Mount Lane at the Eastern end of Westgate has always been known to be a perfect Georgian enclave, and it’s evident with the iconic 20th-century buildings that still remain. Arguably the most iconic building is Chichester Festival Theatre, which was designed by Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya. Of course, the theatre wasn’t the first commission for Powell and Moya, not when 15 Westgate behind the Old Surgery was their beginning.
15 Westgate was actually an extension to an old outhouse. It was initially converted from one-bedroomed flat, which was designed for Canon Frith for his daughter Barbara. If you peek over the wall in the garden behind the Marriot Lodge care home complex, you’ll be able to see it. The big house used to be known as The Frithery and is now owned by the Secretary of the Residents’ Association. Just after this commission was built, Powell and Moya went on to design two minimum impact flat-roofed bungalows on Mount Lane. Many architects in West Sussex appreciate the design of these given that there were some severe restrictions on any private developments in the residential sector after the Second World War. This was especially the case where floorspace was concerned. These bungalows were built to the right of the lane opposite St Bartholomew’s church.
They made a fantastic impact, going on to win the competition at the 1951 Festival of Britain that was in place for the best vertical feature design. This was later named the Skylon after a public competition, and subsequent commissions moved into public and private housing, academic buildings and NHS hospitals in England.
Mount Lane Mysteries
The bungalows that Powell and Moya designed have been forgotten over the years. Those living in Chichester only ever really knew of the bungalows as a passing fact that they once existed. As architects in West Sussex will know, the roofs of these bungalows matched the height of the retaining wall exactly. They were shielded from Mount Lane’s view because of the greenery surrounding it. They no longer exist today, with the demolitions being held in 1996 for number 2 and 2011 for number 1. Sixteen more dwellings were built in place of number 2, though, and those are still in use.
It wasn’t until 2008 that these Mount Lane Mystery bungalows became public knowledge, thanks to the 20th Century Society. In 2010, they then contacted Chichester District Council to talk about their reservations for the site the bungalows sat on. They believed that the loss of the first bungalow was a tragedy as they demonstrated the post-war domestic architecture that the history books needed. They also expressed their concerns about the demolition of the second house, though we know that the demolition went ahead not long after they raised their points.
Chichester Council held meetings to discuss 1 Mount Lane and initially chose for the bungalow to be preserved and refurbished. However, two months after this meeting, the permission for demolition was granted. The bungalow was – at this point – almost derelict, so the demolition went ahead, and three-bedroom homes were then built in its place.
About Powell & Moya
The homes that they designed and built were interesting, but it’s the people for whom they were built that were most interesting.
When Philip Powell was born, his father was a headmaster of a modern school in Bedford. The family moved from Bedford to Epsom, where his father took Holy Orders and retired in 1939 so that he could be a pastor in the Graffham and Lavington parishes in West Sussex. Powell’s father was then appointed canon of Chichester Cathedral in the late 40s. Philip Powell was accepted to Cambridge University on a scholarship but left his education early so that he could enrol in the Architectural Association. He continued his studies through the war.
Hidalgo Moya was born in California, US, and came with his family to England at aged 1. Moya had a career ahead of him in engineering but turned it down in favour of architecture, which is where he met Philip Powell. As they had opposite personalities and temperaments, their working styles complimented each other and they worked well together.
They began to work together in Chichester, and their second city commission came when Philip’s father, Canon Powell, was facing retirement. He needed to leave the property as it was provided to him while in the employ of the church, thus needed somewhere new to live. Along with Canon Powell and his wife, their daughter and her family needed accommodation, too. Naval officers and clergymen were key workers of the time, which means that the building restrictions on “inessential” building work were waived.
It was Pile and Company that was in charge of the construction works for new private houses on a matured landscape site of 0.4 hectares. Each property built was a maximum of 1,500 square feet, and there were trees on the land that were incorporated in the landscaping. Most of the fixings included brass letterboxes, house numbers, lever handles and locks, and they were made especially for these homes. Canon Powell lived at 1 Mount Lane until he died in 1963, and Lt Commander Hogg was the first owner of 2 Mount Lane. The site now hosts more people than it ever did in those days, and if you care to check Google Maps, you can still see them standing!
The original Mount Lane buildings may no longer be in existence, but the site is still standing. There is also a remaining wall to number 1 still standing, too. There are some espalier apple trees still standing, too. The area still has the status of being part of the Chichester Conservation Area. Of course, this didn’t stop the original houses from being demolished, but Powell and Moya created Great British architecture that architects in West Sussex know was a good ten years ahead of its time.