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THIS WEEK MP Huw Merriman, public meeting over closure of Pevensey Bay Library, details announced


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IMAGE CREDIT: T Cecil Howitt, founding architect father, Beachlands estate, Pevensey Bay

A foundation course to support the book about the Beachlands estate began yesterday (June 22) at the Ocean View and Bakery, attended by the first group of students.

The course, a joint project supported by Brighton Town Press and the Pevensey Timeline Association supplied an experienced adult education tutor to teach the study programme.

The first lesson was about research methods, the second lesson in the five week course next week looks at the subject of Narrative Voices.

Jo Lacey who lives in an oyster house on the estate, attended the first lesson with the course. She said “I wish history teaching could have been like this at school, I hated it, I would have paid more attention.”

Fire Officer at Pevensey Fire Station, Tony Rose, also attended the first lesson and lives in Beachlands. He is beginning work with the project on some of the oral history aspects of the plan. He commented, “I found it very interesting and have already made appointments to meet some older residents.”

A second group of students begins work on Friday, and it appears that the core group with the book will consist of something like 20 local people.

The coffee table style book will go on sale in approximately one year, ready for the Christmas market, sold across the country in bookshops from the Autumn of 2018.

The group in their research has already re-discovered the name of one of the most eminent provincial architects of the 20th century, T Cecil Howitt as the founding architect father of the estate. He was commissioned to sketch the first fifty homes and work on the layout of the estate.

He designed the Council House in Nottingham, opened by the Prince of Wales in 1929. By the time that he came to sketch the plan for Beachlands, he was already famous in the world of modernist architecture.

He was commissioned by Odeon Cinemas to design some of what are now classic art deco masterpieces in the county, such as the building in Weston-Super-Mare that was listed in 1985.

The rediscovery of the name of the architect and his importance in the history of modernist private and social housing in the country has already seen plans for the book reach out beyond Pevensey Bay as a subject of interest.

Nottingham City Council, where T Cecil Howitt lived and worked has already been alerted with regard to the book. T Cecil Howitt is regarded as one of the architect heroes of the city which has such a rich history of architecture.

In 2011 the life of Thomas Cecil Howitt was added as an entry and featured in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

As well as the iconic Council House in Old Market Square Nottingham, he also designed the Nottingham Trent University Newton building and the former Raleigh headquarters.

His entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography was written by architectural historian Doctor Elain Harwood, she explained that the influence of Howitt on the city was vast.

She said: “He is the great Nottingham architect of the 20th Century and someone the city should rightly be proud of.

“One just needs to look around Nottingham and you can see his wonderful designs.

“The other thing that sets him apart was his range of influences and styles, from homes in the 1920s through to the fantastic Newton building in the 1960s.”

In the Nottingham Council archives they have 70 boxes of the work of the famous architect. Whilst some of his work is undocumented, with papers lost in a fire in the Second World War, it appears that some of his work is documented, including ledgers, contracts, plans, bills and photographs.

Volunteers on the project are to visit Nottingham to see if, amongst those boxes there are further sketches, never seen before, of what is now seen clearly as a plan for an entire modernist seaside town here in Pevensey Bay.

It is already clear from the showcase gateway width of Marine Avenue and names such as Boulevard and Square, that what was planned for Beachlands was much more extensive than we see today.

Locally this information has always been known, but if the group is able to discover and identify much more about the scale of the project, from the Hewitt archive boxes in Nottingham, then some of this information will be seeing the first light of day since 1935.

It would appear that it is not until now, over eight years since the foundation sketches were done, that the importance of the work of  T Cecil Howitt with regard to the Beachlands estate in Pevensey Bay is being uncovered.

A company dedicated to the memory of T Cecil Howitt in Nottingham, The Howitt Foundation has also been notified of the project here, as well as the BBC and the Guardian newspaper.

There have already been a number of opinions offered about the potential value of the project to the story of early modernist architecture in the country. One architectural historian has described the project as ‘possibly finding a bit of a missing part of the jigsaw in the story of early modernist seaside towns in the country’.

With the course, some of the foundation blocks of the project are now being set.

The course about research for the book with the draft title the Beachlands Estate in Pevensey Bay, the unfinished symphony to the Sea, continues next week,