Recollections of Kent and Sussex from Malta; The splendour of Regency architecture and buildings Upper class sectors of Malta’s “new town” Sliema based on Kent and Sussex seafront areas

By Albert Fenech

Marine Parade, Brighton

 

Down through the centuries architecture and building-styles have undergone changes, clearly defined by the construction of palaces, manor houses, villas, official buildings and churches

There was of course a difference between these and the accommodations of living houses for the plain and ordinary with their minute houses and small gardens squashed into confined spaces

Back in the old days there were no romantic illusions about equality, inclusiveness, better living and community standards. The only difference was “us and them”, the “us” being royalty, the titled noble, the rich and the privileged and “them” being the common herd of no importance except to be used as necessary when required and allowed to do their own doings and to provide their own food and shelter.

For the classier, Regency Architecture for classical buildings in the United Kingdom came early in the 19th Century when King George IV was still Prince Regent.

This has been classed as the last phase of Georgian architecture which took its name from Kings named George between 1714 and 1830 and extended to the reign of King William IV in 1837.

However, the tribulations of the Napoleonic Wars greatly hindered development for financial reasons as well as political uncertainty and spending was strictly restricted.

All returned to normal after the victorious battle of Waterloo in 1815 which resulted in a great financial boom and the most excellent Regency phase followed this period.

Many Regency-styled buildings are distinct because of a white painted stucco façade and an entryway to the building’s front door. Crescents were particularly popular.

Norfolk Square, Brighton

Wrought iron balconies of elegance as well as bow windows came into fashion and in outer town areas such as in Kent and Sussex the inhabited buildings were looked upon as “suburban villas”

Modest architectural pretensions also came into fashion and picturesque styles were adopted according to the choice by clients.

Besides becoming highly popular in Hastings (Kent) and Brighton (Sussex), these spread throughout the UK to places like Ashridge, Belvoir Castle and Fonthill Abbey and many other places but particular dominant by the British Indian style such as the Brighton Pavilion (1822) which was a seaside dwelling for the Prince Regent during the summer months.

My home town in Malta is Sliema (named in Maltese from the Arabic word Salaam meaning peace and tranquility). In Maltese terms it was a “new town” from 1850 onward and the first occupants were encroachments.

Tower Road, Sliema

By then, across Marsamxett Harbour the capital city Valletta had become over-populated and droves of people crossed the harbour and built more spacious houses in the new location which then had a load of open space. In addition, the over-populated neighbouring town of Birkirkara began to expand eastwards and added to Sliema.

In fact, my two grandmothers were both Valletta born and my maternal grandfather was Gozitan.

The “new town” was connected with more spacious and better living and became highly attractive to the more wealthy well-to-do and the town expanded along the coastline.

It also acquired a great touch of Britishness and its inhabitants were regarded as snobby, very much British-oriented and persisted in speaking in English.

Sliema

They also became known as “tax-xellin” (the One Shilling People) because many young men accepted the Queen’s Shilling to join the British military, then of course the Royal Navy or the Army.

Yesteryear in Sliema, a hotel and chauffer driven taxis in waiting

On my paternal side all the men were in the British military, (including my late dear father Frank, his father and all his paternal uncles).

Sliema Seafront

This saw the expansion of the new Tower Road along the coast and looking directly on the blue Mediterranean. The buildings were all in the new Regency style, occupied by the nobility and the well-to-do as well as ranking British military officers and the overall Malta view of “snobbishness” continued to grow and grow.

These buildings have a remarkable resemblance to buildings along the Kent and Sussex seafronts, espousing the Regency era.

Rudolph Street in Sliema

These buildings remain there today and are a pride and joy but still strictly available only to the titled and the well-to-do because they are very expensive properties.

ALBERT FENECH

salina46af@gmail.com

Balluta Buildings in Sliema

Author

  • Albert Fenech

    Albert Fenech was born in Malta in 1946. His family moved to England in 1954 where he spent boyhood and youth before in 1965 returning to Malta. He spent eight years as a journalist with “The Times of Malta” before taking a career in HR Management Administration with a leading international construction company in Libya, later with Malta Insurance Brokers, and finally STMicroelectronics Malta, employing 3,000 employees, Malta’s leading industrial manufacturer. Throughout he actively pursued international freelance journalism/ broadcasting for various media outlets covering social issues, current affairs, sports and travel. He has written in a number of publications both in Malta and overseas, as well as publishing two e-books. For the last eight years he had been writing a “Malta Diary” with pictures for Lyn Funnel’s B-C-ingU.com international travel magazine.

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