pioneer house

Pioneer House

Burstead Close


Pioneer House will, for most visitors to this website, be a somewhat obscure location, but is very important to many of the residents of Hollingdean in Brighton.

Situated at the end of a valley and hemmed in by Roedale Woods and the surrounding housing estate, Pioneer House sat on a grassy bank at the top of Burstead Close. It was originally a care home which was capable of housing 11 full time residents under 65 years of age, with Learning Difficulties along with roughly the same number of residents as staff.

It is unclear when this building opened, but the architecture suggests a predominantly 1930's feel and I would hazard a guess that it was built between 1936 and 1946. It is surprising to see a building of this size and of this age, still with a full compliment of Crittal windows and as far as I could see on my investigation, a few of the original architectural features still prevalent in the present day.

Sadly, the building was deemed to have outlived its usefulness in July 2006 and plans were drawn up by which the facilities provided at Pioneer House would be moved to a new location in New Church Road, Hove, to the site of the former Westbourne Hospital.

At the time of writing, Pioneer House has been entirely demolished and all that remains of the building is the sweeping curve of the driveway and a large pile of pulverised bricks. The company charged with the redevelopment of the site, Affinity Sutton, along with Architects Miller Bourne, propose a £2.58 million development of  24 homes on the site: 2x 3 bedroom units, 13x 2 bedroom units, 7x 1 bedroom flats and a pair of 1 or 2 bedroom flats designed specifically for disabled residents. The redevelopment makes great play of the current love affair with Sustainable Energy and will have a rooftop graced with photovoltaic solar panels as well as well planted living walls. The estimated completion date for the project is August 2011.

I was lucky enough to be able to infiltrate this building as a solo mission early in August, just a few weeks before demolition was due to commence. The photos included show a little of the interior (which was fairly uneventful) and a lot more of the external aspects of the site, serving as a record of the site's journey through demolition and redevelopment.

This mission was a solo explore by Ghost, conducted on 1st September 2010.

ABOVE: This is the way that most of Hollingdean's local residents will choose to remember Pioneer House. This is the view taken from the woodland path that runs up alongside the rear of the site, towards the golf course next to Ditchling Road and the nearby Roedale Allotments. It peeps tantalisingly through the trees, whispering "come explore me!" So I did!

ABOVE LEFT & RIGHT: These 2 shots of the rear of the building belie the size of ther place - it is arranged in a staggered configuration, slotting neatly into the surrounding landscape. It must have been a very peaceful place to live in. On my first arrival at the site, it did appear remarkably well locked down - there was only one window that was slightly ajar and this had a safety latch on it. However, everything was not as it first appeared! Because all the doors were neatly closed, it probably wouldn't occur to anyone casually passing to try one and see if it was unlocked. My hunch paid off!

ABOVE: This is the view of Pioneer House as it appeared whilst stood at the top of Burstead Close in Hollingdean. It is quite a pretty building and I still find myself surprised that a building of this size and from this era still has a full compliment of its original crital windows. These windows were inherently flawed in that they were prone to problems with the metal frames expanding and contracting as the season changes occured and as a result, quite a few panes of glass would have cracks across them where they have failed to compensate for the movement of the frames. I fail to see what would have been so difficult about converting this block into flats - it fits, as I say, into the surrounding area very well and the predominant architectural style is well reflected in the wider local area. It's not really fair to say that the buildiong had outlived its useful life - most of Hollingdean is from this era of construction, so it would have taken relatively little thought and effort (in my mind at least) to convert into flats, rather than raze the area to make way for the quirky and misplaced newbuild that will eventually replace it. 


Internal shots. 

ABOVE: This was originally the main day room for the 11 residents and appears in the previous external shot on the bottom left of the photo. This is the bay window looking in the other direction, due south down Burstead Close. It is very light and airy in here and must have been quite theraputic for the residents.

ABOVE: These are the kitchens before they were stripped out. These were on the north side of the block, facing the woodland as seen in the very first external photo of the series. Through the yellow door was a stairway leading down to a boiler room, which was quite spooky and I didn't have a torch on me that day. Also, the operatives sent to dismantle the place prior to its demolition were halfway through quite a hardcore asbestos strip down there, so for the good of my long-term health, I had a quick peep round the door and shut it again PDQ!

ABOVE: This is the room immediately to the left of the day room and is a music room (the decor sort of gives it away). There were some quite funky records and CD's on the walls which suggested the residents must have had a good old knees up on odd occasions. Some of them were quite bangin' in my experience...

RIGHT: "Underwater" by Harry Thumann. This is actually really damn funky!! A link to the track on Youtube is included for your delectation HERE :o)

BELOW: "Sign of the Times" by The Fluegel Knights. Sadly, there's nothing about this track available on Youtube. It sounds interesting though - if anyone has a copy, it'd be interesting to hear.

ABOVE: Pioneer House has all the usual little touches left by the workers to make life interesting for the residents....

ABOVE: A quick look around upstairs - this floor was mostly consigned to the residents' bedrooms. There was still a smattering of personal belongings in some of them: old photos, pictures etc.

RIGHT: We have been badly spoilt with the likes of West Park and Hellingly. A corridor just isn't a corridor after you've been to them two (sigh)...

BELOW: Signs of stripping out - I'm guessing that the majority of the hoisting gear (seen bottom right in this photo and in some other places in the block) are quite valuable, so worth saving.

BELOW: This was a very strange little room - bearly enough room for a bed, let alone anyone's personal belongings. The curved ceiling is an interesting idea, but totally at odds with the predominantly angular design of the building as a whole.

RIGHT: Gratuitous posing shot. On this occasion, my camouflage was possibly the most noticeable possible, but the old saying rings true: if you wear a hi-viz vest, you look like you're meant to be there. Noone ever asked me... 

ABOVE RIGHT: Someone disagreed, obviously.

BELOW RIGHT: Despite the glitch caused by stitching this photo together, it gives a good impression of how close the block is to the surrounding woodland and how nice it might have been for the residents. Can you imagine at night time, watching the comings and goings of wildlife  from under the hedge?

BELOW: Okay, quite a boring shot, I know, but what surprised me about this particular window was that it was glazed with perspex, indicating that this room originally housed someone who would have been a potential risk to themself or to others around them, yet there was no other provision made for this within the room. The door was pretty standard stock and there were no locks on it. Curious.

BELOW: This was rather nice - at the top of the secondary stairwell was this rather snazzy attempt at stained glass. I wish I'd caught a shot of this centre on, as a week later it had been demolished.

BELOW: Wide angle shot of the foyer and reception area. The room to the left I'm guessing was a sort of canteen area, as the kitchens are just beyond. Yet, the inclusion of a large mirror on the wall is a little out there...?

...along with the usual strange and slightly disturbing artwork! (ABOVE)

ABOVE: A nice thought on someone's behalf, but every door was unlocked anyway.

BELOW RIGHT: This is the main foyer and the overall access point to the block. The music and day rooms were round the corner from the blue door, facing due south. This view would be looking due west, geographically looking towards Ditchling Road and Surrenden Road.

BELOW LEFT: There are two stairwells in the block, so I went up the main one to the first floor and came down the secondary one, returning to the enterance foyer. The alarm panel was still fully functional at the time of the explore, but thankfully deactivated, otherwise it would have been a really short visit. I'm surprised that the stairways aren't illustrated on the maps, as these would be key escape features.


Demolition and Beyond.

 The photos below show the startlingly quick demolition process.

15th September 2010.


4th October 2010 


Early November 2010