Return to the Seaside

If you like football, you may be heartened at the fact that Leicester City striker Leonardo Ulloa has rejoined Brighton on loan until the end of the season.

The striker was formerly a Brighton player prior to leaving for Leicester and is still popular among the fans here. Three and a half years ago he played for the club before signing for the Foxes, and his return provides the club with a good physical striker, with plenty of Premier League experience, and more importantly, gives him a chance to play.

At Leicester, Ulloa played a huge part in the run to being Premier League champions. Remember the penalty he took, with Vardy and Mahrez off and Leicester trailing? He showed no sign of nerves and buried the penalty. Having the striker makes the Brighton frontline a lot stronger and gives manager Chris Hughton more alternatives. Ulloa was ofter behind the pecking order with Jamie Vardy, Riyadh Mahrez, Islam Slimani in front of him, but with the move he can expect a lot more football – and Brighton have a strong weapon in the fight to stay up!

Boundary markers of Brighton

The boundary of the ancient ecclesiastical and civil parish of Brighton, which was also the area incorporated as a borough on April 1 1854, followed the boundary with Hove, from the sea-front via Little Western St and Boundary Passage to Goldsmid Rd, until the two areas were combined in 1997. It then went directly to the junctions of Russell Crescent and Dyke Rd, and Prestonville Rd and Old Shoreham Rd, to follow the line of Old Shoreham Rd, New England Rd, Viaduct Rd, Ditchling Rd, Florence Place, Hollingdean Rd and Bear Rd to the Race Hill reservoir. The boundary line then ran south across the race-course to follow generally the course of Whitehawk Rd (before realignment, now including Haybourne Rd) to Roedean Rd, and finally along the eastern side of Boundary Rd to the sea. This area amounted to approximately 1,640 acres, although reclaimed beaches added to the total over the years.

The Brighton borough boundary has been extended on several occasions in order to accommodate development outside the original area. The alterations have been:

October 31 1873: (1873 Brighton Borough Extension Act): That part of Preston parish to the east of Dyke Rd, an area of about 905 acres, was added to the borough for municipal purposes only; the boundaries remained unaltered for parochial purposes until 1894, when that part of Preston parish outside the borough, i.e to the west of Dyke Rd, was constituted as the parish of Preston Rural; and that part within the borough was constituted as the new parish of Preston. Preston remained a separate parish within the county borough of Brighton until 1928 (see below).

October 1 1923: (1923 Ministry of Housing Provisional Order Confirmation (Brighton Extension) Act): That part of Patcham parish to the east of Lewes Rd, an area of 94 acres already developed by the corporation as the original Moulsecoomb housing estate, was added to the county borough of Brighton and to the parish of Preston.

April 1 1928: (1927 Brighton Corporation Act): The whole of the parishes of Ovingdean and Rottingdean, a large part of Falmer parish (including the rest of the Moulsecoomb estate, the Falmer School area and Bevendean), and those parts of Patcham and West Blatchington parishes to the east of Dyke Rd Avenue and Devil’s Dyke Rd, were added to the county borough. In addition, a small exchange of land was made with Hove to the north of Seven Dials to simplify the boundary; the new line ran along Goldsmid Rd and Dyke Rd, such that Goldsmid Rd and parts of Addison, Davigdor, Julian and Melville Rds were transferred to Hove, while Belmont and parts of Dyke Rd and Old Shoreham Rd were added to Brighton. This enormous expansion created what was popularly known as ‘Greater Brighton’, with the area of the county borough, which was also constituted as a single parish of Brighton (thus also absorbing Preston parish), increasing nearly five-fold to 12,503 acres. A week-long celebration culminated in the unveiling of the Pylons by the Duke and Duchess of York to mark the new northern boundary of the town.

April 1 1952: (1951 Brighton Extension Act): Substantial areas of Falmer and Stanmer parishes, including Old Boat Corner, Stanmer Park, Stanmer village, Coldean and the downland to the west of Falmer Rd, were added to the county borough and parish of Brighton to bring the total area up to 14,347 acres. Those parts of Falmer and Stanmer not annexed combined to form the present parish of Falmer.

March 31 1972: (1968 Brighton Marina Act): Land reclaimed for the Marina development, plus a substantial area of sea defined by national grid references, was added to the parish and county borough. The added area was about 694 acres, making the total borough area 15,041 acres.

April 1 1993: (The East Sussex, West Sussex and Kent (County Boundaries) Order 1992): A 40ha area of downland at Donkey Bottom, including Mid-Down House and Alpha and Beta Cottages, was transferred from Pyecombe parish to the Borough of Brighton.

April 1 1997: (The East Sussex (Boroughs of Brighton and Hove) (Structural Change) Order 1995): Combined the Boroughs of Brighton and Hove into one ‘unitary’ area –a district and a county for local government purposes, an area of 33.80 square miles. However, for ceremonial purposes, Brighton & Hove remains part of East Sussex under the 1997 Lieutenancies Act.

There are not many places where the Brighton boundary is obvious to the observer. Among those most easily seen are:

Brighton/Hove: in the Western Rd pavement at Boundary Passage; at the mid-point and northern end of Boundary Passage; the southern side of Temple Gardens; either side of Windlesham Avenue; and at Dyke Rd/Old Shoreham Rd.

This last stone marked the former Hove/Preston boundary to 1928 and, although the present borough boundary does not run along the same line, it is mered to the stone.)

Brighton/Preston (to 1928): in the north-eastern pier of the New England Viaduct.

Brighton/Stanmer (1928-52): at Highfields, Coldean.

Brighton/Falmer/Preston/Ovingdean (to 1928): at the south-eastern corner of the Race Hill Reservoir in Bear Rd.

Brighton/Ovingdean (to 1928): two between the Race Hill Reservoir and Haybourne Rd, and two on the western side of Haybourne Rd, where there are also a number of Race Ground boundary stones; on the eastern side of Whitehawk Rd at Roedean Rd.

Brighton/Telscombe (from 1928): either side of Marine Drive to the east of Longridge Avenue, Saltdean.

Brighton’s link with Beethoven: George Bridgetower

Of West Indian and German parentage (his father Frederick was an ex-slave from Barbados), but born in Poland, this violinist, dubbed ‘The Abyssinian Prince’, was a child prodigy. After coming to the attention of the Prince Regent in 1791, he lived in England for most of his life. Under the patronage of the Prince, who paid Bridgetower’s father £25 to become his guardian, he studied under François-Hippolyte Barthélémon, leader of the Royal Opera; Croatian-Italian composer Giovanni Giornovichi, Thomas Attwood, organist at St Paul’s and professor at the Royal Academy of Music and, most significantly, Haydn.

In December 1789, he performed at a concert in Bath, in the presence of King George III and guests; the Bath Morning Post reported ‘There were upwards of 550 persons present, and they were gratified by such skills on the violin as created general astonishment, as well as pleasure from the boy wonder. The father was in the gallery, and so affected by the applause bestowed on his son, that tears of pleasure and gratitude flowed in profusion’.

For 14 years, Bridgetower was employed by the Prince as first violinist with his personal orchestra at his homes in Brighton and London; he also performed regularly with the Royal Philharmonic Society orchestra. In 1803, while on a tour of Germany and Austria, he performed in Vienna with Beethoven, who subsequently dedicated his Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major (Op.47) to Bridgetower — ‘Sonata per uno mulaticco lunattico’. Beethoven described Bridgetower as ‘a very able virtuoso and an absolute master of the instrument’. However, the pair fell out over a perceived slight made by Bridgetower to a woman friend of Beethoven’s, and he changed the dedication of this work to violinist Rudolphe Kreutzer. A letter from Beethoven to Bridgetower and a miniature of Bridgetower fetched over £2,000 at a Christie’s auction in 1973.

He was elected to the Royal Society of Musicians in 1807, and became a Bachelor of Music at Cambridge University in 1811. Bridgewater died in Peckham and is buried in Kensal Green cemetery. In 2009, the Pulitzer-prize winning poet Rita Dove dramatised the relationship between Beethoven and Bridgetower in her Sonata Mulattica. In the same year, Bridgetower – A Fable of 1807, a new jazz opera about him, starring Cleveland Watkiss, and composed by Julian Joseph, was produced at the Hackney Empire Theatre, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act.

The history of breweries in Brighton

The rise of commercial breweries in Brighton escalated in the 17th and 18th centuries. Brighton’s earliest brewers also included William Chapman, Robert Hillick and James Buckle, Elizabeth Lucas, and Richard Whichols [sic]. By the late 19th century, as well as boasting hundreds of pubs and beer houses, Brighton had more than 10 sizeable breweries. These, and other large, national breweries, had already begun buying up large numbers of pubs which then became ‘tied houses’ — i.e. the pubs could only sell the brewer’s own beer. This contentious practice of ‘tied houses’ continues today.

Albion Brewery, Albion St: acquired by the Phoenix Brewery in 1892, it was used only as a store from 1924 and then as a builder’s yard until demolished in the 1970s. The site is now occupied by the Elim Church. The adjacent Stable public house is named from the brewery’s stable that stood opposite.

Amber Ale/Longhurst Brewery, Preston Circus: established by Henry Longhurst. Brighton Corporation paid £25,000 in 1901 to acquire its Preston Circus site for its tramways. Brighton Fire Station HQ (1901) and the Duke of York’s cinema (1910) were subsequently built there. The brewery premises boasted a very large clock tower and a domed roof. The malting was incorporated into the Duke of York’s and may still be seen behind the present fire station.

Anchor Brewery, 57 Waterloo St: started in the 1830s by Ebenezer Robins. Anchor beers included the ‘Bottled Half and Half’ — a mixture of ale and porter [sic], a family table ale, East Indian pale ale and Brighton stout. Tamplin’s bought the Anchor Brewery in 1928.

Bristol Steam Brewery (later the Kemp Town Brewery): started by in the 1839 by coal merchant William Hallett, it was bought by the Abbey family in 1889. Its beers included the bottled Brighton Lager Ale, which was claimed to be good for the digestion. The brewery’s fermenting vessels were made of rare New Zealand kauri pine, which may have given the beer its unique flavour.

Black Lion Brewery, Black Lion St: Brighton’s oldest brewery, the Black Lion was established in 1545 by Flemish Protestant Deryck (originally Dirick) Carver. The original brewery building was three old tenements with dormer windows and roof made of Horsham stone. Carver was martyred for his faith at Lewes in July 1555 — burned at the stake in a beer barrel. The Black Lion name lasted considerably longer than its founder. One of its many owners was William Chapman, ‘brewer to his majesty’ and a leading member of the Brighton Hunt Committee. He died in 1823 but the brewery continued as Chapmans, under the management of Benjamin Davis, with pubs including the Hand In Hand and Noah’s Ark. Brewing ceased in 1901, when the buildings were sold to the Rock Brewery, who used them for stores. Fremlin Brothers bought the premises in 1914 and used them as a bottling store until 1968, when the buildings were sold at auction and mostly demolished.

Cannon Brewery, Russell St: established by John Barnett in 1821. He and wife Eliza had been brewing their own beer for some time, which John would peddle around town at 3d a pint. The brewery eventually built up into a chain of some 50 pubs, including The City of London, The Liverpool Arms, The Cranbourne Arms and the Montpelier Arms. When John died in 1871, Eliza sold the business and its pubs to the brewing brothers, John and Frederick Kidd. The brewery buildings survived until May 1969, when they were demolished as part of the Churchill Square development.

Kemp Town Brewery, Seymour St: founded by William Hallett as the Bristol Brewery in about the 1840s, it was later taken over by the Abbey family and became the Kemp Town Brewery in 1933. Abbey’s was a business blighted by several catastrophes: in March 1900, labourer John Hope choked to death on carbonic acid gas after — despite repeated warnings — climbing into a fermenting vessel to retrieve some equipment that had dropped in there. Then, in 1907, Abbey’s Eastern Road malting house was gutted by a fire which started when the kiln overheated. It destroyed six months’ worth of malt. Henry Abbey was once Mayor of Brighton and an alderman. His son, William, took over as chairman of the brewery, as did his eldest son, John in 1943, when it had become the Kemp Town brewery. He was also appointed High Sheriff of Sussex in 1945. After serving during World War I, John turned his attentions to collecting antiquarian books, especially those produced by private printing presses, eventually becoming England’s most extensive rare book collector. The company was taken over by Charringtons in 1954 and the final beer was brewed and bottled in April 1964. The site was bought by Brighton College in 1967 and turned into its Maltings block. The rest of the buildings were sold in 1970 for the Seymour Square development.

Raven Brewery, 35 Vine St: set up in 1979 by pub owner, Vincent O’Rourke; the company was producing 150 barrels a day at its peak, with most of the beer sold at the Coachmakers Arms in Trafalgar St, which Raven owned. The company fizzled out during the 1980s.

Rock Brewery — originally known as Griffiths — 61 St James St: started in 1809, with malthouses in Hereford Street and Warwick Street. George Griffith, son of the original owner, was a much-loved benefactor of Brighton, whose philanthropic pomps and works included the redecoration of the Banqueting Room in Royal Pavilion. In February 1849, Griffith was found dead in the road, shot through the heart at point-blank range, about four miles from Henfield on his way back from collecting cash from Horsham. The murder weapon turned out to be one of two pistols Griffith carried with him. Robbery was believed to be the motive for the unsolved killing. In 1900, the Rock Brewery bought the College Brewery in Montague Place and, a year later, the Black Lion Brewery. The Portsmouth and Brighton United Breweries bought a large share of the business in 1927. By 1953, the Rock Brewery had produced its last beer and the company was wound up in 1960. The main building was demolished in 1978, and the site is now occupied by Lavender House and St Mary’s Church House.

Smithers/North St Brewery: founded in 1851 by Henry Smithers. His son, Edward Smithers, served as chairman of the Brighton Brewers’ Society. Smithers eventually acquired the West St Brewery, Portslade Brewery, Bedford and North St breweries. Its Western Road premises were demolished in 1923 to make way for the Imperial Arcade, but the brewery continued trading from premises in Regent Hill until it was acquired by Tamplins in 1929.

Tamplins/Phoenix Brewery: at its peak, Tamplins owned 200 Brighton pubs and was producing nearly 5 million gallons of beer a year. Between 1892 and 1929, it bought the Albion, Cannon, Brighton, Anchor (Robins), Smithers and West St breweries. Tamplins itself was bought by Watney Mann in 1953 and closed in 1973.

The brewery was founded by Richard Tamplin in 1820 but, after a fire destroyed its original site at Southwick, he opened the Phoenix Brewery in 1821 between Albion St and Southover St. His son Henry took over on his father’s death in 1849, who was succeeded by his son William in 1867. By the late 1880s, Tamplins had over 80 pubs. This number almost doubled when Charles Catt, a partner in Vallance & Catt, owner of the Ship St Brewery since 1850, sold his 74 pubs to Tamplins in 1899 and joined their board (the brewing side of Vallance and Catt was taken over by Henry and Percy In Willett and run as the West St Brewery until this in turn was taken over by Smithers in 1919). The company continued to prosper throughout the early part of the 20th century: beer sales rose from £361,013 in 1925 to £397,572 in 1927, and bottled beer sales, from 83,065 in 1925 to 120,324 in 1927. But, 1932, its fortunes had taken a slight, but discernible, downswing. Costs were increasing: the maintenance of horses, carriages and motors plus the company had to spend more on advertising. A number of Tamplins pubs, including the Flying Scud, The Bath Arms and The Fisherman At Home were also consistently making a loss. After swallowing up most of its brewing competitors, Tamplins itself was bought by Watney Mann in 1953. By the time of its closure some 20 years later, when the last brew was made, it employed 450 people by time of closure that year. The brewery was demolished in 1980 but the Phoenix name lives on: in July 1996, the derelict brewery site was developed for 95 new homes for 300 people, comprising houses for families, wheelchair accessible housing and flats for single people. The £7.8 million development, led by Chichester Diocesan Housing Association, received funding from the Housing Corporation and the council and was completed in December 1997.

West St Brewery: Grover’s West St Brewery, established in 1767 by Isaac Grover, was the first in Brighton to use steam power. Taken over by Vallance and Son in 1895, it became Vallance & Catt brewery. Standing behind the King’s Head near the south-western corner of West Street, it was taken over by Smithers in 1913, but was closed by Tamplins in 1929 and demolished in 1933.

Dark Star Brewery: named after a Grateful Dead song, began as a micro-brewery in the cellar of the Evening Star in Surrey St in 1994. Its current beers include Over The Moon, Spiced Vice (made with coriander), Espresso Stout, Meltdown (made with Chinese stem ginger) and Natural Blonde, made with organic malt. Its other exotic brews have included Delhi Beli, garlic-flavoured beer and tandoori beer — surely one of the most blatant attempts ever made by a brewer to curry favour with its customers.

Kemp Town Brewery, Hand in Hand, 33 Upper St James St: believed to be England’s smallest brewery, started by Bev and Brenda Robbins in December 1988 and produced its first brew in November 1989. The idea came — as many of the best ideas do — from a beery evening enjoyed at (where else?) The Great British Beer Festival in Leeds. Kemp Town’s three regular beers are Kemptown Bitter, Ye Olde Trout and Dragons Blood, but other brews have included Crewsaver, Celebrated Staggering Ale and Staggering in the Dark. When the Tour de France came to Brighton, Kemp Town commemorated it with a special beer, On Yer Bike. Their winter beer, Old Grumpy ABV is available from December.

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.