Each month we produce a history feature. There are several writers all living in Brighton producing fasinating ....
Posted in History on Dec 01, 2017
Like many of the festive customs we enjoy today, exchanging greetings cards with relatives, friends and neighbours originated over 170 years ago in Victorian Britain, at a time when early Christmas rituals like carols were being revived and new customs embraced. The first commercial Christmas card was introduced by Sir Henry Cole, a civil servant and inventor who had assisted Sir Rowland Hill with the launch of the Uniform Penny Post in January 1840. Previously, postage had been prohibitively expensive, but the pre-paid penny post was both efficient and affordable for the wider population and sending items through the post gained in popularity. On 1st May 1843, Cole commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to design a special card for people to send at Christmas. Horsley’s hand-coloured illustration portraying an affluent family enjoying a lavish meal and raising their wine glasses to the onlooker was reportedly controversial, considered irreligious by some; however, two runs of Horsley’s cards were printed, totalling 2,050, and all sold within that year at one shilling each. The Christmas card tradition was born.
Posted in History on Nov 01, 2017
Remembering this November the loyal and courageous men and women who served in times of war and following the continuing 1914-1918 Centenary commemorations, here we revisit the evolving role of women during the Great War. Our article of November 2015 considered those who trained as VAD nurses and undertook transport and postal work early on, more becoming ‘munitionettes’ and labouring in heavy industry, particularly from 1915. As the rising death toll overseas fuelled demand for more servicemen, prompting conscription in 1916, so women became indispensable on the Home Front, some eventually being recruited into military units. By 1917 an unprecedented number of British women were in uniform.
Posted in History on Oct 01, 2017
This year marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution – political uprisings that toppled Imperial Russian rule, shook a world already ruptured by WW1 and even has an intriguing connection to Brighton.
Posted in History on Sep 01, 2017
September: children are returning to school and days are shortening. The harvest is in and summer will soon incline towards autumn. The word ‘harvest’ originally derived from the Old English word hærfest, meaning ‘autumn’, then came to describe the season for reaping and gathering grain and other crops. Since pagan times in Britain, thanks have been given for successful harvests, through prayer, feasting and celebrations.
Posted in History on Sep 01, 2017
Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club’s history is illustrious, bizarre, tragic, tumultuous and heart-warming. Endeavouring to fit all the promotions, relegations, ups, downs, boardroom struggles, protests, ground moves and sheer do-or-die tension into a thousand words is going to be tricky!
Posted in History on Aug 01, 2017
High summer and school’s out! Off to the beach…Our love of the seaside dates back centuries, originating with the spas visited for therapeutic purposes. In around 1626 a natural spring was discovered beneath cliffs near Scarborough, mineral water that proved an effective remedy for minor ailments. Sea water began to be identified as having similar curative properties to spring water and learned medical publications extolled the benefits of both sea bathing and drinking sea water. Subsequently Scarborough evolved into a sophisticated commercialized town, Britain’s first seaside resort; by the mid-1700s Brighton, Margate, Weymouth and other well-appointed coastal settlements were also attracting a wealthy, fashionable clientele.
Posted in History on Jul 01, 2017
Visiting the seaside became fashionable in Georgian Britain, gaining widespread popularity during the Victorian age when expanding railway networks offered fast, affordable travel to developing coastal resorts. Just as seaside tourism was advancing, so the new portrait medium of photography was becoming established, with pioneering professional photographers launching commercial studios during the 1840s. As David Simkin, local photographic historian, explains, the first photographic portrait rooms opened in Brighton on Monday 8th November 1841 at 57 Marine Parade, their proprietor William Constable
Posted in History on Jun 01, 2017
From 17 June, a new display at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton will explore Jane Austen’s relationship with coastal towns and life in Brighton during her time, to mark the bicentenary of her death. Jane Austen by the Sea will look at the seaside context of Austen’s novels and letters and paint a picture of the fashionable seaside resorts in the late 18th and early 19th century. When I was asked to curate a display on one of the most important and influential writers in literary history, I was thrilled, especially as it was through literature that I fell in love with the English language and British culture in general.
Posted in History on Jun 01, 2017
Brighton & Hove residents reputedly drink more coffee and visit more cafés than anyone elsewhere in the UK. Evidently cafés, café bars and coffee shops play an important role in our lives, as places of refreshment, social venues and work hubs - and this all began centuries ago.
Posted in History on May 01, 2017
Brighton is having a bit of a John Constable moment this year. A beautiful exhibition of his seaside paintings runs at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery from April to October and, during Brighton Festival in May, his former home and studio in the city will be an Open House - with artists making modern works inspired by his vivid landscapes.
Posted in History on Apr 01, 2017
For centuries, the foibles of fashion have been mocked and condemned. Early Christian churchmen preaching humility denounced overt sartorial display as sinful and ungodly. When tailoring advanced in the late-11th and 12th centuries, provocative tight-fitting garments, long pointed shoes, excessive jewellery, and long hair in men were proclaimed immoral, temptations of the Devil. These modes were also considered unmanly: in Historia Novorum in Anglia, historian and ecclesiastic Eadmer related how by 1100 ‘…
Posted in History on Mar 01, 2017
The hair on our heads, besides keeping us warm, is an important distinguishing feature and throughout history wigs and false locks have been used to replace or augment natural tresses, often in the name of fashion, for practicality, to indicate social status, even religious faith.
Posted in History on Feb 01, 2017
As winter drags on, we look at the history of hand-knitted clothes. An ancient, widely-practised craft, knitting is the creation of fabric from a single thread formed into horizontal rows of loops that interlock with each subsequent row. Historically, the natural yarns available were linen, hemp, wool and later cotton, although wool was often favoured for its softness and warmth. For centuries, wooden sticks, bone, ivory or quills were the basic hand-tools used, until fine steel needles became more commonplace in the 1800s. Over time, diverse customs evolved in different areas, regional variations giving the knitting of specific locations a strong visual identity; yet the familiar knit and purl loop construction was almost universal and similar knitted textiles have been produced worldwide for centuries.
Posted in History on Jan 01, 2017
I used to live in the North Laine, we moved there in January 1985 and I can’t tell you how exciting it was. We could open the door of our Robert Street house and (if we avoided getting run over by Argus lorries) find everything we needed just steps away: there was a fish monger, a butcher, a baker and a green grocer just in Sydney Street alone; in Gardner Street, a small Tescos, a purveyor of eggs and a shop that sold shoes for vegetarians. Then there was delicious bread from Infinity Foods, a selection of great pubs, and, for a truly new shopping experience, a visit to Anita Roddick’s Body Shop in Kensington Gardens. As young people-about-town we really didn’t want for more!
Posted in History on Dec 01, 2016
The rampant consumerism at this time of year can seem excessive, almost overwhelming, and yet the avalanche of marketing and merchandise is not entirely new, as Christmas shopping has been big business for generations. Well over a century ago, advertisements for seasonal goods loomed large on billboards, sandwich boards and posters, filled handbills and periodicals, while many shops began stocking their festive fare in September or October.
Posted in History on Nov 01, 2016
30th June 1916 “The Day that Sussex Died” Commemorating The Battle at Ferme du Bois near Richebourg
Posted in History on Oct 01, 2016
On 6th November a unique local spectacle takes place, the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. Organised by the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) and Bonhams, this is the world’s longest-running motoring event, attracting participants and spectators from around the globe. The original Emancipation Run of 14th November 1896 celebrated the passing of the Locomotives on the Highway Act (or ‘Red Flag Act’) that raised the official road speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from 4mph to 14mph and abolished the requirement for a man on foot to precede these vehicles. The event was first formally re-enacted in 1927 and has been commemorated every subsequent November, except during WW2 and in 1947, when petrol was rationed. This year marks the 120th anniversary of the original 1896 Emancipation Run.
Posted in History on Sep 01, 2016
For many women, September is ‘hopping time’; the coming of autumn, the time when they, their mothers and grandmothers made the annual journey to Kent. It is now just a fond memory held by a diminishing few, but nevertheless a marker in the year that is not forgotten.
Posted in History on Aug 01, 2016
With the focus now on the Olympic Games, we look back at nineteenth and early-twentieth century sports and sportswear. Before the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, men enjoyed energetic activities like football, rowing and athletics, wearing comfortable adaptations of regular dress or early sportswear. Conversely, undertaking strenuous exercise and winning at competitive events weren’t deemed appropriate for Victorian ladies and underlying these issues were deep-rooted concerns over dress, particularly the ‘immodest’ exposure of the legs, or even their clothed outline. It wasn’t considered decent for women to wear the kinds of clothes that would provide the physical freedom needed to excel in sports and early female sportswear aimed to conceal, hampering the progress of female competition sport. Only in the early-1900s when clothing conventions began to relax, did a shift occur, the gradual development of more modern, movement-enhancing sportswear furthering the expansion of the Games and sporting prowess.
Posted in History on Jul 01, 2016
In May I wrote about the Brighton Unitarian Church and, whilst doing my research, stumbled upon some interesting stories about the construction and history of New Road. It is now one of the most popular places to visit in the City, but it started as just a small part of the Prince Regent’s convoluted plan to form an enclosed estate around the Pavilion.
Posted in History on Jun 01, 2016
Historically the social elite always led fashion and, although dress today is shaped by various influences, the general public remain fascinated by royal style. Born on 21st April 1926, Her Majesty the Queen made her public debut in May, wearing the hereditary royal christening robes of silk and lace, first created for Queen Victoria’s daughter, Vicky in 1841. She still attracts worldwide attention ninety years later.
Posted in History on May 01, 2016
During this year’s festival season, New Road will be positively humming with activity. If you find yourselves there, on the way to the Dome theatre perhaps, watching a street performance or just sitting outside a pub soaking up the festival spirit, take a minute to look at the buildings around you. There is one, in particular, different to all the adjacent buildings that I think is definitely worth exploring.
Posted in History on Apr 01, 2016
If asked to write a list of all the public gardens in Brighton, I suspect most people would forget to include The Rockery. This really is one of Brighton’s best kept “secrets”. It gets overlooked by residents and is largely unknown to the countless people who drive past it every day. So, in its 80th year, the Garden Manager, Andy Jeavons, and I thought it would be a good idea to shine a little light on its history, the way it is now and plans for the future.
Posted in History on Mar 01, 2016
Who wears the trousers in your house? Unlike modern women, who dress mainly as they please, earlier generations were both restricted and defined as the weaker sex by their ‘petticoats’. As we mark Mother’s Day and International Women’s Day in March, let’s consider some of the pioneering women who defied convention by literally wearing the trousers (or bloomers or breeches), ignoring censure and paving the way for the sartorial freedoms enjoyed today.
Posted in History on Feb 01, 2016
Whichever way you look at it, “the history of homelessness” is a huge subject, both in terms of the number of years it spans and the devastating impact it has had (and still has) on people’s lives.
Posted in History on Jan 01, 2016
Now, in the depths of winter, we can enjoy seasonal outdoor activities. Festive ice-skating rinks are open to the public at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton and at other picturesque venues, while the dazzling slopes of ski and snowboarding resorts beckon energetic holiday-makers. Expertise in traversing the ice and snow are nothing new: for millennia, the inhabitants of cold climates have had to negotiate snowy landscapes and frozen wastes in order to survive; but in recent centuries what were once essential skills have evolved into pleasurable leisure pursuits and serious competitive sports.
Posted in History on Dec 01, 2015
Ever since Georgian mail coaches thundered along turnpike roads and early letter carriers knocked on doors, postal workers have been familiar figures in our streets, wearing their distinctive blue and scarlet uniforms. Although sending festive cards by post is no longer the only method of conveying seasonal greetings, our local postmen/women will, as ever, be fulfilling an important role, delivering cards and parcels and helping to connect relatives and friends in these busy weeks leading up to Christmas.
Posted in History on Nov 01, 2015
During the First World War (1914-18) more British women adopted uniforms than ever before. Apart from the standardised dress worn by nuns, nurses, domestic servants and members of the Salvation Army, adult females had scarcely been seen in uniform, but the proliferation of new war-related organisations created an unprecedented demand for outfits that would create identity, foster an esprit de corps and demonstrate their wearer’s role. Yet initially, when war erupted in August 1914, women struggled to gain the right to serve and to be seen doing their duty. Warfare was considered a masculine arena: genteel ladies were traditionally regarded as passive home-makers, while working women often held subservient positions, so in the early months of the conflict the expected role of females was, in general, not to undertake active work, but to support their men folk and urge them to sign up. Everything would change in 1915.
Posted in History on Oct 01, 2015
A new blue plaque was unveiled in Brighton in September, dedicated to Dr Helen Boyle (1869-1957), and marking the place where she carried out ground-breaking work that changed the lives of countless working class women and girls in Brighton and Hove.
Posted in History on Sep 01, 2015
This month I thought that I would travel outside of Brighton for the subject of my article – just five miles to the hamlet of Saddlescombe, where I found a farm that can trace its history back thousands of years.
Posted in History on Aug 01, 2015
Although the war in Europe ended in May 1945 it continued in the Far East. And while Britain was busy with street parties and bonfires to celebrate VE Day, British and Commonwealth troops were still fighting in Burma, Singapore and Thailand and thousands of POWs continued to live and die in horrendous conditions.
Posted in History on Jul 01, 2015
Today the provision of a safe water supply and the removal of wastes are things that are seldom at the forefront of people’s thoughts, but in past centuries these were major concerns. A water supply is often seen as key to establishing a settlement; locally we describe communities such as Poynings or Plumpton as ‘spring-line settlements’. Small communities can cope with provision of drinking water and the disposal of wastes, but with urban and industrial growth demand for these services outstrips the capacity. During the early years of the 19th century Brighton experienced a massive population growth [103% between 1811and 1821] as a depressed agricultural economy drove people from rural Sussex to booming urban settlements on the coast. These people arrived seeking work and somewhere to live, bringing with them such few possessions as they had, which could include donkeys, cooped hens and a pig or two; all of which would be housed alongside human residents.
Posted in History on Jun 01, 2015
Spring always brings seasonal wedding fairs and June is a popular month for weddings. White bridal ensembles were fashionable within early-Victorian high society, for white garments (difficult to care for) signified elevated status and the colour carried Christian associations of innocence, purity and inferred virginity. This vogue evolved into a tradition following Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert in February 1840. Declining the customary heavy state robes, the young queen favoured a light toilette comprising a creamy-white Spitalfields silk dress with a deep Honiton lace flounce and white satin court train ornamented with orange-blossom, on her head a wreath of orange-blossom attached to a lace veil. Her twelve train-bearers also wore white dresses and the charming impression conveyed by the bevy of white-clad ladies was captured in the visual images and popular souvenirs widely circulated after the event.
Posted in History on May 01, 2015
Whilst now two distinct entities, together, Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe Festival create the largest arts festival in England; putting Brighton right on the international cultural calendar. This is a spectacular achievement and one that deserves to be made a song and dance about and, in 2016, in its 50th anniversary year, the organisers of Brighton Festival intend to do just that. Plans are already being hatched to roll out the red carpet for some really special events. But, ahead of their celebrations, I thought it would be an idea to look back to see how it all came about.
Posted in History on Apr 01, 2015
The arrival of spring always brings a renewed excitement about clothing and fashion as evidenced by Easter Bonnet Parades, so it seems the ideal time to look back and take inspiration from some of the more extravagant headwear from the past.
Posted in History on Mar 01, 2015
In conversation with my friend Lavender, I mentioned that I was looking for a Brighton “character” to write about and she suggested Henry Ratty. How could I resist such a name? Disappointingly though, my research failed to uncover a tale of passion, sacrifice or murder, but he can be credited with a sort of celebrity, at least historian John George Bishop, writing in 1897, thought so: “There were few men better known to Brighton visitors and residents than Mr Henry Ratty. He was regarded as a Brighton “character” and his good-tempered, smiling features, and obliging manner were long borne in remembrance by many old Brightonians”. It can also be said that Henry was closely associated with a golden period in the town’s development, when, for a time, it was the busiest cross-channel port in Britain.
Posted in History on Feb 01, 2015
The history of Asian immigration to Britain does not begin in the 1950s, with post-war labour demands; it goes back much further to the founding of the East India Company in the 1600s and an early and distinctive chapter in this history features Sake Dean Mahomed (also Deen Mohomet). Travelling from India to make a home here, Mahomed demonstrated a resourcefulness and adaptability that was quite remarkable. His skill at reinvention enabled him to move from boy soldier in India to our very own Dr Brighton and, along the way, be the first Indian to publish a book, own a restaurant and do “shampooing” in England.
Posted in History on Jan 01, 2015
Today our modern lifestyle, current fashion trends and advanced weatherproof textiles mean that not all of us possess a traditional winter coat, but in the past a warm woollen cloak, mantle or sturdy overcoat were considered essential items in the outdoor wardrobe.
Posted in History on Dec 01, 2014
I know that Christmas is coming because I have had a “visitation”. Nothing particularly existential (or as disturbing as the face of Jacob Marley), more a dream involving my friend Sally! I dreamt of arriving at Sally’s house in Patcham where all was ready for Christmas – the perfect festive scene - the tree was beautifully decorated, at its foot were piles of beautifully wrapped presents and the mantelpiece was covered with cards. My mild surprise on arriving soon turned to panic when I realised that it was Christmas Eve and I had done nothing to prepare for my own family’s Christmas, had not even bought my cards!
Posted in History on Nov 01, 2014
Remembrance Sunday, the second Sunday in November, is the day traditionally put aside to remember all those who have suffered and died in conflict and all those who mourn them. On the 9th November this year, services around the country will be framed to ensure that no-one is forgotten. And in this spirit, we should perhaps spare a thought for the 16 German prisoners of war buried in Bear Road Cemetery, Brighton.
Posted in History on Oct 01, 2014
Images from the start of the war in August 1914 are familiar to us all now; the cheering crowds outside Buckingham Palace, the surge of patriotism through the country and the rush to the recruitment offices, where men inspired by romantic ideas of duty, honour and glory, eagerly took the King’s shilling.
Posted in History on Sep 01, 2014
As the new academic year beckons, most local schools are encouraging a smart, standardised image for their pupils. Until fairly recently relaxed polo shirts and sweatshirts in a specified colour and bearing the school’s logo graced many Brighton & Hove schools, but the past few years have seen a return to a more traditional uniform comprising tailored trousers or skirt, a shirt, tie, V-necked jersey and blazer. Adherents consider that a closely-prescribed, formal school uniform reflects well on the institution and benefits its pupils, helping to raise standards of personal appearance, fostering an esprit de corps among students and even improving conduct.
Posted in History on Aug 01, 2014
There is something very appealing about looking back exactly one hundred years. It’s just beyond our memory, but was, nevertheless, experienced by people who lived in the houses we now live in, sent their children to the schools we went to, visited the parks, cinemas and theatres we still enjoy. And in the summer of 1914, despite rumours of war, Brighton was a busy seaside resort playing host to holiday-makers, day trippers and those looking for fun, just as it is today. In fact, Brighton was experiencing a bit of a tourist boom, benefitting from the very natural disinclination on the part of many to risk Continental travel.
Posted in History on Jul 01, 2014
<h3>by Jayne Shrimpton</h3> <p>July is here and the summer holidays are imminent. As we head to Brighton & Hove seafront or journey along the coast for a day on the beach, let’s look back at the history of sea bathing and past fashions in swimwear. </p> <p>Following Scarborough and Whitby, the earliest sea bathing resorts, by the mid-18th century Brighton, Margate, Weymouth and other well-appointed fishing villages and coastal hamlets were attracting a fashionable clientèle seeking amusement, as well as the invigorating sea water. As we know, under the patronage of the Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent and ...</p>
Posted in History on Jun 01, 2014
Velocipede (Latin for “fast foot”) is a collective term for any of the various early forms of human-powered land vehicle, like the unicycle, the tricycle and the quadracycle. The most common type of velocipede was, and still is, the bicycle. Something that we are all very familiar with in Brighton, or ‘Cycling Town’ as it is known to some – the place where the Council have multi-million pound plans to create a European centre of excellence for cycling.
Posted in History on May 01, 2014
Whilst we may be in the midst of Brighton festival madness our neighbours in Lewes also have some pretty extensive plans in place for May. Not the Festival, the Fringe or even the Great Escape, but the Battle of Lewes 750, designed to commemorate events that took place in May 1264 which, some believe, shaped the future of democracy in this country.
Posted in History on Apr 01, 2014
People new to Brighton (or just the young), may be surprised to know that there was, until relatively recently, a chapel in North Street; directly opposite the entrance to New Road where Huntingdon Towers, the language school, is today. I was certainly surprised by this discovery, even more so by the fact that it was built by a woman; a woman who felt so passionately that she was prepared to sell her jewellery to pay for it; a woman who took on roles normally attributed to men and went on to form ‘The Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion’ – her own society of preachers and a popular religious movement.
Posted in History on Mar 01, 2014
At the time of writing, the future of Brighton Hippodrome remains uncertain. Council Planners have received the required information from Alaska Development Consultants and their application to turn the Hippodrome into an eight-screen cinema is now valid. What happens next is a period of public consultation and interested parties have until the 4th March to make their feelings known. What is not in question is the role this Grade-II* listed building has played over the years in developing Brighton’s reputation as a centre for cultural tourism and, indeed, the place to be on the South Coast. It actually started life in 1897 as an ice-rink. Designed by Lewis Kerslake and situated on the east side of Middle Street, it had a long stuccoed façade with short towers at each end. Its neighbours included residential houses, inns, the Union Charity School, which was founded in 1805 and was the first public elementary school in Brighton, and the fabulously decorated Middle Street Synagogue, built in 1874.
Posted in History on Feb 01, 2014
<h3>By Jayne Shrimpton</h3> <p>In the run-up to St Valentine’s Day many will be heading for the perfume counters or scouring the internet for a loved one’s favourite fragrance. Sensual and captivating, fine perfumes have long been associated with luxury and romance.</p> <p>Perfume originated thousands of years ago. Initially it was connected to incense, the word ‘perfume’ deriving from Latin per fumum: through smoke. Aromatic barks, gums and herbs were burnt at prehistoric burials to purify and sweeten the air and later incense was burnt by priests in religious rituals. The Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and their co...</p>
Posted in History on Jan 01, 2014
Monday 27th January is Holocaust Memorial Day and this year the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust have taken as their theme ‘journeys’: how the experience of people who suffered in the Holocaust under Nazi persecution is characterised by forced journeys - journeys often undertaken in terror and ending in death, but also journeys that ended in survival, new lives and new homes.
Posted in History on Dec 01, 2013
As Christmas and the New Year approach, the fashion magazines and shops are bursting with festive occasion wear, those must-have sequinned tops, statement dresses and stylish suits for the party season. Christmas celebrations began in earnest in the early Victorian era and here we look at how formal dress for dinners, dances and other evening functions evolved over the following century.
Posted in History on Nov 01, 2013
Whether you are lighting sparklers in your back garden or watching £12,000 worth of fireworks being let off at the Sussex County Cricket Ground you will be doing so in compliance with an Act of Parliament passed in 1606, ‘for a publique thanksgiving to almightie God everie yeere on the fifte day of November’.
Posted in History on Oct 01, 2013
Clergy denounced the iron horse as an invention of the Devil, breathing out the black smoke of Hades. Medical men had doubts as to the effect of speed on the human constitution, particularly on delicate females. Many thought the railway was just unnecessary – the present carriage service from London was perfectly adequate – and who knew what environmental and economic effects it might have on the area? The well-to-do, in particular, raised objections about the likely impact on their genteel watering place, turning it into a noisy resort for the Cockney hordes. But, however ‘reasoned’ the protest, because of its wealth and fame, Brighton was an inevitable magnet for developers and the arrival of the railway was inescapable.
Posted in History on Sep 01, 2013
Back to school, college or university? Or, perhaps this September you are thinking of attending a course at the Friends Centre? Until August 2005, this was located in the Friends Meeting House, Ship Street, where adult education classes have been held continuously since 1876; thanks in no small part to the Quakers – the Religious Society of Friends.
Posted in History on Aug 01, 2013
This August Bank Holiday weekend, like very many before it, the circus will be in town. Zippos Circus will be on Hove Lawns from the 21st August to 3rd September carrying on Brighton and Hove’s long tradition of hosting circuses and fairs.
Posted in History on Jul 01, 2013
After much restoration work, The Level is due to open again on the 8th August. As part of the Master Plan, the Parks Project Team have been working with community history website ‘My Brighton and Hove’, oral historians and volunteers to create a record of activities and events associated with The Level, including personal stories of time spent there. What they have uncovered demonstrates the town’s long and varied relationship with one of its most prominent open spaces – a recreational park, an events venue for circuses, fairs, bonfires, prize fights and music festivals and, on its less playful side, for public speeches, political demonstrations and military gatherings.
Posted in History on Jun 01, 2013
The 1950s was an interesting decade: a time of change, a move away from the drab austerity of the post-war years into a lighter, brighter world. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan went so far as to say, “most of our people have never had it so good”. In Brighton, the Promettes were on the seafront, housewives could shop in the town’s first supermarket, 200 workers produced BMW Isetta bubble cars in a factory in New England Street, slums were being cleared and plans were in place for the town’s first tower block flats.
Posted in History on May 01, 2013
In 1628 Preston Manor was described as: “the Mansion House of Preston” with “a gatehouse, stables, coach house and other outhouses, barns, gardens, orchards, bowling green with a plantation of young elms”. William Stanford bought Preston Manor and nearly 1,000 acres of land from his landlord Charles Western in 1794 for £17,000.
Posted in History on Apr 01, 2013
In 1870, music hall artist Alfred Vance had a “hit” singing about walking in the zoo on a Sunday. His song is noteworthy, because it is credited with bringing into popular usage the words “OK” and “zoo”. The abbreviation, zoo, had appeared in print before in around 1847, when it was used for the Clifton Zoo in Bristol, but did not catch on until Vance sang, the okay thing on Sunday is walking in the Zoo. Unsurprisingly, Fellows of the Zoological Society were not OK with the shortened form. Those associated with the very popular and successful London Zoo, in particular, preferred “zoological garden,” which in turn was short for “Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society of London.”
Posted in History on Mar 01, 2013
Medical scandals are at the forefront of everybody’s mind at the moment, not least because of the catastrophic failings of the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust. The national press even went as far as to dub 6th February 2013 the “NHS’s Darkest Day”. Of course, in the history of medicine there have been many low points, although not all of them were the subject of such close scrutiny by the media and the general public.
Posted in History on Feb 01, 2013
In February I usually write something connected to Valentine’s Day: times in our past when the tradition of courtly love, romantic love and even mass-produced, commercial love flourished. However, the focus of this month’s article would not, I fear, be considered a heart throb – a little too short, a little too manicured, with a passion for a little too much cologne! But, and this is a huge but, there is no doubt that he was a man with an enormous heart, “The friend of Princes and the prince of friends” (Brighton and Hove Herald, 15th August 1936).
Posted in History on Jan 01, 2013
I had heard, in the 80s, about the ‘slum photographs’, as they were known, in the keeping of the Chief Environmental Health Officer of Brighton Borough Council, so I asked him if I could see them. He said I could, if he could find them. Two years passed and I heard nothing so I gave up. I thought that they might have been stolen.
Posted in History on Dec 01, 2012
If you are looking to switch off the television, computer and game console this Christmas and play some old-fashioned family parlour games you might want to think twice. The words ‘health and safety’ did not trip off the Victorian tongue and certainly not where Christmas was concerned. We recall the candle-bedecked Christmas tree with its inflammable trimmings and the flaming Christmas pudding but less well-known are the fire-themed parlour games.
Posted in History on Nov 01, 2012
At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month millions of people observe a two-minute silence to commemorate those who died in the two world wars and all subsequent conflicts. The 11th November this year will be the 94th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice, signalling the end of four years or war – the Great War, 1914-1918.
Posted in History on Oct 01, 2012
It’s Hallowe’en soon and witches will be abroad. There may be covens of witches in Brighton and Hove preparing to celebrate the ancient magic of witchcraft at this very moment. Who knows? Perhaps the people living next door to you are followers of Wiccan. The neighbours of Doreen Valiente, who had a flat at 6 Tyson Place, Grosvenor Street, Brighton, certainly lived next to a witch, indeed, some called her ‘Queen of the Witches’.
Posted in History on Sep 01, 2012
Caught up in the excitement surrounding the Olympics, I went down to the beach to watch the opening ceremony and, while the stream of teams from countries I had never heard of ambled across the Big Screen, I gazed out along the shoreline to the poor old West Pier and the site of the new i360. With construction now scheduled for the autumn 2012 it does seem that this really is going to happen. The West Pier Trust have said that they are delighted and have described the i360 as a “vertical pier” and a “worthy successor to Eugenius Birch’s masterpiece, the West Pier”. Instead of walking out over the sea as the Victorians did, we Elizabethans will rise 150 metres in the air to admire the panoramic views.
Posted in History on Aug 01, 2012
The Prince Regent, later George IV, married his cousin, Princess Caroline of Brunswick in 1795. Princess Charlotte of Wales, born in 1796, was their only child. Her parents separated three months after her birth and Charlotte’s upbringing was that of the child of a broken marriage. She spent a lonely and isolated childhood, kept apart from her mother and with a distant father who was jealous of the nation’s affection for his daughter. ‘My mother was bad’ wrote Charlotte ‘but she would not have become as bad as she was if my father had not been infinitely worse’.
Posted in History on Jul 01, 2012
At the first few modern Olympic Games, swimming events were held in open water. For the Paris 1900 Games, for instance, they took place in the River Seine. However, the rules were formalised in 1908, when the London Games staged the first Olympic swimming competition to be held in a pool. This outdoor pool was built on the infield of the athletics track at White City Stadium and the swimmers were all men; women’s events were not introduced until the Stockholm 1912 Games.
Posted in History on Jun 01, 2012
Queen Elizabeth II has now become the second monarch in British history to celebrate sixty years on the throne. To mark this fairly momentous achievement, individuals and communities up and down the country will be marking the Diamond Jubilee in a host of different ways and Brighton will be there joining in the fun and games, with plans afoot for a right royal knees up!
Posted in History on May 01, 2012
At 12.30 p.m. on Sunday 13th May a very peculiar Brighton tradition will take place outside the Brighton Fishing Museum – the annual Mackerel Fayre. This is when The Lord Mayor and other local dignitaries, all wearing their best regalia, come together with members of the Church - this year Father Robert Fayers, Parish Priest St Paul’s and St Michael’s - to bless the nets.
Posted in History on Apr 01, 2012
It will not be news to you, that it is 200 years since the birth of Charles Dickens. Events are being staged to mark the bicentenary of his life and work everywhere - film, TV, theatre, arts performances, exhibitions, festivals, outdoor events, there is even a new iPhone and iPad App to take users on a journey through the darker side of Dickens’s London.
Posted in History on Mar 01, 2012
As a major form of entertainment ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ (Strictly or SCD to its devotees) and ‘Dancing on Ice’ cannot hold a glitter ball to the dancing craze that hit Brighton in the 1920s and 1930s.
Posted in History on Feb 01, 2012
When young Pat Blaker, a nurse at Southlands Hospital, arrived in Brighton to begin training as a midwife one day in October 1950, she had trouble finding the Sussex Maternity Hospital.
Posted in History on Jan 01, 2012
Does your chimney need sweeping? In the past, were you one of the many Brighton residents more likely to say ‘I need Wadeys’, rather than ‘I need a chimney sweep’?
Posted in History on Dec 01, 2011
In the [happy] days before television celebrities entered our lives novelists were often accorded this status. Amongst their shining number in the 19th century was Charles Dickens, who was a regular visitor to Brighton. Dickens first came here in October 1837 after finishing Pickwick Papers. He liked the town as a seaside resort and a place to write, indeed, he wrote Dombey and Son whilst staying at the old Bedford Hotel, King’s Road. “I feel much better for my short stay here, also the characters one meets at these seaside places.” He particularly liked taking trips on Captain Fred Collins famous pleasure boat. “The sea was rather choppy and his chatter to the trippers was very witty and amusing,” he wrote.
Posted in History on Nov 01, 2011
On the 11th November 1896 the inhabitants of Preston Manor held a séance for which there is documentary evidence including a transcript of the proceedings so we know exactly what happened that night and the consequences. But what were a family of such high social standing and impeccable conventionality doing dabbling in the occult?
Posted in History on Oct 01, 2011
The future of Saltdean Lido is in the balance once again and a campaign has been set up to try and save this major Brighton landmark. The Save Saltdean Lido Campaign is asking the owners, Brighton and Hove Council, to start proceedings against the current lease-holder who, they claim, has failed to adequately maintain the building, action (or lack of it) which should, in their view, result in the forfeiture of the lease-hold. According to Rebecca Crook, Campaign Chair: ‘This extraordinary Grade II* Listed building is decaying day-by-day.”
Posted in History on Sep 01, 2011
Edward VII (aka Albert Edward Saxe-Coburg-Gotha; 9th November 1841 – 6th May 1910) was a very popular character. During his many years as heir apparent he built a colourful reputation for himself, not least as arbiter of men’s fashion and as a man with a large appetite for wine, women and song – well perhaps not so much song as food! He was, in fact, responsible for introducing the practice of eating roast beef, roast potatoes, horseradish sauce and Yorkshire pudding on Sundays. For that alone I like him, as did the people of Brighton and Hove who felt they had a special bond with this charismatic Royal.
Posted in History on Aug 01, 2011
On Saturday 10 August 1872 Brighton aquarium formally opened to the public. 139 years later it is still entertaining and informing the masses about an underwater world that remains a mystery to most of us. Today visitors to this showpiece of Victorian splendour can see giant turtles, sharks encircling a tropical reef, an Amazon rainforest with razor-toothed piranhas and deadly poison dart frogs. They can also learn about the intricate balance of the oceans and the ways in which man is endangering some species.
Posted in History on Jul 01, 2011
Brighton seafront is to have a new visitor attraction – a giant ferris wheel. Developers are to build a Brighton O on Madeira Drive, opposite The Aquarium. This temporary structure (to be removed by May 2016) will be ready for use this summer and will have the capacity to carry 280 passengers on an 11-minute ride. The Council and local businesses are clearly excited about what has been termed a “high profile visitor attraction” and see it as a new way to bring holidaymakers to the city.
Posted in History on Jun 01, 2011
Listeners to a recent Radio Four programme were asked what most signified the arrival of summer to them. I replied to my radio, as you do, without hesitation: the almost permanent presence of a large, overflowing and potentially smelly, cricket bag in the hall. Summer means cricket in our house as it does to so many others on a local club, county team and international level and this has been the way, particularly in Sussex, for a very long time. Sussex cricket teams can be traced back to the 17th century, but the county’s involvement in cricket goes back much further than that. In fact, Sussex, alongside Kent, is believed to be the birthplace of the sport; cricket having been invented by children living on the Weald in Saxon or Norman times.
Posted in History on May 01, 2011
I loved Upstairs, Downstairs in the 1970s, I really loved the new episodes shown on the BBC last Christmas, but I really, really loved Julian Fellowes’ Downton Abbey. In fact I can’t wait for the second series later this year. These television dramas have given me a taste for Edwardian life; the lives of the servants “downstairs” and their masters “upstairs”; the gradual social and technological changes that took place in all their lives and how the two classes reacted.
Posted in History on Apr 01, 2011
Many of us know of George IV’s passion for architecture and opulent furnishings, apparent by the lavish Royal Pavilion that still graces the heart of Brighton today. Perhaps though, less of us know about this King’s love of fashion?
Posted in History on Mar 01, 2011
Sunday 13 February saw the planting of new elms in the centre of Patcham; the place where the old, twin elms had stood for so many years, but the idiom off with the old and on with the new doesn’t apply here. I am sure that I was not the only person to see the new trees in-situ and think of those that had been felled and reflect on all that had been played out in front of them over their long history. Happily though for me, I have had the good fortune to meet a lady willing to talk to me about her first-hand memories of Patcham and Preston Park stretching back to 1913.
Posted in History on Feb 01, 2011
Before 1750 Brighton doesn’t appear very often in the history books, apart from a few incidents which receive mention; the first in 1541 when, as part of his divorce settlement, Henry VIII granted various manors to Anne of Cleves including Preston; then when poor Deryck Carver, a brewer from Black Lion Street, was burned to death in Lewes, making him one of the first Protestant martyrs in Sussex; then, more famous than either of these two events, is the episode that links the town with Charles II’s escape from England - Cromwellian forces hot on his heels.
Posted in History on Jan 01, 2011
Last month all our thoughts were turned to where we were going to purchase the “little extras” we wanted for the festivities. We were on the look out for signs that a bottle of gin was cheaper in Asda than Sainsburys. Now, with Christmas over, we have the additional incentive to buy goods at “sale” prices to help counter the effects of Mr Osborne’s VAT increase.
Posted in History on Dec 01, 2010
Celebrations at the Royal Pavilion for the Christmas and New Year period of 1822-23 were so extraordinarily lavish and indulgent they cost quite literally the accumulated worth of a skilled man’s entire working life.
Posted in History on Nov 01, 2010
On 22 August 1939, Parliament was recalled and the Emergency Powers Defence Act was instigated. This set in motion wartime regulations, including an evacuation procedure, which had been crystallising since 1922. The signal for evacuation was given on the radio on 31 August 1939 and Operation Pied Piper began the next day. Of the 660,000 evacuees streaming out of London over the next three days, approximately 31,000 arrived in Brighton.* 400 buses and a convoy of cars met the evacuees at the railway station and delivered them to six distribution centres throughout the Brighton area.
Posted in History on Oct 01, 2010
We all know about Brighton’s restless dead; the woman in white at Preston Manor, the haunted house in Prestonville Road, the famous grey nun in The Lanes, ghoulish monks, martyrs and drowned sailors. The World Horror Convention went so far as to declare Brighton the UK’s ghost capital. There is, however, one haunting, said to have occurred at Patcham Place, that seems to attract less attention.
Posted in History on Sep 01, 2010
On the 22nd September the Duke of York’s cinema celebrates its 100th anniversary. This is a real achievement, especially when so many of its contemporaries, with wonderful names like the Bijou Electric Empire (now Burger King), have long since closed their doors. The history of cinema in Brighton goes back further than 1910 though and encompasses not only the rise and fall of glitzy picture palaces and back street ‘flea pits’, but the very birth of the film industry.
Posted in History on Aug 01, 2010
Everyone will be saddened by the news that the two elms at the centre of Patcham Village - that live so close to each other they form a heart-shaped canopy, have to be felled. They attained monumental stature, 70-80 feet, and it is humbling to reflect upon the dramatic changes they witnessed and were part of in Patcham.
Posted in History on Jul 01, 2010
I went on an organised walking tour recently of some of Brighton’s more interesting places. Outside The Old Courtroom in Church Street the tour guide regaled us with a fascinating tale that he introduced as similar in theme to the stories surrounding Phoebe Hessel - one of the most well known women of Brighton – who is said to have dressed as a soldier and served in the West Indies in order to be near her lover, Samuel Golding.
Posted in History on Jun 01, 2010
The Wagners were of German descent and emigrated to England in 1717. They were hatters to the Monarchy and eventually to the British Army, and were thus quite wealthy and influential. The Brighton connection came about when, in 1784, one of the Wagners’ married the daughter of Henry Mitchell, Vicar of Brighton. Henry Mitchell was also a man of influence, having been a tutor to the future Duke of Wellington and a Sussex Yeoman. One of the sons of this marriage was Henry Mitchell Wagner, who apart from inheriting some of the Wagner wealth, became tutor to the sons of the Duke of Wellington and therefore influential in his own right. In 1824, Henry Mitchell Wagner was appointed Vicar of Brighton at St Nicholas Church, a post he held until his death in1870. Also in 1824, his eldest son Arthur Douglas Wagner was born.
Posted in History on May 01, 2010
I have tried to think when I last visited the Royal Pavilion. I suppose my first visit was in the 1980s when we came to live in Brighton and then again in the 1990s when our children were small. In those intervening years nothing much had changed. The glittering chandeliers, sumptuous furnishings and exotic decoration were all still there, but nothing new appeared to have been added and I guess that is why I have not ventured back. Now there is a reason, a new permanent exhibition has just opened, charting a fascinating chapter in palace’s history.
Posted in History on Apr 01, 2010
St Peter’s Church has stood at Preston for more than seven hundred years and holds, in its memorial stones, all manner of stories - of people linked to royalty and also to murder. The oldest graves, from the centuries after the church was built in 1250, no longer survive. One of the earliest memorials is a grey stone plaque in the wall of the bell tower ‘Here lyeth buried the body of Elizabeth the daughter of Sir Richard Shirley, Barronnett who departed this life on 23rd day of April Anno Domini 1684’
Posted in History on Mar 01, 2010
Gang warfare, racketeering, welshing and protection – no not the Sopranos, but the more seedy and sordid attractions of gangland Brighton in the inter-war years. A side of Brighton that was brought to us by Graham Greene in his 1938 novel Brighton Rock and later the film of the same name, staring Richard Attenborough as the sadistic teenage gangster, Pinkie Brown.
Posted in History on Feb 01, 2010
When the newly appointed administrator arrived from his Sheffield teaching hospital to take up his post at Brighton General in 1951, he was shocked at what he found. The wards on J Block, for example, had open fires, wooden floors and no curtains at the windows. They were, he later recalled, “like giant cowsheds filled with people”
Posted in History on Jan 01, 2010
The origins of British pantomime probably date back to the Middle Ages and blend the traditions of the Italian “Commedia dell’Arte and the British music hall. Commedia was a type of travelling street entertainment that used dance, music, tumbling, acrobatics and buffoonery in a repertoire of stories passed down through generations of touring troupes. Each plot contained stock characters such as the over protective father, Pantaloon, Columbine his daughter, her love the heroic Harlequin and the servant Pulchinello, (who still exists in this country as the puppet Mr Punch)