Friday, June 29, 2018

Brighton, Regency Social Whirl and Victorian Seaside Resort: History and Pictures

To complement my latest TRAVELS WITH CERISE video and my travel pictures on Facebook, I post here some of my commentary, my own photos and a few historical references for you!

For references, do see listing at bottom of this page.

To view the video, do go to my FB author page:

Brighton, on the coast of Sussex, was initially a fishing village. On the Channel, the water is brisk, cold, fierce and gray...or I can say it certainly was when I was last there. The intriguing bit about Brighton is, I think, that like Bath, it retains many of the same characteristics of centuries ago.

Brighton, originally called Brighthelmstone, was small, a modest settlement on the coast for many centuries. With a rocky (not sandy) shore, the coast has an odd configuration. This features a beach and tall white cliffs, demarcated by a slope toward the sea which allows for a road on the beach and above it. Even today, you may walk along the Marine Parade (the road) atop the cliff or take the lower coastal level road to stroll along the shore of brown fist-sized rocks. Brighton has no natural harbor, although a modern man-made one for those who own pleasure crafts now exists. The better harbor is to the west, name Shoreham. There, a Custom House still stands and many of the 19th century references (such as newspapers) talk of Revenuers who went out to catch smugglers from Shoreham not Brighton.

The nature of this beach allows for sun-bathing even though walking on those rocks is very tough! The water seems deep enough to wade in or sport surf, and many do! In centuries past, many opportunists took the chance to land their various-sized vessels here to haul in cargo. Brighton, therefore, like many of the other seaside towns on the British coast, was an area were smugglers hauled in contraband. Do see the drawing below which illustrates the cliffs and various people above and below the Parade. Many said that women would often come to amuse the Custom officials while smugglers ran their boats upon the shore and quickly distributed their wares to those merchants who bought their products illegally!

Brighton, 1815

Brighton remained a small fishing village until 1783 when the Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent) visited the town to escape the attentions of his mother and father. Visiting his uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, Prinny came to Brighton often. Loving the sea air and the remoteness from London, he decided to build his own home here. He also decided to build one for his common law wife, Mrs Fitzherbert. While the plan for that house does not survive, Prinny's interest in the town influenced society to follow him. Over the decades, he came often. I currently write a series, CHRISTMAS BELLES, set in Brighton in 1815. Prinny was still Regent and his influence great. The ton came with him to visit for days, weeks, holidays or Christmas. Their presence had a great effect upon the very nature of the town and its residences.

Reward of 200 GBPounds for information
to Custom House, London about smugglers into Brighton!

At first, accommodations for the aristocratic visitors was minimal. They wished to attend His Royal Highness and so had to rent rooms in local homes. Soon it became vital that they stay longer and many wished for finer facilities than were available. A few hotels opened. One, popular then and in Victorian period, still exists.

A few of these larger homes still exist, but are re-purposed. Many of the townhouses we see in Brighton today are compact structures similar to those we see in London from this period. More striking are the Lanes (Laines)  the narrow walkways dotted with shops, pubs, restaurants huddled together a few streets north of the center of town, The Steine.

The Steine (Steyne) denotes the main vertebrae of the town, running approximately north-south. Along this major promenade one walks along a park and arrives at Prince George's marvelous attraction, the Royal Pavilion. This building, a fantasy of architecture, sports the feeling of the best of Mughul architecture outside and inside a fantasy of what was then the perception of Chinese interior decor. Few pictures are here of the inside as the Pavilion is privately owned and operated and on-line sites can offer you a good idea of the interior. (Sold by Queen Victoria to the City of Brighton, the building offers tours of its magnificent collection of art and furniture.)

When Prinny assumed the throne in 1820 on the death of his father, his visits to Brighton became fewer and fewer. Many however continued to enjoy the town, though it was no longer the center of royal activities. Townhouse development, like the marvelous Brunswick Square townhouses (and the must-see Regency Town House restoration) continued. Started in 1823, Brunswick Square boasts a wonderful U-shaped configuration that leads to the sea. The lovely butter yellow paint makes you smile to see it, even from atop British Air's i360 EYE miles up the coast!

When you are in Brighton, do take the tour of Regency Town House. For a pittance, you will have a marvelous afternoon listening to one of their curators tell you about the house, its architecture and those who bought and rented these houses. Other Georgian era townhouse squares exist and you should take a look at those, too.

During Victoria's reign, the town grew dramatically. In 1841, the first railroad line was completed. The railroad station is a beautiful example of 'muscular' Victorian architecture. Arriving there from London in less than an hour now, it took twice as long in the latter part of the 19th century. But with the railroad came Londoners who sought the sun, the sea and fun!

Even today, people come for the day. Many come for the weekend. During the Victorian era, as servants and laborers got their Half-Day, they journeyed to Brighton for the curative powers of the sea air! Ladies came with their long bloomers to wade in the water. They also changed their clothes in so-called bathing machines. Many preferred to dip in the ocean inside these little boxes on wheels!

Brighthelmston 1822

Brighton today still feels like a Victorian seaside. The long Pier, the Clock Tower and the Aquarium are all innovations of the late 19th century. You can still see them and inhale the crisp cool sea air.

Please see below for a few references, should you wish to learn more.

Brighton, 1830

Ladies of a certain reputation were known to distract those on the cliff walk as smugglers landed 
their boats and dispensed their wares to local merchants!

Brighton, 1890 showing Aquarium and clock tower along the Marine Parade! 

Seaside fun! This was the Brighton Top Hat Swim Club of the 1860s!

Antram and Morriss, BRIGHTON AND HOVE, Pevsner Architectural Guides, Yale University Press, lonond, 2008.

The Regency Town House

Brighton Pavilion

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Join me Saturday when I do another of my videos explaining the joys and delights of Prince Regent's Brighton and the town as Victorian seaside playground! Pictures, commentary! For all who love historical romance, readers and authors alike!

I will discuss who went to Brighton, how it grew into a playground for rich aristocrats during Regency period, how it declined, then resurrected once more as a seaside resort for middle and lower classes who had half days off during the Victorian period!

"An excursion to Brighton, 1820"

Prinny travels to Brighton and his Royal Pavilion!

The second in my Victorian series, THOSE NOTORIOUS AMERICANS, is currently only 99 cents! Get it now!

Want to go to Opera Garnier?
Drink champagne at House of Worth?
Dance at Moulin de la Galette?
Live in Montmartre with a charming sculptor?
B&N: (digital)
B&N: (Print)