1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Brighton (England)

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BRIGHTON, a municipal, county and parliamentary borough of Sussex, England, one of the best-known seaside resorts in the United Kingdom, 51 m. S. from London by the London, Brighton & South Coast railway. Pop. (1901) 123,478. Its ready accessibility from the metropolis is the chief factor in its popularity. It is situated on the seaward slope of the South Downs; the position is sheltered from inclement winds, and the climate is generally mild. The sea-front, overlooking the English Channel, stretches nearly 4 m. from Kemp Town on the east to Hove (a separate municipal borough) on the west. Inland, including the suburb of Preston, the town extends some 2 m. The tendency of the currents in the Channel opposite Brighton is to drive the shingle eastward, and encroachments of the sea were frequent and serious until the erection of a massive sea-wall, begun about 1830, 60 ft. high, 23 ft. thick at the base, and 3 ft. at the summit. There are numerous modern churches and chapels, many of them very handsome; and the former parish church of St Nicholas remains, a Decorated structure containing a Norman font and a memorial to the great duke of Wellington. The incumbency of Trinity Chapel was held by the famous preacher Frederick William Robertson (1847-1853). The town hall and the parochial offices are the principal administrative buildings. Numerous institutions contribute to the entertainment of visitors. Of these the most remarkable is the Pavilion, built as a residence for the prince regent (afterwards George IV.) and remodelled in 1819 by the architect, John Nash, in a grotesque Eastern style of architecture. In 1849 it was purchased by the town for £53,000, and is devoted to various public uses, containing a museum, assembly-rooms and picture-galleries. The detached building, formerly the stables, is converted into a fine concert hall; it is lighted by a vast glazed dome approaching that of St Paul's cathedral, London, in dimensions. There are several theatres and music-halls. The aquarium, the property of the corporation, contains an excellent marine collection, but is also used as a concert hall and winter garden, and a garden is laid out on its roof. The Booth collection of British birds, bequeathed to the corporation by E.T. Booth, was opened in 1893. There are two piers, of which the Palace pier, near the site of the old chain pier (1823), which was washed away in 1896, is near the centre of the town, while the West pier is towards Hove. Preston and Queen's parks are the principal of several public recreation grounds; and the racecourse at Kemp Town is also the property of the town. Educational establishments are numerous, and include Brighton College, which ranks high among English public schools. There are municipal schools of science, technology and art. St Mary's Hall (1836) is devoted to the education of poor clergymen's daughters. Among many hospitals, the county hospital (1828), "open to the sick and lame poor of every country and nation," may be mentioned. There are an extensive mackerel and herring fishery, and motor engineering works. The parliamentary borough, which includes the parish of Hove, returns two members. The county borough was created in 1888. The municipal borough is under a mayor, 14 aldermen and 42 councillors. Area, 2536 acres.

Although there is evidence of Roman and Saxon occupation of the site, the earliest mention of Brighton (Bristelmeston, Brichelmestone, Brighthelmston) is the Domesday Book record that its three manors belonged to Earl Godwin and were held by William de Warenne. Of these, two passed to the priories of Lewes and Michelham respectively, and after the dissolution of the monasteries were subject to frequent sale and division. The third descended to the earls of Arundel, falling to the share of the duke of Norfolk in 1415, and being divided in 1502 between the families of Howard and Berkeley. That Brighton was a large fishing village in 1086 is evident from the rent of 4000 herrings; in 1285 it had a separate constable, and in 1333 it was assessed for a tenth, and fifteenth at £5:4:6¾, half the assessment of Shoreham. In 1340 there were no merchants there, only tenants of lands, but its prosperity increased during the 15th and 16th centuries, and it was assessed at £6:12:8 in 1534. There is, however, no indication that it was a borough. In 1580 commissioners sent to decide disputes between the fishermen and landsmen found that from time immemorial Brighton had been governed by two head boroughs sitting in the borough court, and assisted by a council called the Twelve. This constitution disappeared before 1772, when commissioners were appointed. Brighton refused a charter offered by George, prince of Wales, but was incorporated in 1854. It had become a parliamentary borough in 1832. From a fishing town in 1656 it became a fashionable resort in 1756; its popularity increased after the visit of the prince of Wales (see GEORGE IV.) to the duke of Cumberland in 1783, and was ensured by his building the Pavilion in 1784-1787, and his adoption of it as his principal residence; and his association with Mrs Fitzherbert at Brighton was the starting-point of its fashionable repute.

See[edit]

  • Victoria County History—Sussex.
  • Sussex Archaeological Society Transactions, vol. ii..
  • L. Melville, Brighton, its History, its Follies and its Fashions (London, 1909).