Category:Madeira Drive and Brighton Promenade

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Brighton Promenade (Madeira Drive) stretches Eastward from the Palace Pier and the Volks Aquarium Station to the far end of Kemp Town.

It extends along the base of a bricked seafront cliff, with ornamental arched sheltering walkways extending along most of its length, which support further walkways and steps up to the road level.

Above Black Rock Station are the ornamental slopes of Dukes Mound, and frontage that includes the locked gate to the "Lewis Carroll Rabbithole".


Prior to 1869 there was just a pile of rubble at the foot of the seawall to help protect the seawall foundations from erosion by waves, but with the development of Kemp Town, which had buildings not too far from the almost vertical cliff wall, it was felt to be worthwhile "beefing up" the sea defences at the bottom of the cliff, and taking the opportunity to also make a pleasant seafront walkway to further enhance the desirability of Kemp Town. The existing pile of rubble was used as the basis for a new lower-level road and sheltered promenade extending the idea of the existing accessway for the Chain Pier.

The new Promenade, originally called Madeira Road, was built in coordination with the building of the new Aquarium, and faced with stone from London's Blackfriars Bridge which had been demolished in 1863.

Magnus Volk and the Volk's Electric Railway

The Volk's Electric Railway line runs unobtrusively along the beach in front of the Promenade, and Magnus Volk's railway workshop is built into the brickwork near Half-way Station.

1826: Plans

Along the cliff is a wide road, on the south side of which a sloping bank for steps has been cut through the cliff, which descends fifteen feet to an Esplanade now forming, which will command one of the most beautiful and sheltered prospects of the channel, that can well be conceived; and in addition, an Esplanade still lower, on the principle of the one attached to the Chain Pier, will stretch along the base of the cliff, which is at this place more than sixty feet high, and nearly perpendicular.

— , J. Whittemore, , Whittemore's Royal Brighton Guide, , 1826

1889: Building work underway


Mr. G. R. ANDREWS, C.E., the newly-appointed Borough Surveyor of Brighton, sends us the following description of the works now being carried out on the Madeira Road, Brighton. The Madeira Road, as many of our readers will remember, is the road which runs alongside the beach eastward of the Aquarium, below the cliff on the top of which is Marine Parade:—

"There will be a raised terrace, 1,304 ft. in length and 25 ft. in width, extending from the steps opposite the Royal Crescent to the steps opposite Paston Place, forming a raised promenade between the Esplanade on the Marine Parade and the Madeira Road, and protected on the outer edge by a strong fence and handrail. This terrace will be accessible either from the Marine Parade or the Madeira Road by the Royal Crescent or the Paston Place steps, or by the hydraulic lift, which will be placed opposite the centre of Marine Square, and for the use of which a nominal charge will be made. By means of this lift visitors and others will be able to save the fatigue of climbing the steps, or the more prolonged ascent of the Duke's mound, and invalids in hand-chairs may be lowered from the Marine Parade to the raised terrace or the Madeira Road, or vice-versa. A continuous seat is also provided on this raised terrace, next the wall, extending the whole length."

"In the centre, and underneath the raised terrace, near the lift, will be a spacious shelter-hall, with well-appointed lavatories on either hand, — on one side for ladies, and on the other for gentlemen. Adjoining the shelter-hall, and opening therefrom, are two reading-rooms, each 56 ft. by 24 ft.,and beyond these will be covered walks 18 ft. in width, extending the remainder of the length. The raised promenade is supported on cast-iron columns and wrought-iron girders, with ornamental spandrels ; the roof or ceiling to be of concrete, with asphalte walk on the top. The following materials, &c., will be used in executing these works, viz.:—About 5,000 cubic yards of excavation; about 2,000 cubic yards of concrete; 300,000 bricks; and 600 tons iron."

"The scheme was designed by my predecessor, Mr. Philip C. Lockwood, C.E. ; the contractors are Messrs. J. Longley & Co., of Crawley, — the contract sum being £13,975, and the time for completion the 30th of September next. When these works are completed they will, doubtless, be found a great public accommodation in hot, wet, and cold weather, protected as the sheltered walks will be from the sun and rain, and also from the north, north-east, and north-west winds.”

— , -, , The Builder, , 18th May 1889

1890: Completion

Brighton. — An important addition to the seaside improvements at Brighton, in the shape of a terrace, shelter-hall, and lift, were opened on Saturday last at the eastern end of the sea-front. The erection of extra groynes, more especially a great groyne of concrete, has led to an extensive accretion of shingle, and has enabled the Corporation, who now own the foreshore, to lay down several grass lawns similar to, though not quite so large as those which flank the beach at West Brighton. The development of this undercliff roadway, known as "Madeira Road," has had the effect of making this part of the sea-front increasingly popular, so much so that the Corporation at last found themselves impelled to give effect to the suggestions that had been repeatedly offered to provide a shelter to a large portion of the roadway, and to afford some more ready means of reaching the top of the cliff than has hitherto been furnished by the long flights of steps which have done duty since the sea-wall was constructed, half-a-century ago. The work comprises a raised terrace, 1,304 ft. in length, projecting from the sea-waill and carried on massive iron girders supported by iron columns. This will serve as a promenade, and will also afford shelter for many thousands of persons. In the centre of the terrace a shelter-hall, reading-rooms, and lavatories have been provided, as well as a lift worked by hydraulic power, large enough to be used for the raising of handchairs. The cost of the work will be about £14,000. We gave a detailed description of the work in the Builder for May 18, 1889.

— , -, , The Builder, , 31st May 1890

1933 description:

The Madeira Drive

runs from the Aquarium to King's Cliff, Kemp Town. The sea-wall is a fine work, about 25 feet thick at the base and 3 feet at the summit. The creepers and shrubs by which the wall is partially screened do much to relieve what would oherwise be a rather dreary prospect.

An Arcade, about half a mile long, running eastward from a point near the aquarium, with an asphalted terrace walk on the top, and provided with seats, affords cover in wet weather; and near the eastern extremity is a large Shelter Hall and Reading-Room, similar to that on the beach at the foot of West Street. Refreshments can be obtained in the Shelter Hall, and time-tables, etc., consulted. A Lift communicates with the Marine Parade above. Here, too, is a Bandstand. The slopes at the eastern end of the Madeira Drive, known as the Duke's Mound, are planted with shrubs, and the carriage drive extends as far as Black Rock.

The Marine Parade

commands unrivalled sea-views. Many of the houses are very imposing, the Georgian bow-windows and balconies giving them also an air of solid comfort and repose.

The visitor who has doubts concerning the popularity of Brighton as an excursion centre should come to the Marine Parade early one forenoon and see the row of motor-coaches drawn up for the day's trips. At times well over a hundred coaches are here, and there is in addition a constant stream of buses and trams.

— , Ward Locke, , Brighton, Hove & District, , 1933

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