Belle Vue Field
Belle Vue Field / Belle Vue Fields was used as a military camp and space for exercises and drills, and with up to 10,000 men there, it became known as a place for lonely women to go in search of husbands.
When the military stopped using the area, it was redeveloped to become Regency Square.
1813: Pride and Prejudice
“They are going to be encamped near Brighton; and I do so want papa to take us all there for the summer! It would be such a delicious scheme; and I dare say would hardly cost anything at all. Mamma would like to go too of all things! Only think what a miserable summer else we shall have!”
“Yes,” thought Elizabeth, “that would be a delightful scheme indeed, and completely do for us at once. Good Heaven! Brighton, and a whole campful of soldiers, to us, who have been overset already by one poor regiment of militia, and the monthly balls of Meryton!”
“I am sure,” said she, “I cried for two days together when Colonel Miller's regiment went away. I thought I should have broken my heart.”
“I am sure I shall break mine,” said Lydia.
“If one could but go to Brighton!” observed Mrs. Bennet.
“Oh, yes!—if one could but go to Brighton! But papa is so disagreeable.”
“A little sea-bathing would set me up forever.”
“And my aunt Phillips is sure it would do me a great deal of good,” added Kitty.
Had Lydia and her mother known the substance of her conference with her father, their indignation would hardly have found expression in their united volubility. In Lydia's imagination, a visit to Brighton comprised every possibility of earthly happiness. She saw, with the creative eye of fancy, the streets of that gay bathing-place covered with officers. She saw herself the object of attention, to tens and to scores of them at present unknown. She saw all the glories of the camp—its tents stretched forth in beauteous uniformity of lines, crowded with the young and the gay, and dazzling with scarlet; and, to complete the view, she saw herself seated beneath a tent, tenderly flirting with at least six officers at once.
“Well, mamma,” said she, when they were all returned to the breakfast room, “and what do you think of my husband? Is not he a charming man? I am sure my sisters must all envy me. I only hope they may have half my good luck. They must all go to Brighton. That is the place to get husbands. What a pity it is, mamma, we did not all go.”
— , Jane Austen, , Pride and Prejudice, , 1813
Belle Vue House
The National Archives have records of a Belle Vue House in the 1880s, at 132 Kings Road Brighton (an address that currently corresponds to the building at the South-West corner of Regency Square). A "Belle Vue House" also appears (labelled) on an old colour drawing of the Square, in a form that corresponds to the current building at number 132 (with curved frontages that broadly match the rest of the Square).
However, in an 1860 engraving, the corner building appears with severely straight sides, clashing with the rest of the Square's architecture. This suggests that the corner building may have been either remodelled or demolished and rebuilt at some point to match the rest of the square ... which in turn suggests that perhaps the earlier version of Belle Vue House might predate the square, and might have been contemporary with Belle Vue Field.
- Pride and Prejudice, full-text, Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org)
- Belle Vue Fields (absolutemagazine.co.uk)
- Belle Vue House, 132 Kings Road, Brighton, purchased by J D Whitaker in 1885 (discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk)
- Regency Square. Erected c1818-28 on the site of the Belle Vue Field. (mybrightonandhove.org.uk)