- This article is about the English city; for other places called Brighton, see Brighton (disambiguation).
Brighton in East Sussex is one of the largest and most famous seaside resorts in England. Brighton and Hove form a single conurbation but Brighton's lively atmosphere is a direct contrast to its near neighbour which has quieter and more refined character. The two boroughs were joined together to form the unitary authority of Brighton and Hove in 1997, which in 2000 was granted city status.
While any British history predating the first mentions by literate Romans is, by definition, consigned to an obscured landscape known intimidatingly as 'prehistory', a few things are known about the area. Whitehawk Camp - a natural viewpoint - is bisected by Manor Road. The centre of this early neolithic causewayed enclosure is someway toward the aerial mast on the south side of Manor Road, opposite the grandstand. Just north of today's retail park, built over the site of the town's soccer ground in the late 1990's, you can visit The Goldstone. There is a plaque telling us it was believed to be a used for some purpose (ceremonial? geomantic?) around 2000BC. A standing stone circle on the same site (today's Hove Park) is documented up to 1820, when the farmer had had one too many 'antiquarians' traipsing over his crop and buried the stones. After a considerable and scholarly review, Paul Harwood of Birmingham's Institute of Archaeology & Antiquity noted that there are "a concentration of Beaker burials on the fringes of the central chalklands around Brighton, and a later cluster of Early and Middle Bronze Age ‘rich graves' in the same area." Of considerable interest from the Bronze Age is the Hove Amber Cup. During nineteenth century building work near Palmeira Square, workmen tasked with removing an earth mound inadvertently 'excavated' a significant burial mound. A defining point on the landscape since at least 1500BC, this 20 foot high tomb yielded, amongst other treasures, the Hove Amber Cup. Made of translucent red Baltic Amber and approximately the same size as a regular china teacup, the impressive artifact can be seen in Hove Museum. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle contains the first mention of a settlement in the area at Beorthelm's-tun (the town of Beorthelm). In the Domesday Book, Brighton was called Bristemestune and a rent of 4000 herring was established. In June 1514, the fishing village then known as Brighthelmstone was burnt to the ground by the French as part of a war between the two which began as a result of the Treaty of Westminster (1511). Later on in Henry's reign, the residents of the town petitioned the monarch for defensive cannon. Part of their 'pitch' was an illustrated map (1545) showing the French raid of 1511. A display copy of the map can be seen in Hove Museum.
18th and 19th century
Brighton remained a small fishing village up until the 18th century. Brighthelmstone began to change in 1753 when Dr Richard Russell of Lewes published his thesis on sea bathing, which proclaimed the benefit to health of the salt water of Brighton. He set up house there and before long, the rich and the sick had started to make their way to the seaside. By 1780, development of the Regency terraces had started and the town quickly became the fashionable resort of Brighton. The growth of the town was further encouraged when, in 1786, the young Prince Regent later King George IV, rented a farmhouse in order to escape from public life. Eventually he spent much of his leisure time in the town and constructed the exotic-looking Royal Pavilion, which is the town's best-known landmark. The Kemp Town estate (at the heart of the Kemptown district) was constructed between 1823 and 1855, and is a good example of Regency architecture.
The West Pier, showing the collapse of the concert hall, before the fire.
The West Pier on 24th June 2004, after the most recent collapse.
The Palace Pier (renamed Brighton Pier in 2000) opened in May 1899 and is still popular. It suffered a large fire on 4 February 2003 but the damage was limited and most of the pier was able to reopen the next day.
The even older West Pier, built in 1866, has been closed since 1975 awaiting renovation. The West Pier is one of only two Grade I listed piers in the UK, the other being Clevedon Pier. Plans to renovate the pier have been opposed by some local residents who claim that the proposed new onshore structures - which the renovators need to pay for the work on the pier - would obstruct their view of the sea. The restoration is also opposed by the owners of the Brighton Pier, who reportedly see its subsidised rebuilding, were it to happen, as unfair competition.
The West Pier partially collapsed on December 29, 2002 when a walkway connecting the concert hall and pavilion fell into the sea after being battered by storms. On January 20, 2003 a further collapse saw the destruction of the concert hall in the middle of the pier. On March 28, 2003 the pavilion at the end of the pier caught fire. Firefighters were unable to save the building from destruction because of the precarious state of the walkway. The cause of the fire remains unknown. On May 12, 2003, another fire broke out, consuming most of what was left of the concert hall. Arson was suspected. On June 23, 2004 high winds caused the middle of the pier to completely collapse.
Despite all these setbacks, the owner of the site West Pier Trust remained adamant they would soon begin full restoration work. Finally, in December 2004, the trust admitted defeat, after their plans were rejected by English Heritage and the Lottery Heritage Fund . They still hope to rebuild the pier in some form, though restoration is no longer their goal.
In the early hours of October 12th 1984 an IRA bomb exploded in the Grand Hotel where leading members of the governing Conservative Party were staying. Four people were killed in the blast (including Sir Anthony Berry), and another subsequently died of her injuries. The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, narrowly escaped injury, although members of her Government were injured - most notably Norman Tebbit. However, no member of the cabinet was killed.
In Brighton, the area occupied by the original fishing village has become The Lanes - a collection of narrow alleyways now filled with a mixture of antique shops, restaurants, bistros and pubs. That name was derived from 'Laine ', which was apparently an old unit of Anglo-Saxon field measurement. The North Laine area still keeps the original spelling.
The city has a large gay community, mainly based in the Kemptown area of the city, and is home to two universities, the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton. It is sometimes known as 'London by the Sea' because of its lively atmosphere and cosmopolitan nature and also because of the large number of visitors from London, although Brighton residents have been heard referring to London as 'Brighton by-the-land'. In the summer, thousands of young students from all over Europe gather in the city to attend language courses there.
Brighton is considered a fairly radical town due to the large numbers of political movements and activities, for instance SchNEWS, a local newsletter. It has a reputation for being chilled-out and relaxed, although anyone braving Churchill Square on a Saturday afternoon might well dispute that claim, nevertheless, Brighton certainly does seem to operate at a different pace to the rest of the country.
Brighton is renowned for its lively music scene, having spawned a number of successful bands in recent years, not least Fatboy Slim, The Levellers, British Sea Power,The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, The Go! Team, The Love Gods , Electrelane and the Electric Soft Parade . Brighton is also fast becoming home of a thriving hardcore punk scene with bands such as The Permenant, Johnny Truant, and The Deepend making an impact at a national level. It boasts a number of record labels, including Skint Records, LOCA Records, Kayotix , Catskills and others, and a range of celebrated clubs.
Brighton is renowned for its large number of bars - you can drink in a different bar on each day of the year. The city has over fifty churches, so you can repent your drunken sins in a different one every week of the year. Hove is seen by some as a more desirable location than Brighton and it is often referred to by locals as "Hove actually". This is because when a questioner asks a Hove resident whether they live in Brighton, they are frequently met with the response "No, Hove actually!".
Brighton is the home of Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.
Brighton railway station was built by the London & Brighton Railway in 1840. The station provides fast and frequent connections to Gatwick Airport and London Victoria, as well via the Thameslink line to Bedford.
Welcome to Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company operate the local bus service with over 250 buses. The company started in 1880s. It has been owned by the Go-Ahead Group since 1993.
Brighton in literature
Brighton in film
Last updated: 07-31-2005 09:05:31