Powis Villas

History

By Steve Myall

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Powis Villas' page

 

 

2 Powis Villas, built on leasehold land during 1847 for Mr. Edward Sharpe, who purchased the freehold from John Yearsley in April 1849.

 

 

Frances Margaretta Kemp, T.R. Kemp’s widow, and her trustees (brothers of the first Mrs. Kemp) all members of the Barings Bank family, granted a lease on the land now covered by Powis Villas and Powis Square on 17th September 1846. The purchaser was John Yearsley, ironmonger of Brighton, and he purchased a ninety year lease, at a ‘yearly rent of £105 payable half yearly on 29th September and 25th March in every year’ according to deeds from Powis Square. The deeds establish that Yearsley worked in partnership with Henry Faithfull, a gentleman solicitor of Brighton and William Yearsley, solicitor of Welshpool (John Yearsley’s brother).

In these Powis Square deeds the terms of Yearley’s lease are further explained. Upon prompt payment of the half yearly rent, ‘if John Yearsley desires to purchase the land freehold, any time between 25th March 1849 and 25th March 1853, he should pay Mrs. Kemp £2,100’. Yearsley had developed and sold leases on numbers 2 and 3 Powis Villas during 1847/8, then sold their freehold land to the occupants in April 1849, so he obviously purchased the freehold option from Kemp’s widow at the first opportunity. In 1849 Yearsley made a start on 4 Powis Villas, which he named Grove Villa, for his own family home. The name was changed to Grove House by its owner in 1993. When the houses 2 and 3 were first built their address was ‘Powis Place, Upper part of Vine Place’, so Powis Villas was not so named until 1849.

When finished, the west side of Powis Villas was made up of just four compact detached houses. This was a unique design for a town centre street in early Victorian Brighton, and is still unique today, a testimony to the imaginative town planning of the local businessman John Yearsley.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Powis Villas' page

 

 

Powis Villas, with its four detached homes making up the west (left) side of the road.

 

 

Vine’s Mill, near the northern corner with Clifton Hill, behind where 6 and 7 Powis Villas now stand, was pulled down in about 1849/50, and it seems that when numbers 2 and 3 Powis Villas were built, and possibly Yearsley’s own house at number 4, they had the windmill as their neighbour the other side of the road for a couple of years. The demolition of Vine’s Mill, and the sale of the land, reminds us that this north-eastern end of Powis Villas was never included in Yearsley’s original land purchase from Kemp’s widow, and was not developed by him, although it seems likely that the south eastern end of Powis Villas was. This explains why 5 Powis Villas (illustrated below), later called Aberdeen Lodge, with its Italianate tower, oval window, and imposing image, is so uncharacteristic of Yearlsey’s more restrained style which is evident in Clifton Villa, his first home at 7 Clifton Hill, and the detached homes on the west side of Powis Villas.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Powis Villas' page

While part of Powis Villas, number 5 is at the top of Clifton Hill and because of its tower and high position, is the most imposing house of the area. The tower copies those of 1 and 2 Clifton Hill, although they were built at least two years before, but it does make the suggestion that the same builder was involved. These three houses are probably taken from a design by A.H.Wilds and the most likely builder is Thomas Wisden.  Wisden was a busy and influential builder in Brighton who, together with Henry Faithfull had purchased the land for numbers 3 and 4 at the bottom of Clifton Hill in December 1849. Numbers 1 and 2 were already built according to the street directory of 1848 and it is thought that Wisden built all four. The possibility is that Mr. Browne liked the look of these houses and asked Wisden to build a similar style for him in Powis Villas.

This page was added on 17/04/2011.

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