Brighton Builders Rescue Mysterious 91-year-old Black Cat

November 3rd, 2017

Local building developers have had an unusual 91-year-old black cat to take care of whilst renovating one of Brighton’s most iconic buildings. Lace House is a grand building tucked behind the seafront hotels, at the foot of The Lanes, just across from the Victorian Fountain of the Old Steine.  The 18th Century building has been an important part of Brighton’s history; and has been used as a library, Post Office, and even a Jaguar show room. Since the building was used as a luxury car showroom, and for nearly 100 years, a black cat has crawled the East side of the building, sparking much speculation about where it came from and why it’s still there. Whilst renovating the building to create new luxury apartments, Lace Wilson Properties Ltd have needed to take careful measures to remove and restore the black cat in order to keep it in its rightful home and have therefore taken time to learn more about the history of the cat.

Is it a cat, is it a jaguar...?

The mysterious black cat appeared in 1926, one year after Newmans & Co. opened their Jaguar showroom in the building. Some local historians felt that the cat was perhaps a subtle nod to the jaguar itself, or even simply a humorous architect’s trademark. However, in an interview with the late George Taylor, the former apprentice of the building firm that installed the cat, it was confirmed otherwise. “That’s my cat all right” George exclaimed, as he recalled standing on a high ladder for some time, holding the cat in place. His boss Alfie Martin, a jobbing builder and plumber, was instructed by the Jaguar store owner to create something to frighten the seagulls and in 1926, 16-year-old George helped to drill a hole in the side of the building and cement the clay and metal armature sculpture in place.

A fabulous revival for the mysterious feline

Sadly, the original cat is somewhat eroded due to its age, but Lace Wilson Properties have commissioned Lewes Sculptor Susie Hartley to mould a resin version of the cat based on its remains and archive photographs. The cat will be returned to the exact spot it has been in since 1926 in line with the rest of the sensitive renovation of the building.

“We see the cat as a very important part of the building and feel it is pivotal to keep the character of a property when we are developing it. The Jaguar showroom would have been very impressive in its day and shows that the Old Steine in Brighton was a thriving commercial area. We’d also like each of the new owners of the apartments to have something unique to refer to about the building that they’re going to live in” Says Mark Wilson, Director of Lace Wilson Properties Ltd.

The new cat is to be officially unveiled on Saturday 4th November at midday, followed by a photo opportunity until 1pm with the original black cat. Those who wish to attend will also be treated to a sneak preview of the apartments. Please go to Lace House, 39-40 Old Steine, Brighton, BN1 1NH.

The newly restored cat left, the cat in its original state right

Lace House will consist of 7 one-bedroom and 2 two-bedroom luxury apartments. The apartments are to be finished to a very high specification; the communal entrance will reflect the splendour of the building and have the original cat mounted in a presentation case on the entrance wall. As well as a new cat, the building has been fully renovated inside and out and fitted with a completely new roof ahead of the apartments being finished and the launch event in January 2018.

For more information on the restoration of the black cat sculpture contact Hartley Quinn Wilson Ltd mark@hqwshowroom.co.uk

For enquiries about the new Lace House apartments or to arrange an exclusive apartment viewing on 4th November, please contact Oakley’s Residential Sales Team by calling 01273 688881 or emailing brighton@oakleyproperty.com