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research, Ninka Willcock, Brighton Society

The Brighton Society has long considered that the life and work of architect Thomas Simpson, 1825 – 1908, deserves permanent recognition in the City.

From 1856 to his death in 1908 he had a prolific and successful career in Brighton and Hove and his work is surely as important and representative of the Victorian era as that of Wilds and Busby of the Regency.

Thomas Simpson was first articled to his uncle James Charnock Simpson in Brighton. This was followed by a period with the ecclesiastical architect Joseph Butler of Chichester, and then an appointment as Principal Assistant to the great architect of Gothic Revival, William Butterfield, in London.

In 1856 Simpson went into practice in Brighton in succession to his uncle and much of his early work in the town focussed on dissenting chapels and churches. His Belgrave Street Chapel and School still stands and is listed, although converted into apartments.

Like his contemporary, the famous London Board School architect E.R.Robson, Simpson studied in Germany, then considered at the cutting edge in its provision for mass education in the late 19th century.

In 1871 Simpson was appointed Surveyor and Architect to the newly formed Brighton and Preston School Board in which post he remained for over 35 years. He designed in the course of that career, all but one (Richmond Street) of Brighton’s Board Schools and many others in Hove, Portslade and Seaford.

He played no small part in the material shaping of Brighton and his knowledge of its history and value was probably unique.

His Board Schools brought major changes to the education of 19th century children.And not only were his school buildings highly esteemed at the time but a century later the they continue to play an essential part in the life of the city which is a testament to their design and quality of their construction.

It is fair to say that nearly everyone who has had their early education in the Brighton area will have spent many hours in the built environments of Thomas Simpson.

To commemorate this remarkable career the Brighton Society has proposed to the City’s Commemorative Plaque Panel that a plaque be placed on the western façade of the Connaught Road School.

This is a conspicuous position and the Connaught Road School is felt to be particularly appropriate as the last of the Simpson schools to be listed as a result of the Brighton Society’s campaign, and an outstanding example of his Queen Anne revival style.

The City’s Commemorative Plaque Panel have accepted this proposal and it now remains for the Brighton Society to raise the cost of the plaque and its installation, a sum not exceeding £1200.

Please do consider making a donation. You can contact the Brighton Society here.

Ninka Willcock
The Brighton Society

A Selection of Significant Buildings in Brighton and Hove Designed by Thomas Simpson

Religious Buildings
Belgrave Street Congregational Chapel and school (1862)

Preston Road Board Schools (1880). Now part of City College.
Finsbury Road Board Schools (1881). Now flats
York Place Higher Grade Schools (1884). Now part of City College.
Connaught Road Board Schools (1884). Now part of West Hove Infant School.
Central National Infants’ School, Upper Gardner Street (1887). Now apartments.
Ditchling Road Board Schools (1890). Now Downs Junior School.
Elm Grove Board Schools (1893)
Stanford Road Board Schools (1894)
School for Afflicted Children and Cookery School (1898). Now part of City College.
St Luke’s Board Schools (1903)