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North, south and west garden walls, vault and garden structures comprising the Secret Garden, Kemp Town, Brighton

A Grade II Listed Building in Rottingdean Coastal, The City of Brighton and Hove

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Latitude: 50.8174 / 50°49'2"N

Longitude: -0.1082 / 0°6'29"W

OS Eastings: 533360

OS Northings: 103689

OS Grid: TQ333036

Mapcode National: GBR KQH.PGS

Mapcode Global: FRA B6NY.3MY

Entry Name: North, south and west garden walls, vault and garden structures comprising the Secret Garden, Kemp Town, Brighton

Listing Date: 4 June 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1415852

Location: Brighton and Hove, BN2

County: The City of Brighton and Hove

Electoral Ward/Division: Rottingdean Coastal

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Brighton and Hove

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): East Sussex

Church of England Parish: Brighton St George with St Anne and St Mark

Church of England Diocese: Chichester

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North, south and west garden walls, vault and garden structures forming a walled garden associated with 32 Sussex Square, c1830 for Laurence Peel and built of William Ranger's Artificial Stone.

The east garden wall, of different construction, is not included in the listing.


Walled garden known as the Secret Garden, Kemp Town, which was planned and laid out from the mid-1820s, and which was built to serve 32 Sussex Square. Given its association with Laurence Peel, a circa 1830 date for the garden walls seems likely.

MATERIALS: walls and vault built of William Ranger's Artificial Stone.

The garden is enclosed on the north and west by a tall wall fronting the road some eight to ten feet high at street level. The ground slopes down from the north-west corner of the garden to the east and south, whereas the garden floor is levelled, and below street level the garden is also contained by Ranger Artificial Stone retaining walls. The walls are constructed of blocks of Ranger Artificial Stone, with a projecting stone and concrete coping. At the northern end of the west-facing wall is a rectangular entrance with a wooden door which leads to later steps which descend to the garden. As the steps descend from a platform cantilevered into the wall, it is possible that the entrance may be original. The southern wall, also of Ranger Artificial Stone, is visible from within the garden and forms property boundaries to the south.

Finely jointed blocks, roughly 2' by 9", are laid horizontally and are exposed within the garden. The roadside elevations are rendered, but in places, particularly on the north-facing wall, the fine surface layer or render, which is lined as ashlar, has eroded to reveal the coarser matrix of the blocks beneath. Copings, where visible beneath foliage, are of coarse aggregate concrete and Ranger Artificial Stone slabs.

Beneath the northernmost section of the west wall a vaulted entrance in Ranger Artificial Stone extends beneath the pavement, and leads presumably to the passage to the house. Adjacent to it is a lean-to, open-fronted, timber-framed loggia and to the south, a timber-framed garden room with a canted bay with six-over-six pane sash windows.

The lower, much altered and repaired eastern wall, in the position of the cross wall shown on the 1875 Ordnance Survey map, constructed of brick and bungaroosh, and containing a blocked entrance, is excluded from the listing.


Kemp Town was developed in the early to mid-1820s by C A Busby and A H Wilds for T R Kemp to provide accommodation in the increasingly fashionable Brighton. One of the products to emerge from this building boom, 'Ranger Artificial Stone’, patented in 1832 and 1834, was invented by William Ranger (1799-1863), a Sussex-born builder, who by 1824 was working in Brighton for the architect Charles Barry.

It follows a trend nationally, and indeed in Europe, to develop cheaper, mass-produced building materials, prompted by the rapid acceleration in building and advancing technology. Smeaton's stone lighthouse, built in 1759, and now on the Hoe in Plymouth (Devon), was bonded with a primitive form of cement and built on a solid man-made base. Parker's Roman cement, a natural hydraulic cement and used as a mortar, was patented in 1796, while Portland cement, developed by Joseph Aspdin, was patented in 1824. Aspdin's son William, who had set up in business in Rotherhithe (London) in the early 1840s, supplied Brunel with concrete for the roof of the Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe and promoted the use of concrete construction of houses. Meanwhile Robert Smirke had used a lime concrete in the foundation of Millbank Penitentiary in 1817 and in the Custom House in 1827 (also in London).

Ranger’s material, which could be moulded into blocks and cast in-situ as a solid mass, thus made him a pioneer in terms of both concrete block and monolithic construction. Various trial formulas were used in his Brighton projects, making the town a unique repository of the material’s experimental development, this instance at the Secret Garden being an early, or possibly the earliest, example. It is a rare example where the 'stone' is in its original condition as the internal surfaces have not been rendered.

According to an article in JC Loudon's Architectural Magazine in 1835 (vol II, p 62-3) the first work executed in this new material was a wall surrounding the garden of Mr Peel of Kemp Town. Laurence Peel, who became a prominent landowner and patron in Kemp Town and was brother of the Prime Minister, acquired 32 Sussex Square in 1830. To the rear of the Square, and originally connected by a tunnel under Bristol Place, were extensive private gardens of which the walled garden known as 'The Secret Garden' is the last to remain. The article notes that the building blocks were some 2ft by 9 1/2 " by 8", laid on the spot, using mortar of the same material, setting to form a single concrete mass. The author commented that it achieved the appearance and durability of Portland stone at one third of the cost.

The current walled garden represents about a third of the original garden which extended from Bristol Place to Arundel Road. The south wall continues eastwards beyond the current garden, whereas the north wall has been curtailed. The 1875 OS map shows a large walled garden divided by a north-south internal wall in the position of the current bungaroosh and brick wall. Built against the west wall were three structures, the southernmost one with a canted bay and built against an internal spur wall. To the east of it was a freestanding structure. Steps descending from the entrance in the north west angle are indicated. The area occupied by the current garden was laid out with perimeter paths which emerge from the centre and north west corner of the western end, backed by planting with shrubs or trees; however the path along the northern boundary appears to have been bisected by the internal cross wall.

Following its initial experimental use, Ranger's pre-patented material was used more widely. Two of Barry's garden structures remain standing in the grounds of the former Attree Villa (demolished), and now within Queen's Park. There, multi-shaped and pre-cast blocks were certainly used in the construction of the Belvedere Tower of 1830 (listed Grade II, and also known as The Pepperpot), while Ranger’s artificial stone was incorporated in Barry's entrance arches to Brighton Park (now known as Queen's Park). Ranger's stone also appears to have been used in the nave of St Mark's Church, Eastern Road of 1839-49, where it resembles ragstone, at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, and in an engineering context, for walls and ramps to the south of Adelaide Crescent and in Kemp Town Esplanade and in Dyke Road, Brighton.

Once Ranger’s material was patented its application spread. Not altogether successfully, it was used at the Royal Dockyards; at Chatham (Kent) before 1835, to underpin the foundations of the 'long storehouse', and at Woolwich (London) in the river wall. Perhaps on the basis of this experiment, Charles William Pasley, founder of the Royal Engineer Establishment at Chatham and an influential voice, in 1838 strongly advocated against the use of concrete in military superstructures such that interest in experimental and man-made materials temporarily declined. Elsewhere, in London, Ranger's stone was incorporated in buildings designed by Charles Barry such as the Royal College of Surgeons building in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and at the Palace of Westminster. It is recorded that is was used on the Duke of Northumberland's estate, in Regent’s Park and on the facade of 16-17 Pall Mall - again in association with Barry - and in a guard house in Bird Cage Walk.

Whilst Ranger did not apparently work for the Marquess of Bristol in Brighton, he completed a series of important projects on the Marquess' estate at Ickworth in Suffolk in the 1830s where he altered and extended Ickworth church using concrete blocks and worked on the house.

In the 1830s Ranger was also briefly contracted to Brunel before he secured a lecturing post at Putney College of Civil Engineering. In the late 1840s he was appointed a Superintending Inspector to the newly formed General Board of Health, later, becoming its Superintendent Engineer.

Reasons for Listing

The north, south and west garden walls, vault and adjacent structures comprising the Secret Garden, Kemp Town, a walled garden, c1830 for Laurence Peel and built of William Ranger's Artificial Stone, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Structural interest: early and experimental use of Ranger Artificial Stone, cast in-situ, in blocks, and here unusually in its original condition;

* Innovation: patented in 1832 and 1834, William Ranger was a pioneer in the development of concrete block and monolithic construction; various trial formulas of Ranger Artificial Stone were used in Ranger's Brighton projects making the town a unique repository of the material’s experimental development;

* Architectural interest: used to create a walled garden, linked by an underground passage, to 32 Sussex Square;

* Historic interest: evidence of experiment in building technology, arising from the building boom in Brighton in the 1820s, here used to provide a garden serving one of the substantial houses of Sussex Square, built for Laurence Peel, brother of Robert Peel and a prominent landowner and patron in Kemp Town.

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