Former electric bus garage and re-charging station for the Brighton, Hove and Preston United Omnibus Co Ltd

Overview

Heritage Category:
Listed Building
Grade:
II
List Entry Number:
1423929
Date first listed:
29-May-2015
Statutory Address:
25 Montague Place, Brighton, BN2 1JE

Map

Ordnance survey map of Former electric bus garage and re-charging station for the Brighton, Hove and Preston United Omnibus Co Ltd
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Location

Statutory Address:
25 Montague Place, Brighton, BN2 1JE

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District:
The City of Brighton and Hove (Unitary Authority)
Parish:
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
TQ3224803920

Summary

Former charging station and garage for electric buses built by the Brighton, Hove and Preston United Omnibus Co Ltd in 1908/9. It was designed by local architects, Charles Clayton and Ernest Black.

Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the mezzanine structures and their associated office rooms within the building are not of special architectural or historic interest.

Reasons for Designation

25 Montague Place, Brighton, 1908/9, a former charging station and garage for electric buses, built for the Brighton, Hove and Preston United Omnibus Co Ltd to the designs of Charles Clayton and Ernest Black, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Historic interest: the building dates from the early years of the motorbus, before it became, from the inter-war period onwards, the primary form of road-based public transport; as a recharging station for electric buses it represents an interesting aspect of the search for improved, modern, forms of public transport; * Rarity: less common and typically smaller than tram-related buildings of the period, attrition rates for early purpose-built bus garages will be high, making 25 Montague Place rare, particularly for its association with electric buses: Brighton had the second largest fleet after London, but was also one of only a small handful of towns to run the vehicles; * Architectural interest: with a more architectural frontage, screening a modest, top-lit, structure behind, complete with simple timber joinery and large sliding doors, the building is a typical example of an early road transport maintenance garage or depot; * Level of survival: retaining most of its original features, the building's character is largely unaltered.

History

25 Montague Place was built as a charging station and garage for electric buses in 1908/9. It was built by the Brighton, Hove and Preston United Omnibus Co Ltd, which was founded in 1884, and introduced motorbuses in 1903. However, the excessive noise of these vehicles annoyed residents of some of the wealthier areas of the town and so the company ordered 4 battery-powered buses, which entered service in June 1909; one Hallford Electric bus, and three Electrobuses. 25 Montague Place, designed by local architects, Clayton and Black, held charging equipment, so that during the day buses could swiftly exchange spent batteries for ones that were fully charged, a change-over which took about ten minutes. In 1910 the company purchased 12 second-hand vehicles from the London Electrobus Company, four were used for spares and the other eight were put into service, together with three new Hallfords and one new Electrobus. Although the buses struggled to get up Brighton's hills, they were popular and lasted until 1916 when the company was acquired by Thomas Tilling and the electric buses were taken out of service, in favour of petrol-driven motorbuses and (from 1939) trolleybuses.

Battery powered vehicles first appeared on English roads at the end of the C19. Electric trams were introduced in 1883, and electric cars and commercial vehicles were quite common (in relative terms) prior to around 1910, especially in London, where electric limousines were popular with ladies who appreciated the absence of noise and smell. Experimentation with electric buses began in the 1880s, but the first operational fleet did not make it onto the street until 1907, when the London Electrobus Company was founded, running its 20 electric double-deckers for three years. Brighton is thought to have had the second largest, and earliest, fleet of electric buses, with a handful of other smaller fleets running in towns and cities up to the 1920s. For a time in the decades either side of 1900, trams and buses - electricity, petrol, and horse-powered - ran alongside each other. However, outside London, trams were the pre-eminent form of town centre transport until the after the First World War, when the motorbus came to the fore. In part because of this, and in part because the buildings are so vulnerable to loss, early bus depots and garages, pre-dating 1914, are rare.

Buildings designed and built as depots for public transport have a history of reuse as technology evolved. Depots for horse-drawn buses were frequently given over to their motorised successors, although their comparatively small size has contributed to their attrition. Tram depots could be very large, and many were subsequently given over to garaging motorbuses. In the case of 25 Montague Place, the building was subsequently used as a motorbus garage until 1932; it is now (2015) occupied as a commercial repair garage for cars. The building has been very little altered, as can be seen by comparing it with the original architectural drawings which survive in the county archive.

Details

25 Montague Place was built as a charging station and garage for electric buses by the Brighton, Hove and Preston United Omnibus Co Ltd in 1908/9. It was designed by local architects, Charles Clayton and Ernest Black.

MATERIALS: the building is of stock brick construction with painted masonry dressings. The pitched roof is formed of patent glazing (glass held in slim extruded metal glazing bars) at the apex and eaves, with slate-covered timber boarding in between; the whole is supported by slender steel trusses. Doors and windows are timber.

PLAN: the building has a simple rectangular footprint, nine bays long and one bay wide, and a pitched roof, orientated with its long sides facing north and south and the shorter, gabled, sides facing east and west. The main entrance is to the west, facing onto Montague Place. The east end bay to the south is cut back diagonally from the lower face of the wall into the pitch of the roof. This is an original feature and may have been to allow light into a corner where other earlier buildings were tightly built up around it. Internally the building is open to the underside of the roof; it was originally entirely un-subdivided, other than a single toilet cubicle in the far north-east corner. This cubicle remains, and overhead an office has been built on a small, partially free-standing mezzanine. A second small mezzanine has been built as a tyre store in the south-west corner, with an office in-filling the space below. These mezzanines and their associated offices are not of special interest.

EXTERIOR: the entrance front has a shaped parapet gable with a painted masonry coping, and a plinth of brown-glazed bricks. There is a large, central, sliding double door, flanked by a window opening to either side with red brick dressings, a painted masonry lintel, and moulded brick sill (also painted). The windows are boarded-over internally and externally, but may survive in between. Above the sliding doors is a tripartite Venetian-style window opening, with painted masonry dressings, a cornice, and segmental pediment. The windows have been removed and the openings filled with concrete block-work. The area in front of the sliding door is paved with 'Candy's' brick paving.

The north and south elevations have timber, horizontally hinged, six-light casements, with segmental brick arches. In the north elevation there are two further sets of double doors – one to the west, which is hinged and probably intended for personnel; and one to the centre – these are sliding doors on a slightly smaller scale than those to the front. Both sets of doors are blocked-up internally.

INTERIOR: the interior is open, except for the mezzanines, with painted brick walls. The roof trusses have diagonal braces and their ends rest on brick piers with rounded corners. There is a ridge vent in every other bay.

Sources

Books and journals
Georgano, N, Electric Vehicles, (1996)
'The New Battery Charging Station at the Montague-Street Garage of the Brighton, Hove and Preston United Omnibus Co.' in The Electrical Journal, (25 June 1909), 421-423
Websites
The Economist, Electrobuses: what is this that roareth thus?, 10 July 2007, accessed 3 December 2014 from http://www.economist.com/node/9465026

Legal

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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