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.

Architectural Styles in Brighton

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

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

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

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

The other use of flint is the form of wall which is known colloquially as ‘bungeroosh’ and is very often to be seen in boundary walls, and in internal walls which are subsequently plastered.
GEORGIAN The streets of the East Cliff contain numerous examples of small-scale, Georgian-style housing, many with bows to allow visitors and lodgers a view down the road to the sea. Other good examples may be found at Bartholomews; 15 Prince Albert St; Ship St; and a terrace at Tilbury Place, reminiscent of Georgian London.
GOTHIC Despite the many Victorian churches and chapels, there are few examples of domestic Gothic-revival architecture in the town. The Percy and Wagner Almshouses; the former Debenhams store, Western Rd; and Wykeham Terrace are the best examples.
MATHEMATICAL TILES These were hung on timber-framed buildings to give the appearance of higher quality brick walls, and it is usually difficult to distinguish them from the real thing. Black, glazed mathematical tiles are easy to discern, and may be seen at many locations including Jubilee Library; Grand Parade; Manchester St; Market St; Old Steine; Pool Valley; Royal Crescent; and York Place; also at Patcham Place and Wootton House, Patcham; and at North End House, Rottingdean. No.8 Wentworth St is a good example of a house faced in cream-coloured mathematical tiles; many other late 18th and early 19th-century houses in the East Cliff area are also faced with these tiles.
RED BRICK From the 1890s to the 1920s, large areas of red-brick housing were erected, particularly in Preston. Fine examples, often with decorated gables, may be seen at Beaconsfield Villas; Compton Rd; Ditchling Rd; Edburton Avenue; Hollingbury Park Avenue; Inwood Crescent; Queen’s Park Rise; Queen’s Park Terrace; St James’s Avenue; St Luke’s Rd; St Luke’s Terrace; and Southdown Avenue. Much larger red-brick residences are found in Beaconsfield Villas; Dyke Rd; Harrington Rd; and Preston Park Avenue.

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

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

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

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

From the late 1820s until the 1860s, a later style was in evidence which retained some elements of the Regency period. Many houses were refronted with newly fashionable wide bows while new houses in this style were erected at Belvedere Terrace; Chesham Place; Chichester Place; Clarendon Terrace; Eastern Terrace; Eaton Place; Grand Parade; Montpelier Rd; Norfolk Square; Percival Terrace; Powis Square; and St George’s Place. Attractive Italianate villas were built at Buckingham Place; Clifton Terrace; 128-130 Dyke Rd; Montpelier Rd; Montpelier Villas; Powis Villas; and Russell Crescent. Less impressive but still attractive contemporary cottages may be found at Blenheim Place; Camden Terrace; Clarence Gardens; Crown Gardens; Crown St; Dean St; Frederick Gardens; Hanover St; Marlborough St; Norfolk St; North Gardens; Regent Hill; Spring St; and Trafalgar Terrace.
VICTORIAN Angular window bays and decorative details are the typical features of mid to late-19th century Brighton houses and public buildings. Houses of the period may be found in many parts of the town, especially in the Hanover, St Saviour’s and Prestonville areas, while good examples of grander Victorian terracing may be found at Buckingham Rd; Denmark Terrace; Gladstone Terrace; Park Crescent; Round Hill Crescent; St Michael’s Place and Vernon Terrace.

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

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

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

Private housing ranged from the ‘Tudorbethan’ style of Braybons Ltd in the Valley Drive area and the brown brick of the Brangwyn Estate, to the numerous bungalows of the Ladies Mile, Ovingdean, Patcham, Saltdean and Woodingdean.
POST-WAR DEVELOPMENT The immediate post-war need was for housing and large estates were rapidly erected by the council at Bevendean, Coldean and Hollingbury. However, a little of the pre-war style lingered on into the 1950s, with buildings such as the Western Bathing Pavilion; Barclays Bank, North St; and some of the factories on the Hollingbury and Moulsecoomb Way industrial estates.

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

Other less objectionable buildings of the era include Brighton Square; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Coldean; Church of the Holy Cross, Woodingdean; Church of the Holy Nativity, Bevendean; and the Spiritualist Church, Edward St.
‘POST-WILSON’ On March 22 1973, Brighton Council unanimously rejected the ‘Wilson report’ — a town-centre plan by Sir Hugh Wilson and Lewis Womersley which proposed large-scale road construction in the vicinity of Preston Circus and a ‘spine road’ through the North Laine to a car-park in Church Street. These would both have involved the demolition of over 500 houses as an interim measure, preluding even more extensive new road construction.

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

WEATHER-BOARDING A few examples are to be found in the centre of Brighton: 29-30 and 43 Meeting House Lane; 37a Duke St; and 179 Edward St. There are also weather-boarded houses at 8-9 The Square, Patcham; and barns at Patcham and Stanmer.
ARGUS LOFTS Once owned by the Southern Publishing Co, this building on the corner of Robert St and North Rd — former site of Robinson’s printing works — was the home of the Argus newspaper printing works from 1926 until 1992, when the paper moved to its new premises in Hollingbury. Workers used to drink at the Canteen pub, sited where the Bathstore shop is.

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

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

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.

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.