True gent and a great architect

The recent picture of the old Capitol Theatre in the County Times brought back many happy memories to me – of the building and its architect, Claude John Kay, 1878-1961.

Claude lived in a house that he had designed, in Kerves Lane. He was also chairman of the civil engineering firms, Kaymat and HJ Kay Ltd. His architecture may still be seen in buildings all over Horsham.

Soon after the First World War, Claude set up a practice with Colonel Godman in the Westminster Bank premises in the Carfax. A clever and gifted architect, Claude won a major prize in the Daily Mail Ideal Home Competition with a very modern house in the Spanish Hacienda style.

He told me that the design incorporated many labour saving devices from his own imagination – with the result that he had to reply to many letters to say: ‘I’m sorry Madam but it hasn’t been invented yet’.

Following his success in the competition he was commissioned to design a theatre in the centre of Horsham. The design, and the completed building, The Capitol, bore a remarkable likeness to his Ideal Home submission, including its pergola lined forecourt and pan-tiled roof.

After the Second World War his firm, still known as Godman and Kay, comprised Claude Kay, Lesley Parsons and Neil Gossage and moved to North Parade.

Buildings that he designed include The Owl (formerly The Wheatsheaf), Kingsfold, many local pubs that have now changed their name and other major buildings, such as the Rural Council Offices, that have now been demolished.

Claude was a true Sussex gentleman, a great artist with a famous sense of humour. He adored children, including mine, but, his wife becoming invalid soon after their marriage, he sadly had none of his own.


Friday Street, Warnham