The History of 13 Lewes Crescent
1 Thomas Cubitt
2 Mr and Mrs C.A.Knight
3 Hospital for New Zealand Officers
Thomas Cubitt lived in No 13 Lewes Crescent. The house is registered to Mrs Cubitt from 1856 -1881
Cubitt was one of the master builders of the period and his other work included Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, the east front of Buckingham Palace, Tavistock, Eaton and Belgrave Squares and large areas of Pimlico and Bloomsbury.
Thomas Cubitt (1788 - 1855 ) was born in Buxton, Norfolk. His father was a carpenter, a trade his son was, initially, to follow.Over time he bacame one of the leading master builders of the period and his other work included Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, the east front of Buckingham Palace, Tavistock, Eaton and Belgrave Squares and large areas of Pimlico and Bloomsbury. It is said that his difficulties in dealing with architects made him concentrate on speculative development rather than contracting for buildings.
Cubitt built himself a great country house in Surrey, on land near Dorking. Prince Albert and the great and the great and good of Victorian England visited him there.
When he died, in 1855, Queen Victoria said “In his sphere of life, with the immense business he had in hand, he is a real national loss. A better, kindhearted or more simple, unassuming man never breathed.”
In Brighton he bought many of the shell plots from Kemp for £1000 each and slowly set about building and selling them and filling in the gaps in Chichester Terrace.
Evidence that Chichester Terrace had not initially been designed to be built in phases can be seen in the fact that numbers 1-6 have their courtyards on the east side of their porches whilst 7-14 have theirs on the west.
In fact the terrace was planned to be 13 houses, balancing Arundel Terrace, with space for a road through to stables and mews left betwen Nos 6 and 7. However Cubitt a canny developer, used the space left for the road to include another house. This explains the subsequently built 14 houses in the Terrace.
All the houses differ in their internal arrangements because Thomas Cubitt waited until the shells had been purchased and then allowed the individual owners, George Ashburner in the case of number 4 and John Lee at number 5, to choose the size and number of rooms and other major features. Cubitt houses typically have stone staircases and a particular design of skirting. Often there is a bas relief plaque installed in the hall or over the staircase.
During their occupancy of No 13 Lewes Crescent Mr and Mrs Knight made a photograph album which was effectively a catalogue of the room and their furnishing. This album is in private ownership, Philippe Garner has generously allowed display of the hitherto unpublished photographs below.
3 MR KNIGHT’S HOSPITAL FOR NEW ZEALAND OFFICERS
‘‘Mr.Charles A.Knight’s munificent hospitality to the country by the presentation of his beautiful home, 13,Lewes Crescent as a hospital for wounded New Zealand Officers, deserves some mention amongst the record of ‘war work’ in the town. The generosity of such an act is difficult to estimate, for the upkeep is entirely defrayed by himself. It is gratifying to think that Brighton with its world famous reputation for health and restorative air should, through the medium of such patriotic benevolence, be able to offer such magnificent succour to the sons of Great Britain. Truly their devotion to the Motherland speaks volumes for the patriotism of our vast colonial nations, and touchingly pathetic in its simplicity is their sense of duty ‘’
From The Brighton Gazette Summer Season 1915
During the First World War, Brighton hosted substantial numbers of wounded soldiers. The workhouse on Elm Grove was vacated to become the Kitchener War Hospital. The Royal Pavilion was used for wounded Indian soldiers. Schools, convalescent homes and private houses across Brighton were requisitioned for the Military’s 2nd Eastern general Hospital, including 16 Lewes Crescent where Canadian and then British soldiers were cared for. 28 Lewes Crescent became a nurses’ home. Mr.Knight opened his 2 conjoined houses at 13 Lewes Crescent for use as a convalescent home for New Zealand Officers.
Sir Robert Peel
Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister at the time, stayed at No 13 Lewes Crescent for a short period in 1842