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Pelham Arcade, Hastings

Description: Pelham Arcade

Grade: II*
Date Listed: 3 May 1988
English Heritage Building ID: 294173

OS Grid Reference: TQ8201609386
OS Grid Coordinates: 582016, 109385
Latitude/Longitude: 50.8553, 0.5847

Location: 2 Pelham Crescent, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 3AD

Locality: Hastings
Local Authority: Hastings Borough Council
County: East Sussex
Country: England
Postcode: TN34 3AD

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Listing Text


757/13/593 PELHAM PLACE
757/1/593 1-12 AND 12A

(Formerly listed as:

Semi-subterranean arcade of shops, developed by Joseph Kay (1775-1847) for Thomas Pelham, 2nd Earl of Chichester in 1823-5, the first phase of the Pelham scheme, also providing a revetment for the carriage drive to Pelham Crescent and the church of St Mary in the Castle.

Modified in the 1860s to open up the southern range of stalls to the street, first at the eastern end of the arcade, and then by 1863 into the south wall of the ramp. The main basement to the western end was excavated as early as 1860/61 by wine merchant Joseph Arnold. By 1881 Gothic fronts had been added to two bays of the façade. C20 and early C21 individual shops disguise the façade and internal plan of the southern arcade.

MATERIALS: Pelham Arcade is built of coursed limestone and of cement-rendered brick, lined as ashlar, and part painted, and originally had a rusticated street façade of which only small worn sections remain, beneath a simple moulded parapet. The roof has a canted timber and cast iron frame, formerly glazed in small panes, and now boarded over and clad in zinc or felt; traces of red and turquoise paint survive on the internal vaults.

PLAN: crescent-shaped semi-subterranean arcade entered asymmetrically from the west, in an otherwise symmetrical composition; central arcade with vaulted shop units to north and south over a lower, extended vaulted basement.

EXTERIOR: single-storey arcade of shops beneath a rendered parapet. Worn traces of rustication remain in place. South-facing entrances which are now largely obscured, break forward very slightly. Two western bays of shops have late C19 shop fronts with polished stone Gothic shafts and pointed arches, beneath an enriched cornice. The remaining shop fronts are largely later C20 and obscure the original fenestration, although the three arched bays to the St Mary's Centre reflect the original treatment of the façade. Externally the roof is contained behind a rendered brick parapet with a scrolled pediment over the western entrance and continuous plat band. The western entrance, which breaks forward from the parapet wall, has a chamfered doorcase under a shallow pediment with reversed, plain, eared angles and a similar plat band. Stone bollards are set into the flank walls.

At the eastern end of the arcade an external round-arched gateway in a rusticated surround leads to stone steps which rise to the carriage way in front of the Crescent. Cast iron railings have cylindrical moulded newels and shafts with spear head finials.

INTERIOR: the interior, which is visible at the western end of the arcade, is a structure of monumental proportions of coursed limestone and cement rendered round-arched arcades on chamfered piers scored with shallow impost bands and where rendered, lined as ashlar. Turquoise and red pigment remains on the chamfered arch mouldings. Set back from the arcade, shop bays have lower, and in some cases asymmetrical, barrel vaulted ceilings. Roofs, formerly lit by clerestorey windows, have an internal roof line with a canted profile, and of which a proportion of the original fabric remains.

The arcade is curved on plan and reduced in height at the western and probably eastern end to accommodate the ramp and crypt. It comprised northern and southern arcades either side of a central walkway which is now blocked between the fourth and fifth bays from the west. Four northern bays clearly survive at the western end. The western two bays of the southern arcade open off the interior space and retain their shop bays, while the remaining bays have been blocked or altered by inserted shops and by reversing the entrances to face the sea. Some bays of the northern arcade retain corner fireplaces and stone corbels which formerly supported the shop floors. Some have blocked window openings. At the western end are the remains of the entrance lobby and possibly the site of inserted stairs to the westernmost bay of the north arcade which is set at a slightly lower level. The former profile of the roof is visible in a slightly pointed transverse arch on the inserted party wall, which differs from those on the contemporary drawings. The form of the arcades is also visible in the shop, now café, which gives access to the crypt of St Mary in the Castle by cutting through the rear arcade. The south arcade is fossilized behind cladding in the adjacent shops.

Steps descend from an inserted south-facing westerly entrance to a lower level where an axial, shallow barrel-vaulted tunnel of brick, with stone and brick flanks gives access to lower chambers beneath the bays of the northern arcade, which are also built of brick and dressed stone, and which is presumably the cellar excavated by Joseph Arnold in 1860/61.The tunnel is marked by regular patching in brick suggestive of the springing of a former vault.

The shopping arcade was an important component of the Regency town, introduced to England from Paris by John Nash, first appearing in London's Royal Opera Arcade of 1817, followed in 1818 by Burlington Arcade. Examples outside the capital include Bristol Lower Arcade of 1824 and Union Passage, Bath in 1825.

Pelham Arcade differs from these examples in two respects, firstly, that it is integrated in the scheme for Pelham Crescent and secondly for its semi-subterranean form, which echoes classical and late medieval Italian precedent as much as a Parisian model. Arcaded shops, usually fronting the street, were common in late medieval Italy, while the structure and detail is remarkably similar to a series of frescos of shops and a tavern at the Castello di Issogne, Val d'Aosta, Italy, of c1500. The composition as a whole refers to antiquarian precedent in the tiered arcades of shops cut into the rock in Trajan's market in Rome, and in the Temple of Fortune at Palestrina, near Rome, where the temple is linked to a forum by a series of ramps and terraces. Kay acknowledged the classical training expected of him as an educated man, but also the conceit of creating an elevated townscape overlooking the sea, providing a setting for the church. This was not however purely an intellectual pursuit, but was built as an investment to attract the visitor, to compete with Brighton and Margate. In 1811 Hastings had been praised for its situation: for the scenery, the climate and particularly for the sea bathing which 'can be accomplished without the slightest risk or inconvenience'. Thomas Pelham employed Kay, who had worked on his house at Stanmer Park, to come up with a scheme for land at the foot of the cliff below the castle. It was a difficult albeit picturesque site but importantly, close to the Parade, the raised walkway which had been extended to Pelham Place as part of the fashionable circuit. The scheme provided shops 'for the sale of all fashionable merchandise', a place of worship, was close to New Pelham Baths (praised by RL Jones in 1827 in The Latest Edition of the Hastings Guide) and above all, a view out to sea and, for the intrepid visitor, a view from the sea.

Kay had received a classical training under SP Cockerell and travelled abroad from 1802-5, visiting Rome in 1804. His town schemes included the laying out of Mecklenburg Square, Camden, and the Thornhill Estate, Islington. In public office he was briefly architect to the Post Office and as Surveyor for Greenwich Hospital he worked extensively in the town, including the design for Nelson Street and the new market. In Hastings he also worked on Hastings Lodge for MP Frederick North and at Minnis, above the Old Town.

William Herbert's plan, and a drawing by WG Moss both of 1823 depict Pelham Place, set against the outline of the Bazaar, or Pelham Arcade as it rapidly became known, with the site of Pelham Crescent and the church behind it. The bazaar, the first part of the scheme to be built, was an unusual concept since it was semi-subterranean and formed the platform on which the carriage drive to the Crescent was built. It opened on 18 August 1825, the same day as the Theatre in the Great Bourne. Meanwhile the Crescent was being developed. Kay's drawing dated 17 June 1826 shows the Arcade and Crescent with a central gap where the church and Nos. 7 and 8 (the houses to each side of it) were to be built. Finally, the parish church of St Mary in the Castle was consecrated on 28 January 1828. The ensemble was completed by Breeds Place, a terrace of eight houses to the west of the Crescent, designed to balance Pelham Place, but since demolished.

Contemporary drawings of Pelham Arcade by WG Moss and Thomas DW Dearn depict the exterior set out in slightly different arrangements, which in turn differ from Kay's drawing, but essentially show a single-storey rusticated façade beneath a parapet with an entrance at the western end approached from the ramp, and entrances towards each end of the façade. Dearn shows a series of round-headed windows while Moss shows full-height openings onto the pavement. Both depict the interior, which was laid out with stalls within tall arcades, in eleven bays, on the north and south sides of a central space. The arcade was top-lit by a canted roof-light of presumably timber small-paned lights supported on segmental arched iron trusses; the central bay appears to have an octagonal ceiling vent. At each end, the northern arcade was canted and reduced in scale, to account for the profile of the crescent and the church crypt. Shops are shown set back within the arcades, each having a projecting counter. At the east end was a lobby with a groin-vaulted roof and lit by a semicircular Diocletian overlight. At the west end was a similar vestibule with an entrance to the western end of the ramp. The drawings suggest that there was a principal entrance to the west of the centre of the concourse, shown on Moss's interior view, and in varied form on external views, breaking forward from the main façade, and in some cases under an enriched panel. It appears to have been balanced by a smaller entrance towards the eastern end of the facade. Both artists show a timber plank floor.

In the 1860s the arcade was modified to open up the southern range of stalls to the street, first at the eastern end of the arcade, and then by 1863 into the south wall of the ramp. By the later C19, photographs record the arcade, which by 1881 had been altered again, adding Gothic fronts to two bays of the façade. Some of the stalls appear to have had basements, while plans attached to leases suggest that the main basement to the western end was excavated and extended as early as 1860/61 by wine merchant Joseph Arnold.

A Brodie and G Winter, England's Seaside Resorts (2007)
David and Barbara Martin with Richard Morrice, An Interpretative Survey of Pelham Arcade and its Setting, Hastings, Sussex (1998)
R Morrice, Palestrina in Hastings,The Georgian Group Journal, Vol XI (2001), 93-116
E Welch, Shopping in the Renaissance (2009)

1-12 and 12a Pelham Arcade, including the western entrance and external stairs to the east, designed in 1823-25 by Joseph Kay for Sir Thomas Pelham as the initial part of the scheme for Pelham Crescent, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: arcade of shops of monumental proportions, derived from classical and medieval Italian precedents which Kay would have seen in Italy, which forms the revetment for the carriage drive to Pelham Crescent and the Church of St Mary in the Castle; first-built section of an unprecedented exercise in town planning of an elevated crescent with a central horseshoe-shaped church, set over an arcade of shops and overlooking the sea;
* Plan: crescent-shaped semi-subterranean arcade entered asymmetrically from the west, in an otherwise symmetrical composition; central arcade with vaulted shop units to north and south over a lower, extended vaulted basement;
* Materials: cement-rendered brick and stone vaults, some retaining traces of red and turquoise paint; remains of original cast iron and timber top-lit roof structure;
* Rarity: extraordinary survival of vaulted shops particularly at the western end of the arcade, which correspond closely with contemporary views of the interior;
* Historical Interest: shopping arcade, built as part of the scheme designed by Kay for Sir Thomas Pelham, in response to the rise of Hastings as a seaside resort, competing with Brighton and Margate; it follows a fashion introduced to England from France seen first in the Royal Opera Arcade and Burlington Arcade, London; contemporary views and accounts of the arcade and its setting in Hastings.

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.