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Robert Nemeth: Robert hits The Drive
One of my first memories of a property auction dates from around ten years ago. I was there with a friend who was the under-bidder in a lot that went for something in the region of £4 million.
The lot in question consisted of five complete freehold converted houses on The Drive in Hove. Such opportunities are incredibly rare but two of the houses are particularly special as being amongst the most attractive in the town. Numbers 63, 65 and 67 The Drive are yellow-brick like many of the houses that characterise the area, but 69 and 71, which I adore, are part of a delightful series of red-brick Queen Anne-style houses.
If I remember correctly, the lot was previously owned by Mr Hayes of Panorama Travel. The successful bidder was the Ackermans, a prolific family of property investors with a portfolio that once included the Hanningtons estate. Financial pressures led to the sale of the five houses separately in recent years. Nos. 63 and 65 were rapidly refurbished and individual flats are popping up now in Austin Gray auctions. 67 and 69 went to local property magnate Nicholas van Hoogstraten. 71 was bought by Claire Taylor who is carefully renovating it now.
71 The Drive is simply exquisite – simultaneously welcoming and intimidating. It was designed by H. B. Measures, a successful London architect, who also designed the neighbouring similar properties. Shared details include canted bays, orange terracotta, terrazzo floors, prominent gables and octagonal pillars. They are by no means identical. Individual details were perhaps chosen from an architectural catalogue.
There are six such buildings on the west side of The Drive and one on the east which features a hideous Lego-like extension that is bigger than the original structure. It is one of the worst architectural crimes in Hove history.