call Brighton "London-by-the-Sea", and the nickname
describes the town perfectly. Brighton has a lot of the hustle
and bustle of London, but with the advantage of not being
landlocked. So when the stress of city life gets to too much for
Londoners, they can hurl themselves into the English Channel -
or simply hang out at the beach and relax, which is the
Brightonian thing to do.
on the south Sussex coast of England is one of the largest and
most famous seaside resorts in England. Brighton and Hove form a
single conurbation. Brighton's lively atmosphere is a direct
contrast to its near neighbour, Hove which has quieter and more
refined character. The two boroughs were joined together to form
the unitary authority of Brighton & Hove in 1997, which in
2000 was granted city status by the Queen as part of the
millennial celebrations, following competition from other large
towns which coveted city status.
promenade looking East to Pier
Brighton is by the sea, there is no sand and no rocks. The
air on the beach rarely smells of anything other than fish and
chips. One of the two piers is (was) a dilapidated Victorian
confection closed off to all but the most daring starlings and
seagulls; the other pier, with its arcade games, carnival rides
and greasy food stalls, is a veritable emporium of all things
loud, cheap and tacky. The "promenade" bit of the
beach is lined with bars, clubs, cafes, chip shops and souvenir
stalls, with the occasional art gallery tucked in for good
measure. The town well is known for gale force winds
any British history predating the first mentions by literate
Romans is, by definition, consigned to an obscured landscape
known intimidatingly as 'prehistory', a few things are known
about the area. Whitehawk Camp — a natural viewpoint — is
bisected by Manor Road. The centre of this early Neolithic
causewayed enclosure c.3500BC is someway toward the aerial mast
on the south side of Manor Road, opposite the grandstand. There
are four concentric circles of ditches and mounds, broken or
'causewayed' in many places. Significant vestiges of the mounds
remain and you can trace their arc with the eye.
building of a new housing estate in the early nineties over the
South Eastern portion of the enclosure resulted in damage to the
archeology, the loss of the ancient panoramic view and a
diminishment in atmosphere of the historical site. More of
prehistoric Brighton and Hove can be observed just north of the
small retail park on Old Shoreham Road, built over the site of
the town's football ground in the late 1990's, where you can
visit The Goldstone. There is a plaque telling us it was
believed to be in use (ceremonial? geomantic?) around 2000BC. A
standing stone circle nearby (today's Hove Park) is documented
up to 1820, when the farmer had had one too many 'antiquarians'
traipsing over his crop and buried the stones.
a scholarly review, Paul Harwood of Birmingham's Institute of
Archaeology & Antiquity noted that "there are a
concentration of Beaker burials on the fringes of the central
chalklands around Brighton, and a later cluster of Early and
Middle Bronze Age ‘rich graves' in the same area."
Chain Pier, Brighton, John Constable, 1824-1827
considerable interest from the middle Bronze Age is the Hove
Amber Cup. During nineteenth century building work near Palmeira
Square, workmen tasked with removing an earth mound 'excavated'
a significant burial mound. A defining point on the landscape
since at least 1500BC, this 20 foot high tomb yielded, amongst
other treasures, the Hove Amber Cup. Made of translucent red
Baltic Amber and approximately the same size as a regular china
teacup, the impressive artefact can be seen in Hove Museum.
the single most impressive pre-Roman site in Brighton is
Hollingbury Camp. Commanding panoramic views over Brighton, this
Celtic Iron Age encampment is circumscribed by substantial
earthwork outer walls. As a 'ball park figure', its diameter is
about 300 meters. Hollingbury is one of numerous 'hillforts'
found across southern Britain. Cissbury Ring, at a distance of
about ten miles from Hollingbury and quite awesome in its
construction, is reckoned by some to have been the tribal
conquered Britannica (43AD), and after brutally surpressing the
Boudicaen counter-invasion (61AD), the Romans built villas
throughout Sussex and indeed there was a villa in Brighton. At
the time of its construction in the late first or second century
AD there was a river running along what is now the tarmac of
London Road. The villa was sited more or less at the water's
edge, immediately south of Preston Park — which area itself
would perhaps have been part of the outer grounds. The villa was
excavated in the 1930s prior to the building of a (now gone)
garage on the site. Numerous artefacts were found as well as the
foundations of the building. In the thirties, the garage owner
had a small display of Roman statues and broaches in the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle contains the first mention of a settlement
in the area at Beorthelm's-tun (the town of Beorthelm).
In the Domesday Book, Brighton was called Bristemestune
and a rent of 4000 herring was established.
the manorial system, Preston manor lingers on today as a museum.
Although the present day manor house is relatively recent in
construction, the church — St Peters, currently under the care
of the Churches Conservation Trust — is fourteenth century. A
medieval fresco depicting the murder of Thomas a Beckett was
discovered under paint following a fire in the early part of the
twentieth century. As such, it is among the oldest art in
Brighton. In June 1514, the fishing village then known as Brighthelmstone
was burnt to the ground by the French as part of a war between
the two which began as a result of the Treaty of Westminster
(1511). Later on in Henry's reign, the residents of the town
petitioned the monarch for defensive cannon. Part of their
'pitch' was an illustrated map (1545) showing the French raid of
1511. A display copy of the map can be seen in Hove Museum.
and 19th century
remained a small fishing village up until the 18th century.
Brighthelmstone began to change in 1753 when Dr Richard Russell
of Lewes published his thesis on sea bathing, which proclaimed
the benefit to health of the salt water of Brighton. He set up
house there and before long, the rich and the sick had started
to make their way to the seaside. Currently approaching the
conclusion of its ambitious restoration, Marlborough House on
the Steine was built by Robert Adam in 1765 and purchased
shortly afterwards by the eponymous Duke. By 1780, development
of the Regency terraces had started and the town quickly became
the fashionable resort of Brighton.
growth of the town was further encouraged when, in 1786, the
young Prince Regent later King George IV, rented a farmhouse in
order to escape from public life. Eventually he spent much of
his leisure time in the town and constructed the exotic-looking
Royal Pavilion, which is the town's best-known landmark. The
Kemp Town estate (at the heart of the Kemptown district) was
constructed between 1823 and 1855, and is a good example of
Regency architecture. Visitors were further encouraged by the
arrival of the London and Brighton Railway in 1840, which also
established one of the first railway-owned locomotive works.
Pier June 2002
Brighton Marine Palace and Pier, generally known as the
Palace Pier before being officially renamed Brighton Pier in
2000, opened in May 1899 and is still popular. It suffered a
large fire on 4 February 2003 but the damage was limited and
most of the pier was able to reopen the next day. The
Palace Pier, was renamed Brighton Pier in the hopes that
everyone would forget Brighton actually has two piers and that
this one is not the nicer of the two. That said, the Palace Pier
is good for a laugh when people come to visit, and perhaps it's
more true to the spirit of the English seaside in the 21st
older West Pier, built in 1866 by Eugenius Birch, has
been closed and deteriorating since 1975, awaiting renovation.
The West Pier is one of only two Grade 1 listed piers in the UK,
the other being Clevedon Pier. Plans by The West Pier Trust to
renovate the pier with help from Heritage Lottery Fund have been
opposed by some local residents who claimed that the proposed
new onshore structures — which the renovators needed to pay
for the work on the pier — would obstruct their view of the
sea. The restoration was also opposed by the owners of the
Brighton Pier, who reportedly saw its subsidised rebuilding,
were it to happen, as unfair competition.
can remember when the West Pier was in a state of slow,
picturesque decay. With its elaborate silhouette, ornate
rooftops and peeling paint, it seemed to encapsulate the faded
grandeur of all of Brighton. Decrepit as it was, it was still
beautiful and intriguing when the sun glanced off of it.
waves attack West Pier
West Pier partially collapsed on December 29, 2002 when a
walkway connecting the old concert hall and pavilion, partially
collapsed and fell into the sea after being battered by the
storms. On January 20, 2003 a further collapse saw the
destruction of the concert hall in the middle of the pier. On
March 28, 2003 the pavilion at the end of the pier caught fire.
Firefighters were unable to save the building from destruction
because of the precarious (ie: there wasn't one) state of the
walkway. The cause of the fire remains unknown.
is unfortunate that the waves eventually did succeed in doing
just that (see picture below). It was painful to see the
grand old pier slumping into the sea, but the damage really
wasn't sufficient to write off the structure. The West Pier
still managed to retain its strange, dilapidated charm, despite
half of it looked like a collapsed wedding cake.
worst, however, was yet to come. For on March 28, 2003,
the West Pier caught fire. It was probably arson, but the
culprits haven't yet been found. On May 12, 2003, another
fire broke out, consuming most of what was left of the concert
hall. Arson was suspected. The West Pier Trust refers to the
fires as the work of 'professional arsonists', (notwithstanding
that there is no evidence linking the fires to the owners of the
Palace Pier). On June 23, 2004 high winds caused the middle of
the pier to completely collapse.
all these setbacks, the owner of the site West Pier Trust
remained adamant they would soon begin full restoration work.
Finally, in December 2004, the Trust admitted defeat, after
their plans were rejected by the Heritage Lottery Fund and
subsequent less ambitious plans to restore only the oldest,
structural parts of the pier were also rejected by English
Heritage. However, in September 2005 the Trust revealed in
their newsletter that they are forming further plans to rebuild
the original structure with help from private funding.
the pavilion fire, the lovely old West Pier was just a charred
skeleton. A vague outline of the building remained, but all of
its dark corners and crumbling secrets have been burned away,
leaving it blank and empty and just a diminished heap of metal
scrap, no longer a faded beauty and more of an eyesore. Who
knows, the Pier might have been a stunning attraction, had our
heritage experts been more forthcoming and accorded the
structure emergency status. Sadly, this is all too often
west pier burning fiercely
West Pier really came into its own when the weather was foul.
Then it would rise up out of the frothy waves like some lonely
leviathan, its dark eyes staring out at the green sea. The
gloomy old pier loomed larger on stormy days. It's abandonment
took on an eerie sadness with perhaps something more sinister
lurking in the shadows.
the sky was low and grey, the windows of the West Pier filled up
with mysterious images and Victorian ghosts. One was
mesmerised by the ever forceful waves clawing at the pier's
supports, trying to bring it down into the churning water.
had one further major pier, the Brighton Chain Suspension
Pier ("Chain Pier") of 1823. The pier was
primarily intended as a landing stage, Brighton having no
natural harbour, but it also featured a small number of
attractions including initially a camera obscura. An esplanade
with an entrance toll-booth controlled access to the pier which
was roughly in line with today's New Steine.
Chain Pier survived the construction of the West Pier, but a
condition for permission to build the Palace Pier was that the
builders would dismantle the oldest pier. They were saved this
task by a storm which destroyed the already closed and rather
decrepit pier on December 4, 1896. The stubby remains of some of
the pier's iron piles, sunk ten feet into bedrock, can still be
seen at the most extreme low tides.
west pier later in the day
the early hours of October 12th 1984 an IRA bomb exploded in the
Grand Hotel where leading members of the governing Conservative
Party were staying. Four people were killed in the blast
(including Sir Anthony Berry), and another subsequently died of
her injuries. The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, narrowly
escaped injury, although members of her Government were injured
— most notably Norman Tebbit. However, no member of the
cabinet was killed.
Grand Hotel, on Brighton seafront in 2004, restored after the
Brighton, the area occupied by the original fishing village has
become The Lanes - a collection of narrow alleyways now filled
with a mixture of antique shops, restaurants, bistros and pubs.
That name was derived from 'Laine', which was apparently an old
unit of Anglo-Saxon field measurement. The North Laine area
still keeps the original spelling.
city has a large gay community, mainly based in the Kemptown
area of the city. Every August sees a large annual Gay Pride
event which has now become one of the most popular such events
in the UK calendar.
biggest arts festival in England—the Brighton Festival—takes
place in May each year.
is home to two universities, the University of Sussex and the
University of Brighton, as well as a public school, Brighton
College. It is sometimes known as ' by the Sea' because of its
lively atmosphere and cosmopolitan nature and also because of
the large number of visitors from London. In the summer,
thousands of young students from all over Europe gather in the
city to attend language courses.
of the beach has been designated an official nudist area — one
of very few naturist beaches in the United Kingdom to be located
adjacent to an urban area.
remains of the once proud Brighton's west pier
the 1978 demolition of the Art Deco open-air swimming lido at
Black Rock, the most easterly part of Brighton's seafront, the
area has been developed considerably and now features one of
Europe's largest marinas. However, the site of the pool itself
remains empty except for a skate park and graffiti wall, and
further development is planned for the area including a
high-rise hotel which has aroused considerable local
controversy, mirroring the situation with proposals for the site
of the King Alfred leisure centre in neighbouring Hove.
is considered a fairly progressive town due to the large numbers
of political movements and activities, for instance SchNEWS, a
local newsletter. This has been demonstrated by the Green Party
taking 22% of the vote of the Brighton Pavilion constituency in
the 2005 general election, versus just 1% nationally.
17 02 Big Beach Boutique II pulled thousands fans for Fatboy
is renowned for its lively music scene, having spawned a number
of successful bands in recent years, including Fatboy Slim, The
Levellers, British Sea Power, The Eighties Matchbox B-Line
Disaster, The Go! Team, The Kooks, The Love Gods, Johnny Truant,
Electrelane and The Electric Soft Parade. Brighton is also fast
becoming home of a thriving hardcore punk scene with bands such
as The Permenant, Johnny Truant, and The Deepend making an
impact at a national level. It boasts a number of record labels,
including Skint Records, LOCA Records, Stompaphunk, Supercharged
Music, Kayotix, Catskills, Tru Thoughts and others. A healthy
free party scene has been in action since the early 90s.
are a large number of bars and nightclubs in Brighton, though
due to problems with binge-drinking, alcohol consumption on the
street is now banned in some areas. Some of the most important
clubs in the UK dance music scene are based in Brighton,
including The Beach, Honey Club and The Ocean Rooms, and the now
defunct Escape and Zap clubs. There are also a range of
alternative venues including The Sussex Arts Club, the Concorde
2, the Freebutt and the Hanbury Ballroom.
is the home of Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. and the Hove
ground of Sussex County Cricket Club. The cricket ground is one
of only four in the UK with permanent lighting, and though not a
test ground, is used for international one day matches.
& Hove Bus
railway station was built by the London & Brighton Railway
in 1840, and in 1970 was saved from redevelopment. The station
provides fast and frequent connections to London Gatwick
Airport, London Victoria, London Bridge, and via the Thameslink
line, King's Cross, London Luton Airport and Bedford.
Electric Railway, which runs along the beach, is claimed to be
the world's oldest operating electric railway.
& Hove Bus and Coach Company operates the local bus service
with over 250 buses. The company started in the 1880s and has
been owned by the Go-Ahead Group since 1993.