Standing outside, within site of the hallowed Pot/Box (delete as appropriate), I overheard an older chap, in a happily animated way, explaining to a couple of other folk how it was originally used as a water tower. Then, as they walked on, a man and his young daughter came striding past, the man explaining about the interior levels of the building- having obviously read about this or seen inside for himself. I was rather happy to see this, if only to console myself that I am not the only person for whom the Pepperpot is a subject of fascination.
The early history of the building was originally a little cloudy where its use is concerned. It was built in 1830 to the design of Charles Barry, who was involved in drawing up plans for the House of Parliament. Recently, it was found that the Arcana of Science and Art, in 1836, records it housing a steam engine to pump water for its estate. Evidential opinion has also suggested it was originally known as the ‘Belvedere Tower’. Well that could put an end to the Pot v Box debate in a way that even King Solomon couldn’t…..
Subsequent uses for the tower are well documented. A printing house, an observation post, an artist’s studio, and a public toilet. It was even HQ for a scout troop- a quite small one I would imagine.
For most of my life I have lived within a try’s conversion of the glorious Pot, and have often engaged with much humorous, and always benign, debate with others about it. It appears, and I stand for major correction, that most people regard the building as being titled ‘The Pepperpot’, although I think this may have been a slow evolvement from the ‘Pepper Box’. In fact I think it was certainly being described as a ‘Pepper Box’ around the start of the last century. I vaguely recall my late Mum referring to it as such, although I don’t hear that title often in the local area nowadays.. *runs for cover* ..
What has been most delightful though, and not subject to disagreement, is the wonderful work that the Friends Of The Pepperpot have done in trying to secure its future.
For years the Pepperpot stood crumbling, its exterior a miserable grey, a summary of its unhappy countenance. Walking past it most days I believed that this was its ultimate lot, and that would never change.
Yet, formed in January 2010, the group recognised that the Pot had fallen in to an unacceptable state of disuse, and set out to remedy that in partnership with the local council, the intention to make changes and turn it into a local feature we could all be proud of. Regular meetings, accompanied by much hard work and eagerly sought funding, have brought about compelling improvements that locals should be thankful and proud of. As a result of the endeavours of these volunteers the tower has undergone restorative work and many clean ups, moving from eyesore to splendid landmark during this period. There is still much work to be done, and its ultimate use to be found, but folk in this area now seem to see the building as real community asset rather than a monstrous carbuncle viewed with indifference.
I remember back in 2011, the landmark became part of the White Night festival in Brighton, with a feature (see below) called Tower Of Dreams. Scores of folk came along to see the light display. It was a real joy to see the community coming together in a way that rarely happens. I know there have been the inevitable moans about the local council offering financial assistance to projects such as this one, but my view is that not only is it good to preserve features of our local heritage for generations to come, it can be something that can bring a long lost sense of community that seems to be ever dwindling. I for one have got to learn new names and faces simply by taking a peripheral interest in what’s going on here, and I’m sure others have too.
So, all hail the Pot… Box… Tower..