Yesterday Zak and I went to Hove Museum. I love good a local museum, because it’s a remembering-machine, where the past is just still living, like the smell in the back of a cupboard.
This view of St Andrew’s Church Hove by George Hilditch (1803 – 1857) looks along the North side of Church Road towards Portslade, with the old village of Hove standing where the King Alfred is now.
(c) Hove Museum and Art Gallery
It shows the church built by George Basevi in 1836, but it doesn’t show the four chimneys of the gasworks that started to go up behind the church four years before. So Hilditch might’ve painted it in the later 1830s, to record a view before – as the display entry said – ‘it was engulfed in houses and terraces’.
These later gasometers came down in the mid-90s, before I lived here, and the site is now Tesco’s, but the view in this 1930s photograph is basically the same as today. Hove was almost entirely complete within sixty years of Hilditch’s painting.
The Victorians were a bit merciless with anything old in Hove. Palmeira Avenue was driven through a long barrow, and nothing pre-Victorian survives. Except in St Andrew’s Church, I read yesterday – Basevi rebuilt the exterior (because it looked like this)
John Constable Hove Church (c) Victoria and Albert Museum
but he left the Norman interior as it was, so we must have a look some time.
Perhaps the Victorians thought Hove deserved a new broom. It had a shady reputation. There was a bull-baiting ring on Hove Street in 1810, and the village had been rife with smugglers for a century. Hove smugglers were even known to hide their contraband in the church. In 1818, they had beaten revenue men in a pitched battle on the beach. In 1794, the Government had billeted soldiers in the smugglers’ hangout, the Ship Inn at the end of Hove Street. This clearly made little difference, because in 1818 there was a battle on the beach between the smugglers and the revenue men, and the smugglers won. As recently as 1831 the Government had built a Coast Guard station next door to the Ship to keep an eye on things. Just yesterday for the Victorians. With that in mind, the new Hove they built, in the blink of an eye, instantly and ever since respectable, was an awesome feat of social engineering. Just don’t mention the smugglers.
There are hints of the old Hove down on the shoreline from Hove Street. The Ship is now a gastropub, the Ginger Pig, but the Neptune up a passageway from the seafront, and the regulars at Cheetah’s Gym have echoes of another, harder time.
The old cinema seats reminded me of the Woolstaplers’ Hall Museum in Chipping Campden, now long gone, but I remember it so well that doesn’t matter.