Image credit: Selma Montford, Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Councillor Pete West
THE BRIGHTON SOCIETY was founded in April 1974 by John Morley, then Director of the Royal Pavilion, and Selma Montford.
They had founded the Preston and Old Patcham Society in 1973, but felt that there was a need for a Society to deal with schemes which effected Brighton & Hove as a whole, for issues such as housing, new roads, public transport, traffic, shopping provision, new conservation areas and the character of neighbourhoods.
It was to be an amenity society, not just a conservation society. The Regency Society, Hove Civic Society and the Montpelier & Clifton Hill Association were already in existence, but they dealt almost exclusively with listed buildings and the then few conservation areas.
The society was formally launched at a public meeting to oppose British Rail’s plans to demolish Brighton Station and replace it with a 14 storey hotel, moving the station underground. Information was presented about the general aims of the society, which included a wider brief to deal with plans which affected the town as a whole, to check planning applications, particularly in areas which did not have local amenity societies. We supported the Save Our Station (SOS) group who opposed the demolition of Brighton Station and an illegal office development on the adjoining site.
The Brighton Society was to be concerned with both the aesthetic and social issues involved in town planning.
Our initial success was in getting Brighton Station listed Grade II.
The next major scheme following our launch was the Wilson Womersley Plan, which, in the mid-60s, proposed an elevated motorway from Preston Circus across North Laine to a multi-storey car park in Church Street. This involved the demolition of 700 houses in the Preston Circus and North Laine areas. The RIBA supportd the scheme as they considerd that only 4 buildings in North Laine, now a thriving community, were worth saving. Fortunately government policies changed and wholesale demolition of homes was no longer acceptable.
We set out to be a campaigning society and to use the media to support our campaigns.
It took the Brighton Society 2 years to win a seat on the Conservation Areas Advisory Group, which advised the Council on listed buildings and conservation areas. Subsequently the Society provided the chair of the Group for more than 2 decades.
After several years the Society achieved registration with the Civic Trust, in spite of opposition from the Regency Society, following a chance meeting with one of their trustees.
After the demise of the Civic Trust the Society joined its successor Civic Voice. In October 2010 the Brighton Society won their award in 2010 for their members best website.
We were successful in getting the Connaught School in Hove, designed by Thomas Simpson, listed grade II.