Architects Architecture Art People

St Andrew’s Church + Goodwin Sands Deal Kent

The Memory of the Just is Blessed

Deal on the east coast of Kent is a microcosm of the best of Britishness with a heavy dose of end-of-the-line quirkiness. The winding lanes of the old smuggling quarter are awash with quaint cottages, some called after other places in Britain like Fleet, Mendham, Rutland and Stockport. The cutely named Ticklebelly Alley meanders from the railway station to a quiet Victorian residential enclave adjacent to the old smuggling quarter. Its streets are patriotically named after the Patron Saints of the British Isles: St Andrew’s, St David’s, St George’s and St Patrick’s Road. To the north of St Andrew’s Road at the very top of the area (apropos considering the map of the British Isles) lies a church named after the Patron Saint of Scotland.

The Early English style St Andrew’s Anglo Catholic Church was built in 1850 to the design of Ambrose Poynter on the 0.4 hectare site of a workhouse. Then 15 years later, the chancel was extended and vestries were added in Earlyish English style. Chapels were added in the closing decade of the 19th century. Use of Kentish ragstone with Caen stone dressings throughout suggest a cohesive timelessness. Eight salvaged medieval gargoyles protrude from the sturdy buttressed steeple. Domestic looking dormers in the tiled roof light the aisles. Ambrose Poynter was a pupil of John Nash between 1814 and 1818.

On the Second Sunday Before Lent 2018 Father Paul Blanch, the interim Priest in Charge, preached at St Andrew’s, “Our reasons as to why we choose to be here are not necessarily wrong,” referring to a recently circulated survey asking parishioners to state their reasons for churchgoing. “No, they are important to each of us in different ways. But what is important to us all is that the Church is the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ and when we come together, when we gather, we make Church. We make Jesus present in a special way. We become His body which exists for us and we continue to make Him present for those outside of the Church, as much as for ourselves. As the late Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple said it is the only society that exists for those outside it and our priority as the Church must be the needs of the most vulnerable of God’s world.”

St Andrew’s Church lies just 380 metres inland as the dove would fly from the English Channel coast (and a mere 42 kilometres dove flying from Calais) with its mysterious disappearing and reappearing Goodwin Sands. Anyone for cricket? Yes but only in summer and not just because cricket is a seasonal sport. These 16 kilometre long sandbanks, 10 kilometres out from the coast, were only associated with shipwrecks until some sporting locals started playing cricket matches in the high summers of the 1820s during low tide. The tradition continues two centuries later. Even in the rolling sea billows of midwinter, glimpses can be seen from Deal of Goodwin Sands.

A horsebox is parked along Beach Street between The Bohemian bar and the entrance to Deal Pier. A sign on a kitchen chair on the pavement next to the horsebox reads: “Following on from my previous horsebox exhibition The Rolling Roving Insect Show, this exhibition, my work is all one. My latest work ‘Something About Time’ can be seen within (it has been designed to be viewed singularly / close companions) a single seat is offered and whilst viewing I ask (for it is not mandatory) the observer to read and say out aloud to themselves, ‘Time, is as is, as I am here now.’” Inside the horsebox, an enigmatic hanging ball of silver cord and exquisitely cast silver insects are reflected in a seemingly bottomless well which is really a beer keg filled with water­. “My show is all about time,” reasserts artist Jeremy P. Deal of the centuries.

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The Hope + Smiths of Smithfield London

Adeste Fideles

People. People like us. People like us like people like us like us. Like.

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Lee Manor House + Garden Lewisham London

Banking on Success­­­­

Vitruvius’ desirable virtues of “firmness, commodity and delight” spring to mind. “There are so many moments of true quality within and outside this villa,” believes heritage architect John O’Connell. “An inspection of the exterior would suggest that there were once small wings. This is such a clever and compact plan. The vaulted lobby on the first floor is so accomplished and structurally brave. The first floor central room with its closets has a bed alcove.” Lee Manor House and its remaining three hectares of grounds form one of the thrills of southeast London. The house has been repurposed as a crèche, a library and a doctors’ surgery with reception rooms for hire. The garden is open to the public.

In the late 20th century a glass lift was inserted in the middle of the staircase hall. “I used to be disturbed when I saw alterations like this super lift, but now am more understanding,” remarks John. “But one is always encouraged to place the lift on the exterior of an historic building. The best example I know, apart from Montalto in County Down, is Palazzo Spinola di Pellicceria in Genoa. An astounding museum, and a must. Indeed Genoa is a city of palaces and many are accessible. This city is the Liverpool of Italy: rough in parts!” Another successful example is the Office of Public Works’ elegant full height glass and steel shaft abutting the rear of the Irish Architectural Archive on Merrion Square, Dublin.

Architectural historian Dr Roderick O’Donnell summarises, “Stylistically the Manor House is quite conservative – Taylorian rather than Chambersian.” Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner’s entry in their Buildings of England South London, 1983, reads: “The Manor House (Lee Public Library), probably built for Thomas Lucas in 1771 to 1772, by Richard Jupp, is an elegant five by three bay structure of brick on a rusticated stone basement, and with a stone entablature. Projecting taller three bay centre. Four column one storey porch, now glazed; a full height bow in the centre of the garden side. Inside, the original staircase was removed circa 1932, but the large staircase hall still has a screen of columns to the left, and on the landing above a smaller screen carrying groin vaults. Medallions with putti. Pretty plasterwork in other rooms, especially a ceiling of Adamish design in the ground floor room with the bow window.”

At the end of the 18th century the house and estate were sold to Francis Baring, director of the East India Company and founder of Baring’s Bank. The better known architect Sir Robert Taylor designed villas for several of the East India Company directors. “Lee Manor House is extremely well handled,” John remarks, “and exhibits a lovely, almost James Gandon, flow. Moving around, it has at least three lovely elevations. The brickwork is very accomplished but the basement rustication has been crudely handled of late. The original high execution elsewhere displays the architect’s ability to bring a design forward to fruition.”

Marcus Binney provides this summary in Sir Robert Taylor From Rococo to Neoclassicism, 1984, “Taylor’s major contribution to English architecture is his ingenious and original development of the Palladian villa. The first generation of Palladian villas in BritainChiswick, Mereworth and Stourhead are three leading examples – had all been based purposely very closely on Palladio’s designs. They were square or rectangular in plan with pedimented porticoes, and a one-three-one arrangement of windows on the principal elevations. Taylor broke with this format. First of all his villas (like his townhouses) were astylar: classical in proportion but without an order; that is, without columns or pilasters and with a simple cornice instead of a full entablature.” Lee Manor House does have Taylorian features such as the semi elliptical full height bay on the garden front but is missing others such as his trademark Venetian window. In that sense, Richard Jupp is even more conservative than Sir Robert Taylor.

Lee Manor House conforms to the House of Raphael formula: a basement carrying a piano nobile with a lower floor of bedrooms under the parapet. “This is very interesting as it sits within the gentleman’s villa format. Pray how did you find it?” enquires John. “Lee Manor House is a very fine villa. On the ground floor, I would expect the large apse or exedra to the saloon contains or contained a fireplace. It reminds me of the first floor back room of Taylor’s 4 Grafton Street in Mayfair. This large apse is of added interest, as it would be taken up by Robert Adam in the arresting hall at Osterley Park, Isleworth, and again by our hero James Wyatt for his first and most daring scheme at Abbey Leix, County Laois, and again at Portman House on Mayfair’s Portman Square. The latter is now a smart club.”

John continues, “Another villa that comes to mind is Asgill House, in Richmond, circa 1770, which is both fine and intact. This villa was restored with the advice of Donald Insall and can be seen from the railway line. One can even go back to Marble Hill House in Twickenham, and on to James Gibbs at the exquisite Petersham Lodge – a knockout villa – which is now the clubhouse for Richmond Park Golf Course. Petersham Lodge is really worth a visit too; even the ‘landscape’ and bevelled edged mirrors over the fireplace are still in position!”

“Finally, there is the equally arresting Parkstead House designed for the 2nd Earl of Bessborough by Sir William Chambers with its very heroic portico. Lord Bessborough was an Anglo Irish peer. This can be visited. Indeed there is a good publication by English Heritage on this very subject. The original wings have vanished but the garden front and saloon are intact. There is mention of the remains of a garden temple in the grounds.” Joan Alcock writes in Sir William Chambers and the Building of Parkstead House Roehampton, 1980, “The design of Parkstead is based on the Palladian villa.” John O’Connell postscripts, “Richard Jupp was chief architect to the East India Company. His successor was Henry Holland. Lee Manor House fits into a form that one can see emerge in the 1770s.”

Architecture People Town Houses

Origin Gallery Dublin + Noelle Campbell-Sharp

Change of Art

Quite simply there’s nothing as mad as a well spent afternoon in Dublin before or during or after The Races. Sometimes one brings the madness; the party will always follow. Several of her famous original racy set including a former Taoiseach and his sweetie lover have long since kicked their proverbial buckets but Noelle Campbell-Sharp is well and truly alive and very much kicking ass. The Charlie Haughey era is now banked, vaulted and sealed history. Today, Noelle captures the essential present face of a hugely successful Dublin art gallery and wildly far flung County Kerry artists’ retreat. Her face is exquisitely framed by sharp green glasses and fiery red hair complete with a yellow flame curl. Aged 77 now, she would still pass for Vivienne Westwood’s hotter more fun sister. Not many people, back in the day blonde, could outshine Jerry Hall. “I remember that was quite a  party!” She’s getting ready for the latest private view in her relocated Origin Gallery. “The key is attracting some of the brightest artists in the world.” Like its forerunner the gallery is behind a Georgian façade in the Irish capital. That’s where the similarity ends. Abruptly. Her new gallery is… drummer boy roll for understatement… calmer. Wedgwood blue ceiling, deep navy carpets, virginal white walls.

As for the original original Origin… oh yes, time to talk about Noelle’s very steamy love affair with Napoleon. Perched above the piano nobile gallery, her just below the nursery floor eaves library was once a full blown homage to the homme. His heraldic birds and heroic bees were sewn into the carpet and painted onto the shutters while spreadeagled eagles boldly crouched on the bookcase columns, spreading their wings ever wider in an ever increasing ever encroaching clockwise span swooping over easy prey… “pray tell us more!”. A double barrelled stripy fabric billowed across the ceiling like the last sails of the French General’s ship. Among the miscellanea on display was an original drawing of the Imperial Arms of France. “What any French museum would give to get their hands on all this!” envied Karl Lagerfeld when he clapped eyes on her loot. A jib door in the trompe l’oeil wall slid through to a very sweet en suite decorated with the naughtiest mural in Dublin if not Ireland. It was enough to make sailors blush, although seemingly not the Napoleonic soldiers engaged in lots of action.

“I’ve totally fallen out with Napoleon. When I was a child I discovered tea chests in an attic brimming with his letters, jewels and toy soldiers. They sparked off my obsession. Actually I still sleep in an attic! I like to surround myself with antiquarian books. I can’t pass them by. William Butler Yeats, Empire Period, Irish folklore … alright maybe I am still just a bit in love…” Noelle is soldiering on with her autobiography. Five chapters completed so far. She counts Karl, Yves Saint Laurent and David Bailey among the many entries in her not so little black book; Robert Maxwell definitely doesn’t appear: he owed her £10 million before he toppled over portside; and with rock band manager, press baroness, socialite, conservationist, arts patron and gallerist filling her résumé, presumably there’s enough material for at least five more chapters?

Noelle’s forever dashing. An ostrich feathered fully plumed hat and sapphire laden museum quality choker necklace was once her fashion du jour. Tomorrow she’s off to Cill Rialaig, the abandoned rural village she transformed into an artists’ retreat with the help of celebrated architect Alfred Cochrane. “It’s on the last road in Ireland. New York is caviar compared to escaping to Kerry!” That doesn’t stop artists coming from far and wide – Argentina, Italy, Russia and so on. “There’s a selection process, but really it’s down to whoever spins the best yarn.” The Emerald Isle’s most recognisable Rolls pulls up on the street outside Origin Gallery. Ms Campbell-Sharp has left the building. Somewhere, across the city, a mad party is about to begin before or during or after The Races.

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The Royal Foundation of St Katharine Limehouse London + Langley House Trust Carol Service

Surprised by Joy

The Royal Foundation of St Katharine is a Christian organisation that was established in 1147,” introduces Chaplain Carol Rider. “The original community was next to the Tower of London in St Katharine’s Docks before setting up in Regent’s Park. We’ve been in the East End since the late 18th century. St Katharine’s doesn’t come under the Anglican Diocese: it became a Royal Peculiar when Queen Eleanor recognised it in the 13th century. Since World War II The Queen has been our patron. In fact, all our Patrons have been female royals. The Duchess of Cornwall recently visited us too.” Photos of Camilla add sparkle to the bookshelves of the Lounge.

At the heart of the current St Katharine’s on Butcher Row, Limehouse, rooted in the deep urban fabric is the Master’s House, a handsome tallish squarish brownish brick piece of Georgian London attributed to Thomas Leverton. Note ‘attribution’ only for much of Georgian London was formed not by great architects but by developers. The most extraordinary aspect of the Master’s House is the collection of murals adorning the two principal reception rooms overlooking the garden. Aha! The Queen Matilda Room and the Chapter Room. Such surprise, such joy! A rare explosion of period trompe l’oeil.

­­­­Charles Saumarez Smith believes that St Katharine’s has a “very atmospheric post war chapel”. The former Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Arts London observes, “The chapel was designed by Roderick Enthoven in 1953. He obviously had a sensitivity to historic buildings because he was able to incorporate some of the surviving medieval fittings which came from the Foundation’s original home, including an Italian reredos.” Charles also notes that the carved lettering in the chapel – check out the Welsh slate altar – is by Ralph Beyer, a German sculptor who was an apprentice of Eric Gill.

The Foundation of St Katharine is a joyous blend of ages, from Festival of Britain architecture to medieval statuary. The eclectic yet harmonious group of buildings housing the Foundation encloses a peaceful garden and stylish croquet lawn. The ultimate urban oasis. Cliché perhaps, reality, yes. Above and beyond the entrance gates to St Katharine’s the Docklands Light Rail whizzes by – an ever urgent flash of red and blue. Below, in full view of the travelling tourists and commuters and locals are the Yurt Café and neighbouring converted shipping container studios. Deconstructivism meets urban renewal meets spare space meets hipsterism meets great coffee in a meaningful meanwhile use.

“The Foundation is committed to worship, service and hospitality,” explains Carol. “Some people just book a room and create their own retreat. Guests might join us for our twice daily worship or use the stillness of the chapel at other times of the day. They might sit in the garden in the sun or under the shade of our huge plane tree. They can use our small library with its comfy chairs. Or they might spend time here at St Katharine’s but also venture out to explore London, to visit some of its wonderful architecture, art galleries and theatres.”

At the turn of the 21st century, the Foundation was revitalised. The Victor Churchill Building by Matthew Lloyd Architects added seven bedrooms next to the chapel. Founding Partner Matthew Lloyd states, “This new building sensitively relates to the chapel itself and also to the adjoining 1950s extension on its west side, both in height and materiality.” Jonathan Dinnewell of Smallwood Architects reordered the chapel, increasing natural light into its interior. Following renovations and extensions by PRP Architects, there are now nine meeting rooms from the intimate Queen Philippa Room (maximum two guests) to the Queen Elizabeth Conference Room (maximum 70 guests).

Concerts, residential retreats, supper clubs and reflection days led by the likes of Muthuraj Swamy (author of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2019 Lent Book Reconciliation) and Pádraig Ó Tuama (poet, theologian and former leader of the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organisation) fill the calendar of St Katharine’s. Today, Langley House Trust is recording a Christmas carol service in the chapel.

Dee Spurdle, Head of Fundraising and Communication, relates, “Langley House Trust is a Christian charity which provides accommodation based support to people at risk of offending or who have committed offences.” Chief Executive Tracy Wild, who is speaking at the carol service, adds, “Our vision is of a crime free society where no one is unfairly disadvantaged or excluded because of their past. We’ve been going for 62 years now.” As for the carol service, required to be online this year due to a pandemic: “We’ve gone from 15 carol services to one online. But when there is a blocked road ahead, you need to turn left or right. We are hoping that more people will be able to watch the carol service online. We want to increase awareness of our charity and also encourage churches to watch it.”

The Reverend Andy Rider, National Chaplain of Langley House Trust, reveals, “Langley’s Resident Worship Leader Luke Hamlyn and singer Hannah Ravenor, who also works for Langley as well as being Marketing and Engagement Manager at the charity Clean Sheet, will lead the band in ‘Joy To The World’. They are joined by the band including the violinist from Christ Church Spitalfields, Amy Mulholland. This carol will be a feature of the service amongst lots of others.” As for his message, “I am speaking on Colossians 1 – a very early hymn. Maybe we should call it the first ever Christmas carol!” Another recognised New Testament hymn which would have been sung in Greek is 1 Timothy 3:16, “He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.”

“Contemplation occurs naturally when we behold something of beauty. In the presence of beauty, understanding becomes suspended and analysis futile. Contemplative prayer is the act of beholding Jesus and becoming ‘lost in wonder, love and praise’.” So scribes Andy in his 2009 book Three Holy Habits. The Royal Foundation of St Katharine is the ultimate sanctuary of contemplation in London. There are no equals. And so a golden leaf strewn autumnal afternoon of how it was and how it is and how it will be can sometimes­ last forever. “You are never more than a moment away from God,” muses Reverend Rider. That moment is now. Enjoy the carol service.

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Bibendum Oyster Bar + Restaurant South Kensington London

Le Confinement Est Fini

Go on, flick through the pages of 1990s House and Garden magazines and eventually you’ll come across a double page spread of the last and late Knight of Glin; his wife Madam FitzGerald, Min Hogg’s second best friend; and their eldest daughter Catherine, the garden designer, all tucking into fruits de mer at Bibendum Oyster Bar. Desmond has his starched linen napkin tucked right into his shirt collar. Standards, and all that. Did they gasp at the carpaccio of Scottish scallop and smoked pike roe? Or what about the black tiger prawns? Even more aptly, did they devour Irish oysters washed down with some dry and aromatic Viognier? “Our shells clacked on the plates,” wrote Seamus Heaney in his poem Oysters, “They lay on their bed of ice.”

All that was then and all this is now. Brill on the bone and crab quiche and other brilliant things are served up… and suddenly… with a showering of ado and a flowering of aplomb the Honourable Ola de la Fontaine rocks up totally on form sporting an emblazoned sports jacket. How terribly happening. Blazing blazers are a thing at Bibendum. For a moment, there’s some momentous momentary recall of a nebulous first floor restaurant lunch in May 2003 just when this place was ablaze with blazers. Ola’s now in top gear as always, revving it up, formulating plans and solving equations. She might resemble Charlotte Rampling’s younger much better looking sister, but Ola is more than a mere actress: she’s a qualified connoisseur of fabulousness with a diploma in decadence, a bachelor in brilliance and a masters in magnificence. And she just so happens to be South Ken’s top perfumier.

What Ola wants Ola gets: Gillardeau oysters. “Draycott Avenue and all around here has such a local vibe,” she shares. “Everybody knows everyone. Thank you for asking.” It helps of course that her local is double Michelin starred. Lunch is dreamy – “Laying down a perfect memory,” to quote Seamus Heaney again in his poem Oysters. Sometimes it just feels like Bibendum has been the fulcrum, the axis, the crucible of South Kensington life for at least the last two decades. Michelin building turned Michelin restaurant. Now that’s not so much a lost story arc as a full 360 degree circle. It’s all about Head Chef Claude Bosi’s 2020 French cuisine living up to building designer François Espinasse’s 1905 French architecture. “Did you know,” seeks Ola, “that the 18th century diarist Samuel Pepys fed his cat Hodge with oysters?” ­

Terence Conran who currently owns Bibendum took full control of the interiors,” completes Ola. “The Michelin man stained glass windows upstairs inspired the design of the snug chairs, the wall lights, the butter dishes, the salt and pepper pots, so much!” No fewer than 34 vibrant external tile panels depict car racing at its most glamourous early 20th century prime. This is Art Nouveau meets Art Deco meets art on a plate meets art on a date. But did Desmond FitzGerald all those years ago, tucking into his seafood, realise he was sitting in a former tyre fitting bay? Who knows. All that was then and all that will be is yet to come. Now for the new normalcy: an alfresco vernissage, the unveiling of the Koestler Awards 2020 for arts in criminal justice settings, is on standby at Southbank. Vroom vroom, time to get that car and burn some rubber!

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Littlehampton West Sussex + Two

The Roman Riviera

Photography is playing with light. Writing is playing with words. High 10! Here goes. Littlehampton as you’ve never seen or read about it before. England’s most haunted town. Riddled! Yes, it’s completely overrun with ghosts and ghouls and spooks and spirits and things that go bump in the night! And that’s not just reports from the manager about upstairs antics at the Arun View. The riverside pub has one first floor guest bedroom and another three on the second floor. Access is cosily squeezed behind the bar itself and up the narrow stairs. The ground floor bar and terrace are where it all happens during Thursday afterhours. Locals and blow-ins groove the night away to the Willie Austen Band.

Beside Arun View is The Steam Packet. Littlehampton Ghost Tour guide Heather Robins notes, “For more than 150 years The Steam Packet pub has stood on the River Road, Littlehampton, just by the historic footbridge across the Arun. The pub was named after the steamboat service that ran from Littlehampton to Honfleur in Normandy from 1863 to 1882.”

In the town centre, a sign on one of its windows competitively proclaims The Dolphin to be “The most haunted pub in Littlehampton”. Heather elaborates, “A pub of this name has been on this site since 1736. The Dolphin has the largest and deepest cellars of the three connected pubs and was used, not only by smugglers, but also as a mortuary for the victims of World War II bombings in Pier Road, when a row of houses was flattened, inflicting many casualties.” The Crown is just about the only pub that hasn’t had recent sightings according to the guide, “Although smugglers’ tunnels linked The Crown to The Dolphin and The White Hart, the current manager has no knowledge of less earthbound spirits inhabiting this establishment.”

As for The White Hart on Surrey Street, she comments, ““Back in the 1700s, this pub was the first Dolphin on Surrey Street. After an argument, the landlord’s brother opened a second pub called The Dolphin, which is now on the corner of Surrey Street and High Street. This original Dolphin has changed its name several times over the centuries. It may have been The White Swan, which led to The Cob and Pen, before becoming The White Hart. In the present bar, you can see a capped off glass opening to the well and tunnels.”

“Smuggling in the 18th and 19th centuries was common practice – a black economy that played a major role in everyday life, employing more than 40,000 people,” suggests Heather. “The smugglers of Kent and Sussex were the leaders in the field and it is no surprise that Littlehampton, with its gently sloping shoreline, was an active smuggling centre. Free from rocky headlands, it was easy to load and unload shallow boats and smuggle goods across the Downs or up the River Arun and on to London via the Wey and Arun Canal that linked to the Thames. Customs records from 1736 show that 229 smuggling boats were confiscated on the Sussex coast, with 200,000 gallons of brandy seized.”

Famously, Lord Byron holidayed in Littlehampton in his 18th summer. He stayed at The Dolphin in 1806 although whether or not he had ghostly experiences goes unrecorded. There’s still plenty of action in the town for the living though. Littlehampton Arts Trail is in its eighth year. The Trail features 16 venues matching artists with conducive environments. Beach Road Gallery has a joint show of Trevor Fryer and Pete Beal’s landscape photography. More photography art, this time by Shirley Bloomfield-Davies, is on show at Mewsbrook Park Café. Local Rad Radburn’s fine art is displayed at Arcade Lounge Pizza Bar and Grill.

Ah, Arcade Lounge. Such a find! A little piece of East Berlin in West Sussex. Owner Saty Dhsingh, who comes from nearby Worthing-on -Sea relates, “For Arcade Lounge, I wanted it to be something different. A small bit of Brighton! I have got lots of finds from car boot sales. My father made the benches from pieces I got from Oktoberfest. As for the Arts Trail, there are actually four art galleries in the town centre as well as all the other venues.” Littlehampton Fish and Chips – the best in town – is another Dhsingh family business.

“You can enjoy homemade pizzas, burgers and tapas here,” confirms Saty, soaking in the rays in the adjoining courtyard. “We’re in the trendiest suntrap in Littlehampton. Arcade Lounge is all about unwinding and relaxing. Littlehampton has a lot of character. The combination of beach and river and friendly people is what makes it really unique. Nearby historic ­Arundel is another great town to visit.” Blame the unseasonably sunny weather. Maybe it’s all those shady verandahs. Or the bohemian atmosphere. Or the locals’ fascinating tales. Alright, possibly it’s down to the non London measures of Pinot. But there’s something of Savannah, Georgia, in the air. Littlehampton. Beyond chilled.



East Beach + Huts Littlehampton West Sussex

End of the Line One of America’s leading intellectuals Marilynne Robinson states in her 2011 collection of essays Absence of Mind, “Anyone’s sensory experience of the world is circumstantial and cultural, qualified by context and perspective, a fact which again suggests that the mind’s awareness of itself is of a kind with its awareness of physical reality.” And so an experience of Littlehampton graduates from tinted monochrome to full technicolour.

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St Catherine of Alexandria’s Church + St Mary the Virgin’s Church Littlehampton West Sussex

Larks Ascending

Both are named after female Christian saints. Both are Grade II Listed. They are separated by a 300 metre distance as the dove flies. They are separated by more or less six decades of history. One is built of rubblestone with ashlar dressings. The other is built of purplish brick with sharp stone dressings. Elizabeth Williamson, Tim Hudson, Jeremy Musson and Ian Nairn record in The Buildings of England Sussex West, 2019, “Littlehampton is pleasant, but, like most West Sussex seaside towns, disjointed. The joy of it is in the landscape of river and beach.” Between said port and resort lie the Roman Catholic Church of St Catherine of Alexandria and the Anglican Church of St Mary the Virgin, two of Littlehampton’s rather discrete charms.

St Catherine’s was founded by Minna, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, in memory of her husband Henry, the 14th Duke, who had died in 1860. It is one of five churches founded by the Dowager to commemorate the Five Holy Wounds. Architectural historian Dr Roderick O’Donnell explains, “St Catherine’s was designed by Matthew Ellison Hadfield and is one of the most prominent Roman Catholic churches on the south coast. Augustus Welby Pugin compliments the architect in 1843 and 1850.” The architectural style is, of course, Gothic Revival.

The church forms a very attractive pairing with its priest’s house by the same architect. The modulations of the slate roofs are particularly remarkable, from a stonking big bellcote to a thoroughly traceried gablet of timber framed trefoils and quatrefoils. Later additions include St Joseph’s Chapel and a sanctuary extension, both carried out by Pugin and Pugin, the practice established by Augustus Welby Pugin and continued by his descendants. St Catherine’s Church and Presbytery retain their architectural integrity, providing a dignified focal point to the mainly residential suburb of Beach Road.

Further inland on Church Street is the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin. Originally a Georgian Gothick church designed by George Draper in 1826, architect William Randoll Blacking transformed the building in the 1930s. The result is a robust piece of loosely Tudor Revival architecture: a simple, bold, geometric composition. Various elements of earlier incarnations have been retained in the structure, such as stained glass from the 14th and 19th centuries, but the overall effect is a solid and coherent piece of early 20th century ecclesiastical architecture. A striking copper roof, hidden at ground level by a parapet, highlights its cruciform shape from a dove’s eye view. St Mary’s Cemetery drapes a welcome green apron around the church.

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Littlehampton West Sussex + River Arun

She Walks in Beauty

Like a Byronic “night of cloudless climes and starry skies” Littlehampton is an ironic sleepless beauty of brightness and darkness imbued with nameless grace. “We are not self made,” says Sierra Leonean Lebanese model Yasmin Jamaal. “We are life made. What we do with our life experiences creates the person we are.” Yasmin tells us, “As a believer, I would say God does not give you a burden you cannot carry and angels really do exist in human form.” In the words of Lindy Guinness, the last Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, “How very charming!”