10 March 2019

Mile Oak Gardens, Portslade.

Judy Middleton 2002 (revised 2019) 

 copyright © J.Middleton
This photograph was taken on 19 February 2019. Fortunately, the view was not blocked by cars. Often both sides of the road are lined by parked vehicles with those on the north overlapping the pavement as well

North Side

In times past, the land on which the north side of Mile Oak Gardens was later built, was part of a land holding called The Worth, which measured 5 acres, 3 roods and 38 poles. On 5 July 1869 Charles Bridger sold The Worth to Edward Blaker of Easthill. In 1895 The Worth became lot 13 in a large sale of Blaker land and fetched the price of £415.

On 21 October 1919 part of the land was sold for £515 by Mrs Kate Baker of 28 St Leonard’s Road, Hove, to Mrs Louisa Beck, wife of John Beck, pig dealer, of 14 Wolseley Road, Portslade.

On 13 January 1933 Mrs Kate Baker made a statutory declaration concerning ownership of the land, and in February 1933 Portslade Urban District Council approved plans for housing development.

According to the late Sid Etherington, who later lived at 24 Mile Oak Gardens, the land on the north west side was formerly occupied by an apple orchard that extended to where Rowan Close was later built. Several of the old Bramley apple trees were left untouched by the development and continued to adorn some of the back gardens for many years. Indeed, one ancient Bramley survives to this day and still produces good, cooking apples. However, the poor old thing has taken a battering over the years, especially during the Great Gale of 1987 and a subsequent gale too. The old trunk bent over to an unseemly angle but new upright shoots sprouted from it.

Sidney Etherington was responsible for the tiling of the roofs on the north side of Mile Oak Gardens. So excellent was his work that not a tile shifted during the Great Gale although there was a great deal of damage in the locality. The lofts were close-boarded. The pairs of semi-detached houses were differentiated by the use of different coloured tiles for roof and hanging tiles – light red for one pair, and dark red for the next pair.

Mr Alfred Saunders, Public Work Contractor, of Upper Rock Gardens, Brighton, was responsible for building the houses and he used prize-winning stock brick. As any resident will tell you, this produced a remarkably tough wall, so that a task such as installing book shelves, for instance, becomes a major undertaking. The houses had cavity walls – a measure especially useful on exposed positions on the south coast to prevent damp penetration. The modern preference is to insulate the cavity walls with a variety of fillings. But old-time builders will ask the question – what is to prevent the damp from travelling across? Also, the filling will settle eventually.

The semi-detached houses present a typically 1930s’ profile of bay windows and a solid wood front door embellished with a decorative, leaded light and stained glass motifs. There are still a few of these original doors left.

Inside, on the ground floor there was a sitting room and a dining room. Many owners have since knocked down the dividing wall to provide a larger space. The original kitchen was a tiny, galley-type room with a solid fuel boiler for hot water, and a butler sink for washing up. Outside the back door there was a single bricked extension containing a cupboard in which to keep the coal, and an outside toilet.

Upstairs, there were three bedrooms and a bathroom. But here there was a difference. Building most probably started at the western end and contained a spacious bathroom on the north side, and a tiny bedroom on the south side. But somewhere along the line, either Mr Saunders, or perhaps a customer, came up with the idea that it would be better to have a small bathroom and three decent-sized bedrooms, and that is what happened to the houses further to the east.

copyright © J.Middleton
A view of one of the spacious gardens in May 2018

Another difference lay in the size of the back gardens. The frontage to the road was 28 ft for each semi-detached house, but for houses on the west end of Mile Oak Gardens. The land on the north side stretched back approximately 126 ft to the north boundary. The houses on the south side of Mile Oak Gardens had smaller back gardens because there was restricted space owing to a plot of land belonging to Mrs Grace Scott Malden, owner and head of nearby Windlesham House School

 copyright © J.Middleton
The autumn colours of a medlar tree in 2018

But all the houses enjoyed a sea view. When the road was first built, it was a cul-de-sac, with no direct link to Southwick. The boundary was defined by the ancient right-of-way running from the coast to the Downs, which is still there today, although interrupted at several points by roads.

The houses on the north side first appeared in the 1934-1935 Street Directory.

South Side

The land on the south side of Mile Oak Gardens was once part of the Portslade House estate, owned for many years by the Hall family. By the 1930s the land in question was owned by Mrs Grace Scott Malden of nearby Windlesham House School. The reason a footpath still exists to the south of these properties is because Mrs Malden enforced a covenant that allowed the schoolboys to walk along it.

The houses on the south side were different in style from those on the other side of the road, and were built two or three years later, thus destroying the sea views of those on the north. The houses first appeared in the 1937 Street Directory. Their original windows were Crittal windows.

When Gordon Butland and his wife moved into 37 Mile Oak Gardens after the Second World War, they found that the roof had been damaged in an air raid.

It is interesting to note that a ward boundary runs down the centre of Mile Oak Gardens – with the older houses being in North Portslade, and the newer ones being in South Portslade.

Street Lighting

In October 1933 Mr Saunders wrote to Portslade Council informing them that he was proposing to erect street lamps. Although he was prepared to pay for the gas consumed, he requested that the lamp-lighter, already employed by the council, should turn them on and off.

In December 1933 Portslade Council replied to Mr Saunders, and requested that he should install electric lighting rather then gas lamps. The council would undertake to turn the lighting on and off, but Mr Saunders would be obliged to pay 2/6d a week for the privilege.

Mr Saunders was also anxious to make up the road to council specifications so that the council would adopt it.

House Prices

In December 1933 a house on the north side sold for £625.

In 1963 another house on the north side sold for £3,500.

In 2019 house prices range from £300,100 to nearly £400,000 depending on what extensions and improvements have been made.

copyright © J.Middleton
The north side of Mile Oak Gardens viewed from the west end


Middleton J, Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Portslade Council Minutes
Private Deeds
Street Directories

Copyright © J.Middleton 2019
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