Brighton

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Brighton (/ˈbraɪtən/) is the major part of the city of Brighton and Hove (formed from the previous towns of Brighton, Hove, Portslade and several other villages) in East Sussex, England on the south coast of Great Britain. For administrative purposes, Brighton and Hove is not part of the non-metropolitan county of East Sussex, but remains part of the ceremonial county of East Sussex, within the historic County of Sussex.

The ancient settlement of Brighthelmstone dates from before Domesday Book (1086), but it emerged as a health resort featuring sea bathing during the 18th century and became a destination for day-trippers from London after the arrival of the railway in 1841. Brighton experienced rapid population growth, reaching a peak of over 160,000 by 1961. Modern Brighton forms part of the Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton conurbation stretching along the coast, with a population of around 480,000.

Brighton has two universities and a medical school (which is operated by both universities together).

In the Domesday Book, Brighton was called Bristelmestune and a rent of 4,000 herring was established. In June 1514 Brighthelmstone was burnt to the ground by French raiders during a war between England and France. Only part of the St Nicholas Church and the street pattern of the area now known as “The Lanes” survived. The first drawing of Brighthelmstone was made in 1545 and depicts what is believed to be the raid of 1514. During the 1740s and 1750s, Dr Richard Russell of Lewes began prescribing seawater at Brighton.

By 1780, development of the Georgian terraces had started and the fishing village became the fashionable resort of Brighton. Growth of the town was further encouraged by the patronage of the Prince Regent (later King George IV) after his first visit in 1783. He spent much of his leisure time in the town and constructed the Royal Pavilion during the early part of his Regency. Although contracted forms of the name are attested since the 15th Century, it was not until this period that the modern form of the name came into common use.

The arrival of the London and Brighton Railway in 1841 brought Brighton within the reach of day-trippers from London and population growth from around 7,000 in 1801 to over 120,000 by 1901. The Victorian era saw the building of many major attractions including the Grand Hotel (1864), the West Pier (1866) and the Palace Pier (1899). Prior to either of these structures the famous Chain Pier was built, to the designs of Captain Samuel Brown. It lasted from 1823 to 1896, and featured in paintings by both Turner and Constable.

After boundary changes between 1873 and 1952, the land area of Brighton increased from 1,640 acres (7 km2) in 1854 to 14,347 acres (58 km2) in 1952. New housing estates were established in the acquired areas including Moulsecoomb, Bevendean, Coldean and Whitehawk. The major expansion of 1928 also incorporated the villages of Patcham, Ovingdean and Rottingdean, and much council housing was built in parts of Woodingdean after the Second World War.

More recently, gentrification of much of Brighton has seen a return of the fashionable image which characterised the growth of the Regency period. Recent housing in the North Laine, for instance, has been designed in keeping with the area.

In 1997 Brighton and Hove were joined to form the unitary authority of Brighton and Hove, which was granted city status by Queen Elizabeth II as part of the millennium celebrations in 2000.

Brighton is sometimes referred to as London-by-the-sea.

The Royal Pavilion is a former royal palace built as a home for the Prince Regent during the early 19th century, under the direction of the architect John Nash, and is notable for its Indo-Saracenic architecture and Oriental interior. Other Indo-Saracenic buildings in Brighton include the Sassoon Mausoleum, now, with the bodies reburied elsewhere, in use as a chic supper club.

Brighton Marine Palace and Pier (long known as the Palace Pier) opened in 1899. It features a funfair, restaurants and arcade halls.

The West Pier was built in 1866 and is one of only two Grade I listed piers in the United Kingdom. It has been closed since 1975. For some time it was under consideration for restoration, but two fires in 2003, and other setbacks, led to these plans being abandoned. Plans for a new landmark in its place – the i360, a 183 m (600 ft) observation tower designed by London Eye architects Marks Barfield – were announced in June 2006. Plans were approved by the council on 11 October 2006. As of early 2009, construction had yet to begin, but the area has been cordoned off.

Brighton clocktower, built in 1888 for Queen Victoria’s jubilee, stands at the intersection of Brighton’s busiest thoroughfares.

Created in 1883, Volk’s Electric Railway runs along the inland edge of the beach from Brighton Pier to Black Rock and Brighton Marina. It is the world’s oldest operating electric railway.

The Grand Hotel was built in 1864 and the scene of the 1984 Brighton Hotel Bombing. Its nighttime blue lighting is particularly prominent along the foreshore.

The Brighton Wheel opened with some controversy, directly north east of the Brighton Marine Palace and Pier in October 2011 after a previous attempt to locate it in a more central location near the Metropole Hotel, at which time it was to have been the “Brighton O” – a special spokeless design rather than the traditional spoked wheel eventually purchased from its previous home in South Africa.

The 11th century St Nicholas Church is the oldest building in Brighton, commonly known as “The Mother Church”. Other notable churches include the large brick-built St Bartholomew’s, and St Peter’s on an island between the Lewes Road and the London Road. Brighton’s Quakers run the Friends’ Meeting House in the Lanes. There is an active Unitarian community based in a Grade 2 listed building in New Road, and a Spiritualist church in Norfolk Square. There are also a number of New Age outlets and groups.

Brighton has three synagogues, the Middle Street Synagogue, a Grade II listed building built in 1874–75. It is presently in the process of being gradually restored by English Heritage. Brighton and Hove reform Synagogue, Palmeira Avenue, Hove and the progressive Synagogue, Lansdowne Road, Hove. There are also several mosques and Buddhist centres.

Nevertheless, Brighton has become known as one of the least religious places in the UK, based upon analysis of the 2011 census which revealed that 42 per cent of the population profess no religion, which is far higher than the national average of 25%.

The seafront has bars, restaurants, nightclubs, sports facilities and amusement arcades, principally between the piers. Being less than an hour from London by train has made the city a popular destination, especially with big party groups. Brighton beach has a nudist area (by Kemptown near the easterly edge of the promenade). Brighton’s beach, is a shingle beach at high tide with a flat sandy foreshore at low water, and has been awarded a blue flag. The Monarch’s Way long-distance footpath heads west along the seafront above the beach.

Since the 1978 demolition of the Black Rock open-air lido at the eastern end of Brighton’s seafront, the area has been developed and now features one of Europe’s largest marinas. However, the site of the pool itself remains empty except for a skate park and graffiti wall, and further development is planned including a high-rise hotel which has aroused debate, mirroring proposals for the King Alfred leisure centre in Hove, which were shelved in 2008. Part of the beach adjoining Madeira Drive, to the east of the city centre, has been redeveloped into a sports complex and opened to the public in March 2007, with courts for pursuits such as beach volleyball and ultimate Frisbee among others.

Brighton’s art community is showcased once a year in an artists’ open house event during the Brighton Festival. On the seafront between Brighton’s two piers is the Artists Quarter, a row of Victorian fishermen’s workshops converted to small galleries and studio spaces, where artists, employing a variety of media and styles, publicly present their work.

In 2009 Anish Kapoor exhibited throughout Brighton as part of the Brighton Festival, for which he was also artistic director.

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery in Pavilion Gardens, part of the Royal Pavilion complex, provides permanent collections and temporary exhibitions.

Brighton has featured in a number of hit movies including Quadrophenia (1979), MirrorMask (2005), Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008), The Young Victoria (2009), Brighton Rock (2010 and 1947) and The Boat that Rocked (2009).

The Duke of York’s Picturehouse, dating from 1910, is the country’s oldest purpose-built cinema, which still operates as an arthouse cinema. There are also two multiplex cinemas.

Each May the city hosts the Brighton Festival, the second largest arts festival in the UK (after Edinburgh). This includes processions such as the Children’s Parade, outdoor spectaculars often involving pyrotechnics, and theatre, music and visual arts in venues throughout the city, some brought into this use exclusively for the festival. The earliest feature of the festival, the Artists’ Open Houses, are homes of artists and craftspeople opened to the public as galleries, and usually selling the work of the occupants. Since 2002, these have been organised independently of the official Festival and Fringe.

Brighton Festival Fringe runs alongside Brighton Festival, and has grown to be the second largest fringe festival in the world. Together with the street performers from Brighton Festival’s “Streets of Brighton” events, and the Royal Mile-esque outdoor performances that make up “Fringe City”, outdoor spectacles and events more than double during May.

Other festivals include The Great Escape, featuring three nights of live music in venues across the city; the Soundwaves Festival in June, which shows classical music composed in the 21st Century, and involves both amateur and professional performers; Paddle Round the Pier; Brighton Live which each September stages a week of free gigs in pubs to show local bands; Burning the Clocks, a winter solstice celebration; and Brighton Pride (see lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, below). For a number of years, Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World extravaganza was held in the city.

The Kemptown area has its own small annual street festival, the Kemptown Carnival, and the Hanover area similarly has a “Hanover Day”. Local resident Fatboy Slim puts on a “Big Beach Boutique” show most years. An inaugural White Nights (Nuit Blanche) all-night arts festival took place in October 2008. 2009 saw the first Brighton Zine Fest celebrating zine and D.I.Y. culture within the city.

On 1 September 2007, competitors from the United Kingdom, United States, Germany and other countries convened for the World Beard and Moustache Championship. Hosted by The Handlebar Club, categories include Dali moustache, goatee and full beard freestyle.

Brighton is the terminus of a number of London-to-Brighton rides,and runs, such as the veteran car run and bike ride. Transport rallies are also hosted on the seafront. Groups of mods and Rockers still bring their scooters and motorbikes to the town, but their gatherings are now much more sedate than the violent 1960s confrontations depicted in Quadrophenia.

Food and drink related festivals include the traditional Blessing of the Fisheries, where barbecued mackerel are eaten on the beach and the more recent Fiery Foods Chilli Festival. There is also a twice-yearly general food festival. The main Sussex beer festival is held in nearby Hove, and there is a smaller beer festival in the Hanover area. Foodies Festival  also counts Brighton as one of its seven national venues, with the event taking place between 25–27 May at Hove Lawns and including top chefs such as Loyd Grossman.

Brighton is the home of the UK’s first Walk of Fame which celebrates the many rich and famous people associated with the city.

Brighton is well known for having a substantial LGBT community served by shops, bars and night-clubs in addition to support organisations. It is often referred to as “the gay capital of Britain”. The Gay Pride carnival every August attracts thousands. It consists of a carnival parade and a party and funfair in Preston Park.

Brighton museums include Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, Booth Museum of Natural History, Brighton Toy and Model Museum, and Brighton Fishing Museum the long established social epicentre of the seafront, which includes artefacts from the West Pier. The Royal Pavilion is also open to the public, serving as a museum to the British Regency.

Brighton is considered  to be one of the UK’s premier night-life hotspots. There are also live music venues including the Concorde2, Brighton Centre and the Brighton Dome, where ABBA received a substantial boost to their career when they won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. There are a large number of events and performance companies operating in the city.

There are over 300 pubs in the town.Brighton has about 400 restaurants, more per head than anywhere else outside London. A wide range of cuisines is available, with a particular emphasis on vegetarianism.

Theatres include the Brighton Dome and associated Pavilion Theatre, the expanded Komedia (primarily a comedy and music venue but also a theatre), The Old Market which was renovated and re-opened in 2010, and the Theatre Royal which celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2007. There are also smaller theatres such as the Marlborough Theatre and Nightingale Theatre, both above pubs, which attract mostly local productions, and the Brighton Little Theatre.

Brighton has a high density of businesses involved in media, particularly digital or “new media”, and since the 1990s has been referred to as “Silicon Beach”.

American Express is building a new headquarters building on John Street, behind its current European headquarters in Edward Street. It employs around 3,000, making it the largest private employer in the city.

Natural cosmetics retailer the Body Shop started in Brighton. Its headquarters are now in nearby Littlehampton.

“The Lanes” form a retail, leisure and residential area near the seafront, characterised by narrow alleyways following the street pattern of the original fishing village. The Lanes contain predominantly clothing stores, jewellers, antique shops, restaurants and pubs. The North Laine area is a retail, leisure and residential area immediately north of the Lanes. Its name derives from the Anglo-Saxon “Laine” meaning “fields”. The North Laine contains a mix of businesses dominated by cafés, independent and avant-garde shops, bars and theatres.

Churchill Square is a shopping centre with a floor space of 470,000 sq ft (43,663 m2) and over 80 shops, several restaurants and 1,600 car-parking spaces. It was built in the 1960s as an open-air, multi-level pedestrianised shopping centre, but was rebuilt and enlarged in 1998 and is no longer open-air. Further retail areas include Western Road and London Road.

There are also a considerable number of construction companies within Brighton and Hove that specialise in many different types of construction.

Brighton and Hove is part of three constituencies in the British Parliament: Brighton Kemptown, Brighton Pavilion, and Hove. In European elections, Brighton is part of the European Parliament constituency of South-East England.

The political campaigning group Justice? and its SchNEWS newspaper are based in Brighton, at the Cowley Club libertarian social centre; also operating from the town is the Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The presence of a British subsidiary of the United States arms company EDO Corporation in Moulsecoomb, Brighton, has been the cause of protests since 2004.

Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club is the city’s professional football team. After playing at the Goldstone Ground for 95 years, they were forced to sell it in 1997 to pay off debts. The club spent two years ground-sharing at Gillingham before returning to the town as tenants of the Withdean Athletics Stadium. However, in 2011 the club moved to a permanent home at Falmer at the start of the 2011/12 season, with the first match happening in July 2011. The new stadium, the Falmer Stadium, was built by The Buckingham Group, who also built the MK Dons stadium. The club’s notable achievements including winning promotion to the Football League First Division for the first time in 1979, staying there for four seasons, during the last of which they reached the FA Cup final and took Manchester United to a replay before losing 4–0.

Brighton and Hove is also home to the Sussex County Cricket Club based on Eaton Road in Hove.

Brighton is also the home of one of the oldest Rugby Clubs in England; Brighton Football Club (RFU).

Throughout the year many events take place on Madeira Drive (a piece of roadway on Brighton’s seafront), which was constructed in order to host what is commonly held to be the world’s oldest motor race, the Brighton Speed Trials, which has been running since 1905. The event is organised by the Brighton and Hove Motor Club and normally takes place on the second Saturday in September each year.

Brighton has a horse-racing course, Brighton Racecourse, with the unusual feature that when the full length of the course is to be used, some of the grass turf of the track has to be laid over the tar at the top of Wilson Avenue, a public road, which therefore has to be closed for the races.

There is a greyhound racing circuit in Hove, run by Coral, at which Motorcycle speedway racing was staged in 1928.

The Brighton and Hove Petanque Club runs an annual triples, doubles and singles competition, informal KOs, winter and summer league, plus Open competitions with other clubs. The club is affiliated to Sussex Pétanque, the local region of the English Pétanque Association, so they can also play at a Regional and National level. The Peace Statue terrain is the official pétanque terrain situated on the seafront near the West Pier.

There are yachting clubs and other boating activities run from Brighton Marina.

There are several railway stations, bus services, taxis, and coach services. A Rapid Transport System has been under consideration for some years and in the past it has had trolleybuses, ferries, trams and hydrofoil services.

Frequent trains operate from Brighton Station. Many Brighton residents commute to work in London and destinations include London Victoria, London Bridge, and Gatwick Airport, with trains continuing to Bedford. The fastest service from London Victoria takes 51 minutes. Lines from Brighton serve stations to Worthing, Portsmouth and Southampton in the west and via Lewes to Newhaven, Eastbourne, Hastings and Ashford, Kent in the east. A wider range of long-distance destinations was served until 2007–08 when rationalisation caused the ending of services via Kensington Olympia and Reading and beyond to Milton Keynes, Birmingham and Manchester. Twice-daily services remain, however, on the line west to Bristol.

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