/ 100

Foundation Stone

'Above Rottingdean the new villas began: pipe-dream architecture: up on the downs the obscure skeleton of a nursing home, winged like an aeroplane' (Graham Greene, Brighton Rock, 1938)

Foundation stone

Although we continued to receive new members after the First World War, these were fewer in number, and in 1927 the training and rehabilitation elements of our work transferred from London to Brighton. By the 1930s it had become apparent that with the additional responsibilities, West House lacked sufficient space. The decision was taken that a new building was required. It would be larger and it would be purpose-built for the blind. After much consideration and consultation with members, the site at Ovingdean was decided upon.

The architect was Francis Lorne of the Burnet, Tait and Lorne partnership. He designed a striking six-storey art deco building of fireproof steel and brick, which from a distance looked like an aeroplane. Each floor was almost identical, with straight passages and rounded corners. The stairs had self-closing swing gates. A scale model of the building was produced, so that newcomers could learn the size, shape and relative positions of the rooms and corridors.

The construction work on the building was done by James Longley & Co. One of their workmen, Frank Parks was a keen amateur photographer and captured the work in progress. The foundation stone was laid by Lady Pearson, the widow of our founder, in a ceremony on 6th September 1937.