From The Brighton Toy and Model Index

(coordinates needed)

~1935: "Brighton By Night", by H.G. Gawthorn

~1935: "Brighton By Night", by H.G. Gawthorn [image info]

1777: Street plan of the seaward side of Old Brighton. Note the battery gun emplacement near the Steyne, to defend against invaders

1777: Street plan of the seaward side of Old Brighton. Note the battery gun emplacement near the Steyne, to defend against invaders [image info]

1777: Map of Brighton

1777: Map of Brighton [image info]

Brighton's original Chain Pier, now gone

Brighton's original Chain Pier, now gone [image info]

1846: Brighton from the Terminus

1846: Brighton from the Terminus [image info]

Aquarium Clock Tower, now part of Brighton Palace Pier's frontage

Aquarium Clock Tower, now part of Brighton Palace Pier's frontage [image info]

Brighton Pavilion, the "party palace" of George IV

Brighton Pavilion, the "party palace" of George IV [image info]

Brighton's famous Palace Pier

Brighton's famous Palace Pier [image info]

The Palace Pier seen from above

The Palace Pier seen from above [image info]

Brighton's Eastern Promenade, looking West

Brighton's Eastern Promenade, looking West [image info]

The Volks Electric Railway, the world's oldest public electric passenger railway (1883), and still going strong

The Volks Electric Railway, the world's oldest public electric passenger railway (1883), and still going strong [image info]

The Jenny Lind: Nineteenth Century cutting-edge technology

The Jenny Lind: Nineteenth Century cutting-edge technology [image info]

North Laine: Brighton's counterpart to London's Camden Market

North Laine: Brighton's counterpart to London's Camden Market [image info]

2016: The headline-grabbing i360 observation tower

2016: The headline-grabbing i360 observation tower [image info]

2016: Brighton Station Greenway approach

2016: Brighton Station Greenway approach [image info]

On England's South Coast, and one hour from London by train, East Sussex' Brighton is home to a creative hub of "new media" industries, and has been referred to as "Soho by the Sea".

The town underwent explosive growth after the arrival of a rail link to London in 1841, and has a reputation as a party town. It's currently Britain's most popular seaside location for European tourists.

Brighton history

The town was originally a fishing village, and gained a population of Flemish immigrant fishermen who lived and worked under the cliffs, until a terrible storm washed away this part of the town. Above the cliffline, the village formed a compact rectangle, bounded on the North by North Street, the West by West Street, and the East by East Street, with the open region to the East – The Steyne - used by fishermen as a place to spread out and repair their nets. Repeatedly attacked by the French, the town gained a battery of guns to fend off unfriendly ships.

Plagued by erosion and storm damage, Brighthelmstone spent much of 1600-1750 afflicted by widespread poverty and bad luck, until its fortunes started to change with the appearance of Dr. Richard Russell in the town, who wrote about the curative properties of bathing in seawater. The influx of people coming to experience the healing properties of Doctor Brighton created a fledgeling tourist industry, and in the 1780s the Prince Regent (who later became George IV) visited and decided to move in, adopting a farmhouse by the Steine, and progressively enlarging and remodelling it and its grounds until it became the current Royal Pavilion.

With a stream of people now making the trip from London to Brighton, the 1823 Chain Pier was built to provide an easy way to make the ship crossing to Dieppe, for Paris. The arrival of the London-Brighton railway line in 1841 triggered an explosive growth with Londoners now able to get to Brighton in a mere hour, and the town boomed, with large regions of the surrounding area being quickly built on. With the railway came the locomotive works, which built over 1200 steam locomotives, and the West Pier in 1866, a pleasure-palace built over the sea to cater for the whims of visiting holidaymakers. The boom encouraged Thomas Kemp to build Kemptown to the East (with the current bricked seawall and Promenade / Madeira Drive protecting his investment from falling into the sea), the Brighton Aquarium in 1872 and the Volks Electric Railway in 1883, with the town's new prosperity marked by the appearance of the Jubilee Clock Tower in 1888.

The current Palace Pier – the replacement for the old Chain Pier – opened in 1899.

Brighton in the Twenty-First Century

Brighton has attracted more than its fair share of new media businesses, and architects, graphic designers, product designers, photographers, game designers and other new media professionals. This has been partly because of the city's short travel time to Central London, partly because of the city's more laid-back and less "dog-eat-dog" attitude compared to London ... and partly because, unlike Soho, Brighton has a beach! The area directly to the East of the station, that used to be occupied by the Locomotive Works is now the New England development area, which encourages new media businesses.

Architecturally, the Brighton Wheel transformed the city's skyline for its five-year run starting in 2011, and Marks-Barfield's i360 observation tower is due to open in Summer 2016. Although the i360 has been controversial, it has also enabled the regeneration of the adjacent stretch of seafront.

1838 description:


The vicinity of Brighton to the Metropolis, and its easy and pleasant communication to that populous commercial city; the salubrity of its atmosphere, which is seldom obscured by fogs, the crystaline brightness and purity of its water, the abundant and excellent manner with which its market is supplied, the elegance and spaciousness of its houses, and the suitable accommodations they offer to individuals or to families, with the most numerous and extensive retinue of servants; all unite to render it the first watering place in the kingdom, and added to which, its being the occasional residence of the Court, gives it a decided pre-eminence over every other marine resort for the superior rank of its visitants and the splendour and fashion of its circles. Six hours is the time that is generally allowed to the stage coaches to and from London, and as the journeys are often performed much within that space, and with the greatest ease, it is scarcely necessary to observe, that those who travel in their own carriages, with suitable relay of horses, may, if they please, go over the same ground much quicker.

The situation of the town is of the most romantic and agreeable description; at the bottom of an extensive bay formed by the promontories of Beachy Head to the east, and Selsey Bill to the west, it extends three miles on the sea coast, rising with a gentle ascent, east and west, from the centre of the town. Its front to the south appears to project into the bed of the ocean, the waters being kept back by means of groynes, which are well contrived, and formed of oak; and from the quantities of wild thyme, and other aromatic shrubs, that spontaneously grow on the downs, the air, particularly after a shower, is impregnated with odours the most refreshingly grateful to the senses.

The Town is fifty miles distant from London, the nearest road, by Red Hill and Croydon; fifty-two by way of Reigate and Sutton; and fifty-eight by way of Horsham and Dorking; it is distant from Lewes eight miles, and from Chichester thirty miles; the living is a vicarage value £1041, in the gift of the Bishop of Chichester.

The number of resident inhabitants is 40,634 according to the census of 1831, but during the fashionable season the population is estimated at 60,000.

The conveniences of the place correspond with its magnitude; many of the shops are equal to those of London – the places of amusement are various and select – there is every requisite for bathing – the baths are numerous – the accommodation for visitors is excellent, and many advantages are here to be found which are wanting in smaller and less frequented watering places.

— , Saunders, , The Stranger's Guide in Brighton; Being a Complete Companion to that Fashionable Place, and the Rides and Drives in Its Vicinity., , 1838

1840 overview: The Parliamentary Gazetteer of England and Wales

Town.} – The town is situated at the bottom of a bay of the English channel, formed on the one hand by Beechy-head, and on the other by Selsea-bill. From the north and north-east winds it is sheltered by the semicircular range of the South Downs, which are easy of access, and command extensive views of the weald of Sussex and the isle of Wight. The climate of Brighton and its vicinity is warm, from its southern aspect, and the shelter afforded by the Downs from northerly and easterly winds; yet it is rendered refreshing and bracing by an almost continual sea-breeze. The town covers a considerable space of ground, presenting a sea-frontage of nearly 3 miles in extent, and consists for the most part of spacious streets, intersecting each other at right angles, lighted with gas, and well paved. The whole is divided into two nearly equal portions by an open space, extending the whole length of the valley, from the entrance from London to the sea, and varying from 50 to 100 yards in width. At the northern extremity of this opening are situated the public gardens; the next portion is termed the Level, a piece of land held in trust as a cricket-ground, and for other pedestrian exercises and diversions. In 1836 the town-commissioners fenced it round with iron posts and rails, and have cleared and levelled it at very considerable expense. It is now reduced to about eight acres, two acres having been taken for the adjoining roads. Immediately south of the Level, in the centre of the open space, is St. Peter's church, a very elegant Gothic building. Beyond this are two handsome enclosures, affording a very agreeable resort for the occupiers of the houses on each side, called the North Steyne. The palace with its grounds occupies the next portion; and lastly, the Steyne brings us to the sea-side, or rather, to the York and Albion hotels, which have been permitted to intervene between the Steyne and the sea. The older part of the town is chiefly situated to the west of the Steyne, which forms a beautiful lawn, from which the east and west cliffs rise with a gentle ascent. On the northern part, called the Old Steyne, a fine statue of his majesty George IV. has been erected; it was executed by Chantrey, in bronze. On the eastern cliff are the Royal crescent, the Marine parade, Pavilion parade, and other fine ranges of buildings commanding views of the sea. Still farther to the east, is Kemp town, which consists of three sides of a quadrangle, from the extremities of which other rows of houses branch-off, enclosing spacious pleasure grounds which communicate with the beach. The sea-wall at the eastern part of Brighton is the greatest improvement ever made in this place, and affords a magnificent and unequalled promenade. On the western cliff are Cannon-place, Bedford-square, Regency-square, and Terrace, with an extensive esplanade much resorted to as a fashionable promenade. On this point of the coast is a battery mounting six 42 pounders. The pavilion, a palace erected by George IV., and for a long time his favourite residence, was begun in 1784; and, after many additions and alterations, finally completed in 1827, in the form of the celebrated palace of the Kremlin at Moscow. Connected with this structure are extensive pleasure-grounds, a suite of stables in the Arabian style, and a chapel-royal capable of accommodating 1,000 persons. About half-a-mile to the west of the old church is a chalybeate spring much resorted to by invalids. There are several public libraries, and a handsome theatre. The Sussex Scientific and Literary Institution was founded here in 1836. Races are held in August, on the neighbouring downs.

Population, Markets, &c.} – The pop., in 1801, was 7,339; in 1831, 40,634; but this number is greatly increased at certain seasons by the large influx of visitors. The number of houses is 7,798; of acres, within the parish, 1,980. The assessed property is rated at £71,515 of annual value. Poor rates, in 1837, £19,224. A market was established by act of parliament in 1773; Thursday is market-day. Fairs are held on Holy Thursday, and September 4th, for pedlery; but daily for provisions. There are a considerable number of boats employed in fishing, partly for the supply of the London market; the fish chiefly taken are mackerel, soles, turbot, and skate. – The town is governed by a constable and four head-boroughs. The county-magistrates hold petty sessions in the town-hall here twice a-week for the Brighton division of the rape of Lewes; and the police is regulated by commissioners appointed by the inhabitants paying scot and lot. – This borough, comprising the parishes Brighthelmstone and Hone, now returns two members to parliament. The number of electors is about 3,000, and the constable of the hundred of Whalesbone is the returning officer.

... Within the period of accurate history ... it was a mere fishing village, which, having been often plundered by the French, was at length fortified with walls and batteries. From this place Charles II. embarked France after the battle of Worcester. The sea often made considerable inroads here, especially in 1665, and 1705. The town was brought into repute in the reign of George II., when Dr Richard Russel recommended the use of sea-bathing for various disorders. His late majesty George IV., displayed strong partiality for it.

— , -, , The Parliamentary Gazetteer of England and Wales, p276, , A.Fullerton & Co., , 1840

Brighton's Pasts and Futures

Brighton's development, timeline

11th Century
Manor owned by Earl Godwin
Norman Conquest
granted to William de Warrenne, William the Conqueror's son-in-law
Gradual loss of over 40 acres of land from below the cliff
Immigrant Fleming fishermen living in the lower town under the cliff become successful enough to build East Street and West Street in the upper town. Ship Street and Middle Street are built at around the same time.
French attack


French attack and retreat
French attack
Block House built, as a fort. Gun Garden battery built at around the same time, along with town gates.
Panic over a Spanish Armada false alarm


1645 to 1655
Encroaching sea destroys a further 22 tenements under the cliff over a period of about ten years
Charles II escapes to France via Brighton, staying overnight, in disguise, on 13th October at an inn in West Street.
Petition to Parliament for poverty relief due to loss of fishing vessels work, due to conflict with the French.
Population circa 3,000
Surrounding parishes ordered to contribute to help the Brighthelmstone poor.


Great storm of Sunday, December 27th 1703 causes damage
Great storm of 11th August 1705 destroys all 113 remaining tenements in the lower town, remains of the land are washed away in the following years – the lower town is then effectively erased from the maps.
Decision to build groynes to protect the upper town against further erosion. Royal brief allows fundraising across England, further fundraising twenty years later for repairs.
Dr. Richard Russell moves to Brighton. Writes about the recuperative effects of seawater, Brighton becomes a destination for people visiting the doctor, and visiting the seafront to take the air. Brighton's economy takes an upturn as the visitors rent rooms and spend money. The town is later promoted as Doctor Brighton.
The Prince of Wales (George IV-to-be) arrives in Brighton and acquires a farmhouse overlooking the Steine, to escape the pressures of his unpopularity in London.
Henry Holland is hired to start turning George's farmhouse into The Marine Pavilion'


George has some land around the Marine Pavilion turned into an extravagant domed home for his horses. This building later becomes the Brighton Dome and the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.
Now that his horses are living in a finer palace then he is, George has the Marine Pavilion remodelled and enlarged a second time, now by John Nash. It is fitted with an external shell with an embedded cast-iron frame to support additional extravagant building work and embellishments to eventually become the current Royal Pavilion.
Thomas Read Kemp's workmen start laying out Kemp Town, a Regency-styled property development to the East of Brighton, designed by Charles Busby and Amon Wilde, and built on a consolidation of land inherited by Kemp in 1811. Building work finishes in 1855.
The Royal Suspension Chain Pier is built. The end of the pier allows a boat service to France. It's increasingly realised that the pier itself is being seen as a tourist attraction, which suggests a business case for a more tourism-friendly pier.
St Peter's Church consecrated (foundation stone laid in 1824).
Completion of the current Brighton Town Hall (started in 1830).
London and Brighton Railway Act passed on 15 July 1837
Opening of the Brighton-Shoreham railway line, with a small station building at Brighton.
Completion of the Ouse Valley Viaduct
Completion of the London Road Viaduct
Completion of the new Brighton Station, an Italianate building designed by David Mocatta
The London-to-Brighton railway line opens. The resulting flood of tourists causes Brighton's economy and population to boom.
Queens Road is built as an extension of West Street up to the station. The road requires brick arches to raise the ground level in order to reach the station, but creates a new approach to the station that has a less severe gradient than Trafalgar Street, and is kinder to horses.
St. Paul's Church, West Street, opens.
Brighton Pavilion is sold to Brighton Corporation, partly because Queen Victoria disapproves of the building, and partly because of the new influx of tourists makes it difficult to maintain Royal privacy there.
New West Pier opens, designed by Eugenius Birch, and described as "the finest pier in Britain".
Kemp Town Railway Station opens. The line appears to be motivated as a "spoiler" by the LBSCR to block other potential competing railway routes to London.
Work starts on turning the protective rubble at the base of the seawall into a new road, Madeira Road (now Madeira Drive). This protects the base of the seawall from erosion, making it safer to build near the top. The work also produces Brighton Aquarium.
Opening of Brighton Aquarium, designed by Eugenius Birch.
St. Bartholomews Church opens.
Magnus Volk fits the Pavilion Estate with experimental electric lighting.
Volks Electric Railway opens, designed and built by Volk.
Brighton Bandstand built.
Jubilee Clock Tower built at the bottom of Queens Road, to mark Queen Victoria's Jubilee.
New steel-framed Pavilion and Concert Hall added to the West Pier.
Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Electric Railway (a.k.a. the "Daddy Long-Legs") opens in November.
Royal Chain Pier destroyed by storm on December. By this time it is already earmarked for demolition once the Palace Pier, its adjacent replacement, is finished.
The same December storm wrecks the new "Daddy Long-Legs" Rottingdean extension to the Volks Railway, only weeks after its opening. The extension and car are repaired and reopen.
Victoria Gardens opens.
The Palace Pier has an opening ceremony (although its building works aren't yet finished).

Twentieth Century

Statue of Queen Victoria, Grand Avenue, Hove.
Erosion defence "groynes" built along the beach, intersecting the Daddy Long-Legs track, permanently ending the service.
Rebuilding of the Market area, including the construction of Brighton's Floral Hall. *
Peace Statue (a.k.a. "The Brighton Angel") erected by the Brighton/Hove boundary.
Brighton War Memorial unveiled.
S.S. Brighton Swimming Stadium opens on West Street – the world's largest covered seawater pool.
The Art Deco-styled Embassy Court block of flats opens on Brighton seafront, containing Britain's first penthouse apartments.
The S.S. Brighton is reinvented as the Brighton Sports Stadium ice rink.
Saltdean Lido opens.
Film "Brighton Rock" released, based on Graham Greene's book, and starring Richard Attenborough.
Factory opens on the Brighton Works site producing Isetta bubblecars. *
The original Churchill Square Shopping Centre opens.
Release of Richard Attenborough's film "Oh What A Lovely War", based on locations along Brighton seafront (Palace Pier and Brighton Bandstand)
Brighton Marina opens in 1978, with an official opening in 1979.
Film "Quadrophenia" released, with major scenes set in Brighton
The IRA bomb The Grand Hotel, in an attempt to assassinate the then PM, Margaret Thatcher.
Brighton and Hove councils combine to form the Brighton & Hove Unitary Authority.
Churchill Square Shopping Centre reopens in its current (covered) form.


Brighton & Hove officially becomes a city.
West Pier Concert Hall partially collapses Dec-Jan 2002/3, two arson attacks during 2003, Concert Hall total collapse in 2004.
Jubilee Library opens
Max Miller statue erected in Pavilion Gardens.
Brighton Wheel opens, as a temporary attraction.
Refurbishment of The Level.
Brighton Wheel removed and the i360 viewing tower, designed by Marks Barfield, opens to the public.
Snow Dog sculptures displayed around Brighton.
Saltdean Lido reopens.
Volks Electric Railway reopens after a year closed for renovations and the building of a new Visitor Centre.

See also:

Visitor guides


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