By Tim Hudson (guest blogger)
What types of historic documents do architectural historians use? Continuing with our guest written series, the once Editor of the Sussex Victoria County History and co author of the updated Pevsner guide to West Sussex, Tim Hudson, will be exploring the types of records used when researching built heritage. Each blog, Tim will look at a significant West Sussex building through a variety of historic documents available at the Record Office.
Today, for Tim’s final blog in the series, we look at Estate Brochures.
An earlier post in this series (of which this is the last) dealt with sale particulars, often of large rural estates.
A related class of documents is brochures for new housing estates either being developed or about to be. These can appear as sale particulars (SP) or miscellaneous papers (MP). They can also be accessions to the Record Office library.
Such documents, with obvious value for the local history of an area, can be illuminating for architectural history too.
The Glenwood Estate in Bognor Regis, behind the Chichester University campus (the former Bognor Regis College of Education), was developed in the 1930s.
A plan in the sales brochure (SP 41) for ‘Glenwood Building Estates’ shows the site.
The owners of the land (described as ‘The Proprietors’) invited prospective builders of either single or multiple houses to apply. They had to observe certain conditions, for instance on the quality of what was built and its appearance. Retail shops and ‘trade, manufacture or business’ were prohibited.
As in other contemporary estates, the result was a fairly uniform architectural character.
Often scorned now, such streets will surely come to be appreciated one day.
As an inducement to purchasers, brochures often included notes on the locality. Bognor was described here ecstatically as ‘noted for its pure, balmy, and, at the same time, bracing air’ (surely a contradiction). The resort’s promenade, ‘capital’ pier and ‘beautiful firm sands’ were also appreciatively noted.
No 23 Glenwood Avenue exemplifies the style and building materials of the Glenwood Estate. It was once a dentist’s premises, dentistry clearly not counting as either ‘trade’ or ‘business’.
The Parklands estate on the west side of Chichester also began to be developed in the 1930s. Parklands Road, Cedar Drive and Sherborne Road were the spines of its southern part, though the layout shown here isn’t exactly what was carried out. Houses were erected by a single firm of builders, Arthur Clare & Son. Illustrations are given of different types of houses already put up.
The history of Parklands is described in two Record Office pamphlets written by Jeannette Knott, a resident and former member of staff.
The King Edward VII Estate near Midhurst, currently ongoing, involves architecture of a rather higher order. It is based around the former sanatorium named after the king.
This was the work of the architect Charles Holden, famous for Underground stations in the outer suburbs of North London and for Senate House in Bloomsbury, built in the 1930s as the centrepiece of London University.
One of the tallest London structures of its time, this now recalls buildings of contemporary totalitarian regimes of both Left and Right. Its interior spaces in fact have served as Nazi HQ in films and TV programmes.
The main hospital buildings at Midhurst, of 1903-6, have been converted for domestic use. New housing in traditional style occupies part of the hospital’s extensive grounds (photographs by Tim Hudson).
A 114-page brochure about the estate dating from circa 2014 places special emphasis on the amenities of the local area, including the arts, restaurants and cafes, and other leisure activities.
It also includes a collage of photographs from the early 20th century. The arcaded building shown was the chapel, now planned to be converted for a café, a social centre and retail space.
The cover of the brochure gives a very different impression from the two brochures already illustrated. The selling point here is clearly ‘lifestyle’, and it could be almost a number of, say, Vogue.
The West Sussex Record Office is keen to collect more examples of such documents, especially originals (the Parklands brochure, though very useful, is only a photocopy). There must be many lurking in lofts or at the back of cupboards.