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Amon Henry Wilds + Park Crescent Worthing West Sussex

Rewilding

It’s an anonymous sounding name for such an appealing enclave. The exposed stucco of the triumphal arch entrance and a few of the houses are especially aesthetically pleasing. As the sun sets, the woodland of Amelia Park in front of Park Crescent casts sharp shadows across the Regency style architecture. This Grade II* Listed terrace is as interesting for its intact details – garlanded friezes and Corinthian capitals with honeysuckle leaves – as its adjustments like the filigreed cast iron balconies and a first floor stained glass conservatory.

The façade is forcefully modulated by a robust pattern of setbacks and projections topped by a varying roofline. Pediments rise between stretches of parapet broken by window gaps. Park Crescent was designed by architect-builder Amon Henry Wilds (1784 to 1857). He and his father Amon Wilds teamed up for a few years to form a sort of early Taylor Wimpey. Together they were responsible for almost 4,000 houses as well as public buildings mostly in Brighton. That explains why the 1830 Park Crescent looks like it has been dropped from inner city Brighton into suburban Worthing.

James Henry and Colin Walton write in Secret Worthing (2016): “Park Crescent, at the junction of Richmond Road and Clifton Road, is blessed with a triumphal arch, a splendid monumental entranceway to the crescent itself. The main central arch is designed for horse drawn carriages and the smaller ones flanking for pedestrians. Each arch has four heads, making 16 in total. Notably, those at the main arch are all larger bearded males while the others are smaller and female.”

A successful entrepreneur, Wilds Junior didn’t have an entirely unblemished record. His St Mary the Virgin Church in Brighton, despite coming in well over budget, was so badly constructed it eventually became structurally unsafe and had to be rebuilt. This design was based on the ominously sounding Temple of Nemesis. Park Crescent has fared rather better. The townhouses – especially the full six bedroom six level properties – are much sought after.

Closer to the coast than Park Crescent is Worthing’s funkiest street, Rowlands Road. There’s Baked Worthing with its window sign: “Tuesday’s Flavours: Brownies, Brookies, Blondies and Vegan Brownies”. And Pizzaface, perfect for a kerbside Silly Moo Craft Cider and Funghi Pizza with shiitake, oyster mushrooms and truffle. Not forgetting Reginald Ballum, an antiques store stacked high with metal baths.

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Architecture Art People Restaurants Town Houses

Wine + Reason Restaurant Worthing West Sussex

Belonging

Opposite the carousel which whirls around all day (gadzooks galore!) on Worthing’s fun filled esplanade is one of the south coast’s coolest places for tapas. Vegetarian and vegan tapas at that. Crispy fried tofu, halloumi fries,  tempera asparagus, tomato bruschetta,  vegetable spring rolls and salted caramel cake… a roll call of gastronomic goodness. Protestant sects such as the Shakers were among the first to view eating plants as a route to prelapsarian grace. The writer George Bernard Shaw was an early adapter of vegetarianism.

Owner Fergus de Witt (add an ‘e’ and he could be a relation of Charlotte the world’s best DJ) is a wine connoisseur as well as restaurateur extraordinaire. His latest venture Wine and Reason occupies the ground floor of a bow windowed Regency building. The area in front has recently been pedestrianised, allowing dining tables to spill outside for angled views of the sea. Feeling bibulous, Baron de Baussac Voignier goes down a treat. “There is life after Chardonnay and Merlot!” Francisco Seresina of Villa Sostaga said at the Boutique Hotel Awards Gala Dinner in Merchant Taylors’ Hall, London. He’s another fan of the grape. A reddish sunset silhouettes the Victorian lampposts lining the promenade. The carousel has fallen silent.

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Architecture Luxury Town Houses

The Burlington Hotel Worthing West Sussex +

Longing

Dublin may have lost its Burlington Hotel but Worthing still has one. If charm could be boxed up in an early Victorian seaside villa, it would be The Burlington on the seafront of the sprawling West Sussex town of Worthing. Dating from 1865 this three storey with tall attics corner building is stuccoed and Italianate in style. The dining room stretches the full three bay frontage and extends into a glazed projection perfectly capturing sea views. There are 12 bedrooms on the first floor, eight on the second floor and six on the third floor. A two bay lower wing is attached to the landward elevation of the main block. The interior is subtly and elegantly decorated with Lyonel Feininger, Henri Matisse and Joan Miró prints lining the corridor walls.

James Henry and Colin Walton write in Secret Worthing, 2016, “The town is a popular south coast seaside resort, mixing Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian architecture with a dash of Art Deco and a pinch of medieval design… history is everywhere, all you need to do is look that little bit closer.” Worthing is like Brighton’s sleepy sister: laid back, understated and just a little bit louche.

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Architecture Developers Hotels Luxury People Restaurants Town Houses

James Street Restaurant + Brick Belfast

Magic Not Realism

Francis Scott Fitzgerald knew you can’t repeat the past but it’s nice to reminisce. Belfast has a long restaurant tradition. Here are a few that have disappeared… Christies (now occupied by Coco brasserie). The Garden Restaurant (Eighties bling). Larry’s Piano Bar (obligatory table top dancing). Mint (getting haute). Nick’s Warehouse (served the famous Nineties £10 express business lunch). Planks (very wooden interior). Roscoff (Northern Ireland’s first Michelin star restaurant). Saints and Scholars (two storeys near Queen’s University). Speranza (the first Italian in the Province). Truffles (upstairs elegance opposite the City Hall). Happily, there’s been a continuing upward trajectory ever since.

Brick is what Belfast does best when it comes to architecture. And terracotta detailing. And a bit of stone. One of the best brick buildings is St Malachy’s Catholic Church on Alfred Street. Designed in 1841 by master of the eclectic Thomas Jackson, this Tudor Revival work underwent a £3.5 million restoration in 2008. It boasts the ultimate wedding cake plasterwork ceiling. You half expect a gargantuan lump of icing to drop on you mid mass. “Oh holy servant of God, you chose to live life as a poor man to show God’s love shining through the poor. You gave away everything to gain the treasure that only comes from God.” That’s the dedication to St Benedict Joseph Labre in the hallway of St Malachy’s.

A few blocks away, occupying the ground floor of a red brick four storey gabled Victorian corner building which couldn’t be more Belfast if it tried is the restaurant James Street. There’s no need to go à la carte when the concise set lunch menu has such riches. A starter of crispy squid and jalapeno mayo artily sits on a bed of squid ink. Roast parmesan gnocchi main is jazzed up with crisp globe artichoke, butternut squash and date. Toffee tart takes the rough with the smooth: granola and barley ice cream. There’s only one place in BT2 to sip cocktails though and that’s in the nearby Observatory on the 22nd floor of Grand Central Hotel, owned by second generation hoteliers the Hastings family. Linenopolis cocktail, named after one of the city’s historic industries, is a dizzying concoction of mango vodka, apricot brandy, prosecco, passionfruit, lemon, cream, whites and Seltzer.

James Street’s General Manager Paul Vaughan says, “Northern Irish hospitality is unique. It has such diversity. Belfast has three Michelin starred restaurants. The food offering is very diverse for such a small city. Here at James Street we pride ourselves on sourcing the best quality local produce.” He’s originally from Downings in County Donegal. “The Olde Glen Bar just outside the town is the best place to eat in Downings.”

Owners Niall and Joanne McKenna have tempted Ryan Stringer, the Executive Chef of Ely Wine Bars in Dublin, back to Belfast to take over the James Street kitchen. Dublin’s loss; Belfast’s gain. “I’m absolutely delighted to be back in Belfast to take on this new role at such an iconic restaurant,” comments the Dungannon born culinary star. “I’ve personally admired James Street for nearly two decades now. It has an outstanding reputation for incredible food… I’m keen to keep doing what James Street does well while introducing some of my own style and experience.” That experience includes stints at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Kristian Baumann’s 108 Restaurant. Oxford and Copenhagen’s losses; again Belfast’s gain. A Street named desire. Sometimes, you can repeat the past.

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Architects Architecture Hotels Restaurants Town Houses

Bognor Regis West Sussex +

Raving Like Angels

It’s where all the big city hitters are heading for in the heatwave. Heady days. Hot nights. Although determined not to let the slang for bathroom put us off (in the same way we’re sure Grimsby has its charms), we’re bringing the London glamour with us just in case Bognor Regis lives down to its name. We’re not up for making a sequel to Steptoe and Son holidaying on the south coast. We have no concerns. This place oozes it from Hotham Park with its late 18th century stuccoed mansion backing onto a lake in the east of the town to the early 19th century Royal Norfolk Hotel and The Steyne with its bowed terraces overlooking an anticipatory strip of lawn in the west. Next to The Steyne and a smooth pebble’s throw from the Victorian esplanade is The Dolphin Café where the crème of Bognorian society breakfast. Falling outside the usual brackets of English seaside architecture are White Tower and Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church.

Built in 1898, White Tower was designed by John Cyril Hawes as a seaside family retreat. The architect and his two brothers each had their own floor above ground level. He explained, “Instead of a long spread out cottage I would stand it up on end – as a tower.” A vertical terrace capturing sea views. Its casement windows of leaded lights are typically Arts and Crafts. Our Lady of Sorrows dates from the previous decade. Designed by Joseph Stanislaus Hansom in an Early English idiom cloaked in yellowy brick, 1950s additions by Wilfrid Clarence Mangan bring a light modern air to the interior. Bognor Regis is officially Britain’s sunniest town. That’s one reputation it lives up to today.

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Hidden City Café + London Street Derry

Urban Legend

High above the River Foyle, London Street stretches from Bishop’s Gate Hotel to the 17th century St Columb’s Cathedral, the oldest building within Derry’s city walls. It’s an intimate historic enclave close to those famous city walls. “The walls are still there, wide enough to drive a car along,” Ian Nairn observed in Nairn’s Towns, 1967. London Street is a little bit Galway, a little bit Dublin, and a lot Derry. Hidden City Café is another of its delights. At the corner of Bishop Street Within and London Street, a Roy Lichtenstein cartoon style poster on the street corner entices passers-by, “Maybe it’s the food! Maybe it’s the conversation! Maybe it’s the coffee! Maybe it’s the experience! Maybe it’s the music! Maybe it’s the… Shhhhhh! It’s a secret! Don’t tell anyone!” Or maybe it’s the Magic Mushrooms: toasted sourdough, seasonal mushrooms caramelised in balsamic, thyme, black truffle and truffle infused porcini oil. A gourmet high.

On the fuchsia pink dragon wallpaper in the bathroom hangs a framed 1692 prayer found in Old St Paul’s Church, Baltimore. Centuries later, it still resonates. Here are the highlights: “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember, what peace there may be in silence… Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans… Be yourself… Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself… You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.”

Café owners Justyn and Bronagh McNicholl confirm, “We’re following our passion in creating an ethical environment, dishing up delicious flavoursome food, drinks and welcomes, all to the soundtrack of some stonking good music.” There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options on the wide ranging menu. The McNicholls support local producers like Ann Marie’s Vegan Cakery, Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil, Donegal Prime Fish and Rough Brothers Beer. Live music and drag acts on Friday and Saturday evenings bolster the bohemian vibe of Hidden City Café.

A sign outside the cathedral explains, “This street was first recorded as London Street in 1811, most likely celebrating the role of the London Companies in building the Plantation City. The red brick building to the left of the cathedral gates is the former Cathedral Primary School of 1893 which was designed by John Guy Ferguson in a Flemish Gothic style with a corner circular stair tower. Opposite it on London Street is the Church of Ireland Diocese Office, built in 1838 as a Presbyterian Meeting House. The terrace of 19th century houses behind you is also notable.” Bishop Street Within leads down the hill to The Diamond, continuing as Shipquay Street which terminates at the Foyle Embankment. Halfway down Shipquay Street is the Craft Village, a cute 1990s insert development of neo Georgian shops and cafés below townhouses in the air. Like all Irish villages, it has at least one thatched cottage; this one contains a coffee shop and art gallery. London Street and its environs live up to the catchphrase ‘LegenDerry’.

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Architects Architecture Country Houses People Town Houses

Pettigo Donegal + Fermanagh

The Boundary Lines Have Fallen in Pleasant Places

It’s the only village in Ireland where the Main Street is in County Donegal (Ireland’s most northwesterly county) and the High Street is in County Fermanagh (the United Kingdom’s most westerly county). The 1925 Boundary Commission carelessly used the three metre wide River Termon as the border, forever splitting the village between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland or at least up until today. The River Termon, all 16 kilometres of it, rises from Scraghy near Omagh and flows into Lough Erne at The Waterfoot, a demesne three kilometres southwest of Pettigo. Its water meadows are home to brown trout, dippers, grey wagtails, heron, mallard, mink, otters and white clawed crayfish. In ancient times the river formed the boundary, or “Terminus”, of the Monastic Lands of Lough Derg.

Elevated and isolated, Pettigo has a long and distinguished history. In Celtic times it was known as the Place of the Blacksmith. By the medieval period, it had emerged to become the gateway to St Patrick’s Purgatory on nearby Lough Derg. “The church at St Patrick’s Purgatory is a wonderful basilica, like something from Ravenna,” observes heritage architect John O’ConnellPettigo prospered as a market place in the 17th and 18th centuries. One of the oldest reminders of this notable heritage is Termon Castle, southwest of the village and close to Lough Erne. Its ruins are located in the Republic, just 256 metres from the border. Built by the Gaelic Clan McGrath in the late 16th century, an indelible mark on the landscape, it bears all the scars of Cromwellian bombardment. Some architectural elements such as gun loops and window mullions are still intact.

The Church of Ireland, Templecarne Parish Church, and the former courthouse cum market house (a common combination in Ireland – see Kinsale), set at perpendicular angles to one another, form the focal point of the village centre along with the group of three storey houses opposite. The church dates from 1836 and is typical William Farrell: austere elegance. John O’Connell says, “Farrell was a very solid architect.” The building has a timeless quality – like Mr F’s Colebrooke Park and Ashbrooke House, both in County Fermanagh – derived from his restrained application of decoration. The tall gothic arched windows contain an unusual detail. Mr O’C explains, “The angled glazed inset is, in fact, a device for ventilation. Thus from the inside the hinged flap could be opened, usually with the assistance of a cord.” Samuel Lewis wrote in his 1837 Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, “The church, situated at Pettigoe, is a small, old, and dilapidated structure, towards the rebuilding of which Mrs Leslie (the proprietor of the estate), the Rector, and the Protestant parishioners have contributed a large subscription.”

The Reverend Charles Eames is the current Rector. “My vision for this church,” he states, “is to make an impact for God, here in Pettigo, by helping people understand the enriching messages of eternal hope given to us by Jesus Christ.” Sadly the grand Templecarne Rectory lies in ruins in fields next to Termon Castle. This long low two storey house is asymmetrically arranged with a single storey porch tucked between blocks set at right angles to one another. The original roughcast rendered finish, where not covered in ivy, has mostly given way to reveal the red brick construction material. Samuel Lewis notes, “The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Clogher, and in the patronage of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £300. The glebe-house was built in 1813, at an expense of £978.9.2¾ of which £623.1.6½ was a loan from the late Board of First Fruits, and the remainder was defrayed by the then incumbent: the glebe comprises 141 acres of good land, valued at £176.16.8 per annum.”

The Barton Family Memorial is located to the west of the church. Their estate is The Waterfoot. Samuel Lewis records, “Waterfoot, the residence of Lieutenant Colonel Barton, is pleasantly situated.” A quirky triple jelly mould headstone has an equally quirky inscription, “The Victory. 1 Corinthians XV, 54 to 57. A White Stone. Amen. Rev I 18. ‘Tell his disciples he is risen from the dead.’ Matt XXVIII 7. Barton Family Vault.” Andrew Barton Patterson (1864 to 1941), Australian poet and journalist grandson of Robert Barton, wrote Waltzing Matilda. In January, snowdrops grow over the vault.

The former courthouse cum market house, restored and converted into a family home in 2006, is more provincial in character. It dates from circa 1850. The terrace of three houses opposite, restored in 2016, is of a surprisingly grand scale for such a remote location. The houses rise a storey higher than most of the village buildings and display distinguishing delineated window surrounds and half columned doorcases. Called The Palisades, their grandeur is less surprising when it transpires they once formed the village home of the landowning Leslie family. Sir Winston Churchill, a relative of the Leslies, was a frequent visitor. The most famous recent scion, Sir Jack Leslie 4th Baronet of Glaslough and Pettigo, died at Castle Leslie in Glaslough, County Monaghan, in 2016.