At the end of the A23 – Stop before you hit the sea!
Brighton is the largest town in Sussex and the largest seaside resort in the South-East. One writer called it an amalgam of the raucous and the refined. It combines gracious 18th century architecture with modern recreational facilities. The old fishing village that preceded ‘Brighton’ has long since disappeared below the waves although traces of Neolithic and Roman occupancy has been found in the area of the town. In Tudor times the town was built behind wooden walls to protect it from the marauding French but the walls did not save it being burnt down twice in the 16th century. Nowadays the marauding French are more likely to be welcome foreign language students.
In the early 1750’s Dr. Russell travelled from the nearby town of Lewes and prescribed sea bathing and the drinking of sea water as the cure for most ills. He was very successful in his persuasions and many wealthy invalids flocked to the village to partake of his ‘wonder cure’. This ‘cure’ is probably responsible for turning the little village into a ‘spa’ in record time.
The town was permanently put on the map in 1783 when the Prince of Wales, later King George IV, took a trip to the seaside. He liked it so much that in 1787 he told Henry Holland build him a pad on the site of the farm house he had rented on his first trip. Brighton had arrived! Soon his mates, his being the future King that is, built Regency terraces so they, the fops, could continue to bow and scrape. No change there, then!
Holland erected a large building in the ‘Classical’ style with the interior decorated in ‘Chinese taste’, which was popular at the time. No flies on H. Holland Esq.! Between 1815 & 1822 this Royal Pavilion was rebuilt, this time to plans by John Nash in the Indian Moghul style that it still retains. The onion-shaped domes, spires and minarets are still a glorious landmark as you drive towards the pier.
After he was crowned, the King continued to use it on a regular basis until 1827. Later his brother, King William IV also spent time at the Royal Pavilion. However Queen Victoria complained of lack of privacy and abandoned it in 1845. With her went most of the furnishings. It fell into disrepair and eventually the Brighton authorities purchased it in 1850. It was used for many activities until being fully restored. With many original furnishings that were returned from Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle together with many on permanent loan from Queen Elizabeth II the Royal Pavilion is now a major asset and tourist attraction.
The Royal Pavilion is well worth a visit.
Near the Pavilion is the Art Gallery & Museum. Back up the A23 about 2.5 miles is Preston Manor, the furniture and decorations of which have not changed since before the First World War.
For two centuries Brighton has been the Queen of British seaside resorts and should not be missed by visitors to Sussex.
Modern Brighton, old name of Brighthelmstone, has very little older than Regency period. It is however a truly vibrant town, open to any new idea it seems! This is probably contributed to by the large number of students in the area. Street life in the warmer months is without parallel………….. you can eat (and drink) outside for many months of the year. Theatre, shows, cinemas, arts festivals.. you name it, Brighton has it. It is also a year round resort with plenty to do at all times.
It is now a major conference centre for organisations from far and wide. For those of an artistic temperament, the colours of the sea and sky in winter should not be missed.
The sea which washes the mainly pebble beach, is rarely anything other than chilly but there are brave (or should I say foolhardy) individuals who swim in these water 365 days a year! Palace Pier, one of the few survivors of this 19th century genre, thrives with masses of visitors even in mid winter. There are a mass of amusements on the pier (as indeed there are throughout the town) For some years there has been debate about the rebuilding of the much damaged West Pier. It seems possible that this will finally be restored to its former magnificence within the next decade. Fingers crossed! Brighton marina is extremely busy with hundreds of yachts moored beside the relatively newly constructed homes.
One of the most popular areas of the town is ‘The Lanes’, where there are a variety of shops (many antique and jewellery), crammed into this jumble of thoroughfares just behind the sea and just over the road from the Royal Pavilion.
Brighton also has wonderful rail links to central London which can be reached within an hour. Coaches are much cheaper and very frequent although they take considerably longer. From Gatwick Airport the train takes about half an hour.