From humble origins to fame: Edward Bransfield

Born in Ballinacurra, County Cork, this sailor — press-ganged into the Navy at 18 — was a classic example of someone being in the right place at the right time, to unwittingly carve out their own piece of history: namely, being the first man to sight mainland Antarctica. Edward Bransfield began as an Ordinary Seaman and steadily rose through the ranks; by 1816, he was Master of the Severn, which he took part in the Bombardment of Algiers. In 1817, he was appointed Master of the Andromache, under the command of Captain WH Shirreff; during this tour of duty, Bransfield was posted to the Royal Navy’s new Pacific Squadron off Valparaíso, Chile — then fighting for its independence from Spain. Two years later, Captain William Smith of the merchant ship Williams accidentally discovered what came to be known as the South Shetland Islands.

When Captain Shirreff learned of this discovery, he chartered the Williams and sent it back with Bransfield, two midshipmen and the surgeon from HMS Slaney, to survey the islands. On January 28 1820, Bransfield landed on King George Island and took formal possession on behalf of King George III, before heading south-west past Deception Island and then turning south, crossing what is now known as the Bransfield Strait (named for him by James Weddell in 1822). On January 30 1820, Bransfield sighted Trinity Peninsula, the northernmost point of the Antarctic mainland, and made a note in his log of two ‘high mountains, covered with snow’, one of which was subsequently named Mount Bransfield, by Dumont Durville, in his honour.

Bransfield then discovered various points on Elephant Island and Clarence Island, and formally claimed them for the British Crown. When he arrived back in Valparaíso, he gave his charts and journal to Captain Shirreff, who gave them to the Admiralty.

These charts survived and are still in the possession of the Hydrographic Department in Taunton, Somerset, but the journal has been lost. However, two private accounts of Bransfield’s voyage were published in 1821. It later emerged that, two days before Bransfield’s sighting, the Russian explorer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen had sighted an icy shoreline now known to have been East Antarctica, and some historians therefore claim he should be credited with the find.

Based on this sighting, a claim has been made on behalf of Bellingshausen that he should be credited with the discovery of the continent. After his journeys in the Southern Ocean, Bransfield returned to Plymouth and was discharged, on half pay, to the reserve list. He served for several years as a Master on merchant ships. When he retired, he moved to Brighton, setting up home in London Rd. He and his wife, Ann, are buried in the Extra-Mural Cemetery, and the gravestone now bears an inscription reflecting Bransfields claim to fame. In 1999, one of his descendants, Sheila Bransfield, discovered the grave and found it in a woeful state. Aided by charitable donations, she organised its renovation and a ceremony was held to mark this, attended by the master of RRS Bransfield (an Antarctic surveying vessel named after him) plus representatives from the National Maritime Museum, the Hydrographic Office and the Royal Geographical Society. In 2000, the Royal Mail issued a commemorative stamp in his honour but, as no likeness of him exists, the stamp depicted RRS Bransfield.

Sarah Forbes Bonetta

In 1850, anti-slavery advocate Captain Frederick Forbes of the HMS Bonetta, visited King Gezo of Dahomia, West Africa. During his visit, Forbes saw that a young girl, aged about eight years old, was to be ritually murdered in a ceremony called ‘the watering of the graves’. Forbes ascertained that the girl was a princess from a neighbouring tribe and that her parents had been massacred in a Dahomian attack at Egbado, during the Okeadon war. He later wrote, ‘It is usual to reserve the best born for the high behest of royalty and the immolation on the tombs of the diseased nobility. For one of these ends she has been detained at court for two years, proving, by her not having been sold to slave dealers, that she was of good family’.

At Forbes’ behest, King Gezo agreed to give the girl to Queen Victoria, as a ‘gift’: he explained that ‘She would be a present from the King of the blacks to the Queen of the Whites’. For a year, Sarah (sometimes ‘Sara’) Forbes Bonetta — as she was subsequently christened — lived with Forbes and his wife; she was presented to the Royal Family in November 1850 and her education and upkeep were paid for by Queen Victoria.

Both the monarch and her foster father were impressed with their young charge, of whom Forbes wrote, ‘She is a perfect genius; she now speaks English well, and has a great talent for music. She has won the affections, but with few exceptions, of all who have known her. She is far in advance of any white child of her age, in aptness of learning, and strength of mind and affection’.

In 1851, Sarah returned to Sierra Leone, but returned to England in 1855 and lived with the Rev. James Schoen and his family in Gillingham. She was invited to the royal wedding of Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick William of Prussia (the future Kaiser and father of Kaiser Wilhelm II) in January 1858.

During her stay in Sierra Leone, she had come to the attention of James Pinson Labulo Davies, a widowed former slave who, after being educated in Sierra Leone and coming under the patronage of the Royal Navy, became a prosperous merchant in Lagos. After his first wife’s death, he wrote to Sarah, proposing marriage; he was then living at 9 Victoria Rd.

After a series of discussions between the Palace and Mrs Schoen, it was decided in spring 1862 that Sarah should accept the proposal and, in preparation for her marriage, be sent to live with a Mr and Mrs Welsh in Brighton. Sarah was unhappy to leave her adoptive family and friends in Kent; she knew no-one in Brighton and felt increasingly isolated. She described, the Welsh’s home, 17 Clifton Hill, as a ‘desolate little pigsty’.

On August 16 1862, she and Davies were married at St Nicholas’s Church. According to the Brighton Gazette, the guests included ‘white ladies with African gentlemen, and African ladies with white gentlemen until all the space was filled. The bridesmaids [Davies’s sisters] were 16 in number’. Captain Forbes’s brother gave her away and the service was conducted by the Lord Bishop of Sierra Leone.

The party had a wedding breakfast at West Hill Lodge, Montpelier Rd, before the bride and groom left for London, en route to Sierra Leone. They had three children; the eldest child, Victoria, became the Queen’s goddaughter, of whom she was particularly fond. When she passed her music examination, the teachers and children were granted a day’s holiday and often visited the Queen at Windsor Castle.

It was during one of these visits, in August 1880, that news came from abroad: the Queen wrote ‘Saw poor Victoria Davis, my black godchild, who learnt this morning of the death of her dear mother. The poor child was dreadfully upset & distressed…her father has failed in business, which aggravated her poor mother’s illness’. Sarah had died at the age of 37 in Madeira 1880, of tuberculosis. She had asked to be buried at sea, like her rescuer Captain Forbes; instead, she was buried in Funchal, Madeira.

The origins of Brighton to the Neolithic Age

We all love the seaside and the sense of freedom it brings, but Brighton has a reputation above all other resorts in Britain for the ‘edgy’ pleasures it offers to visitors from all over the world. It’s not a bucket-and-spade kind of place, but a sophisticated ‘melting pot’ for a wide variety of people who relish the idea of having a good time in their own way. In fact sometimes it feels like a place for grown-ups who haven’t quite grown up at all.

It took a long time for a proper town to develop here and Brighton only discovered its true purpose in life only about 250 years ago. That purpose has been to attract visitors in their droves, parting them from their cash – and sometimes from their common sense, too – in return for an endless, and colourfully varied, range of entertainments. Of course, the people who live here care very much about things like schools, hospitals and rubbish collections, but that’s certainly not what Brighton means to everyone else.

As far as the wider world is concerned it isn’t really owned by its inhabitants at all – or not in the way that matters. It’s always been a place for other people to pass through on their way to somewhere else, or to pause in for a little fun before going away again. This has given it a very peculiar history. The obsession with having a good time began with George, the Prince Regent, and his extravagant friends (can you imagine the gaudy Royal Pavilion being built in any other seaside town?), and it hasn’t stopped since. In many ways this has been very useful for Brighton. The rich folk who came here during the 18th century for the ‘sea-water cure’ helped to revive a town that was very much down on its luck.

It wasn’t until 1810 that the authorities decided officially to call their town Brighton. Before that it was known as something like Brighthelmston, although more than 40 variations on the theme have been recorded. (In the Domesday Book it was Bristelmestune.) The ‘tun’ bit signifies a homestead, and the best guess is that someone called Beorthelm (which means ‘bright helmet’) was the bigwig here in Saxon times – but, if so, the poor chap’s been completely forgotten.

But the influx of so many outsiders can cause problems, too. Once the railway had arrived in the 1840s, Brighton grew faster than any other town in Britain, and during the later Victorian period many areas were horribly overcrowded, with foul-smelling slums that were a terrible health hazard because people drank water raised in buckets from wells that lay right next to their cesspits.

During the 1930s, day-trippers arrived here in their thousands, but some of them weren’t the kind of people you’d want as next-door neighbours. There were razor-wielding gangs who frequented the racecourse, and for a time the town had a very bad reputation indeed. Fortunately, Brighton has always found ways to rise above its problems, knowing that unless it puts on a good show for its visitors it can’t hope to be prosperous. Today it’s a bright and cheerful city, but – just like some of the characters who like to have their fun here – it has a colourful and occasionally disreputable past.

The first thing you need to know about Brighton is that the land it sits on wasn’t always there. Let’s go back a hundred million years to a Sussex that wasn’t the attractive jumble of hills and valleys we know today, but a flat expanse of nothing, covered by water. At one period this was a swampy region, criss-crossed by meandering rivulets and inhabited by iguanodons and other dinosaurs. Later it was flooded by the sea. The bands of sediment that built up on the bottom hardened to become the eventual rocks and soils of Sussex: sandstones, clay, shales, limestone and chalk.

During all these vast aeons they lay in an orderly fashion, one on top of the other, quietly minding their own business. The chalk, on top of everything else, was created from minute calcite crystals secreted by planktonic algae when the land was under the sea, and it built up at the rate of a metre every 100,000 years for all of 30 million years to form layers some 300 metres thick.

So why isn’t the landscape flat today? Because once, another very long time ago, there was a gradual but violent grinding of the tectonic plates (sections of the earth’s crust) that lie beneath our continent. It lifted, twisted and buckled the rocks to form the Alps in northern Europe and create the huge, if less dramatic, dome that eventually became today’s Sussex. Geologists call it the Wealden anticline – and Brighton sits on the southern edge of it.

Once rivers had cut through the rocks on their way to the sea, and once rain, frost and ice had scoured and weathered the surface over millions more years, Sussex was left with the broad bands of soils which make up our Downs and Weald today. (You might think that our chalk slopes should be called the Ups rather than the Downs, but the word comes from the Old English dun, which means ‘hill’.)

Don’t imagine, though, that the beach we walk the dog on today is where the earliest inhabitants of Sussex found it half a million years ago. The fickle sea was sometimes 40 metres higher than it is now, and sometimes all of 100 metres lower. In the cliffs at Black Rock, near Brighton Marina, you can see evidence of an ancient beach 8 metres above the current sea level and dating from about 200,000 years ago. It wasn’t until 5,000 years ago that the sea arrived at something like the present coastline, and another 2,000 years before it reached roughly the height we know today – although it has kept ebbing and flowing ever since, and at present threatens to wash away houses all around the south-east coast of England.

Let’s introduce you to a man called Roger. He’s very old – probably half a million years old – but unfortunately we can only guess what he looked like. That’s because all that remains of him is a single fragment of shin-bone. The archaeologists who affectionately gave him his daft name (no, of course nobody was called Roger then) were exploring an ancient raised beach at Boxgrove, 32 km (20 miles) west of Brighton, near Chichester. They also found a couple of teeth, but these probably belonged to someone else.

The Boxgrove people were members of a species we know as Homo heidelbergensis – their descendants being Neanderthal man (now extinct) and possibly ourselves (not yet) – and they lived in a climate similar to our own. They collected flints from the base of the cliffs and chipped away at them to fashion razor-sharp hand-axes. With these they hunted and butchered rhinoceroses, bears, bison, horses and large deer. But there were chilly times to come. Some 14,000 years ago, with glaciers forming further north, the Downs were covered by snowfields and the chalk was permanently frozen. The snow melted when the last ice age ended, and rivers cut through the hills, scouring out the valley north of Brighton which we know as Devil’s Dyke.

As the temperature rose, life became easier for the nomadic hunter-gatherers and hunter-fishers who foraged along the coast and in the dense oak forests of Sussex, which teemed with wild cattle, deer and pigs. Their rock-shelters have been excavated in the Sussex Weald, especially on the high ground to the north of Brighton, but scatterings of their worked flints have been found in the Brighton area, too.

Come the New Stone Age, Brighton at last finds a definite place on the prehistoric map. During this period settlers used polished stone tools, domesticated animals, practised weaving, made pottery and sank flint mines deep into the chalk – walk on the Downs above the Long Man of Wilmington chalk figure to the east of Brighton, and the indentations you see in the turf are the tops of those ancient mineshafts.

These settlers also left permanent marks on the landscape in the form of long and oval ‘barrows’, or burial mounds, and a series of large ‘causewayed camps’ on high points of the Downs. One of these camps can still be seen – although it’s been knocked about more than a bit – 130 metres above sea level, up by Brighton Racecourse at Whitehawk Hill. Probably built between 4000 and 3000 BC, and extended over several centuries, it comprises four concentric earthworks with crossing points, or causeways, over the ditches.

Nobody really knows what these structures were for. They weren’t sufficiently protected to have been fortifications, and the best guess is that they were centres for communal rituals of some sort.

The 1984 Brighton bombing

At 2.54am, on October 12 1984, a 20-pound gelignite bomb planted by a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army exploded in room 629 of the Grand Hotel. It was an attempt to assassinate Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet, who were attending the Conservative Party conference at the Brighton Centre.

Due to the hotel’s sturdy Victorian brick walls, the blast went downwards, rather than sideways, but a huge chimneystack on top of the building crashed through ceilings and floors. The front of the hotel was ripped open and the central section of eight floors collapsed into the basement, taking guests with it. Masonry was scattered across the streets, ripping the heads off parking meters and destroying a seafront shelter. The Prime Minister’s bathroom was extensively damaged; she said that she would have been in there when the explosion happened, if her private secretary Robin Butler had not asked her to do ‘one more paper’ before she retired for the night. As a result, she was sitting in an armchair, with her back to the window, when the bomb went off.

Five people died as a result of the explosion: Roberta Wakeham, wife of Parliamentary Treasury Secretary John Wakeham; Lady Muriel Maclean (who died five weeks after the bombing), wife of Tory Scottish President Sir Donald Maclean; Eric Taylor, a member of the Conservative national executive committee; Jean Shattock, wife of Western Counties Conservative chairman Sir Gordon Shattock, in room 628, and Sir Anthony Berry, MP for Enfield Southgate (at the subsequent by-election in December 1984, the seat was won by a young Michael Portillo). Several others, including Margaret Tebbit — the wife of Norman Tebbit, who was then President of the Board of Trade — were left permanently disabled. 34 people were taken to hospital, but recovered from their injuries.

The hotel’s sign had been on the balcony outside the room occupied by Norman and Margaret Tebbit. Firefighters used a BBC crew’s arc lights to rescue the Tebbits from the rubble, a dangerous operation that took several hours. Margaret Thatcher was whisked away from the building in a black Jaguar at 3.21am. Lord Gowrie fetched deckchairs from the beach for shaken but unhurt survivors to rest on; others sought refuge at the Metropole next door, where tea and sympathy were dispensed, and TV coverage of the incident could be viewed as it unfolded virtually in front of them. Sir Keith Joseph emerged in dressing gown, holding his ministerial red box. At the suggestion of a female survivor, Lord McAlpine got Marks and Spencer on Western Road to open early, so that those attending conference the next day could ‘get kitted up properly’.

By December 1 1984, police had ascertained that the occupant of room 629 on the nights of September 15 and 18 was a ‘Roy Walsh’ of 27 Braxfield Rd, London SE4; reports said that a woman stayed with him on those nights, but her identity was never discovered. In September 1986, Patrick Magee, then aged 35, was found guilty of planting and detonating the bomb, and of five counts of murder. He had stayed in the hotel as Roy Walsh 24 days prior to the conference and planted the bomb, fitted with a long-delay timer made from video recorder components, under the bath in room 629. Magee received eight life sentences: seven for offences relating to the Brighton bombing, and the eighth for a separate bombing conspiracy. The judge recommended that he serve a minimum term of 35 years; Home Secretary Michael Howard later increased this to ‘whole life’.

Magee was released from prison in 1999, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. A Downing Street spokesman said that his release ‘was hard to stomach’ and an appeal by then Home Secretary Jack Straw to prevent it was turned down by the Northern Ireland High Court. After being freed, Magee said the attack had ‘made a contribution to the peace process’ and would do the same again, but also that he was sorry for the innocent people who got caught up in the blast.

In November 2000, Jo Berry, daughter of the late Anthony Berry, met Magee; in 2003, they set up Causeway, ‘a healing project that helps individuals address unresolved pain caused by The Troubles’. He explained, ‘I decided to meet Jo because, apart from addressing a personal obligation, I felt obligated as a Republican to explain what led someone like me to participate in the action.’ Ms Berry said, ‘I wanted to meet Pat to put a face to the enemy, and see him as a real human being. At our first meeting I was terrified, but I wanted to acknowledge the courage it had taken him to meet me’. In October 2009, at the time of the 25th anniversary, Magee told the BBC: ‘I have to tell you at the time I would not have lost much sleep about Norman Tebbit. He was a hard-liner. I do very much regret Margaret Tebbit has been confined to a wheelchair ever since. I think a lot about that.’

On 18 October, Magee took part in a Q&A session, alongside Jo Berry, after a screening of the documentary Soldiers of Peace at the Duke of York’s cinema, to launch the charity, Building Bridges For Peace. He told the audience, ‘How could I not be sorry — people have been hurt, killed and damaged by my actions.’ On October 12 2009, a memorial service was held at St Paul’s Church, West St, to mark the 25th anniversary of the bomb attack, attended by Lord Tebbit and his wife Margaret, to pay tribute to those who lost their lives or were injured in the attack.

The church near the Grand Hotel was used in the aftermath of the bombing and has a plaque on its wall listing the names of those who died. After the 6pm service, officiated by Rev Prof Peter Galloway, Lord Tebbit unveiled a memorial plaque inside the Grand Hotel.

The memorial service was organised by Michael Knox-Johnston, general manager of The Grand. Just days before, Tebbit had criticised the Labour Party for allowing Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness to attend its conference in Brighton, shortly before the 25th anniversary of the bombing.

The Bevendean Road Neighbourhood

Did you know the Bevendean neighbourhood can be traced back to the last millenium? The Domesday Book of 1086 recorded the manor of Bevendean, ‘Beofa’s valley’, to be worth £6 and held by one Walter from William de Warrenne.

It was eventually divided between two estates, Lower and Upper Bevendean, which were acquired by the corporation in November 1913 and January 1940 respectively; the whole Bevendean area was annexed by the county borough from Falmer parish on April 1 1928.

Lower Bevendean Farm was originally accessed from Bear Rd by a trackway now known as Bevendean Rd and had an 18th-century farmhouse, but the buildings were later demolished to provide the open space now known as Farm Green between Auckland Drive and Bevendean School. However, Upper Bevendean Farm survives, and has a late 19th-century farmhouse approached from Warren Avenue, Woodingdean.

The first development of the Lower Bevendean estate came in the early 1930s, when the corporation extended its housing from South Moulsecoomb up the valley onto Bevendean land: thus 85-123 and 110-120 The Avenue (eastwards from the cross roads at the western end of Manton Rd), plus Lower Bevendean Avenue, Upper Bevendean Avenue and Manton Rd, are now a part of Bevendean.

At about the same time, the Widdicombe Way/Bevendean Crescent area was developed privately and was also known as part of the Bevendean estate, but it is now normally counted as part of the Moulsecoomb district. With a pressing need for new homes in the post-war period, the greater part of the Bevendean housing estate was rapidly developed higher up the valley from 1948 by the corporation, which named the roads after English castles.

Bevendean Barn, at the corner of Auckland Drive and Heath Hill Avenue, was used as a chapel for the estate from 1953, but was replaced in 1963 by the Church of the Holy Nativity, a Modern-style building in brick, mottled knapped-flint and cobbles by Richard Melhuish.

The Hyde Business Park was developed from 1955; the first factory was Elizabeth English shoes, followed by Hibberd Furniture, Brighton Sheet Metal Works, Redifon and Canada Dry; current businesses include Big Box Storage and West Instruments. Bevendean is a relatively deprived ward within the city — more than three quarters of its population are on a low income — and has been the recipient of Neighbourhood Renewal funding. It has a relatively high percentage of residents living in council accommodation — 24% — while 13% live in housing association homes.

Bear Road Neighbourhood and the Bedford Hotel

Bear Rd has an average gradient of 1:11 and a maximum of 1:8, and formed part of the boundary between Brighton and Preston until 1928. It took its name from the Bear Inn, a centre for bear and badger-baiting in the late 18th century; bear-baiting was legal until 1835.

On Bear Hill to the north of Bear Rd once stood the Bear Mill and, at the top of Bear Rd, stood the Race Hill Mill. The area to the north of Bear Rd, sometimes known as East Preston as it formed the easternmost part of that parish, was developed from the early 1900s and many of the road names have Boer War connections — e.g. Ladysmith and Mafeking roads. Most of the housing — 58% — is terraced and a high proportion of it (26%) is rented out as student accommodation — to the chagrin of owner-occupiers, who regularly complain about a variety of nuisances caused by this, including rubbish in the street and noise.

The parish church of the area, St Alban’s in Coombe Rd, was built in 1910-14 by Lacy W Ridge, in Early English style; on May 15 1974, the parish was merged into the new parish of the Resurrection. The parish room at the corner of Bear Rd and Riley Rd was built in 1902-3.

The lower part of Coombe Rd was dominated by two large factories on either side of the road. The southern one (Tyreco Ltd) was erected in 1917 for National Diamond Factories (Bernard Oppenheimer) Ltd, and ex-WWI servicemen who had lost limbs were employed there. The building was eventually occupied by Allen West and Schweppes in 1927 and, in 1945, by CVA Tools; this company was taken over by Kearney & Trecker in 1966 and the Coombe Rd factory closed in 1973.

In October 2000, the building was converted into deco flats; prices then were £87,500 for a 1- bedroom flat, £164,950 for 2-bedroom; in late 2009, a 1-bed flat cost £146,000. The impressive building opposite, now the Big Yellow Storage Company, was erected in 1918 as another diamond factory, and then became the home of Dentsply, one of Europe’s largest false teeth manufacturers, which closed in 1991.

Other businesses in the area included artificial limb makers Pedestros Ltd at 18 Coombe Rd Ltd and, at no.16, Brighton Asbestos Manufacturing Co Ltd. Nowadays, the Bear Rd area is dominated its cemeteries and crematoria, including the historic Extra-Mural Cemetery. Bevendean Hospital in Bevendean Rd closed in April 1989; it was demolished and the Sussex Beacon was erected, along with some housing.

The Bedford Hotel, 137 King’s Rd, was designed by Thomas Cooper and opened in 1835. It was considered the most distinguished late-Georgian building in Brighton after the Royal Pavilion. It had five storeys with two recessed Ionic porticoes facing south and west above the entrances, while the west wing was built back from the road and was decorated with giant pilasters. Inside was a Grecian hall with Ionic columns and a glazed dome.

The original Bedford Hotel was opened in October 1829 for William Manfield who, in 1835, leased it to the designer, Thomas Cooper; Manfield bought the lease back the following year and ran the hotel himself until 1844, when he leased it to Joseph Ellis.

In 1855, Ellis purchased the Bedford outright, and established it as the town’s leading hotel for the accommodation of royalty, the fashionable and the famous. Its guests included French Emperor Louis-Philippe, Louis Napoleon, Jenny Lind and Lord Palmerston. In 1963, the hotel was bought by AVP Industries Ltd, who said they wanted to replace it with a modern 14-storey tower block. On April 1 1964 — just two months after Brighton Council refused to make a preservation order on the hotel — the building was partly destroyed by fire. Two people lost their lives: guest Mrs Elizabeth Reed and hotel worker, Mrs Montserrat Gorriz. The hotel’s manager, John Ratcliffe, had the presence of mind to rescue a display for letters, written by Charles Dickens during his visits to the hotel, from a display cabinet on the ground floor.

A replacement Bedford Hotel — rather different in character to its predecessor — opened on September 16 1967. Designed by R Seifert and Partners, the 17-storey, 168 feet tall building was the first major new hotel development in the town for over half a century. It became the Hilton West Pier and Bedford Towers, and is now the Holiday Inn.

The Blockhouse and the Battery

The earliest known fortification of the town was possibly the ‘werke’, probably a bulwark, which was referred to in 1497, together with a ‘sea-gate’. The first major fortification was The Blockhouse, erected in 1559 on the cliff top between Ship St and Black Lion St. It was a circular fort 50 feet in diameter with flint walls 18 feet high and about 7 feet thick; it was financed out of both town and government funds. Inside were arched recesses for storing ammunition with a dungeon below, while a battery of four large cannons from the Tower of London stood on the cliff in front; ten small guns were also provided by the town. A turret on the top housed the town clock.

In 1558, The Blockhouse, a circular fort, was built near the southern end of Middle St. It was 50 feet in diameter, 16 feet in height, with 8 feet thick walls, and had six large guns and 10 small cannons. A wall nearly 16 feet high, with placements for guns, extended 400 feet eastwards to East St and westward to West St. Its four gates were East Gate, Porters Gate, Middle Gate and West Gate. It was maintained from the ‘quarter-share; claimed by the church-wardens from each fishing trip and also by the landsmen’s rates, in accordance with the Book of Ancient Customs.

In 1749, residents were able to go to the Blockhouse where ‘Mary Saunders, Widow, sells fine genuine French Brandy, at nine shillings per gallon’. The fort’s foundations were gradually undermined by erosion and it was badly damaged by the great storms of 1703 and 1705. Its clock was taken down in 1726, the walls were partly washed away by another storm in January 1749 and, by 1761, the blockhouse was completely ruined. It was eventually dismantled for an improvement to the cliff-top road in 1775.

The Blockhouse was replaced by The Battery. Built by the Board of Ordnance in 1760 at the bottom of East St, it was equipped with 12 old and dangerous guns; during a salute to Princess Amelia in August 1782, a gunner had both hands blown off, and when the Prince of Wales visited the town for the first time in September 1783 another gunner was killed.

Not surprisingly, the guns were not used again. The battery was severely damaged during a storm on August 7 1786 and collapsed completely on November 3 1786. Part of the battery wall was later used in the foundations of Markwell’s Hotel. Two other batteries were built: the East Cliff Battery, built in 1793 on the cliff top opposite Camelford St, was equipped with four 36-pounders, while the West Battery, built in the same year on the cliff top at Artillery Place, was equipped with eight 36-pounders.

The West Battery guns were used in royal salutes, which often caused nearby windows to shatter. Only once were its guns fired in anger: a British ship, in pursuit of smugglers and therefore not displaying her colours, fired shots which landed near battery. The gunners retaliated and the ship was forced to break out her colours.

The West Battery was removed January 27 1858 for the widening of King’s Road, but Artillery St and Cannon Place were named after it. The East Cliff Battery was dismantled in about 1803, as vibration from the guns and encroachment by the sea had made the walls dangerous.

The history of bath houses in Brighton

Bath houses, offering either simply a private dip in enclosed sea-water, or a steam or ‘Turkish’ bath for medicinal purposes, were extremely popular in Brighton in the late 18th century and throughout the 19th.

In 1736, Margate became the first seaside resort to have an enclosed sea-water bath. Public slipper baths, for the use of residents whose homes had no sanitation, were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; some were still used as late as the 1970s.

Artillery/Battery Baths/Hobden’s:
Artillery Place, near the West Battery. Opened by Nathan Smith in 1813, they became Hobden’s Royal Artillery Baths in 1824. In 1864, they were rebuilt when the Grand Hotel was completed and direct access was made between the two buildings. The baths were demolished in 1908 and the hotel’s ballroom was built on the site.

Awsiter’s Baths:
The first baths to be constructed in Brighton were built on the western side of Pool Valley by Dr John Awsiter, and designed by Robert Golden, in October 1769. They consisted of six cold baths, a hot bath, a sweating bath and a showering bath. In 1768, he had published a pamphlet ‘Thoughts on Brighthelmston concerning sea-bathing and drinking sea-water with some directions for their use’, in which he advocated the use of individual indoor sea-water baths, as well as the drinking of sea-water, mixed with milk and cream of tartar, as a cure for a number of afflictions — including infertility. Sea water was pumped into the baths by a pump-house that stood on a groyne extending 100 ft into the sea; the pump-house was demolished in 1829, when Grand Junction Road was built. Awsiter’s eventually became Wood’s Original Hot and Cold Sea-Water Baths, then Creak’s Baths. They were demolished in 1861, to make room for an extension to Brill’s Baths.

Cobden Rd
Public slipper baths were opened in April 1894 by the mayor, Sir Joseph Ewart, in a red-brick building with shell and dolphin decorations at the corner of Islingword Rd. When many of the houses in the Hanover area had bathrooms installed, the demand for public baths receded; Cobden Rd baths were closed in 1976 and converted into flats. The building was used as the Hanover Community Centre until 1982 and then as a resource centres, before being converted into flats in 1985/6.

Ditchling Rd:
No.93 housed Corporation slipper baths from 1891 until about 1932.

Lamprell’s (later Brill’s Baths):
The first communal swimming-bath in Brighton, opened in 1823 on East Street, by Abraham Johnson Lamprell. The baths had a circular domed building nicknamed ‘the bunion’, housing a large ladies’ baths which, curiously, had a balcony that accommodated 400 spectators. An inscription in Latin around the pool told the bathers that the water was ‘as fresh as the sea, but safer’. In 1845, Charles Brill (Lamprell’s nephew) inherited the baths and they became Brill’s Baths. In 1861, Brill opened a new ladies’ seawater bath in a nearby Gothic building on the west side of Pool Valley, on the site of Awsiter’s baths. They were given the royal seal of approval: they were opened by the Duchess of Cambridge and Princess May of Teck — later Queen Mary — took her first swimming lessons there.

In 1869, Brill built a new gentlemen’s bath, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, in a red-brick building at 76-79 East St which extended into Pool Valley. The circular pool, 65 feet in diameter, was the largest in Europe at that time and its 80,000 gallons of seawater were brought in from Hove, as Brighton’s was thought to be polluted. The Baths was the home of the Brighton Ladies Swimming Club, formed in 1891. Brill’s Baths were demolished 1929, but the name lives on with the tiny Brill’s Lane, between East St and Grand Junction Rd.

Mahomed’s Baths:
Built in 1821, near the site of the present Queen’s Hotel. Medicated steam or vapour-baths, called ‘shampooing’. In 1822, Mahomed published ‘Shampooing, or benefits resulting from the use of the Indian vapour-bath, describing cases of asthma, rheumatism, sciatica and lumbago cured by his methods. The book also featured poems praising him. One was called Ode To Mahomed, the Brighton Shampooing Surgeon:

‘While thus beneath they flannel shades
Fat dowagers and wrinkled maids
Re-blown in adolescence,
I marvel not that friends tell friends,
And Brighton every day extends
Its circuses and crescents’

The business was continued by his son, Arthur Akhbar Mahomed, into the 1870s.

North Rd Slipper Baths:
Opened in 1870, closed in 1976, built on the former Barrack Yard site. A 2nd class warm bath cost twopence, a cold bath a penny; 1st class baths were sixpence for a warm bath and threepence for a cold bath. At their height, the baths were filled nearly 16,300 times in six months alone. A special feature of the North Rd baths women’s section was a Jewish Mitveh, a kind of ritual cleansing bath; it was the only Jewish immersion bath on the South Coast. The pipes were straight, rather than bent, so they could not become contaminated, and used rainwater.

Victoria Baths:
Opened on May 24 1888, on the east side of Park St, as slipper baths for the local poor. They closed in 1979 and Sloane Court now stands on the site.

Williams’s Royal Hot and Cold Baths:
Opened in 1803 on the south-west corner of the Old Steine. Eventually demolished in 1856 to make room for the Lion Mansion Hotel (now part of the Royal Albion Hotel).

Architectural Styles in Brighton

Look around the town of Brighton and you will see it is awash with different architectural styles. Here is an in-depth look at some of these you will find.

FLINTS
The most common local building stone, closely associated with chalk, is flint, either rough stones picked up from the fields or smoothed, round flint cobbles (known locally as ‘pitchers’) from the beaches. In many cases, the flints have been ‘knapped’ to present a flat face to the exterior, and on some of the larger houses the flints are also ‘squared’ to give a regular coursing; the random joints formed when knapped flints are not squared are known as ‘snail-creep’.

Good examples of knapped flint buildings can be seen at Ovingdean, Patcham, Rottingdean and Stanmer villages; at St Nicholas’s Church; the Druid’s Head, Brighton Place; and 8 Ship St. Knapped and squared flints may be seen at Court House and Down House, Rottingdean; Southdown House, Patcham; Home Farmhouse, Withdean; and in Preston, at 36 North Rd, 199 Preston Rd, and in South Rd. Flint-cobble buildings, often coated with tar to improve weather-proofing, are common and mostly date from the early 19th century.

Good examples in the town may be found at Bartholomews; Church St; the Cricketers Arms, Black Lion St; Dorset Gardens; Kemp Town Place; Marlborough Place; Middle St; Mighell St; New Rd; Pavilion Parade; Queen’s Place; Richmond Gardens; St James’s Place; Ship St; Southover St; Union St; Upper Rock Gardens; and York Place.

The other use of flint is the form of wall which is known colloquially as ‘bungeroosh’ and is very often to be seen in boundary walls, and in internal walls which are subsequently plastered.

GEORGIAN

The streets of the East Cliff contain numerous examples of small-scale, Georgian-style housing, many with bows to allow visitors and lodgers a view down the road to the sea. Other good examples may be found at Bartholomews; 15 Prince Albert St; Ship St; and a terrace at Tilbury Place, reminiscent of Georgian London.

GOTHIC

Despite the many Victorian churches and chapels, there are few examples of domestic Gothic-revival architecture in the town. The Percy and Wagner Almshouses; the former Debenhams store, Western Rd; and Wykeham Terrace are the best examples.

MATHEMATICAL TILES

These were hung on timber-framed buildings to give the appearance of higher quality brick walls, and it is usually difficult to distinguish them from the real thing. Black, glazed mathematical tiles are easy to discern, and may be seen at many locations including Jubilee Library; Grand Parade; Manchester St; Market St; Old Steine; Pool Valley; Royal Crescent; and York Place; also at Patcham Place and Wootton House, Patcham; and at North End House, Rottingdean. No.8 Wentworth St is a good example of a house faced in cream-coloured mathematical tiles; many other late 18th and early 19th-century houses in the East Cliff area are also faced with these tiles.

RED BRICK

From the 1890s to the 1920s, large areas of red-brick housing were erected, particularly in Preston. Fine examples, often with decorated gables, may be seen at Beaconsfield Villas; Compton Rd; Ditchling Rd; Edburton Avenue; Hollingbury Park Avenue; Inwood Crescent; Queen’s Park Rise; Queen’s Park Terrace; St James’s Avenue; St Luke’s Rd; St Luke’s Terrace; and Southdown Avenue. Much larger red-brick residences are found in Beaconsfield Villas; Dyke Rd; Harrington Rd; and Preston Park Avenue.

REGENCY
The great expansion of Brighton in the late 18th and early 19th centuries produced most of the town’s outstanding examples of architecture and, although the Prince of Wales’s regency lasted only from 1811 to 1820, the term ‘Regency-style’ has come to be applied to many of the buildings of the period from 1810 to the 1840s.

Typical are the classical crescents, squares and terraces, adorned with pilasters, ironwork balconies, verandas and bows. Most are covered in a painted plaster known as ‘stucco’ which resembles stone, and gives the town its traditional white and cream appearance; those that remained unstuccoed were usually faced with flint, or with yellow bricks from the former brickfields around the Hove boundary.

The use of stucco was, for many years, considered sham, and it was not until Osbert Sitwell and Margaret Barton wrote appreciatively of the Regency style in 1935 that general opinion changed.

Outstanding examples of the Regency style are the classical terraces of the Kemp Town and Brunswick estates; Cavendish Place; Marine Parade; Marine Square; Montpelier Crescent; New Rd; Old Steine; Oriental Place; Portland Place; Regency Square; Russell Square; Sillwood Place; and Western Terrace.

From the late 1820s until the 1860s, a later style was in evidence which retained some elements of the Regency period. Many houses were refronted with newly fashionable wide bows while new houses in this style were erected at Belvedere Terrace; Chesham Place; Chichester Place; Clarendon Terrace; Eastern Terrace; Eaton Place; Grand Parade; Montpelier Rd; Norfolk Square; Percival Terrace; Powis Square; and St George’s Place. Attractive Italianate villas were built at Buckingham Place; Clifton Terrace; 128-130 Dyke Rd; Montpelier Rd; Montpelier Villas; Powis Villas; and Russell Crescent. Less impressive but still attractive contemporary cottages may be found at Blenheim Place; Camden Terrace; Clarence Gardens; Crown Gardens; Crown St; Dean St; Frederick Gardens; Hanover St; Marlborough St; Norfolk St; North Gardens; Regent Hill; Spring St; and Trafalgar Terrace.

VICTORIAN

Angular window bays and decorative details are the typical features of mid to late-19th century Brighton houses and public buildings. Houses of the period may be found in many parts of the town, especially in the Hanover, St Saviour’s and Prestonville areas, while good examples of grander Victorian terracing may be found at Buckingham Rd; Denmark Terrace; Gladstone Terrace; Park Crescent; Round Hill Crescent; St Michael’s Place and Vernon Terrace.

Many large villa residences were also erected, especially in the Buckingham Rd/Dyke Rd area; the Clermont Estate at Preston; Florence Rd; London Rd, Withdean; Old Shoreham Rd; Preston Rd; Richmond Rd; Springfield Rd; Stanford Avenue; Walpole Rd; Wellington Rd; and York Villas.

PRE-WAR STYLES
The 1920s and 1930s saw dramatic changes in the Brighton townscape, as the main shopping streets were widened and the slums of Carlton Hill and Upper Russell St were swept away. Art Deco and International Modern styles began to appear, and the first high-rise blocks were erected on the sea-front.

The most notable buildings from this period are the former Co-operative Society store, London Rd; Electric House (now Royal Bank of Scotland), Castle Square; Embassy Court, King’s Rd; Marine Gate, Black Rock; the Ocean Hotel, Saltdean; St Dunstan’s, Ovingdean Gap; St Wilfrid’s Church, Elm Grove; Saltdean Lido; Varndean Sixth Form College, Surrenden Rd; the White House, Saltdean Drive; and the stores on the northern side of Western Rd. Council housing of the period includes the early ‘model’ estate of South Moulsecoomb; North Moulsecoomb; the Queen’s Park estate; Manor Farm and Whitehawk; and the Milner and Kingswood flats.

Private housing ranged from the ‘Tudorbethan’ style of Braybons Ltd in the Valley Drive area and the brown brick of the Brangwyn Estate, to the numerous bungalows of the Ladies Mile, Ovingdean, Patcham, Saltdean and Woodingdean.

POST-WAR DEVELOPMENT

The immediate post-war need was for housing and large estates were rapidly erected by the council at Bevendean, Coldean and Hollingbury. However, a little of the pre-war style lingered on into the 1950s, with buildings such as the Western Bathing Pavilion; Barclays Bank, North St; and some of the factories on the Hollingbury and Moulsecoomb Way industrial estates.

From the late 1950s until the early 1970s, the townscape was radically changed by the widespread replacement of many small, terraced houses with numerous blocks of both high and low-rise flats. The predominant use of concrete, the harshness of line, the brutal disregard for location, and the pure functionalism of designs in this period have resulted in many buildings which can only be described as ‘ugly’: within this category must fall the Albion Hill redevelopment; the Bedford Hotel; Churchill Square; the Law Courts, Edward St; New England House; Osprey House, Sillwood Place; the Police Station, John St; the eastern side of Queen’s Rd; St James’s House, High St; Sussex Heights; Sussex University; and Wellesley House, Waterloo Place.

Other less objectionable buildings of the era include Brighton Square; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Coldean; Church of the Holy Cross, Woodingdean; Church of the Holy Nativity, Bevendean; and the Spiritualist Church, Edward St.

‘POST-WILSON’

On March 22 1973, Brighton Council unanimously rejected the ‘Wilson report’ — a town-centre plan by Sir Hugh Wilson and Lewis Womersley which proposed large-scale road construction in the vicinity of Preston Circus and a ‘spine road’ through the North Laine to a car-park in Church Street. These would both have involved the demolition of over 500 houses as an interim measure, preluding even more extensive new road construction.

However, the essential aim of the plan — to restrict town centre traffic and introduce extensive pedestrianisation — was laudable. Five town-centre conservation areas were designated that year (with five more in 1977, notably North Laine), and so 1973 marked something of a watershed in civic attitudes towards the inherited townscape.

WEATHER-BOARDING
A few examples are to be found in the centre of Brighton: 29-30 and 43 Meeting House Lane; 37a Duke St; and 179 Edward St. There are also weather-boarded houses at 8-9 The Square, Patcham; and barns at Patcham and Stanmer.

ARGUS LOFTS

Once owned by the Southern Publishing Co, this building on the corner of Robert St and North Rd — former site of Robinson’s printing works — was the home of the Argus newspaper printing works from 1926 until 1992, when the paper moved to its new premises in Hollingbury. Workers used to drink at the Canteen pub, sited where the Bathstore shop is.

Ownership of the building changed hands numerous times in the next few years. A huge fired broke out on December 5 1999, and residents in Robert St were moved to safety from the 30 foot flames, intense heat and exploding gas-cylinders that were still inside the building.

At that time, preliminary work had begun on an £18.5 million scheme by City Loft Developments, comprising 61 loft-style homes, designed by Conran & Partners, plus workshops, shops and offices on the ground floor. Renamed the ‘Argus Lofts’, prices for the apartments in 2001 ranged from £120,000 to £385,000.

The Brighton Aquarium

Brighton Aquarium was the brainchild of Eugenius Birch, the famous engineer and designer of Brighton’s West Pier, who conceived the idea, following a visit to Boulogne Aquarium. Erected on the approach roadway to the Chain Pier, the Aquarium required the construction of a new sea-wall and promenade — Madeira Rd — which was begun in 1869. The whole project was completed in 1872, at a cost of £130,000, and the Aquarium was inaugurated by Prince Arthur that Easter, although there were no exhibits at the time. It was formally opened to the public on August 10 1872 by the mayor, John Cordy Burrows. The new Italianate building extended for about 700 feet along the base of the cliff. The entrance was at the western end, on the site of the Chain Pier’s toll-house, where a wide flight of steps descended into a large courtyard formed by five red-brick arches and terracotta columns. Inside the building, a large entrance hall led into the main aquarium corridor: 224 feet long and lined with large tanks lit from behind to add to the air of mystery. This impressive corridor, with its vaulted ceiling supported by columns of granite and marble decorated with marine capitals, remains the main aquarium hall and is now listed as being of special architectural and historic interest. The central hall housed a 100-foot tank: holding 110,000 gallons, it was the largest display tank in the world at that time. Marine exhibits were not the only attraction — a reading room, restaurant, winter-garden conservatory, smoking room, music conservatory, rockery and cascade were also provided. The roof terrace was completed in the summer of 1874 and a distinctive clock tower, gateway and toll-houses were added by T Boxall that October. In June 1876, the terrace was extended by 180 feet and a roller-skating rink, terrace garden, smoking room, café and music conservatory were all added to the roof.

The Aquarium proved to be an instant success with the town’s fashionable society and received many royal visitors. Among the early attractions was a large octopus and, in 1877, the first sea-lions arrived; the exhibition of a live Norway lobster in 1874 caused a furore. By 1880, organ recitals were being given twice daily in the hall, while concerts under the direction of William Kuhe were performed in the conservatory. In 1883, lectures and exhibitions were introduced to further stimulate public interest, and in 1889 a dramatic licence for the production of plays was obtained. Sideshows, featuring Krao the Missing Link, The Tiger Lady and The Bear Boy catered to those with more venal tastes. However, enthusiasm for the Aquarium did not last and, by the turn of the century, it was in financial difficulties. In October 1901, the building and business were purchased by the corporation for just £30,000, and Brighton Aquarium was henceforth managed as a municipal enterprise, apart from a brief private letting in 1905 and 1906. The Aquarium’s popularity then rose again, as Brighton’s fortunes in general revived. From 1907 until 1918, a municipal orchestra played in the conservatory, which was renamed the Winter Garden. There were also occasional film shows (from before 1900) and, during WWI, the Winter Garden was briefly known as the Aquarium Kinema; film shows continued until 1939. In 1920, ‘Airship Flights’, promising views from 3,000 feet up, were on offer. In July 1922, Brighton Council gave the Southdown Bus Company permission to convert the building into a bus and coach station, but the plan was unexpectedly withdrawn at a public inquiry.

In 1927, the Aquarium closed for a £117,000 modernisation, designed by Borough Engineer, David Edwards. When it was reopened by the Duke of York on June 12 1929, the exterior had been rebuilt in white Empire stonework; the entrance was replaced by two square kiosks with pagoda-style roofs; the statues representing the Four Seasons had been removed, and the distinctive clock tower had been demolished. A new entrance hall had been built with an adjoining restaurant, while the Winter Garden had been transformed into the Prince’s Hall, a modern concert hall seating some 1,250 people. A ballroom, bandstand and other small buildings were added to the Sun Terrace, which was extended eastwards above a colonnade and shops to meet the Madeira Terrace. A lift was also installed from Marine Parade down into the Aquarium, while the subway to the Lower Esplanade was opened in 1935. Both slipper and shower baths, which closed in about 1979, and a miniature rifle-range were also provided. During WWII, the Aquarium was requisitioned by the RAF. When it reopened, chimpanzee tea-parties and other small animal attractions were introduced but, in 1955, the building was again privately leased, to Aquarium Entertainments Ltd. The Prince’s Hall, which had been used nightly as a ballroom, later became the Florida Rooms night-club, but was transformed in 1961 into the Montagu Motor Museum. The first pair of dolphins was exhibited in a new 80 x 30 feet pool, costing £200,000, at the western end of the Aquarium in 1968 and proved so popular that the motor museum was converted into a permanent dolphin attraction. Opened at Easter 1969, the dolphinarium had seating for a 1,000 visitors around an oval pool which held 210,000 gallons of sea-water (the largest display tank in the world), at a cost of £50,000. The Aquarium was featured in the film, The Fruit Machine (1988). Its six dolphins were called Belle, Prinny, Missus, Baby, Lucky and Poppy, and the two seals were Sunshine and Yogi. However, serious concern about the effect of permanent enclosure on these intelligent mammals led to a considerable movement to close the dolphinarium, which occurred in December 1990. It was converted into a Sea Life Centre, costing £1 million, which opened at Easter 1991; it houses over 150 species of marine creatures. The Centre is involved with campaigns and education programmes on issues of conservation and marine animal welfare around the world.

The 50,000 sq ft of the Aquarium Terraces were redeveloped as a leisure complex by Compco in 2000. Nightclub giant Cream planned to open a 1,750 venue in the ground floor and basement, but this never transpired. As of February 2010, the only businesses in the available units were the Terraces restaurant, a Harvester and a Burger King. That month, Brighton Seafront Regeneration Ltd, headed by architect David Kohn (winner of the 2009 Young Architect of the Year award), announced a major revamp for the site, and submitted a planning application for a large restaurant in unit five of the building, on the lower terrace. The pavilion was removed from the upper terrace and the disabled not-very-accessible access ramp replaced with a lift.