The MODERNIST Man! R W H JONES, the architect who designed many of Saltdean in Brighton's iconic Art Deco style buildings
R W H Jones: An architect responsible for the best of Saltdean.
By Mike Laslett
Richard William Herbert Jones is well known in this area for designing the Lido (pictured below) and the Ocean Hotel which both opened in 1938.
The Ocean Hotel (below circa 2015) has been used to portray 1930’s grandeur in such TV programmes as Agatha Christie’s ‘Poirot.’ In the episode “The Jewel Robbery at The Grand Metropolitan” the Hotel became The Grand Metropolitan, Morecambe, since that building was under restoration at the time of filming.
These two iconic buildings were not his only work for the local development company. In 1937 he designed the art deco blocks of flats now known as Curzon House, Marine View and Teynham House on the coast road between the Lido and Longridge Avenue.
Below: Marine View/Curzon House.
Below: Teynham House.
These were built on the site of the coastguard cottages ( both images below) which had stood isolated on this site since 1834 until they were demolished in 1937 to make way for the flats. If you stand at the bus stop outside the flats you will notice an odd piece of open ground. This was because between the two was a shop whose elderly owner refused to sell up so they built the flats around her!
1930s R W H Jones also designed St Margaret’s Flats, Rottingdean (below).
Today we value this attractive art deco block but prior to its erection in 1938 there was understandably a huge public protest at a building of such a large scale being erected without consultation. As a result, the forerunner of the Rottingdean Preservation Society was formed, to protect the village against such lack of consultation by Brighton Council in future.
Within four years St Margaret’s was to receive a direct hit during the war. At about 10.30 on the morning of 18 December 1942 the sirens sounded to alert the residents of Rottingdean to the possibility of an air raid. This time it was no false alarm. The schoolchildren went into the shelter in the playground. After machine gunning streets in Brighton, a German Dornier 217 aircraft dropped its load of 500-pound bombs prior to returning home.
The first bomb scored a direct hit on St Margaret’s flats. Fortunately, most of the flats were unoccupied but there were a few slight injuries among those who remained. The bomb hit the water tanks causing the water to run down The Gap to the beach and the bomb finally lodged in the lift shaft. As a consequence, some of the upper part of the building had to be demolished as can be seen pictured here.
R W H Jones did not only design for the local estate company on the South Coast. He designed buildings as far afield as London and Wales. The most important of these was High Trees House (below) in Nightingale Lane, SW12, part of which faces Clapham Common. It is now a popular block with an indoor swimming pool and a gym.