is well established in 14 Sussex Square, living alone, alone that is apart from his Butler, Footman, Cook, Housekeeper and two maids.

These ten yearly snap shots portray quite vividly a life of leisured affluence.

Figure 6 This is a painting of an anonymous maid from around 1900 – the time that Percy Arden was living in the house.

She is a reminder - a guilty reminder - that numerically most of the people who lived in 14 Sussex Square between the 1830’s and the 1930’s were servants. Her anonymity seems symbolic of their elusive and untold stories.

The placement of this picture in the middle of Percy Arden’s story is deliberate.

Richard Edward Arden. Percy’s Father.

To understand the nature of Percy Arden’s life it is important to know something of his family, particularly his father, Richard Edward Arden. Richard Arden was a barrister who practised at the Middle Temple and was enormously successful amassing a considerable fortune that enabled him to buy property. In 1851, as mentioned earlier, he acquired Sunbury Park in Middlesex xxiii and built a large double winged house on the site but he also had residences at East Burnham House in Buckinghamshire and, from 1863, in Pontfaen in Pembrokeshire. By the 1870’s he owned almost 5000 acres of land in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen. He was a man of wide-ranging interests and responsibilities: Fellow of the Geological and Royal Geographic Societies, Member of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, a JP, Deputy Lieutenant of Middlesex and, in 1872, High Sheriff of Pembrokeshire. There is a report in the May 26th, 1855 edition of the Morning Chronicle describing a “Geographical Soiree” hosted by the Earl of Ellesmere at the Royal Geographical Society. It appears to be an exhibition of newly produced maps and charts and the star attraction was a “model of India”. The guests included the Rt. Hon. W.E. Gladstone, several Foreign Ministers, Decimus Burton (the famous architect & Garden Designer) and a whole clutch of Dukes, Earls, Bishops and Admirals. Along with all of these was Richard Arden JP, a man who clearly moved amongst the higher echelons of London Society. Manifestly a talented, dynamic and highly successful man Richard Arden was twice (perhaps three times) married and his second wife was Percy’s mother.

Percy Arden.

Percy was sent to Harrow and Brasenose and in 1863 was called to the bar although he never practised. A trawl through the newspapers of the time reveals a few minor stories: Percy attended the first Brasenose College Alumni Dinner held at The Pall Mall Club in July 1870; he wrote a letter to The Times in October 1901 complaining about the widening of Piccadilly at the expense of some trees in Green Park. He made charitable donations from time to time, for example in 1907 he was publically thanked for making a donation of ten guineas to the “Ham Yard Soup Kitchen and Hospice” near Piccadilly Circus. On other occasions he made donations to the St Peter’s Mission and the Prince of Wales’ Hospital Fund. These donations were generous but not enormous and perhaps just in line with what might be expected from a wealthy gentleman. Like his father, he served his year as the High Sheriff of Pembrokeshire, but by 1903 this was little more than a ceremonial appointment. Indeed in general it is hard not to see Percy’s life as the pale imitation of a successful father.

Percy Arden lived in the Sussex Square house from the early 1890’s through to his death in October, 1909 although it is doubtful that he lived there all the time. For example during his year as High Sheriff in 1903, it is likely that he spent at least some time at Pontfaen House on his estate in Pembrokeshire. Before that, in the latter years of the 19th century he was much preoccupied with the restoration of St Brynach’s Church set in the grounds of Pontfaen House. The little church had fallen into serious disrepair and Percy paid for the rebuilding of the floor, roof and porch. He also had placed there in the church a memorial to his late father. Whether Percy regarded Sussex Square as “home” is hard to assess. He seems to have lived a rather peripatetic existence and, at the time of his death on 12th October, 1909, his address is given as A7 Albany, Piccadilly – presumably his London apartment.

Percy’s father, Richard Arden, was a successful, dynamic man. Lawyer, landowner, member of learned societies, twice (perhaps thrice) married, father of seven children, he lived into his ninetieth year. Trying to summarise Percy’s life seems to lead to negatives. He was never engaged in military service, he didn’t work, he never married and he died a few months short of his three score year and ten. Freed from the burden of work, how did he spend his time? One thing we do know is that he was a collector of fine porcelain. After his death, the sale of his porcelain collection was sufficiently important to be handled by Christie’s. The sale included “old Nankin and Chinese enamelled porcelain”, “Chinese carving in Jade”, “Rhodian dishes” and “Old English porcelain”.

His was a life of ease and affluence but whether he was fulfilled, whether he was happy is difficult to say and there is a question about which so far we have only tiptoed. In her book “Family Ties in Victorian England” Claudia Nelson writes that “approximately 90% of the population of Victorian England eventually married [although] marriage might come late in life.” So why is it that Percy Arden was amongst that statistical 10% minority? He was educated, well-connected, and wealthy. His education at Harrow, Brasenose and the Middle Temple kept him in an overwhelmingly male environment but on the other hand he had sisters who, presumably, had friends and it is difficult to believe that there weren’t suitors around at some stages in his life. Why did he never marry? Perhaps there is a clue to be found in his family experience?

Richard Arden was married at least twice - the second (or perhaps third) marriage came very late in life when he was 86. By 1891 he was living in East Burnham House, Burnham with Frances a new wife who was some 20 years younger, their seven servants and a “certificated nurse”. But for over 40 years Richard was married to Percy’s mother, Mary. Apart from Percy there were six other children and yet there is some evidence to suggest a lack of domestic harmony in this long marriage. The census of 1871 tells us that Richard and one of his other sons, Douglas, is living in Cumberland Place, Marylebone. Richard now describes himself as “retired magistrate” but Mary is living 60 or 70 miles away in Hastings. She and her 21 year old daughter, Evelyn, are living in Evelsfield Place, Hastings and Mary describes her situation rather cryptically as “Husband Away”. Could this be indicative of marital separation or marital tension painful enough to make Percy, their eldest son, somewhat sceptical about the joys of marriage?

Speculation about Percy’s private life is just that: speculation. It is safer to conclude something else about the significance of Percy Arden’s life. It is tempting to think of the Victorians as great strivers and achievers: the soldiers, the explorers, the engineers, the inventors, the industrialists, the empire-builders. The people who were:

“… strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

Tennyson’s words may have caught the Victorian zeitgeist but the life of Percy Arden reminds us that there was also a leisured class of people in Victorian and Edwardian England who led quiet, uneventful and unchallenging lives living off investments and inherited wealth.


Colonel Edward Philippe Mackenzie, 1842- 1929, A Military Man and Much More

Colonel EP Mackenzie and his wife Helen moved into Sussex Square in 1911. He was 69 and Helen - his wife of 46 years - was 67. He lived there until his death in 1929 and was to be the last proper resident of the whole, undivided house.

Colonel McKenzie of the Loyal Suffolk Hussars.

In successive editions of the Brighton directories, Edward Philippe Mackenzie designates himself Colonel E P Mackenzie DL, JP, FRS, MCC. The use of rank andlettered achievements after his name might seem to indicate some pride in a full and varied life or equally, the string of letters might be included with just a twinkle of irony. In 1927, for example, he rather pointedly describes himself: “JP, ex-DL, MCC, FRS”.

The census of 1911 describes Edward Mackenzie as “Colonel. Private Means” xxiv and it does seem clear that Edward Philippe Mackenzie’s military standing meant a great deal to him and went some way towards defining the kind of man that he was. He may have been a proud military man but for much of his military career he was not a member of a regular regiment and he never saw active service abroad. Apart from anything else he was too young for the Crimean War of the 1850’s and (probably) too old for the Boer Wars of the 1890’s. Edward Mackenzie was most closely associated with one of the county yeomanries: The Duke of York’s Own Loyal Suffolk Hussars. This unit like many other county yeomanries had been set up as a Volunteer Troop back in 1794 to counter the then perceived threat from France. The volunteers came mainly from the propertied class: aristocrats, landed gentry, farmers, yeomen, for it was imperative that they owned (or had access to) a horse. Their purpose was to guarantee safety: safety from the threat of a possible French invasion and, equally important, safety from social unrest at home. Anxieties about a discontented and increasingly pauperised labouring class were very real in the early decades of the 19th century for it was feared that the poor might be infected with dangerously revolutionary ideas from across the channel.

Half a century later the Suffolk Yeomanry had become a slightly strange mixture. It did fulfil some kind of military purpose but it was also seen as a way of conferring social cachet upon its members and followers. Its annual training camps were concluded with the well-attended Yeomanry Races and the prestigious Yeomanry Ball. There was a lingering suspicion that some of the officers were a little too aware of their glamorous uniforms xxv and never quite immune from the sneer that they were just playing at being soldiers. xxvi

Edward Mackenzie military career began as a young man. A brief newspaper report of April 1862 announced that EP Mackenzie was to be a “Cornet” in the 9th Lancers “by purchase”. xxvii As a Lieutenant he was for a while in the 1860’s stationed with the 9th Lancers at Preston Barracks in Brighton. It was also reported that he was a skilled and enthusiastic amateur actor who on one occasion performed before the Queen Mother at the Theatre Royal in Brighton. Promotions followed and a couple of decades later The London Gazette recorded “Captain EP Mackenzie to be Major. Dated 18th December1886”.

In the Yeomanry, however, there seems to have been a perennial problem with non-attendance by the men at the annual training sessions. In 1882, for example, after the Inspection, the C.O., Lt. Col. Blake, complained about the numerical strength. All the squadrons were short and “the squadron under Captain Mackenzie had 74 enrolled but only 48 present”.

The following year, in December 1883, there is a rather interesting report in The Bury & Norwich Post. In that year, EP Mackenzie was also the High Sheriff of Suffolk and one of his duties was to convene the Winter Assizes (law courts) held in Ipswich Shire Hall. The article reports that the Sheriff “wore the uniform of the Suffolk Yeomanry Cavalry” – presumably his Captain’s uniform - and goes on that a large crowd had assembled near the station “but excellent order was maintained by a contingent of the County Constabulary”. This report of Mackenzie’s decision to wear the army uniform on this occasion carries more than a hint, a veiled threat perhaps and a reminder of the Yeomanry’s other traditional function: that of supporting law and order at home. From 1887 to 1892 he was Lieutenant Colonel commanding the Suffolk Yeomanry and was appointed honorary Colonel in 1894. Although this final promotion would have taken place in the reformed post-Cardwell age, patronage and the purchase of commissions did not disappear straight away. In fact the Cardwell reforms left the volunteer regiments pretty much unscathed and able to carry on in the old ways. xxviii There was still a strong sense of the officer class being what one historian described as “a wealthy man’s vocation” and EP Mackenzie was certainly a wealthy man. Like Percy Arden before him, Edward Mackenzie was born into a family with money and property. A great deal of money in fact and Mackenzie money was railway money.

Railway Money.

Mackenzie and Brassey was, according to the Institute of Civil Engineers, the “largest contracting firm in the world”. In the 1840’s and 1850’s it built “much of the French railway network as well as fulfilling contracts in Britain, France, Belgium and Spain”. William Mackenzie - EP’s uncle - is now less well known than his near contemporary Isambard Kingdom Brunel but he had much of the latter’s genius and dedication. A civil engineer, he started life as a canal builder with Thomas Telford but soon moved into railway design and construction. The peak of his career was in the 1840’s when, with his business partner Thomas Brassey, the company built most of the railway network in Northern France and the 434 miles of track between Orleans and Bordeaux. Immensely busy, he also found time to keep a detailed, daily diary that gives us a fascinating picture of his years in France. Much of the diary is about the technical and physical challenges of building a railway system from scratch but he also makes frequent reference to his younger brother, Edward Mackenzie – EP’s father – who was also working with the company in France. EP himself was actually born in France – in Nantes – which perhaps explains his French middle name, Philippe. William Mackenzie was an obsessive. He was utterly devoted to work, to the detriment of his health and everything else and this probably contributed to his premature death in 1851. He left all of his very considerable fortune to his brother Edward. Edward soon retired, returned to England and bought himself Fawley Court, near Henley. xxixIn acquiring this grand house with its ancient deer park stretching down to the banks of the Thames, Edward Mackenzie seems to have made that not uncommon Victorian journey from trade to gentry.

Edward Philippe McKenzie.

Fawley Court was where, after his early nomadic existence in France, the young EP lived. The 1861 census tells us that the 19 year old Edward Philippe, now an undergraduate, is living at Fawley Court with his mother, six sisters, brother, a Governess and thirteen servants. He was not to remain there long for at the age of 23, he married. Helen Jane Baskerville was the daughter of Henry Baskerville, Lord of the Manor of Shiplake. The Baskerville family owned Crowsley Park near Shiplake and lived in the 18th century Mansion within the Park. xxxThe Berkshire Chronicle describes their wedding on 14th October1865 at Shiplake Parish Church in some detail. There were 20 carriages and a “large number” of friends and parishioners in the church. Afterwards, a “splendid dejeuner” was served at Crowsley Park followed by “a large ball in the evening attended by all the elite of the neighbourhood.” Early the next morning the bride and groom left for Folkestone “en route the continent”.

That phrase “all the elite of the neighbourhood” - even allowing for some press sycophancy - does suggest how this marriage helped to cement the family’s standing in the higher echelons of county society. xxxi Shortly after this Edward Mackenzie senior made a substantial addition to his property portfolio with the purchase of Santon Downham Hall in Suffolk. Bought from the Duke of Cleveland it was described as “a noble mansion built of white Suffolk brick, situated in a well-timbered park” and it was to be Edward Philippe’s family home (or one of them) for decades to come.

After their marriage, Downham Hall was home for Edward, Helen and - from 1867 - their daughter (and only child) Beryl. The 1871 census reveals Edward Philippe living at Downham Hall with his wife and four year old daughter. He now describes his occupation as “late lieutenant 9th lancers” perhaps a euphemism for gentleman of leisure. Life is eased by the presence of 7 inhouse servants: Cook, Nurse, Footman, Housemaid, Scullerymaid etc and numerous other outside staff: Bailiff, Coachman, Grooms, Gamekeepers, Shepherds, Gardeners etc. When his father died in 1880, EP Mackenzie was left both Fawley Court and Downham Hall (and £130,000) xxxii although in 1881 the family are to be found in their London home at 14 Seymour Street, Marylebone.

Beryl, now 14, is a “scholar” with a German Governess. Within a few years - in the mid 80’s - Beryl is ready to make her appearance in “society”. The Morning Post of 6th March, 1889 reports that “Colonel and Mrs Philippe Mackenzie and Miss Beryl Mackenzie have arrived at 19 Wimpole Street from Downham Hall, Suffolk for the Season”. There were similar reports of Beryl’s arrival in London “for the Season” in 1885, ’86, ’87 & ’88. Her regular presence in London “for the Season” seems to have done the trick as in August 1890 she married Colonel Geoffrey Barton of the Royal Fusiliers in the suitably august setting of All Souls, Langham Place. Colonel Geoffrey Barton, an Old Etonian, was some 13 years older than Beryl and was very definitely a “real” soldier with a distinguished military record. He had seen action defending the Empire in various parts of Africa: the Ashanti Expedition of 1874, the Zulu War of 1879 and protecting the Suez Canal Zone against an Egyptian uprising in 1882. He had been wounded as well as being “mentioned in despatches”. The wedding report in the newspaper is long, dwelling upon the “very numerous and costly” wedding presents. Astonishingly there were over 200 presents and each gift is described in loving detail and attributed to its donor. Diamonds, pearls and silver proliferate.

Family, the Primrose League and Duty.

They were a wealthy family but a routine article in a local newspaper of 1890 – a few months before Beryl’s wedding - sheds much light on the character, culture and social values of the Mackenzie family. It is the 11th February 1890 edition of The Bury & Norwich Post and it describes a “Primrose League Concert” held in nearby Brandon. The Primrose League was an enormously popular movement in late Victorian times. Initially set up by Lord Randolph Churchill and other Tory grandees at The Carlton Club, its aim was to popularise the Monarchy, Free Trade, the Empire and the Tory cause. The “primrose” was claimed to be Benjamin Disraeli’s favourite flower and the League adopted impressive-sounding nomenclature (branches were known as “Habitations” for example) and a latin motto: “Imperium et Libertas”. The Brandon concert was a fund raising event. It played to a packed house (“the hall was crowded to suffocation”) and consisted of music, comic songs and a half hour “eloquent and stirring speech” praising both Lord Salisbury’s government and the huge increase in 28

Primrose League members. The concert was organised by Mrs Philippe Mackenzie (“Ruling Councillor of the Brandon Habitation”), Colonel Mackenzie was the MC for the evening and their daughter, Beryl, seems to have been the star turn. Miss Mackenzie (“Secretary to the Habitation”) kept “the audience in a high state of hilarity from beginning to end with her admirable comic performance.” She, along with her mother and the vicar, Rev. M.A. Gathercole, played “several selections” with the set of Handbells that were much appreciated by the audience. This concert held in the village hall was so successful that it was repeated a few days later at Downham Hall. It wasn’t the purpose of the article but indirectly it does make quite clear the kind of family that the Mackenzies were: politically conservative, conventionally imperial and the natural leaders in their local community.

Edward Mackenzie, we should remember, was born in France. Suffolk was his adopted county but during the last few decades of the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th century he was very much part of the fabric of that county. In addition to being Colonel of the Suffolk Yeomanry, he was High Sheriff for the County in 1882/83, he was Chairman of the Brandon Magistrates, Chairman of Brandon Rural Council and Chairman of the Thetford Union (The Workhouse). xxxiiiThe Workhouse was managed by paid staff but overseen by “Guardians” who represented the 34 parishes whence the “paupers” came and for many years Colonel Mackenzie was Chairman of the Board of Guardians.

The Move to Brighton

When in 1911 Edward and Helen Mackenzie decided to move to 14 Sussex Square, it must have been a big decision. For them in their late 60’s it was a personal wrench, a real sense of breaking with the past. They had reached what we would think of as retirement age but what they were retiring from was not really paid work but a whole way of life. A life based on unpaid public duties and the belief that privilege brought responsibilities. In practice having moved to the South coast their life must have been punctuated by frequent visits back to Suffolk. They still had Downham Hall and the Colonel served on various Suffolk committees. How they travelled was interesting as it was reported that “Col. Mackenzie was well known in Brighton as perhaps the last gentleman to prefer a hansom to a motor car”. A century later he would have been labelled a technophobe. He only bought his first car in 1924. Perhaps they travelled by rail but either way must have found it a long and increasingly arduous journey.

So it is perhaps no surprise that the final severance with their Suffolk past fell a few years later, in 1917. In August of that year a two day sale took place in Downham Hall. Salter, Simpson & Sons had been “instructed by Colonel Edward Philippe Mackenzie to sell by auction without reserve on Thursday & Friday 23rd & 24th August 1917”. The sale was to commence at 11 o’ clock each day and was to consist of “the valuable contents of the mansion”. The contents included: Sheraton cabinets, Chippendale bookcases, Jacobean chests, Hepplewhite chairs, paintings, Persian rugs, a Grand Pianoforte, 40 dozen cases of wine and spirits, a Pony & Carriage and - most plangently of all - “a set of Handbells”. The contents were sold off and the following year The Hall and Estate itself were sold to land speculators who eventually sold it on to the Forestry Commission.

In the following month of September, EP Mackenzie made a speech at the Brandon Petty Sessional Court. In that speech he announced his retirement as Chairman of Magistrates. After 45 years he felt that the time had come to say farewell. He recalled how in the early days he had often ridden to Court on horseback and how often they sat in court for hours on end. On one occasion there was such “long list of cases he did not dine until twenty minutes to ten”! He also chose this occasion to resign from his membership of Thetford Rural Council and the Board of Guardians for the Thetford Union. He had served for over 40 years on that Board, twelve as Chairman. In his letter of resignation - written from Sussex Square - he explained his reason was that “he had now left the neighbourhood”. One might also add that he was 75 years of age.

One of the recurrent motifs in this house-history is the connection between the house and the Hervey family. A connection that links Sussex and Suffolk. We know that for some of the 19th century 14 Sussex Square was owned by the Marquess of Bristol. It is possible that Sarah Darnell nee Sale (of Ickworth) was known to the Marquess before her arrival at Sussex Square and 50 years later the pattern continues with the arrival of the Mackenzies from Suffolk. Intriguing questions loom. Edward Mackenzie was involved with the Suffolk Yeomanry for much of his adult life culminating in his appointment as Colonel. The Suffolk Yeomanry, ultimately, was the responsibility of the Lord Lieutenant of the county and for almost 20 years in the latter part of the 19th century the Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk was Frederick William Hervey, 3rd Marquess of Bristol. In addition Ickworth - the Hervey estate – was frequently used by the Yeomanry for training purposes. Clearly Edward Mackenzie would have known successive Marquesses of Bristol and probably other members of the Hervey family. So when the Mackenzies decided to relocate to Brighton in 1911 it seems unlikely that it was mere coincidence that the 4th Marquess was living a few doors away. It seems probable that there was some kind of personal or social or even legal connection.

Whatever their reasons for moving to Brighton, the war years of 1914 to 18 must have difficult. Edward and his brother (and his son in law) were all former military men and must have been appalled by the reports of the horror and destruction in the trenches that were leaking back from Northern France. Perhaps Edward was aware of the terrible irony that their family business – building the French railway system – had, by the law of unintended consequences, helped to facilitate death on an industrial scale never before seen. In a more direct and personal way Edward and Helen would have had daily reminders of the consequences of war. 15 and 16 Lewes Crescent had been turned into a military hospital and the wounded soldiers, escorted by their nurses (stationed at 28 Lewes Crescent), were a daily sight being walked around the gardens to help with their convalescence. This continued until some mean-spirited residents complained about this use of the private gardens and the practice ceased.

Perhaps by the end of the war Helen and Edward Mackenzie - having finally severed their links with Suffolk - felt that their lives were more centred in Kemp Town. Perhaps the Sussex Square house finally seemed like home. If that were the case then it wasn’t to last very long for in the autumn of the following year, Helen died. She was 75 and had been married to Edward for almost 54 years.

The Final Years

He must have felt bereft but the impulse to contribute to public life had not completely deserted him. From its very inception the Kemp Town Estate had been managed by a committee. In the very early years the committee had been chaired by Thomas Read Kemp himself. Antony Dale’s revealing little booklet xxxiv and the beautifully kept Minute Books indicate how that committee had been functioning continually, regularly and sometimes argumentatively for almost a century.

In 1921 Colonel EP Mackenzie was its Chairman. The previous Chairman for a number of years had been Lord Francis Hervey and Dale describes how a certain amount of tension had arisen. A dissident group of residents were dissatisfied with the management of the gardens and Edward Mackenzie – by now the Chairman – was prompted to call an Extraordinary General Meeting. It was held at The Bristol Hotel on the 19th November 1921. The Committee survived a vote of no confidence but only just, the majority was small and hardly a ringing endorsement of the Committee’s efforts. Mackenzie seems to have had enough and resigned the Chairmanship the following year. He was by then 80 years old.

In 1923, Edward Mackenzie had one final duty to perform. It was a duty that, though tinged with sadness, must have made him very proud. The event was recorded in The Evening Telegraph of April 19th 1923 under the headline “Scottish Weddings in London”. It was the wedding of his granddaughter. Joanna Katherine Barton was following family tradition by marrying a soldier - the Groom was Captain Robert Tottenham of the Royal Fusiliers. The Bride was the daughter of the “late Colonel Sir Geoffrey Barton and Dame Beryl Barton”. The now widowed Beryl was living in Scotland - Kircudbrightshire - but had decided that the wedding should be held in fashionable London. The venue was St Paul’s, Knightsbridge – and it was probably both mother and daughter’s wish that the bride should be “given away” by her Grandfather, Colonel EP Mackenzie. The reception was held at 67 Lowndes Square and it must have been quite a grand occasion and a very fitting finale for a proud family man.

In fact Edward Mackenzie lived for several more years and, apparently, never lost his interest in the stage. It was reported that just a fortnight before his death on 3rd September 1929 he attended a matinee at the Theatre Royal. His funeral service was held at St Marks Church prior to interment at the Extra-Mural Cemetery. He was survived by his only child, Dame Beryl Marie Baskerville Barton, widow, two grandchildren and five great grandchildren. None appeared to have any wish to retain the house. 31


The Modern Age, Flats, 1934 – The Present

By the time of Colonel Mackenzie’s death in 1929 the house was almost exactly 100 years old. This chapter, Chapter 6 will survey the 80 plus years up to the present. It covers the longest period of years but will contain the shortest number of words. During those eight and a half decades many people have lived (and are still living) in the building but their stories are beyond the scope of this history.

The large Kemp Town houses were built explicitly to allow the rich and powerful of the 19th century to display their wealth and to display it conspicuously and with confidence. The stories in this history have been their stories, the stories of the owners and the residents. Less has been said about the servants. We know little about the people who lived on the top floor and worked in the basement apart from occasionally their names. The censuses suggest that they came and went, never staying for long periods of time.

The Great War and the Great Recession brought many changes and by the 1920’s the social fabric of Britain - and Brighton - was very different. There are probably many and varied reasons why these large 19th century houses gradually lost their purpose: the Stock Market crash, the economic recession, increased wages for servants, smaller family units, the incremental decline of Brighton’s fashionable elitism. All of these may have played a part but in general it was connected with the growing democratisation of 20th century Britain. Whatever the reasons, it happened. The buildings were converted into flats.

In Sussex Square it started in the 1920’s. In 1923 at least six of the 50 houses had been converted and by 1927 it was at least 18 of the 50. Colonel Mackenzie died in 1929 and, after a few blank years, by 1934 14 Sussex Square had joined that growing list. It had been converted into three (or maybe four) “flats”. xxxv In 1936 14A (the basement flat) is mentioned for the first time - occupied by a “Mr. Wm Chas Jack”. By the 1950’s the building had been reconfigured to accommodate 6 flats including 14A accessed through the separate basement door - the other five flats were accessed through the main front door.

In October 1952 the house acquired Grade 1 Listed status - at the same time as all the other houses in Sussex Square, Lewes Crescent, Arundel Terrace and Chichester Terrace. Almost exactly 60 years after this on 26th September, 2012 a blue plaque was unveiled that commemorated the house’s most celebrated former resident, Lord John Russell. The official unveiling ceremony was carried out by Mr Norman Baker MP, coincidentally but appropriately MP for Lewes. Perhaps in some far away celestial place a former MP for Lewes was watching and approving. 32


This house was built for the era of master and servant – an era long gone. The house remains but it is both the same and different. From the front little has changed over the last 180 years. The neo-classical facade with its giant composite pilasters and acanthus-ornamented capitals would be immediately recognisable to a Victorian time traveller. That (probably) bewhiskered former resident would also recognise the entablature around the porch with its “egg and dart” cornice, the first floor balcony and the distinctive leaf design staircase but equally he would be mystified by the plethora of bathrooms, the crudely-divided rooms and stud walls. The builder, William Hallett, (or his reincarnation) would note with satisfaction that his handiwork – the basement vault pavement, the rear backfence wall, the drawing room casements – were still intact after 180 years. I think he would be proud of his craftsmanship and confident that for £91=8s=8d the 1st Marquess of Bristol got good value for his money.

David Jackson
January, 2015.
14 Sussex Square,


i As a history (like most histories) it’s incomplete and it’s not really a Regency house – but then most Brighton “Regency” houses were built long after the Regent became king.

ii A building material used in most 19th century Brighton houses.


iii Readers interested in a more conventional history of the house will find the “Timeline” printed after Chapter 6.

Chapter 1: Lord John Russell.

iv This quotation is found in “Lord John Russell” by Stuart Reid. This biography first published in 1895 was written with the assistance of Russell’s daughter, Lady Agatha, who provided access to her father’s private papers. The full text is available free on line.

v The Brighton Guardian was a weekly paper published on Wednesdays between 1827 and 1901. It was the most political of the local newspapers with a reformist even radical agenda. Committed but not too solemn it even includes the occasional rather good political joke e.g. the September 4th, 1839 edition covers a story about Mr Baring, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, being re-elected unopposed in his constituency of Portsmouth. Elsewhere in the same edition: “Q Why is Melbourne [PM] likely to become a tyrant? A Because he is always overBaring”!! It claimed to be “The Largest Paper circulated widely throughout Sussex and the adjoining counties.” Editions have been microfilmed and are available for viewing at The Keep (East Sussex Record Office).

vi Lord Brougham or to give him his full title 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux (pronounced broom & vokes!) was Lord Chancellor in Melbourne’s first administration. He supported many of the same causes as Lord John. He also designed a coach that is named after him: the Brougham and is generally credited with inventing Cannes in the South of France as a fashionable destination.

vii Thomas Creevey was a Whig MP (he “represented” a pocket borough) and friend of the Prince Regent (later George 4th), his brothers the Duke of York & Duke of Clarence (later William 4th), their various mistresses and wives. He also knew personally the young Queen Victoria (or “Vic” as he calls her). In fact he seems to have known just about everyone in public life in the first three decades of the 19th century and he was a prolific letter writer. The letters were mainly written to his wife or daughter and are more concerned with the personal and social life of his friends and acquaintances than with hard politics. They give a wonderfully rich and detailed portrait of regency England.

He was the Pepys (or Alan Clark) of his day. He was a great lover of Brighton during its fashionable heyday but by the late 1830’s regarded it as “…a detestable place: the crowd of human beings is not to be endured. Death has made great havoc in a very short time with our royalties of the pavilion – Prinny and brother William, Duke of York and Duke of Kent, all gone and all represented by little Vic only.” He goes on to describe dinner at the Pavilion with “Vic”. He compliments her devotion to her mother and her ready smile but is a little critical of her “not very good gums” and the way “she eats heartily…she gobbles.”

viii Leppard & Co’s Brighton Directory was an annual publication that provides us with a mine of fascinating information about Victorian Brighton. The 1839 edition (that included the information for 1838) has a section that listed the addresses of


“Resident Nobility, Clergy & Gentry”. Of the 50 houses in Sussex Square, 14 owners are listed amongst whom are: at No. 21 an “academy” run by the Rev. EJ Everard and more intriguingly the owner of No. 32 was Lawrence and Lady Jane Peel. Lawrence Peel can be identified as Sir Robert Peel’s younger brother. Sir Robert founder of the Metropolitan Police and Prime Minister- to- be was a Tory and one of Lord John’s perennial opponents. The Peel Crypt in St George’s Church where Lawrence and Jane Peel and many other members of their family were laid to rest is open to the public. No owner is listed for No. 14 so if my hypothesis is correct and the house was by this time owned by the Marquess of Bristol presumably he (or his agent) wished to keep information about his ownership private.

ix The New Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Rose Collis. I am indebted to this publication for this and much other background information.

x The Brighton Gazette was a weekly paper published on Saturdays between 1825 and 1980. Editions have been microfilmed and are available for viewing at The Keep (East Sussex Record Office).

xi Over 60 coaches a day during the season (between August & Christmas) were making the journey to and from London travelling partially on macadamised roads via Pyecombe, Bolney & Clapham. There is a very prescient advert in the September 5th 1838 edition of the Brighton Guardian from the “London Brighton Railway Co.” inviting “payment of £3 per share by October 17th” that indicates clearly the shape of things to come.

xii Dr. Robert Tayler (1794-1883) was in fact one of the most eminent physicians of his time. In 1828 he was one of the three founder surgeons of the newly opened Sussex County Hospital and later in 1843 he was one of the original Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons. More pertinently in his early career he trained under William Newnham – the most eminent accouchear (male midwife) of the time. This was almost certainly the reason – as the Guardian suggests – that Russell brought his wife to Brighton in the autumn of 1838. The RCS website indicates that in his later years, Tayler was something of a character who, although gentlemanly and courteous, could be irritable and occasionally would swear fluently. He was very fond of horses and his driver reported this story. One day the Doctor was visiting a patient in St James’ Street and left his carriage in the road. In the meantime, a waterworks official turned on a stopcock that splashed and frightened the horses. “When Mr Tayler came out he just did swear and he took hold of the waterworks man and held him over the spout until he was wet through.”

xiii Some idea about the “medical science” that informed Lady Adelaide’s treatment is suggested by the young Queen Victoria’s personal journal of 27th October in which she records reading “…a letter from Lord John giving but a bad account of her; she had leeches on her head.”

xiv The vast Lord John Russell archive is lodged at The National Archive at Kew. Anyone with a Reader’s Card can view its contents.

xv Perhaps she felt guilty about a rather catty remark in her journal written just a week earlier. Lord John had missed a meeting with Prime Minister Melbourne.


Victoria wrote in an entry on the 25th October: “I’m very cross with Lord John… did not come for urgent business, on account of that whimsical little wife of his having some pain or other which his staying couldn’t prevent…” A week later she was dead.

Chapter 2 Charles Reade.

xvi Detailed information about East India Company employees (including Charles Reade) is available from

Chapter 3 John Darnell.

xvii Taylor’s Brighton Directory 1854.

xviii In his book “Fashionable Brighton 1820-1860” Antony Dale writes that Bristol bought 19 & 20 Sussex Square – Bristol Mansions _ and 50 acres to the North and West of the site from Thomas Kemp in 1828. Over the next few years he also bought 14, 15, 16 & 35 Sussex Square and the Race Course. Some evidence in support of this is to be found in the minute book of the Kemp Town Committee. In the meeting held - appropriately - at the Bristol Hotel, the minutes record that on the 1/1/1838 the Marquess of Bristol owned “5” properties on the Estate.

Chapter 4 Percy Arden

xix By a strange coincidence this church was built on land bought for £1000 from the widow of Lord John Russell. Not “our” Lord John Russell but one of his early 18th century ancestors.

xx There is some ambiguity about its meaning but it could be translated as the rather pugnacious: provoke them with a bite. Is there a family pun lurking in “DENte”?

xxi The 1861 census recorded data valid on the 7th April. Presumably on this date Percy was “down” from Oxford on vacation

xxii The Bellevue was one of the first two hotels to open in the new resort of Bournemouth in 1838. Long demolished it is now the site of The Pavilion.

xxiii Sunbury Park was originally a Tudor Manor House built for one of Elizabeth’s courtiers. A walled garden was established in the 18th century.

Chapter 5 Colonel EP McKenzie.

xxiv The 1911 census is the last one available for general public scrutiny. We shall have to wait until 2021 before we may have access to the 1921 census.

xxv In 1872 following instructions to reduce the amount of gold braid, the Hussars’ uniform consisted of a “dark blue tunic with yellow braid and a busby with a cockade”.


xxvi The Suffolk Yeomanry only acquired its name The Loyal Suffolk Hussars in 1883 and it is a fact that during the first hundred years of its existence the Suffolk Yeomanry never fired a shot in anger abroad. It was only in 1899 when part of The Loyal Suffolk Hussars had been subsumed into The Imperial Yeomanry that they saw action abroad as part of the forces involved in the Second Boer War.

xxvii A “Cornet” was the lowest rank for a commissioned officer. The equivalent of a Second Lieutenant. The date is significant in that it is after the scandal of the charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimea when it was widely believed that James Thomas Brudenell, the Earl of Cardigan who led the 15th Hussars on that ill-fated charge, had bought his “Colonelcy” for £25,000 but before the so called Cardwell reforms of 1871 that sought to improve army recruitment and end the practice of wealthy men buying commissions.

xxviii For this information and much else about the Suffolk Yeomanry, I am indebted to Margaret Thomas & Nick Sign’s excellent book: “The Loyal Suffolk Hussars”.

xxix Fawley Court is a Grade 1 listed country house on the edge of Henley on Thames. Most of the house was built in the 17th century. The estate was landscaped by Capability Brown in the 18th. The house is reputed to be the model for Toad Hall in Kenneth Grahame’s “Wind in the Willows”. Much more recently, after years of legal wrangling over disputed ownership, the house has been sold to a private buyer.

xxx Crowsley Park House, about two miles from Reading, still exists and is in private ownership although since the Second World War much of the park has been the site of a BBC Signals Receiving Station. The rest of the park is leased to the Forestry Commission. Back in the 19th century the house was owned by the Baskerville family. Henry Baskerville – Helen’s father - was very keen on dogs and thus, reputedly, became one of the inspirations for Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous story.

xxxi Remarkably Edward Philippe’s older brother, William Dalziel Mackenzie, also married a Baskerville: Mary - Henry Baskerville’s eldest daughter. In fact there were several parallels in the two brothers’ lives. Both served as magistrates, both served as High Sheriffs and both reached the rank of Colonel.

xxxii Downham Hall in Santon Downham, Suffolk no longer exists. Mackenzie sold the estate in 1918. Eventually it was bought by the Forestry Commission and the house was demolished in 1927. All that remains of this once “noble mansion”, is the Ice House and the Coach House.

xxxiii The Thetford Union served over 30 villages in North Suffolk and South Norfolk. In the census of 1881 there were 138 inmates – “paupers” – of whom over 50 were children. They were managed by 4 staff.

xxxiv “The History of the Kemp Town Gardens, Brighton” by Antony Dale is in print and available from Jonathon Rolls premises in Eastern Road. Rather charmingly the cover price is still “2/6”.

Chapter 6. The Modern Age: Flats.


xxxv It seems that planning consent was not required for internal changes although in 1932 planning permission was granted for the construction of a garage.

14 Sussex Square: A History Timeline..

xxxvi The Nursemaid’s Tunnel still exists and is to be found under what is now the Euston Road.

xxxvii One of the ironies of The Kemp Town Estate, regarded (rightly) as a glory of Regency architecture, is that not a brick was laid nor a foundation dug until at least three years after the end of The Regency.

xxxviii Note the date – the Prince Regent is now George IVth.

The nearby Rock Inn – still very much open – was patronised by many of the original workers employed on the site.

xxxix William Hallett was one of the Marquess of Bristol’s builders. On the 25th February 1835 he paid Hallett £91-8s-8d for work carried out at 14 Sussex Square. The work included Drawing Room casements, building the brick backfence wall and paving the vault.

Astonishingly this slip of paper survives and is to be found at Bury St Edmunds Record Office and seems to offer proof that by February 1835, 14 Sussex Square was owned by the Marquess of Bristol.