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.

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.

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.