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.

Amex and its links with Brighton

Amex House, the nine-storey, 300,000 square foot office block, was designed by Gollins Melvin Ward and cost a reported £10 million. It was built over part of Mighell Street, and a number of other streets disappeared under the building, including Boss’s Gardens. The building, nicknamed ‘The Wedding Cake’, was officially opened on September 15 1977 as the European customer service HQ of the American Express Corporation.

The company had previously used sites all over Sussex, but first moved into the Edward St area in 1968, when it moved its Mechanical Accounting centre to the Virgo Walker building.

Amex is now the city’s largest private sector employer, with more than 3,000 staff, and contributes 7% of the city economy, worth about £300 million a year. This explains the jitters that went around the city when, in 2008, it was feared that the company would move elsewhere, as it needed bigger, better premises.

Possible new homes were said to be Crawley, Exeter, Scotland or somewhere in mainland Europe. However, in September 2008, Amex confirmed it would not be moving from Edward St.

Instead, it applied for planning permission to create a new 265,000 sq ft building behind Amex House, which would be demolished by 2016.

The new building will have between five to nine floors, plus two basement floors, new vehicle access off John Street. There will be 106 car parking spaces and 132 cycle parking spaces on the site.

In May 2009, Amex reached an agreement with the council, which agreed to sell the firm the freehold of the land in Eastern Road to carry out the redevelopment of the site. The deal included a clause which requires the company to make a long-term commitment to basing its operations in Brighton.

Amex will build a new office block on its car park site, bordering Carlton Hill. The company owns half of the historic Mighell St farmhouse which needs restoration.

On November 4 2009, Brighton and Hove City Council’s planning committee voted unanimously in favour of the proposals. One of the conditions of the Amex plans is that a £300,000 donation is made to Carlton Hill Primary School, which will have its playground overshadowed by the extension. The money will allow the school to relocate its playground and revamp facilities.

As well as saving the Amex jobs, it was estimated that the £130 million redevelopment would also sustain 75 non-Amex jobs and could create more than 1,000 construction jobs.

Alms houses in Brighton

An almshouse is a place where poor people could reside. They were usually paid for out of someone’s will, with a few places reserved for the needy. Here is some history about some almshouses in Brighton.

FALMER
In 1869, Knights Almshouses were built alongside the village pond, erected in memory of Mary Chichester, the wife of Henry Thomas Pelham, third Earl of Chichester. The two cottages, now known as Pelham Cottages, share a porch, above which is a carved stone tablet, bearing the arms of the Pelham family. Over the windows on the front elevation are two more stone tablets, which bear the Countess’s initials ‘MC’ and the date 1869.

HOWELL’S
In George St, off St James St, a three-storey row of houses known as Howells Court was erected in 1987 on the site of Howell’s Almshouses — ten small, stuccoed houses built in 1859 by a Charles Howell ‘for the benefit of the reduced inhabitants of Brighton and Hove’. The almshouses had become derelict by 1965.

PERCY AND WAGNER
The first six of these almshouses — the oldest buildings in Hanover — were built in 1795 at the bottom of Elm Grove, by Mrs Margaret Marriot, to commemorate her friends, the late Dorothea and Philadelphia Percy, daughters of the Duke of Northumberland. She stipulated that the houses had to be occupied by six poor widows who were members of the Church of England. The women were also given £48 per annum and a new gown and cloak every second year; this was later increased to £96 and two gowns and bonnets each year, and a duffel coat every third year. The original houses, nos.4-9, were the first Gothic revival buildings in Brighton. In 1859, another six houses, for six ‘poor maidens’, were added by the Revd Henry Wagner and his sister Mary, in memory of the Marquess of Bristol. By the 1960s, the almshouses were in a dilapidated condition and seemed doomed for demolition but were listed in March 1971 and restored in 1975-6, with financial assistance from Brighton Council. The interiors were redesigned and new kitchen and bathroom extensions were built at the back of the houses.

PILGRIM’S COTTAGES
This row of almshouses were built in 1852 in Spa St by the Soames’ family, for poor widows aged 60 and over; they were occupied until the mid-1960s.

ST BARTHOLOMEW’S
The Church and Priory of St Bartholomew stood on the site of Bartholomew House, just to the south-west of the junction of Market St and Prince Albert St. The chapel was established between 1120 and 1147 by the great Cluniac Priory of St Pancras at Lewes. It was partially destroyed by French raiders in 1514, but the Prior’s Lodge, a residence connected with the chapel, was spared. In 1547, the priory was dissolved under Henry VIII and some almshouses were erected on the land then known as the Bartholomews, which stretched from Little East St to Black Lion St. In 1592, the ruinous chapel and the other buildings of the Bartholomews were purchased on behalf of the town, and the almshouses were sold to the parish in 1733 for £17. The land was acquired by the town commissioners in 1824 for the construction of a new town hall.

STANMER
Numbers 11-12 of the village street were built as almhouses in 1912, in memory of Lilla, Countess of Chichester. Thomas Pelham was the first Earl of Chichester and, until 1947, the Pelham family owned Stanmer village.

Allot meant a lot in bygone days

In its earliest incarnation, Brighton was a town was a quarter of a mile square, comprising North St, West St, East St and South St, with ‘allotments’ of land in the middle of these; ‘The Lanes’ were the pathways between these ‘allotments’.

Prior to WWII, there was one allotment to every 16 households; after the wartime publicity drive to encourage people to ‘Dig for Victory’, this increased to one for every 12 households.

After the end of WWII and food rationing, many allotments in Brighton lay unused and some were sold off in the 1980s.

But the late 20th century’s rise in food prices and an interest in organic, grow-your-own produce in the town saw the demand for plots rocket and the waiting list for a plot on many sites is five years or more, with 1,979 people in the queue — some since January 1998.

There are 37 allotment sites in Brighton and Hove, providing plots for 2,500 tenants. In 2002, Brighton & Hove Allotment Federation launched an £80,000 appeal to convert three plots for disabled users and set up accessible raised box beds.

In 2009, the council announced that 100 new sites would be created to help meet demand: 40 new plots on Whitehawk Hill, and another 60 in neighbouring Craven Vale. Also that year, the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership received £500,000 from the Big Lottery fund for a three-year Harvest Brighton and Hove project, to identify and utilise new green spaces for growing food. The project also promotes food-growing in the city and initiatives, such as scrumping for unharvested apples.

However, on the minus side, in November 2009, a government planning inspector gave the go-ahead for four houses to be built on a narrow strip of former railway land allotments between London Rd station and Springfield Rd, at the back of the Open House pub. Developers Kingsbury Estate Ltd had taken the plans to a public inquiry after they were initially rejected by Brighton and Hove City Council, because of the impact on wildlife.

The group Friends of London Rd Old Railway Allotments was formed to oppose the proposal. Until 1992, the site was allotments cultivated by railway workers but the developers denied there were ever any allotments there. In January 2010, it was announced that a shortlist of proposals for the draft Sustainable Communities Act included one submitted by Brighton & Hove Council, which would enable allotment-holders to sell fruit and vegetables they grow.

Bygone days: Albion Hill

The steep slopes rising eastward from Grand Parade and Richmond Place reach 230 feet above sea-level near Windmill Terrace and make up the area known as Albion Hill. Developed with dense, poor quality housing as the town’s population soared in the first 30 years of the 19th century, much of the district degenerated into appalling slums and the many back streets, such as Nelson Row and Carlton Row where herrings were smoked on ‘dees’ by the fishermen, were notorious for the deprivation of their inhabitants. In 1868, the Brighton Home for Female Penitents was opened on the eastern side of Finsbury Rd, where it became known as the Albion Hill Home. In 1918, it closed but re-opened as the Albion Church Army Home for Girls. By the late 1940s, it was the Church Army Maternity and Child Welfare Home. It was demolished in 1958 and The Crown Hill and Westmount flats were built on the site in about 1961. The area’s worst slums persisted until the 1930s, when the corporation embarked upon a large-scale redevelopment scheme in the Morley St (formerly Sussex St) area, which resulted in the removal of many small houses and the opening of the Chest Clinic in 1936 (closed 1989), the Municipal Market, and the School Clinic and Infant Welfare Centre in 1938. Many residents were rehoused in the corporation’s first block of flats, the four-storey Milner Flats which was erected on the site of Woburn Place in 1934 and named after Alderman Hugh Milner Black, a champion of corporation housing. The adjacent Kingswood Flats, named for Minister of Health Sir Kingsley Wood, were built in 1938 on the sites of Nelson Place and a Primitive Methodist chapel of 1856 in Sussex St. The nearby Tarnerland council estate was developed on vacant land in 1931.

Clearances on the slopes to the north of Morley St commenced in 1959, the narrow streets and courtyards being replaced by flats and grassed open spaces. The town’s first ‘tower-block’ flats were erected on Albion Hill in 1961 and the area is now dominated by seven 11-storey blocks; Highleigh was the first, opened by Mayor Alan Johnson, on May 16 1961. One of the principal thoroughfares of Albion Hill was Richmond St, once the steepest road in the town (gradient 1:5) with a wall across its width at Dinapore St to stop runaway carts. Formerly lined with shops and public houses, it is now restricted to its upper reaches only, the lowest part having been rebuilt as Richmond Parade.

The Obed Arms was at number 126, on the corner of Dinapore St; built in 1860, both pub and street name had their origins in India — Dinapore being the name of a town involved in the Indian mutiny of 1857. Chate’s Farm Court, opened on February 26 1980, was built on the site of the Chate family’s dairy farm, Richmond Farm Dairy, which stood on the northern side of Richmond St from 1858 to 1934; no.34a appears to have been connected with it.

Lower down at the corner with Cambridge St, where the bottom of the zig-zag path now lies, stood the Ebenezer Baptist Chapel, a Renaissance-style building opened on April 13 1825. It was demolished in 1966 and the replacement, by CJ Wood, now stands in Richmond Parade. This is being redeveloped to provide a six-storey building with basement, comprising a new church and 49 self-contained flat, of which 26 are for affordable housing. Nearby, on the site of the Albion Brewery in Albion St, is the Elim Church of the Four Square Tabernacle, opened in September 1988 when the congregation moved from Union Street. The Albion/Stable Inn — was originally a drayman’s store opposite Tamplins stables — was at 7-8 Albion St, built in the 1860s and rebuilt in 1961. In the 1980s, it was run by Roy and Pam Pockney; he was the former chief conductor on the Brighton Belle, and chair of the Sussex Licensed Victuallers’ Association. The Free Butt, a tiny but popular live music venue in Albion St was built in 1821, and was originally part of the Phoenix Brewery; one of its regular customers was Harry Cowley.

Skeletons in the church

The Brighthelm United Reformed Church and Community Centre backs onto North Rd, and is adorned with a sculpture by John Skelton, depicting the loaves and fishes story. Built as a new home for the Central Free Church, it incorporates the former Hanover Chapel, which was built in 1825 as an Independent chapel for the Revd M Edwards, and then used by the Presbyterian Church from 1844 until 1972, when it combined with the Union Church. The chapel was then used as a Greek church until 1978, and the church hall in North Rd became a resource centre; it was gutted by fire in 1980. The southern facade of the Chapel, with twin porches, Tuscan columns and giant pilasters, has been preserved and restored.

In 1845, Queen’s Rd was constructed over the western edge of the Hanover Chapel’s burial ground, but the cemetery’s boundary wall and railing remain on the western side of Queen’s Road as a raised pavement. The churchyard became the corporation’s responsibility following the 1884 Brighton Improvement Act; it was laid out as a public garden, the Queen’s Rd Rest Garden, in 1949 when the gravestones were removed to line the perimeter walls.

In 1989, the churchyard was remodelled with access from Queen’s Rd. An obelisk monument in the garden has a very faint inscription to Dr Struve of the Royal Spa in Queen’s Park.

On August 15 1982, The Argus published a story, ‘Mystery of 500 bodies’, which revealed that a crypt containing hundreds of crumbling coffins and bones had been discovered underneath the remains of the resource centre when the Brighthelm Centre was being built. The chambers were first discovered on December 15 1981, when the roof of one of the chambers fell in. The subsequent excavation revealed many chambers, containing coffins of different types and from different eras – those commemorated with stone plaques were in fairly good condition, due to being lined with lead, and had been placed on separate shelves within chambers or in family groups within the chambers. The earlier, wooden coffins had mostly crumbled to pieces and there were no plaques or other memorials to indicate whose remains they had contained.

The discovery of the remains were kept largely secret from the public – apart from an advert in the local paper, asking for any surviving relatives to come forward and reclaim the remains, which yielded no replies. The excavation of the graves was carried out from April 1 to July 28 1982, and the remains were subsequently re-interred in a mass grave at Lawn Memorial Park, Warren Rd, Woodingdean.

Records were made of all the identified remains and kept on file, along with maps and photographs made by the Brighton Borough Surveyor, by the staff at Woodvale Lodge. It was believed the unidentified remains found amongst the crumbled wooden coffins may have been those of people who died as the result of some common illness, and probably dated back to the late 1700s.

At that time, scarlet fever was a serious health problem for adults and children throughout England. Later burials, from the 1820s onwards, included the family of William Wigney, a linen-draper; Harriet Stevens of North St; Stephen, Ann and Polly Ayling of Sussex St; Charlotte George, 11 Richmond Place; John Samuel Shepheard Spyring, 3 Western Place; Thomas Judson, Craven Cottage, Queens Road and Mary Rogers, 1 Upper Rock Gardens. Designed by John Wells-Thorpe (whose other designs included the new Hove Town Hall and St Patrick’s Church, Woodingdean), the Brighthelm Centre was opened on October 10 1987.

Black Rock Neighbourhood

Probably named after a large rock or cave that once lay at the foot of the cliffs, Black Rock, at Boundary Rd, marked the eastern limit of Brighton until 1928, a boundary which was fixed by an inquiry in 1606 after an argument over wrecker’s rights. Black Rock also marks the point where the white chalk of the South Downs meets the sea, and there are some unusual geological formations in the vicinity. Visible in the fawn-coloured cliffs behind the Asda superstore, about 15 feet above the Undercliff Walk, is a ‘raised beach’ of rounded, flint pebbles and sandy gravels up to 10 feet thick, resting on chalk. This beach was laid down around 100,000 years ago during a warm interval in the Ice Age and has yielded sea-shells and the remains of whales. Above lies a 45-foot-thick layer of ‘Coombe Rock’— chalky rubble eroded by freeze-thaw action during the colder periods and ‘sludged’ down into the valleys by the spring and summer rains. This layer has produced fossil remains of mammoths, woolly rhinos and hippopotamuses. The strata here may be seen to curve upwards where the solid chalk of the South Downs becomes exposed as cliffs; the prehistoric coastline was once at an oblique angle to the present cliffs. This area is protected as a site of special scientific interest. About 350 yards offshore to the west of the Marina breakwater is the site of an historic wreck, protected from interference by statute. On the sea-bed lies a large, timber framework from which a cannon ball, an anchor and other metal objects have been recovered. The origin of the wreck is uncertain but it may be a French ship from one of the 16th-century raids on Brighton, or even a Spanish galleon from the 1588 Armada. The first development at Black Rock was the gas-works, established in 1818-19 by the Brighton Gas Light and Coke Company. This was soon followed by some terraced housing and shops, in Black Rock Cottages, Rifle Butt Rd and Hillside Cottages and, by 1828, the Abergavenny Arms had also opened. A small laundry, employing four women who hand-washed everything, was run in Hillside Cottages; their customers included the Duke of Fife. Black Rock House was two houses knocked into one, consisting of 18 rooms. It ran as a hotel, then a guest house, and was eventually converted into flats. The bakery in Rifle Butt Rd opened in 1856 and was run by the Stevens family from 1926 until its enforced closure in 1972; it was still using the same coal-fired oven installed 116 years earlier.

Constant erosion claimed the Black Rock cliff top 75 feet inland between 1847 and 1897 — a major landslip occurred in 1843 — causing the closure of the road to Rottingdean and the opening of Roedean Rd as an alternative; large landslips continued into the 1920s. In 1824, a tunnel was constructed from the eastern end of the Kemp Town esplanade to the gas-works to facilitate the carting of coal, but it fell into disuse once coal started to be landed at Aldrington Basin, and was blocked at both ends by the town commissioners in 1850, after it had collapsed in the middle. In January 1906, Magnus Volk rented the southern entrance and, describing it falsely as a smugglers’ cave, used it briefly as a tourist attraction for his railway extension to Black Rock. The entrance disappeared completely when the corporation constructed public conveniences in the 1930s. Black Rock Farm survived until 1928, when the corporation bought the land there. On July 22 1932, with the cliffs now protected by the Undercliff Walk, a new 60-foot-wide highway, the Marine Drive, was opened between Black Rock and Rottingdean; the old inn was demolished at this time. The small community at Black Rock, centred on Rifle Butt Rd, was eventually demolished for the construction of the Marina road interchange which opened in 1976. The graves of the Quaker cemetery there were exhumed and the remains were taken to Lawn Memorial cemetery, where they were re-interred in a mass grave.

Black Rock was perhaps best known for its swimming-pool, formally opened on the site of a terrace garden on August 8 1936, and necessitating a slight shortening of Volk’s Railway. The pool, 165 feet by 60 feet, closed in 1978 and the handsome changing room and café building was demolished; in March 1984, demolition of the open air pool itself began. A major cliff collapse in recent times followed a winter of intense rain, and the soft layers of Coombe Deposits in the cliff behind Asda failed and a major fall blocked the Undercliff Walk, almost reaching the store. The walk was closed for some time before extensive work was carried out to sensitively secure the cliff face in what is an important natural site, designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The Black Rock cliffs were closed to the public again in 2001 and 2004, when storms caused parts of them to crumble and fall onto the Undercliff Walk. In 2005, professional abseilers from Uckfield builders CJ Thorne sank bolts into the rocks which were aimed at holding the rocks in place for the next 50 years. In July 2005, a sand sculpture festival was held at Black Rock beach, featuring Egyptian-style dragons, sphinxes, and Tutankhamun’s tomb, made by 60 carvers using 10,000 tonnes of sand.

In recent years, Black Rock has become the focus of several unrealised proposed major developments — some more controversial than others. However, a plan to build 147 homes on the set received a setback when, in March 2010, a High Court decision ruled that property developers would have to pay a substantial share of the costs involved in cleaning up such contaminated sites. In October 2003, RH Partnership and the Brighton International Arena became the two preferred bidders for the former pool site; RH’s proposal featured plans for a 150-bed, 5-star hotel by Forte, complete with health spa, winter garden and biodome. Brighton International Arena’s $50 million proposal was to include an 11,000-seat indoor events arena with two Olympic ice rinks (for skating and ice hockey) plus 109 residential apartments, 40 per cent of these ‘affordable’. Jayne Torvill and Robin Cousins supporting this scheme and proposed that it should be the home of a national ice dance centre. Brighton & Hove Council favoured this scheme, which was opposed by residents and a number of groups, including the Regency Society. However, the scheme — like other major developments in the city — was put on ice when the 2009 recession/credit crunch took its toll and financial backer Erinaceous went bust.

BHASVIC – the Brighton Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College

This originated as the Brighton Proprietary Grammar and Commercial School, founded in July 1859 at Lancaster House, 47 Grand Parade. Pupils were nominated and elected to the proprietary school by shareholders, to be transferred later to the higher school on approval. There, they were instructed in the classics, arithmetic, bookkeeping, accounting, etc, and also received a non-sectarian religious education. Non-proprietary pupils paid an entrance fee of one guinea and a quarterly fee of £2 10 shillings. On May 27 1868, the 180 pupils of the Brighton Grammar School marched in procession to a new, plain, three-storey school building in Buckingham Rd. The headmaster from 1861 until 1899 was EJ Marshall, to whom a plaque has been erected on the adjacent 79 Buckingham Rd. Due to the increasing number of pupils, the Grammar School moved for a second time in September 1913 to a site off Dyke Rd; the Buckingham Rd building at the corner of Upper Gloucester Rd then became the Sussex Maternity Hospital. The new school, designed by SB Russell, was known as the Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School; the playing fields occupy 15 acres. The murals in the school hall were painted by Louis Ginnett, master at Brighton School of Art, between 1913 and 1939, on the theme ‘The History of Man in Sussex’: they were ‘Prehistoric man in Sussex’, ‘The Roman prefect builds at Bignor’, ‘The siege of Pevensey’, ‘After the battle of Hastings’, ‘Rye after the Armada’, ‘The old boys’ war memorial’, ‘Sussex ironworking’, ‘The pavilion, George IV receives a loyal address’ and ‘Hollingbury camp, full circle’. The first three panels were unveiled in October 1913 and another two were unveiled in August 1914, when the school was requisitioned for use as a military hospital. The hall bears the names of those who died during this time, and Ginnett’s fifth panels were dedicated to ex-pupils lost in WWI. Ginnett also designed — with one of his ex-pupils, the painter Charles Knight — the school hall’s stained glass windows. The school continued after the Great War as a grammar school until 1975 when, after a reorganisation of secondary eduction in Brighton, it became a sixth-form college, known as ‘BHASVIC’.

About 60% of its students come from Brighton and Hove, but many come from other state and independent schools throughout Sussex. There are approximately 1740 students, of whom approximately 90% follow GCE or AVCE Advanced courses. The majority of students are in the 16-19 age range, and following full-time courses. About 70% of its advanced level students go on to a degree course at university or a specialist course at a college of further education. The College was last inspected by Ofsted during the Autumn Term 2007. Following the publication of the Ofsted Report, BHASVIC was awarded Beacon Status in July 2008.

A new Sports Centre was opened in April 2003, and planning permission was granted for further development during 2008-2009. Disabled access ramps and steps were built in 2005 by Nick Evans Architects. Well-known former pupils of the Grammar School include the artist Aubrey Beardsley, writer and broadcaster Tony Hawks, composer Howard Blake OBE (best known for The Snowman) and barrister and former Conservative MP Sir Ivan Lawrence. The school celebrated 150 years of its history with a lunch for more than 140 Old Boys and guests, in the school hall on July 4 2009.

Extinct Bears in Brighton

Brighton’s basketball team was formed in 1973 by Dave Goss, with a squad of part-time players; the team’s fixtures were in the County League. The team were known as the Brighton Bears until 1984, when they became the Worthing Bears, before returning to their original name in 1999. They played in the British Basketball League and their home venue was the Brighton Centre.

The Bears started playing in the National League Division Two in the 1977-78 season and signed their first overseas players — Americans Kevin Kallaugher, Fritz Mayer and Pete Durgerian. By the 1981-82 season, they were playing in Division One but finished it bottom of the league.

In 1983-84, a new head coach, Bill Sheridan, improved the team and they finished that season in 8th place. However, financial problems meant they had to leave the Brighton Arena and play home games in arenas all over the south, including Bognor, Eastleigh and Hastings. Eventually, the settled in Worthing, based at the Leisure Centre there, and began the 1984/85 season as the Worthing Bears.

In November 1984, the club secured a sponsorship package with Nissan and became known as Nissan Bears of Worthing. This sponsorship ended at the conclusion of the 1985-86 season and, failing to secure new sponsors, the club did not play for over a year.

Eventually, the Bears were resurrected in time for the National League Division One 1987/88 season; they won the league, with an unbeaten record. The club went on to beat Brixton to become Division One Play-off Champions.

In 1989, they gained another American player, Herman Harried; he top-scored in 21 of his 26 games that season, and his statistics read 31 points, 18 rebounds, 3 assists, 4.5 steals and 3 blocks per game. In 1990/91, the Bears entered the Premiership and won the Club of the Year award.

Despite all their success, the club was always plagued by financial problem and, in 1995, it was put up for sale; Brighton Council saved the day with a £30,000 grant. However, a year later, the council withdrew an agreed £25,000 grant after the club put its franchise up for sale without informing councillors. In August 1997, American multi-millionaire Greg Fullerton bought the franchise; by November, he had pulled out, without explanation. Unsurprisingly, the club finished bottom of the league that year.

The following season came the announcement that the Bears were returning to the Brighton Centre for the 1999/2000 season, in the hope that increased revenue and media exposure would give them a secure financial future. Initially, this proved to be the case, but attendances fell the following year.

In 2002/2003, coach Nick Hurse became sole owner of the club and All Stars Rico Alderson and Ralph Blalock were signed; the Bears won their first 11 games of the season. In 2005/2006, NBA legend Dennis Rodman played for the club for three games, fresh from his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, and he drew huge audiences for the Bears. It later transpired that the Bears had broken player eligibility rules by playing Rodman alongside their three permitted work-permit players. In the summer of 2006, the Bears announced that they would be taking a year off from the BBL ‘in the interests of the long term viability of the franchise’.

Nick Nurse was explored the possibility for club into an NBA Development League or the proposed rival British Basketball Association (BBA), but nothing came of these plans. Nurse moved back to the US, and club was dissolved. The Brighton Bears played their last game in the British Basketball League on April 14 2006.

Fortifications in Brighton

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.