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.

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.

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 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).

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.