The Story of Wick Hall, Furze Hill Hove
By Lois Pawson
The current Wick Hall was built by Bell Modern Homes in 1936, in the same year that the Queen Mary Liner was launched. The building is often compared to an ocean liner, with its austere and linear art deco styling and expansive flat roof. The building has four blocks with approximately 166 flats. When the building was new it was intended for upmarket rentals and facilities included a roof garden, pitch & putt, constant hot water and heating, liveried porters, a chauffeur’s flat and a restaurant which was visited by residents and their guests – guests included the comedian Arthur Askey and broadcaster Gilbert Harding.
The current Wick Hall inherited the gardens and mature trees from an earlier building on the site – including a giant ancient sweet chestnut tree, rumoured to have been where the prince regent tethered his horse when visiting the nearby Chalybeate spring.
Before the current Wick Hall arrived, an earlier Wick Hall stood between 1840 until 1935. This was a magnificent Victorian mansion house commissioned by the financier and social entrepreneur Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid and was built by Decimus Burton – who was the prolific architect also responsible for the ornate Palm House at KewGardens and the layouts of the London parks. The Decimus Burton Wick Hall was demolished in 1935 because the local council could not find a use for it – after considering using it for a museum when the then owner sold the property to them.
Before the 1840’s the Wick Hall site had been farmland and part of the Wick Estate. The area was gorse-covered grazing land, as depicted in early lithographs and paintings at Brighton and HoveMuseums that depict the nearby landmarks. Remains of early farm walls are visible in Wick Hall grounds. Early Hove has links to King Canute and Viking invasion landings. This has been an area of human habitation for many hundreds of years; nearby at Upper Holland road a prehistoric sepulchre was opened in 1853. The builder’s pick turned out a rude oak coffin, in which were found an amber cup, a bronze knife blade, a whetstone, and a stone axe, all of which are now in the Brighton Museum. These finds suggest trade links with the Baltic.
In the middle ages Wick Hall land formed part of the manor of Wick (Upwick or Aldwick), a narrow band of land running from the shore line of the present day Brunswick area to meet the boundary of the manor of Preston in the north. It later became known as the Wick Estate. The Estate was in the hands the Stapley family from 1573 until 1701 when it was sold to the Scutts, a family of Brighton brewers. In 1825 the Rev. Thomas Scutt sold off part of the land to the south of Western Road. This became the Brunswick Estate. In 1830 the remainder of the Wick Estate was sold to the brilliant financier and philanthropist Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, who moved into the long-demolished Wick Lodge, located just outside the southern border of the modern park (between Furze Croft and the fish pond in the park).
It is believed that Sir Isaac Goldsmid was responsible for setting out the park gardens during his ownership of the land. After his death in 1859, members of the Goldsmid family inherited the Estate and were responsible for a considerable amount of building development in the area surrounding the gardens from 1890 onwards. Wick Hall’s land was farmland for many centuries. Farming here would have involved the growing of wheat and flax, with some livestock. Prints from the 1800’s show cattle grazing on rough gorse land in the area. The Wick Farm buildings would have stood between what is now Somerhill Road and the pond at St Anne’s WellGardens. The remains of early stone farm walls are visible in the wild flower beds at Wick Hall today. Where Brunswick Square now stands, large kilns used in the making of bricks stood until the 1800’s.