12 January 2016

Hove Club, Fourth Avenue.

Judy Middleton (1982 revised 2014)
 
copyright © J.Middleton
This postcard of Hove Club was sent by a member on 4 February 1909. Presumably, the Club kept a stock of  these on the premises. 
On the north west side of Fourth Avenue stands an imposing red-brick structure, which an uninformed visitor might easily mistake for a Town Hall. In fact it was purpose built in the 1890s to house Hove Club. However, its style of architecture certainly does echo the old red-brick Hove Town Hall designed by Alfred Waterhouse; the two buildings were built within sixteen years and at no great distance from each other.
copyright © J.Middleton
Hove Town Hall and Hove Club in Fourth Avenue were erected within sixteen years of each other and share a 
red-brick Victorian confidence. 
A further link between the two exists in the person of James Warnes Howlett. He was an eminent Hove man who was so esteemed for his sterling work in keeping Hove independent of Brighton that he was asked to lay the foundation stone of Hove Town Hall as well as performing the opening ceremony and moreover his name was inscribed on the hour bell of the carillon. In 1891 Howlett was one of the vice-presidents of the Hove Club.

Hove Reading Rooms

Hove Club traces its origins back to 1882 when it was known as Hove Reading Rooms and occupied quarters in Willett’s building at the north east corner of Grand Avenue. It must have become popular because only five years later members decided they wished to have ‘more comfort and space’ and accordingly four extra rooms were rented on the second floor for the sum of £40. 

General T.W. Holland was one of the leading lights behind the establishment of the Hove Reading Rooms and he was a retired veteran of several Indian campaigns. For example, he was at Delhi when the Indian Mutiny broke out in 1857 and he served with Lord Clyde’s Force at the Relief of Lucknow. He was with the Shalabad Field Force in 1858-1859 fighting against rebels and was twice mentioned in Despatches.

In the earliest Minute Book to have survived General Holland was in the chair for the Committee Meeting held on 13 December 1886. Soon afterwards he wrote a latter resigning the chairmanship because he was leaving the area. The Committee regretted his decision because it was his ‘admirable organization and constant attention to details’ that had made the Hove Reading Rooms a ‘very popular and valuable Institution’. 

Perhaps the General changed his plans; at any rate he was soon back in the saddle, as it were, and it was he who proposed a resolution on 11 January 1890 that the Institution’s name should be changed to Hove Club. The resolution was carried unanimously. General Holland finally resigned in 1911 when his fellow members wished him well and ventured the opinion that the success of the Hove Club had ‘added much to the advantages and attractions of Hove’.

General Holland was not an isolated member of the military profession at Hove Club. Indeed in its early days Hove Club was stiff with top brass. For example, the 1886 Committee consisted of General Holland (chairman) three other generals, one major and only one layman. In December 1886 Field Marshal Sir Richard James Dacres, president of the Institution, died and General Sir P. Melville Melville became the new president; he lived at 27 Palmeira Square.

In 1897 there were 289 members of the Hove Club and there were several belonging to the armed forces as can be seen from the following list:

General                      1

Colonels                    15

Major-Generals          10

Lieutenant-Generals    4

Majors                         6

Captains                      8

Commander                 1

Captains RN                 3


It was all very well for military personnel to pay their annual subscription but what happened if they were suddenly ordered abroad? Surgeon-Major Bonstead raised the point in 1887. He wrote a letter to the Committee in which he stated officers are frequently ordered to return to duty a month or two after obtaining a year or eighteen month’s leave and he felt some distinctions ought to be made for officers or members of the Indian Civil Service. The Committee relented sufficiently to allow Surgeon-Major Bonstead to remain an annual member at 2/6d a month until he set sail for India. However, there was to be no new rule and each case would be decided on its merits.

In February 1890 Hove Club left its premises in Grand Avenue and moved further west to take up new quarters on the north east corner of Third Avenue opposite Hove Town Hall. The West Brighton Estate had built the rooms especially for the Club and the rent was £204 a year, around the same sum they had been paying in Grand Avenue.

The transfer went ahead smoothly enough except for a quibble about the height of the rooms. The West Brighton Estate people thought a height of 10 feet 6 inches was sufficient but the Club disagreed and maintained the height should be not less than 13 feet. There was also some initial unease about the terms of the lease because originally it ran for a period of fourteen years. After much consultation it was agreed the Club could give notice at any time and pay £200 to secure a release.

New Premises in Fourth Avenue

In May 1896 Colonel Verral proposed the resolution that it was ‘desirable to obtain more convenient premises’ and the architect Samuel Denman of 27 Queen’s Road, Brighton, was asked to draw up plans and estimates.

By July 1897 nine tenders had been received from firms anxious to build the new Hove Club. The second cheapest tender was chosen; it came from Messrs Barnes and the cost was put at £5,045. Messrs Langdale & Hallett submitted the most expensive tender at £6,320. 

The original intention was that the building should be decorated with terracotta work, as was Waterhouse’s Hove Town Hall. But when the Committee received the tenders for the work ranging from £996-18-9d to £1,275, they decided to forego that pleasure. Instead dressings of Bath stone were used and Barnes’s offer to erect the whole building and supply the Bath stone for £5,882 was accepted.

The new Hove Club covered an area of 5,112 feet and was completed by the end of 1898. In 1899 the well-known local firm of page & Miles installed electricity in the premises at a cost of £60.

The elegant new quarters must have boosted membership because in 1901 there were 391 members, a record that still stands. Also in the same year the Club purchased two additional pieces of land to the south of the building and a cheque for £2,836-10s was drawn to pay for it. 

In the Rule Book of 1897 the first rule ran as follows The Hove Club is instituted for the purpose of providing a suitable and agreeable place for Gentlemen, where they may read the papers and telegrams of the day, play billiards, whist, chess etc. and for such other purposes as may hereafter be devised. Two ‘other purposes’ were made possible by the purchase of land mentioned above; they were bowls and croquet. In short the Hove Club was a Gentleman’s Club, not the only one in the area of course as there were also the Union Club and the New Club but certainly one of the longest surviving ones.

In 1901 it was decided that officers on full pay serving in the district could be admitted as members without payment of an entrance fee while in 1915 injured officers of the Army and Navy recuperating at Hove were invited to become Honorary members. The latter idea was mooted in the Suggestion Book where the phrasing used was delightfully ambiguous, thus, officers ‘wounded in the war at Hove.’

What Members Read

As the club was originally known as Hove Reading Rooms and as the first rule put the perusal of newspapers before anything else, it is obvious the Library was of some importance to the institution. Although a considerable sum was expended on an impressive array of periodicals purchased from Beal’s, it does not seem that much money was spent on buying new books; perhaps they relied on donations and there were many gifts. For example, in 1899 the Committee recorded their grateful thanks to Mr A. Fraser for the ‘handsome donation of 110 books’. In 1903 a member suggested the Club ought to subscribe to Mudie’s Circulating Library to provide more variety. 

Naturally the choice of periodicals rested on the interests of the members; thus in 1897 Hove Club displayed copies of Pioneer News (printed in Allahabad) as well as Asiatic Quarterly Review.

Many of the periodicals were kept and sent annually to the bookbinders to be bound into volumes. Less popular items were offered for sale to members and amongst this category were Edinburgh Review and Church Quarterly Review.

Sometimes, in the interests of economy, a journal would be dropped but if one or two members made enough fuss it would often be reinstated. This happened to the Railway News and the South African News. But in 1908 there was a big reduction in the number of newspapers and periodicals ordered when thirteen were axed and so too were two extra copies of the Times.

It is impossible to know exactly what was read at the Hove Club as various titles were only mentioned in the Minutes or Suggestion Books for a specific reason. In this way we know there was an edition of Schiller’s works in German because in 1918 a patriotic member demanded its removal; the Committee did not consider this desirable.

There seemed to be no attempt to place books in any sort of order. As late as 1945 one member was asking for some simple form of classification because, as he pointed out, Rabelais sandwiched between The Golfer and Rules of the Cavalry Club hardly seemed appropriate. On the question of sporting books another member grumbled in 1957 that whereas there were twenty-four books ‘relating to the game called cricket’ there was not a single volume on rugby football.

Stock items in the Library were Burke’s Landed Gentry and the Encyclopaedia Britannica and several volumes of the latter work were rebound in 1895 at a cost of 4/6d a volume. 

There were two problems in running the Library. The first was the question of silence. The Revd. F.O. Mayne complained in 1893 of members continually breaking the rule about silence. His plea fell on deaf ears because no action was taken and indeed two years later and without any preamble, it was decided to remove the Silence notice.

Noise of a different sort irritated another member in 1914. He wrote an indignant complaint in the Suggestion Book that something ought to be done so that members were not disturbed or driven out by the persistent and hacking coughs of others who ought to stay at home until well.

The second problem concerned members who removed periodicals from the Reading Room although this was strictly against the rules. One such culprit was Colonel Davis who in March 1897 received a letter from the secretary. It is believed, from information furnished to the Committee that you have on more than one occasion removed from the table in the Reading Room Longman’s and Macmillan’s magazines … I am directed by the Committee to ask you to explain why this departure from the rules was made.

The Colonel wrote a blustering reply stating he never read the periodicals in question but may have just glanced at them and put them back. He ended his letter with a delightful non sequitur stating that on the night of the billiard match ‘someone appropriated my umbrella.’

Some things never change and in 1982 there was a notice on the board to the effect that would the person who had been removing the Daily Mail kindly desist from so doing.

Some Eminent Early Members

It would be possible to consider Hove Club in Victorian times as a microcosm of the important men in Hove’s civil life. It is therefore of interest to know something of some of these men.

James Warnes Howlett was a lawyer by profession and had a connection with Brighton going back to 1857 when he joined Somers Clarke in practice. At one time Howlett was Chairman of Hove Commissioners. During the 1870s he was particularly active on Hove’s behalf when Brighton proposed a Bill for the annexation of Hove in 1873 and again in 1875. The Brighton Times of October 1880 stated How ably and successfully Mr Howlett as Chairman of the ‘fighting’ Committee … fought the battle of 1876 is well known. Brighton was again beaten all along the line. 

James W, Howlett opened Hove Town Hall on 13 December 1882 and there was a suitably impressive Inauguration Banquet. Leaving out the frills such as soups, entrements and desserts, the main part of the menu consisted of turbot and lobster sauce, salmon, matelotte sauce, oyster cutlets, lark and kidney puddings, fricassee of turkey, York hams, haunches of venison and mutton, pheasants and wild duck. Not surprisingly, the drink provided was champagne of the first quality.

One of the earliest members was George B. Woodruff whose name has been immortalised by having a road named after him. In 1893 he was on the Committee that had responsibility for choosing books and newspapers. Meanwhile, Brighton had not forgotten its ambition to take over Hove and mounted a challenge against Hove’s desire for incorporation. It fell to George Woodruff to fight Hove’s corner. Indeed he even produced a pamphlet refuting all Brighton’s claims to Hove.

In the battle for incorporation, George Woodruff appeared as one of the witnesses on behalf of Hove. The enquiry lasted from 21 October to 24 October 1896. It must have been a daunting experience to be cross-examined by one of England’s leading barristers. This was Edward Marshall Hall who also had local connections, having been born at 30 Old Steine, Brighton, in 1858. The following is quoted from the Minutes with Q standing for Marshall and A standing for Woodruff.

Q. There was a great deal of feeling displayed against the action of Brighton Corporation, was there not?

A. I am sorry to say there was, and you cannot prevent it.

Q. I mean comparisons were drawn between Hove and Brighton?

A. Undoubtedly.

Q. Do you not, as an old inhabitant of Brighton, think that Hove is as much dependent on Brighton as Brighton is on Hove?

A. I do not like to discuss these matters.

Q. But I want to press this.

A. I think Brighton people have their own jurisdiction, and I do not find any fault with their management; and I think that they ought to leave Hove alone.

Q. You personally find no fault with the management of Hove, but one of those gentlemen who addressed the meeting spoke of it as a very badly managed place.

A. I do not think so.

Q. Well, I shall find the quotation.

In 1898 Hove was granted its Charter of Incorporation and in recognition of his valuable services, George Woodruff was elected to be the first Mayor of Hove. When he died he left a deferred bequest of £10,000 for the completion of All Saints Church in The Drive, the foundation stone of which he laid in 1889.

In 1891 Howlett was a vice-president of the Hove Club and so was Vere Fane-Benett-Stanford of Preston Manor. He started off in life as plain Vere Fane but through inheritance and marriage ended up with a treble-barrelled surname. He married Ellen, daughter of the late William Stanford, on 1 October 1867. Ellen was the heiress to the Stanford Estate that stretched from Preston all the way to the sea at Hove. Indeed, much of Victorian Hove stands on what was formerly Stanford land such as Hove Town Hall, the Sussex County Cricket Ground and the West Brighton Estate, including First, Second, Third and Fourth and Grand Avenues.
Baron de Worms
illustration from the
Brighton Season Magazine of 1907

Baron de Worms was another vice-president of the Hove Club and in the 1880s he sat on the Hove Bench. He was one of the patrons of Hove Inhabitants Ball held in January 1885; other patrons were Howlett, Woodruff and Fane-Benett-Stanford. It was the first venture of its kind and the profits were donated to the Sussex County Hospital. The ballroom was decorated with blue silk and white lace with an occasional tapestry hanging, and the local coastguard, Mr Pengally, had been persuaded to put up some flags as an extra embellishment.

It appears that Baron de Worms switched his allegiance later on because the local Who’s Who of 1907 his clubs were listed as Union Club. Brighton, and Carlton Club, London. Another defector from Hove Club to Carlton Club was Gerald Loder of Abinger House. Loder was elected Brighton’s MP in 1889 and was re-elected in 1892 and 1895.

copyright © J.Middleton
Hove Club member Sir Edward Sassoon
was buried in this mausoleum in 1912. 
One last vice-president who must be mentioned was Sir Julian Goldsmid the MP for St Pancras. His Hove address was 4 Palmeira Square but he also had a mansion near Tonbridge, Kent, a villa near Cannes and a residence in Piccadilly. His land holdings amounted to 14,272 acres although only 193 acres were in Sussex. He became Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons and it was likely he would have become Speaker had not his health given way. He died at the age of 57 at Palmeira Square in 1896. He and his wife had a large family of eight daughters but unfortunately there was no son to inherit and the Goldsmid Estate went out of the immediate family because it was entailed and if the male line died out, it went to the male descendants Sir Isaac Lyon Goldmid’s daughters. 

In April 1897 Sir Edward Sassoon of 1 Eastern Terrace, Brighton, was elected as a member of the Hove Club. He was the eldest son of Sir Albert Sassoon who once entertained the Prince and Princess of Wales while living at the same address. It was Sir Albert Sassoon who built the extraordinary mausoleum in Paston Place, which later saw service as a pub. When Sir Edward Sassoon died in 1912 he too was laid to rest there. He left £1,013,096. Sir Edward and his son Sir Philip Sassoon both represented Hythe constituency.


Conduct Unbecoming

The first reference to such behaviour, albeit a rather minor affair concerning whist, occurs in the Minutes of a Special Meeting held on 20 June 1888. It appears that J. Methley refused to join in a certain whist party. Far from letting the matter drop, J.D. Lilley followed Methley out of the room and demanded to know his reasons. When Methley declined to comment, Lilley said his conduct was unkind and un-gentlemanly. Later Methley wrote to Lilley saying that he would bring the affair before the next Committee meeting. The letter was returned to the sender, torn in two, and, adding insult to injury, it was addressed to Mr Methley. The Committee decided that Lilley’s behaviour was such as to endanger the welfare and good order of the Institution and he was asked to withdraw from membership.

In May 1889 a gentleman of the cloth by the name of Hurst was reported to have been in a partial state of intoxication and this was before the Club actually dispensed alcohol on the premises. Since it was not the first time the clergyman had been known to have one over the eight, he was asked to withdraw from the Club. At the next Committee Meeting there was a pathetic plea from him asking them to reconsider their decision but the Committee sternly replied under no circumstances. The church was well represented at the Club and in 1897 there were no fewer than twenty-three clerical members including the Revd Thomas Peacey, vicar of Hove for some thirty years.

There followed a peaceful period lasting some twelve years when members behaved themselves impeccably but in 1902 there were three incidents. The first involved another disagreement at the card table, this time between J. Roller and J. Wagstaff Blundell. Unfortunately the Minutes do not specify the nature of the argument but simply quote the letters written by the two men involved. 

J. Roller stated in his letter he had said nothing to provoke Mr Blundell but when Mr Blundell threw the cards in my face I lost all control of myself and acted on the spur of the moment. The letter then finished abruptly with apologies but with no indication as to whether or not he flattened J. Wagstaff Blundell.

Blundell’s letter was also apologetic but he pointed out that as Mr Roller was only a short-term member might it be suggested that no further subscription be received from Mr Roller so that he cannot insult me or other members. But the Committee were not so obliging and said they could see no reason why Roller should not renew his temporary membership if he should so desire.

In September 1902 the Committee considered an action against a member under Rule XIII. This rule, which was amended in February 1898, stated if a Receiving Order in Bankruptcy shall be made against any Member, or if he shall be declared a Defaulter on the Stock Exchange or Turf he shall cease to be a member. The tone of the secretary’s letter was really quite kind, seeing that the recipient was reputedly in jail for debt. The letter was sent to ascertain the truth of the matter and to enquire if it would not be in the member’s interests to resign before the Committee had to act under Rule XIII.

Hot on the heels of this affair comes the question of Mr J. Dalton. On 6 October his condition in the Smoking Lounge was said to be injurious to the character of the Club although the Minutes do not go into details. The Committee received an apologetic letter from Dalton the following month proffering a most ingenious excuse. As a palliative I may say that, on the day in question, I had just come from a long bicycle ride and was greatly fatigued. This was not so ludicrous as it sounds because several members were keen bicycle enthusiasts; they left their machines propped up in the entrance vestibule, which caused considerable irritation to less athletic members. One bicycling member came up with the bright idea of having a metal bar fixed to the outside railings so that members could lock their machines to it. It need hardly be added that the Committee did not take up this proposal. 

In September 1914 one member was barred from the Club. It was not because of any misdemeanour but simply because the unfortunate man happened to be of German nationality at a time when anti-German feeling was running high. Members felt so strongly on the subject that Colonel Bowring requested the secretary to take some action. Accordingly a letter was despatched to Mr L. Block of 4 Norton Road informing him that since he was German he had better not use the Club during the War. Mr Block’s rather sad letter began As a keen suffered myself by a state of things, which I deplore as much as any Englishman, I can understand the feelings of some members. He readily agreed to fall in with the suggestion.

Electing New Members

One reason why there were so few cases of bad behaviour was undoubtedly because of the care with which new members were elected. They had to be proposed and seconded by a member in good standing who would obviously be careful about whom he proposed; if the aspiring member was black-balled, it would reflect on his own honour. Black-balling was a rare occurrence; practically the only case in the early days took place in June 1890 when a Mr Mead of Cromwell Road was not elected in spite of being proposed by the Revd D. Davies. No reason was given.

The way would-be members were voted upon involved an ingenious little wooden ballot box that survives to this day. This ballot box has two little drawers at its base, the left hand denoting Yes and the right one meaning No. Above these drawers there is an aperture large enough to admit a hand and it was impossible for other people to tell whether a voter’s hand inclined to the left or the right inside the box.

Today new members are still voted upon and their names are affixed to the notice board for a period of fourteen days. It sounds something like putting up Banns of Marriage – if other members wish to object they had better do it at once or else hold their peace. 

Drinks

Although the popular image of a Club member would not be complete without a glass in hand, Hove Club did not supply its members with alcoholic drinks until 1892. Major Grahame Edwards proposed a resolution that the Club should provide alcohol for its members at the Annual General Meeting on 20 February 1892 and it was passed by a narrow majority of five; Forty-two members were for the proposal and thirty-seven members were against it.

Ellis, Wilson & Bacon of Preston Street, Brighton, provided wines and spirits to Hove Club for a period of almost fifty years. The firm’s name crops up again and again in Committee Meetings among the list of bills to be paid. Quite often the writer of the Minutes grew bored of writing the whole title and left out the Bacon bit. In fact the Bacon part of the firm was most probably a member of the Bacon family that owned the Old Ship Hotel, Brighton. In 1940 Ellis, Wilson & Bacon were asked to take charge of the bar for a while because there was a discrepancy in the amount of money returned.

Hove Club also had dealings with Hedges & Butler. In 1917 it was decided that the secretary should have the authority to purchase as much Scotch whisky from both firms as could be obtained, not exceeding twenty gallons in all.

In 1912 one member had a grumble about having to pay nine pence for a glass of liqueur brandy when a full bottle only cost 9/6d. By his reckoning, the Club was making a profit of 150%.

Alcoholic beverages were not the only refreshments consumed in the Club. In October 1889 one member was left fuming when Mrs Painter, the housekeeper, refused to serve him with a glass of lemon squash because it was three minutes past 10 p.m. She informed him that her instructions were that no refreshments were to be served after 10 p.m. The indignant member took the matter further and asked the Committee if there were a bye-law governing this instruction? The Committee then decided that refreshments could be given out up to 11 p.m.

Taking afternoon tea was a popular tradition at the Club although it seems the service was not always so prompt as one would hope. It is easy to imagine an old gentleman ringing the bell for a pot of tea and nothing happening from the plaintive note in the Suggestion Book written in June 1929. When a bell in the Club is rung it ought to be answered. 

Another gentleman was more specific; in February 1925 he complained he had to wait twenty-five minutes for tea to arrive. Indeed he stated that a long wait was such a regular occurrence that he would often lose patience and cross the road to Forfars instead. 

When Mr Taylor’s tea was brought to him one afternoon in 1933, he did not like what he saw. He complained the livery worn by the page who brought me tea in the Smoking Room today is utterly unfit for use in the Club.

Objets D’Art

Most people would be surprised to find a post box listed under such a heading but then Hove Club post box is something special. The workmanship of the box, the engraved brass plate on top all add up to a satisfying whole; the VR refers to the reign of Queen Victoria and the box dates from 1891. The Minutes for 7 September 1891 carried the order that a Box for letters to be despatched to the post be provided and fixed in the Entrance Hall, and to be cleared by the Assistant Marker at 4 and 7 p.m.

On occasions the post box was the object of members’ wrath when the servant responsible forgot to take the letters to the post. One member had put a letter in the box in the expectation that it would catch the 7 p.m. post and be delivered to its destination by first post the following morning; unfortunately someone forgot to empty the box that evening.

The tables in the Reading Room are unusual. They were constructed from a Burmese timber that is as durable as teak called Andaman Padauk or should you be precise in such matters Pterocarous dalbergioides. A gang of Burmese convicts (all doing time for murder) felled the timber using hand saws and then with the aid of six water buffalo and some long, stout ropes the timber was dragged from the forest to the seashore. At length the timber arrived at Fort Blair where Brigadier L.J.L. Addison employed a Chinese carpenter to construct the tables in 1936-1937. In the Brigadier’s opinion the tables were unique, probably priceless and almost certainly irreplaceable. 

In May 1901 Lieutenant General V.L. Smith received a hearty vote of thanks for his handsome gift of a tigress skin. There is no indication as to how it was used to decorate the club (wall or floor?) and perhaps the moths soon had their way. 

There are a number of paintings and prints in the Club. Perhaps most appropriate in view of the number of military men in the Club’s early days was a series of Regimental caricatures; Dr Crawford presented them in September 1957.

Also on a military theme was a large painting of the Household Cavalry that in the 1980s hung on the west wall of the Reading Room. It used to have pride of place in the Bar but in June 1965 Mr S. Wilkinson presented the Club with a framed portrait of Sir Winston Churchill and that presided over the Bar instead.

Colonel Tucker gave the Club three watercolours painted by his father. He presented the first two in 1959 and the third one in 1964.

The Suggestion Book

The Suggestion Book is a rich source of material, much of it amusing. Unfortunately, the older one has not survived and the earliest one still in existence dates from 1912. The Committee considered all complaints and suggestions entered in this book at their next meeting and it was not the done thing to enter a remark in the book without signing your name. 

One of the choicest remarks appears right at the beginning of the book. Mr Wansey wrote in January 1912 it is a positive scandal that a Club, which can afford to pay £800 per annum for Service, cannot provide a decent set of Billiard Balls – those in use are under sized, and not even round at that.

In fact billiard balls posed something of a problem for the Club; should they be made of traditional ivory or of a synthetic material? It was resolved that from 1 January 1900 balls made of Bonzoline should replace ivory billiard balls. This did not please everyone and the Minutes for September 1901 records a request from several members for ivory billiard balls; the secretary was authorised to to obtain two sets of the best ones. It appears that synthetic balls and ivory balls co-existed for a time although the synthetic ones were made of Crystolate rather than Benzoline. In 1906 it was resolved to buy some more Crystolate balls while at the same time ascertaining if the old ones could be re-polished or sold. However, in 1909 ivory billiard balls were hired from Messrs Thurstons on a six-monthly basis.

The Bowling Green also came in for some grumbles. In June 1917 one member remarked that if it were not watered soon, it would be ruined. At least it was now level because in 1904 the surface was reputed to be so uneven that it failed to attract many players. In 1905 the Club allowed croquet to be played on part of the green, after two previous requests for this facility had been turned down.

In 1921 another member came up with the idea of scrapping both bowls and croquet and constructing a tennis court instead. This idea was not adopted; neither was a proposal put forward in 1937 that the diminished piece of ground the Club still owned should be turned into a car park.

In 1914 it was suggested that during the War the Club should not display on the notice board telegrams giving the football results. At first glance it might appear the request was out of deference to the hostilities but not a bit of it; the note said football results appear to imply that the Club countenance professional Football and we are convinced that this is contrary to the feelings of practically every member. Thirteen members put their names to this. The Committee was diplomatic – football results were still on display but in a less conspicuous place. 

A perennial source of complaint was the state of the ‘conveniences.’ This went right back to 1887 when the old Suggestion Book (since lost) carried several grumbles about the inutility of the present urinal. But at least something was done and for £37 Messrs Willett installed new equipment and made some alterations. Of course it was impossible to please everyone; you would have one member grumbling about the offensive smell and when the place was thoroughly doused in disinfectant, some else would moan about that.

In November 1913 another member was of the opinion that the wooden seats of the WCs were too small. The Committee deliberated upon this delicate matter but decided that as the seats were of a standard size, no alterations were necessary. What would that venerable member have thought if he had known that the hardwood seats soldiered on until 1961 when they were replaced by plastic ones.

In 1929 it was lack of hot water that infuriated another member. He had arrived at the Club at 7. 15 p.m. after a long drive and he was cold after a day’s shooting but there was not a drop of hot water in which to wash his hands.

In September 1937 a sensitive gentleman suggested some sort of screen should be placed at the entrance to the ‘convenience’ in the hall because it is embarrassing to shy members, like me, when ladies are about.

Ladies were a novelty at the Club; they had been allowed in as associate members since 1928 but they were kept segregated in their quarters in the basement and ladies and gentlemen were only permitted to meet by special invitation. In more enlightened times, ladies were offered the facilities of the Club on a more equal footing but it seems they were quite happy downstairs and never mind about the Sex Discrimination Act in the larger world outside.

Some of the members were devoted dog owners and saw no reason why they should not bring their pooches into the bar on a lead. But it was against Club rules; as a concession the staff could look after a dog downstairs, until his master was ready to go home again. The member who suggested an alteration to the rule in January 1937 mentioned huffily that dogs were allowed in Edlin’s.

Inquest on a Club Member

Lieutenant Commander George Henry Eden RN (retired) died in 1922 and David Raynor Smith was called to give evidence. His appearance at the inquest was necessary on two counts because he was assistant steward at Hove Club, where the Lieutenant Commander was a member, and both men lodged at 58 Ventnor Villas. Smith was able to tell the court that Eden had been suffering from cancer of the mouth or tongue and was in great pain. He had gone up to London for a consultation with a specialist but apparently nothing could be done.

On the fatal morning the Naval veteran was at Hove Club as usual. Before leaving he handed a letter to Smith and asked him to post it for him. He then walked the short distance to the private gardens known in those days as Queen’s Gardens enclosure, took out a gun and shot himself. He was still alive when he was removed to Hove Hospital but died later the same day.

The letter was addressed to his son and provided him with an explanation as to why his father had taken this course of action; the son was also told the whereabouts of the will and the people he ought to contact. (Sussex Daily News 1 January 1923).

Into Recent Times

In the 1970s a development committee was set up under the chairmanship of Mr B.W. Pett to think of ways in which the under-utilised first floor might be exploited. Many different schemes were considered and then Dr Rex Binning in conversation with Mr David Barling heard that Pleasurama Casinos Ltd were looking for premises to lease. At first sight a Gentlemen’s Club and a Casino might seem odd bed-fellows but the idea has worked out remarkably well and the two establishments have different entrances and live entirely separate lives.

The conversion entailed an enormous amount of work; there was the Casino to be fitted out, the redevelopment of the basement to which two billiard tables were taken, and the re-designing of the ladies quarters. The splendid and original staircase is now to be found on the Casino side, having remained intact apart from the bottom steps being re-aligned. It is an imposing affair with wrought-iron balustrades and tall, brass lamps on the newel posts while the hall is lit by rounded windows filled with coloured glass. In Hove Club side, the hall was renovated with a new wall fitted with oak panelling that exactly matched the panelling already in place. Mr R. Henry Carn and Mr Michael Norman of Shoreham supervised all this work.

It should be stated that the Casino plan was not welcomed with universal joy. Some members blanched at the very idea while residents were appalled at the prospect and sent a petition against the Casino to the Town Hall. Their chief concern was that a classy residential area was not the appropriate place for such a venture. However, two years after the opening, with the Casino being careful about noise, and the planning department ensuring advertisements were discreet, fears have largely subsided. From the Club’s point of view, the scheme has been beneficial and has put them on a more solid financial footing than has been the case for many a year. Indeed, there were a few precarious moments in the 20th century and few members would have been optimistic enough to hope the Club would celebrate its centenary in 1982. In that year there were 205 members with professions ranging from accountancy to medicine with a fair sprinkling of solicitors, bankers, tea-planters and retired servicemen. 

Hove Club is the last bastion of a Gentlemen’s Club to be found on the South Coast.

copyright © J.Middleton
This view of Hove Club was taken on 20 March 2009 – 100 years after the postcard featured at the beginning
of this article was produced. 
Chronology

1882 – Hove Reading Rooms founded in Willett’s Buildings, Grand Avenue

1887 – Four extra rooms on second floor leased

1889 – Moved to new premises in Third Avenue

1890 – Name changed to Hove Club

1892 – Alcoholic drinks first served at the Club

1893 – Electric light fitted at the Club for a cost of £111-2-6d

1896 – Architect Samuel Denman asked to design new premises

1897 – Barnes’s tender to erect building for £5,882 accepted

1898 – New Hove Club premises open in December

1899 – Page & Miles paid £60 for electrical work

1901 – Club closed between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. and all blinds drawn as a mark of respect for Queen Victoria’s funeral

1901 – Club purchases two pieces of land for £2,836-10s

1904 – Uneven bowling green fails to attract members

1905 – Croquet to be allowed on part of bowling green

1911 – General Holland, grand old man of the Club, resigns

1914 – German national L. Block told not to come to the Club during War

1920 – Suggestion that spittoon in lower room be removed

1923 – From October breakfast no longer served at the Club

1925 – Land south of Club (100 feet frontage) sold at £15 per foot

1926 – Two houses built on recently sold land

1926 – Committee turned down suggestion to purchase wireless

1928 – Ladies admitted as associate members

1940 – ARP Warden complains black-out by front door not adequate

1949 – For the first time Club was closed all Christmas Day

1951 – Assistant Steward dismissed for watering the whisky

1953 – Television set installed for members to watch the coronation

1959 – Old rival, the Union Club, King’s Road, Brighton, closed

1979-1980 – First floor of the Club converted into a casino, staircase blocked off, separate entrance to casino

1982 – Hove Club celebrates its centenary

Chairmen

1882 – General Holland

1887 – General Mercer

1888 – J.H. Sharp

1889 – General Holland

1895 – General Hough

1896 – Major Edwards

1902 – Colonel Verrall

1903 – Colonel Macnamara

1904 – Colonel Verrall

1905 – Dr Rutler

1907 – W.H. Cockburn

1909 – Dr Rutler

1911 – W.H. Cockburn

1913 – C.E. Starkey

1914 – G.A. Stack

1915 – Colonel Cavanagh

1917 – D. Furner

1918 – Colonel Cavanagh

1920 – C.M. Sangster

1921 – D. Furner

1923 – Sir Walter Craig

1926 – Sir Walter Mieville

1927 – Colonel Peters

1929 – R.M. Harrison

1930 – Dr Frith

1931 – J. Harrison

1933 – Colonel Ecford

1934 – Colonel Peters

1936 – Mr Hughes

1939 – H. Fawcett

1944 – Dr Butler

1954 – W.S. Miller

1959 – H. Park

1961 – W.U. Harwood

1964 – H.T. Jennings Clark

1967 – J.H. Hall

1969 – H. Park

1973 – S. Ohly

1975 – B.W. Pett

1981 – J.M. Hunt

Secretaries

1886 – T. Hales

1893 – Donaldson-Selby

1923 – Dr Frith

1927 – Colonel Eckford

1928 – Tyrwhitt-Drake

1929 – F.W. Sear

1933 –T.G. Barnes

1934 – Major Oakes

1934 – T.G. Barnes

1941 – Mr Coombs / Mr Hyslop

1942 – Mr Williamson

1948 – A.C.G. David

1948 – Major Russell-Clifton

1970 – H.M. Taylor

1970 – Stuart Carr

1975 – Squadron Leader Inverarity

Squadron Leader George Inverarity

He was a noted and long-standing secretary and did not resign until 1994. In his youth he went to a Prep School in Hollingbury, Brighton and afterwards he travelled to Canada to join his family where his father held a post as a teacher. He returned to England in the 1930s.

He was nineteen years old when he volunteered for the RAF at the start of the Second World War. He was despatched to undertake courses for the tasks of wireless operator and air gunner and was then posted to 7/Squadron. He must have led a charmed life because he took part in no less than 53 missions flying over Germany, Italy and France and lived to tell the tale. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Pathfinder Badge.

Even in retirement, he kept the look of a veteran RAF man with his black, bushy eyebrows and bold, white moustache.

He died at the age of 87 on 7 January 2007 in Worthing Hospital.

Committee Members of Hove Club in its centenary year of 1982

Chairman

J.M. Hunt

Vice-Chairman

J.R.D. Spink

Members

J.E. Lea

P.G. Jagger

P.J. Fry. DFC. C de G.

N. Rimmer

D.J. Perrin

S.F.T.B. Lever. CBE

A.R. Forrester

Secretary

G.A. Inverarity. DFC.

Trustees

W.U. Harwood

G.H.M. Scatliffe

J.M. Murdoch

H.D.S. Stiles TD. JP

Lady Associates Committee

Chairman

Miss D. Pearson

Vice-Chairman

Mrs D, Bourne

Members

Mrs D. Hughes

Mrs J. Iverarity

Mrs M. Johnston

Mrs S. Tucker

Secretary

Mrs A. Macassey
***

Sources

Addison, Brigadier L.J.L. Notes on Andaman Padauk (1963)
F.R.C. Chronology of Hove Club (1961)
Hove Club Minute Books from December 1886
Hove Club Rules (1897)
Hove Club Suggestion Book from 1912
(All these kept at Hove Club)
Army List (1895)
Brighton & Hove Gazette Special Winter Number 1908
Brighton Gazette 8 January 1885 / 5 February 1885
Brighton Times 29 October 1880

Hove’s Application for a Charter of Incorporation Minutes, taken before Charles Neve Cresswell. 21 October 1896 to 24 October 1896 (Hove Library)

Hove Banquets Book (1882-1907) Hove Library

Samuel Denman’s Plans for Hove Club, Fourth Avenue, March 1897 (Planning Department, Hove Town Hall)


Copyright © J.Middleton 2014
page layout by D.Sharp