External and party walls

The external walls carry the loads from floors, balconies and roof and are perforated for windows and doors. The 6” module was the unit around which the proportion of a building was based. This was used for setting out the facade; sash windows, for example, were drawn as either 42” or 48” wide. By measuring in quarter and half modules, a range of proportional dimensions were set.

Measurements show that a degree of tolerance was accepted within the module system and that joinery was often built by rule of thumb, to an approximation of the formula.

External walls might be built of solid materials such as stone or brick, or with an iron or timber frame. In the latter case, this could be infilled with masonry or timber boarding. The masonry walls were built to reduce in 4” steps as they were raised up through the house in order to provide a ‘seating’ for the floor joists at each level.

The timber framing seen in Regency Brighton evolved from the massive braced, post and stud walls of medieval halls. The framing used by Henry Holland at the Royal Pavilion is of much smaller sections morticed into head and sole plates. The rough stud work of the speculative Royal Crescent is similarly styled, although, in this instance it was braced by brick infill in the medieval tradition, before its shiny tiled surface was applied.

Above: External wall construction around 1810.

By cutting the timber to create joints such as the ‘mortise and tenon’ joint, where one timber is notched tightly into the other, the need for expensive cut nails was reduced. However, in time, the machine production of nails led to the ‘skew’ nailing of timber beams in some walls during the Regency.

Expensive, solid stone external walls were rarely raised in Brighton. Instead, stone was used sparingly for string courses and occasional ornamentation, or as cantilevered slabs to form balconies and steps.

Balconies and bays could be built in to the external wall, often necessitating the the use of cast iron brackets. Balcony roofs were glazed, or covered in copper or lead sheet.

The ‘shells’ of Brighton’s speculative Regency houses were commonly constructed of the cheap and readily available ‘bungaroush’ laid between piers and strings of brickwork in panels of coarse lime mortar, flint and broken brick. Timber beams were built in, on the internal face of the bungaroush wall, in order to fix the vertical timber battens onto which wooden laths would be attached to receive the plaster.

Exposed brick elevations became increasingly unusual in Regency Brighton as decorative stucco, moulded with pilasters, cornices and cappings prevailed. An exception can be seen in the elegant and neatly bonded cream brickwork laid in 1795 for the Hanover Place alms houses.

The theatrical Regency facades were often designed to have a life expectancy of little more than the length of their 99 year lease. The houses in Brunswick Town were an exception to this general practice, as every effort was made to ensure the use of only the best quality building materials with longevity in mind.