Vantage point over the past
As buildings in England go, Mithras House at the University of Brighton might not seem particularly ancient, but it is already 81 years old, having been built in 1939, on the eve of World War Two.
Mithras House was built for the Allen West Company, an engineering concern, which sold it in 1968. The building eventually passed to East Sussex County Council, from which Brighton Polytechnic later obtained it. In 1992, the Polytechnic was chartered as the University of Brighton in 1992, of which Mithras House is one of its principal buildings. Facilities houses in Mithras House include the University's Business School.
The elongated structure is on a prominent hill close to Lewes Road, Moulsecoomb, Brighton, and thus very conspicuous to travellers to and from the east of the City of Brighton and Hove.
The main entrance way of Mithras House exhibits influence by Art Deco styling: this is seen in geometric shapes above high rectangular windows (1). While at its inception the building might have been thought to be 'modern' and post-historical, yet these terms are relative, and some features of the structure definitely reveal the period from which it dates.
A new building during World War Two, when the coast of Sussex was often the first land sighting of German bombers, Mithras House was in an ideal situation both for 'plane spotting and fire observation (2).
While the University's charter dates from 1992, the origins of the University dates back to the opening in 1858 of a school of art in Brighton's famous Royal Pavilion (see also photo, below), the palace designed by John Nash (1752-1835), and a favourite residence of the Prince Regent, later King George IV, and much frequented by the Prince Regent's social circle.
The University has many strengths, including in engineering, pharmacy, computer studies, architecture and art; it shares a medical school with the nearby University of Sussex at Falmer.
A prominent academic figure associated with the University was Sir David Watson (1949-2015)(3), who served as the University's Vice Chancellor from 1992 until 2005.
November 18, 2020
(1) See also at: https://www.brighton.ac.uk/images/living-here/Moulsecoomb/Mithras-House-new-1500-Cropped-471x322.jpg
(2) Interestingly, air-wave monitoring at Beachy Head, along the coast from Brighton, was able to pick up German television signals from across the English Channel.
(3) He previously served as Director of Brighton Polytechnic and subsequently as Principal of Green Templeton College, Oxford. Another of the University's buildings was named for Sir David Watson, after his death.
Also worth seeing
In Brighton itself, the Pavilion is one of the town's famous buildings, with its distinct, 'onion'-shaped domes; the Parish Church of St Peter, by Sir Charles Barry, displays some magnificent Gothic styling; Brighton Railroad Station is a fine Italianate building dating from 1838/39.
Near Seaford (distance: approx. 12.4 miles / 20 kilometres) are the scenically impressive Seven Sisters cliffs.
How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. (Distance from London Heathrow to Brighton: 68.3 miles /110 kilometres.) For access by road, take M23/A23. There are rail links to Brighton from London Victoria railroad station. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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- Visiting the Parish Church of St Peter, Brighton, England: Gothic Revival by Sir Charles Barry
Flag of England FlagPictures.org St Peter's Church, Brighton, seen from the south-west 'User:Vox Humana 8'', GNU / Creative Commons A-SA 3.0, wikimedia.org This parish church in the Downtown area of Brighton, England, was designed by the famous...
- Visiting the Railroad Station at Lewes, East Sussex, England: ornate structure dating from 1857
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MJFenn (author) on November 18, 2020:
Liz Westwood: Thank-you for your comment.
Liz Westwood from UK on November 18, 2020:
This is an interesting review of a historic building, with an appearance that belies its years. You also give interesting background information about the university.