12 March 2020

Foredown Drive, Portslade

Judy Middleton 2002 (revised 2020)

copyright © D. Sharp
Foredown Drive looking north from the junction with Benfield Crescent

Foredown Drive was built on land formerly part of Cowhayes Farm. In 1936 Portslade Council gave their approval to plans submitted by Percy Harvey Sales Ltd. To those familiar with the subject, the 1930s have been dubbed the last golden age of British house-building because the structures were stoutly built with properly slanting roofs that lasted for many years without requiring remedial attention. Moreover, since there was no desperate shortage of land at that time, many houses enjoyed gardens that today would be regarded as very generous in size. Consequently, Foredown Drive became one of the most prestigious addresses in Portslade, despite the steepness of the hill and its windswept location.

In May 2001 a house was on sale for £172,500. Since then of course prices have shot up. In January 2019 a detached house sold for £616,000, while in September 2019 a semi-detached house sold for £450,000.

The Comber Family & Comber & Wheatland

It is worth noting the part G. Comber played in house building at Foredown Drive (see at the end pf the page under Planning Approvals), and he was also responsible for some more in Melrose Avenue. The Comber family had been involved in the local building trade since at least 1914 when J. M. Comber was busy in Hove – in Lyndhurst Road in 1914 and in Gladys Road in 1921. The firm of Comber & Wheatland was responsible for house-building as follows:

1924 – Hogarth Road
1926 – Dorothy Road
1926Portland Road
1927 – Mansfield Road
1928 – Goldstone Crescent

On 18 May 1926 the Duke of Portland sold some land to Ralph Comber and Arthur James Wheatland, both of 26 Langdale Road, Hove, and Portland Avenue was laid out on it.

copyright © G. Osborne
Mill House Estate - Burlington Gardens in the early 1950s, looking east to West Hove Golf Course and Hangleton.

In the early 1930s Comber & Wheatland purchased the Mill House Estate, Portslade, grumbling to Portslade Council that there was no proper access road, and that they intended to build some 280 houses. Comber & Wheatland were responsible for layout and house-building in several roads in Portslade, as follows:

1930 – Links Road
1934 – Fairway Crescent
1934 – Helena Close
1934 – Mill Lane
1934 – Sharpthorne Crescent
1935 – Sharpthorne Crescent
1936 – Sharpthorne Crescent
1938 – Sharpthorne Crescent
1947 – Millcross Road
1952 – Millcross Road
1954 – Burlington Gardens

Bertha Bennet Burleigh
copyright © Trove Newspapers
An illustration by Bertha Bennet Burleigh
Narembeen Observer 23 September 1931

In private life she was Mrs G. S. Arthur, and professionally she was also known as BBB. She was the daughter of a famous Fleet Street war correspondent of the First World War, but she was a brilliant artist in her own right. Biographical details are hard to find but according to the Australian internet source ‘Trove’ she lived for some years in Australia and for twelve years contributed social cartoons to the Aussie. She was unusual in also contributing political cartoons in her earlier days to the Bulletin. Later on she became known as an illustrator, producing Artist at the Zoo with a wonderful depiction of a hippo on the front cover, and in 1937 another book entitled Circus. Apparently, Rudyard Kipling once commented that there was no artist in the world whom he would prefer to illustrate his animal stories.

By the 1950s she lived at 23 Foredown Drive. In around 1952 she took up sculpting because arthritis prevented her from painting. In 1954 she produced a sculpture symbolic of Brighthelmstone for the World Trade Fair held at the Corn Exchange, Brighton.


copyright © D. Sharp
The industrial unit on the south-west side of Foredown Drive.

In view of the above, it seems odd that there is an industrial unit on the south-west side of Foredown Drive. However, it does have a precedent because before the houses were built, there was Tate’s Laundry on the site, which included a stables for the benefit of the laundry delivery horses. There was also a small industrial unit where during the Second World War some useful work was undertaken by the Tate brothers, described as motor, general and marine engineers of Portslade. This included the invention of a gun depression gear for the well-known Oerlikon guns installed on many ships of the Royal Navy. The device proved of great benefit because it made the Oerlikon more reliable – beforehand it had frequently been so temperamental that it was liable to inflict more injuries to its host vessel than it did to an enemy battleship. Then there was the salvaging of such damaged ships as the Shell Brit, the Chorzow, and the President Briand plus the repair of other vessels. After the war, equipment for overhead power lines was manufactured. In 1954 the old laundry burned down, and new premises were built; in 1957 the industrial unit was sold.

In June 1993 it was stated that the 13 million Unipower Company (based in Florida) had merged with Intelligence Power Technology of 6 Foredown Drive, after rejecting potential partners in Germany, Italy and Ireland. In 1993 the Portslade works employed 45 people; it later became known as Unipart Europe Ltd.

In April 2000 the Brighton Sign Company purchased the 8,000-sq-ft factory unit, and by November of the same year they had transformed the premises into a manufacturing facility. The firm – in existence for 36 years – undertook fabricated acrylic work, neon, gilding, traditional sign-writing, plus computer-generated lettering and logos. The premises were called Foredown House.

Portslade Council Planning Approvals

1936 – W. H. Green, sixteen houses
1936 – A. Alldritt, ten semi-detached houses
1938 – G. Comber, sixteen houses, and fourteen garages (but only eight were built)
1939 – G. Comber, two demi-detached houses
1945 – G. Comber, six semi-detached houses
1947 – G. Comber, six houses
1948 – G. Comber, seven semi-detached houses (numbers 111-117 and 114-118
1948 – H. E. Ogilvie, three houses
1949 – three houses
1951 – one house
1957 – three bungalows

copyright © D. Sharp
Foredown Drive looking north from the junction with Old Shoreham Road


Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Hove Council Minute Books
Internet searches / Trove
Personal interview with John Tate

Thanks are due to Mr G. Osborne for allowing me to reproduce the Mill House Estate photograph

The Keep

DO/A35/33 – Portslade UDC Minute Books 1935-1936
DO/A35/36 – Portslade UDC Minute Books 1936-1937
DO/A35/38 – Portslade UDC Minute Books 1938
DO/A35/39 – Portslade UDC Minute Books 1938
DO/A35/40 – Portslade UDC Minute Books 1939

Copyright © J.Middleton 2020
page layout by D.Sharp