Brunswick Town

There are two key figures in the development of Brunswick Town. The first is the Rev. Thomas Scutt. His family had owned the Wick Estate for several generations and a part of this land was used for the Brunswick Town project. The second is Charles Augustin Busby, an ambitious and talented architect. Busby is responsible for designing much of Regency Brighton and Hove, including many prestigious buildings in the center of town and to the east, however, Brunswick Town to the west of Brighton is widely regarded as his greatest achievement. Busby's grand scheme was not simply for housing, but for a carefully planned Regency new-town complete with all the necessary infrastructure for the different social groups who took up residence.Brunswick Square - modern photo

Brunswick Square and Terrace were to be the focal point of the town, providing elegant, luxury houses with mews to the rear. Middle class housing was located in Waterloo Street and the Wick Road, while the service streets, such as Brunswick Streets East and West provided working class accommodation. Shops were built in Market Street and Western Road, together with a substantial market building. Social amenities were not overlooked either; public baths, a chapel, the Star of Brunswick public house for the working class and the Kerrison Arms Inn for the better-off were all part of the grand design.

To reflect the expensive and prestigious nature of the scheme, construction followed strict specifications laid down by Busby, who insisted that only the highest quality materials were used in the development.

Building the Brunswick Estate in the parish of Hove offered many advantages. The land there was still open and undeveloped, poor rates were lower than those of Brighton and additional levies, such as the tax on coal, were not charged. Additionally, the seafront toll road led directly from Shoreham harbour which helped to reduced the cost of transporting heavy building materials, such as Baltic timber, Welsh slate and Cornish stone. The site's convenient, semi-rural location with easy access to Brighton, views of the downs and proximity to the popular Chalybeate Spa offered useful marketing advantages, so it is not surprising that Brunswick Town proved to be the most successful of contemporary projects with the first houses in Brunswick Terrace ready in 1826 and much of the Terrace and Square completed by 1834.Brunswick Square plan

The landowner of the 25 acre site, the Reverend Thomas Scutt, was largely a sleeping partner in the planning and organization of the scheme and it was financial speculation which made its realization possible. This method, which was not unique to Brighton, was used to fund the rapidly developing urban growth in Britain as a whole. People believed that with the peace of 1815 and the comming of political stability across Europe the financial "good times" had arrived. Everyone wanted to cash in and make money.

The great strength of the speculative process was that vast sums of money could be raised. The huge sum in excess of £500,000 needed to build Brunswick Town could not have been found locally. Both the building and the speculative processes for such a complex scheme involved a large number of people at different stages. As landowner the Reverend Thomas Scutt stood to profit most from the scheme as plots would be sold on the 99 year leases typical of the period. At the end of this time the land, and the buildings on it, would revert to the freeholder, bringing huge profits. However unlike most major landowners of the time Scutt later relinquished his interest in the freehold so his heirs did not reap the long term profits.

Scutt's most important role was to sell the building plots defined on Busby's plans. Busby's duty was to supply guidance to the speculators or purchasers as to how they would be expected to complete their houses within the overall plan. Busby produced drawings for the layout of the estate, the design and facades of the individual properties, and produced the written building conditions specifying the dimensions of all the timber, types of render, thickness of walls and types of materials. Busby insisted that only the highest quality materials were to be used. For instance in his Building Conditions Busby stipulated "No timber to be used except Memel, Riga, Danzig, Red Pine or Oak."

Brunswick Town drawing, front aspect

The new owner would be responsible for completing the building work, the cost of which represents his own financial investment in the scheme. Charles Elliott was a speculator who bought 16, 17 and 19 Brunswick Square. The annotations on the plan show that George William Sawyer agreed to build the house for him "for £3000 to be finished complete, prepared, painted with all drains, stores and pavements, the fixtures to be set at Mr Sawyer's expense." Depending on the choice of decorative features inside the house and the amount of ornamental plasterwork, expensive paint, gilded finishings or wallpaper the final cost of many properties could be considerably higher than this.