An urban legend, the skeleton of Anston House: ‘the building been cursed ever since’

From the Brighton Argus, May 10th 2021,

A forensic team is digging at the site of “Brighton’s ugliest building” to investigate a claim that a human skeleton was at the site. Police say a person has come forward claiming the bones were present at Anston House in Preston Road when it was built in the 1960s. Work started in March to finally demolish the block, which had been abandoned for more than 30 years

Photo (c) Alan Bradshaw, flickr

Anston House was built as an office block in 1967 and abandoned in 1989. Since then for thirty years it has been a lurking thing across the road at the Brighton end of Preston Park. In 2004 the windows on three sides in the lower half were covered by a set of giant portraits and self-portraits painted by art students at Brighton College.

This portraits project was a work of genius. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since. But if it was meant to cheer the building up a bit, it had the reverse effect, turning the blind tower into a prison of souls. Maybe this was the intention from the get-go, or maybe the idea grew in the planning. The most tormented portrait is right above the door, stretched out Christlike, howling and staring with blank white eyes. It was as though the building itself put it there like a sign: ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter in!’

There were happier times too. For a moment in the 1990s, the site was camped on by new age travellers. They had a market and mates of mine can remember buying from them. But the skeleton. I’d not heard the story of the skeleton til I read the Argus piece. It made perfect sense. If anywhere looked haunted, Anston House did. Even before I read this, from a Hove resident in the comments section:

There was rumours back in the 1970’s about this block. One of the London villains try it on with the builders and ended up there. There was another story about a man dating a gypsy camped out in Preston park. She fell pregnant and he refused to wed. Since he worked on the site… it seems the best place to put him. The building been cursed ever since.

Strange how the elements of traditional ghost stories appear in the legend of such a modern building. Sited at a liminal place, the edge of a park, the gateway to a town, the place where three roads meet (a T-junction anyway), and built on blood sacrifice. Travelling folk appear twice in its story reinforcing a sense of mystery and magic. What was it about Anston House? Like an octopus grabbing seashells to dress itself in and hide, Anston House covered itself in dark legend more like a ruined abbey than a 60s office block. But the recent digging found nothing. There was no skeleton. The tower is gone, the site is level. Three blocks of flats will be coming soon. Brooding and mad as it was, Anston House was always awesome, and even beautiful on a good day, like a castle keep, and I will miss it.

Photo (c) Brighton and Hove News

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