Brighton & Hove through the agesExplore the history of Brighton & Hove with this brilliant interactive timeline. Click to discover the changing face of Brighton, from 447AD to present day
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Early habitation in Brighton (est. 447 – 457)
The earliest sign of habitation is a flint dagger discovered in the chalk cliffs. It is believed to date back about 250,000 years. Located on Whitehawk hill overlooking Brighton racetrack is the remains of a Neolithic “causeway camp” of the New Stone Age. The Romans came, saw, conquered, built roads and villas; and then departed.
Saxons following a chieftain called Aella secured the area and made it theirs (Sussex, land of the South Saxons). Brighton is first mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles of the seventh century as “Beorthelm’s-tun” and means “the town of Beorthelm”. Beorthelm’s-tun, by now “Brighthelmstone”, remained a small fishing village (population circa two thousand) until the 1780s.
French raiders attacked the village of Brighthelmstone
Fleet of French raiders attacked the village of Brighthelmstone, burning almost every building to the ground.
Brighton has a population of around 2,500. It has 80 fishing vessels.
By 1580, Beorthelm’s Tun, became a thriving small town with around 2,500 residents. The modern day name, Brighton, was first seen in records dating back to 1660.
Royal Pavilion construction complete
In 1783 George Prince of Wales visited the Duke of Cumberland, in 1785 he married Miss Fitzherbert. By 1806 his ultimate indulgence, the transformation of a rural farmhouse into the ornate Royal Pavilion was complete.
It was built in three campaigns, beginning in 1787, as a seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales, from 1811 Prince Regent. It is often referred to as the Brighton Pavilion. It is built in the Indo-Saracenic style prevalent in India for most of the 19th century, with the most extravagant chinoiserie interiors ever executed in the British Isles.
Did you know?
During the Second World War, the Germans were not supposed to bomb Brighton because Hitler wanted the Royal Pavilion as his seaside home.
Regency Square is built
British city of Brighton and Hove. Conceived by speculative developer Joshua Hanson as Brighton underwent its rapid transformation from fishing village to fashionable resort, the three-sided “set piece” of around 70 houses and associated structures was designed and built over a ten-year period by Brighton’s most important Regency-era architects: the partnership of Charles Busby, Amon Wilds and his son Amon Henry Wilds. The site was originally Belle Vue Field—used at various times as a military camp (mentioned in Pride and Prejudice), a showground and the location of a windmill.
The square was a prestigious, high-class development, attracting the social elite. The square gradually lost its prestige status after the First World War as hotels started to move in. The square’s central garden, originally private, has been council-owned since 1884 and is publicly accessible.
Royal Suspension Chain Pier built
Generally known as the Chain Pier, it was designed by Captain Samuel Brown. The pier was primarily intended as a landing stage for packet boats to Dieppe, France, but it also featured a small number of attractions including a camera obscura. An esplanade with an entrance toll-booth controlled access to the pier which was roughly in line with the New Steine. Turner and Constable both made paintings of the pier, King William IV landed on it, and it was even the subject of a song.
The Chain Pier co-existed with the later West Pier, but a condition to build the Palace Pier was that the builders would dismantle the Chain Pier. They were saved this task by a storm which destroyed the already closed and decrepit pier on 4 December 1896.
London to Brighton railway opens
The opening of the London to Brighton railway made the journey cheap and easy. It also brought a massive influx of tourists from a very different social background from traditional high society. The new tourists were middle- or lower-class trippers from the South of London.
The population of Brighton is 77,693
By 1861 Brighton was approximately the 15th largest town in England and Wales.
Brighton Grand Hotel build complete
The Grand was the first truly exclusive hotel in Brighton, designed by architect John Whichord. It was built in 1862-64, ostensibly for the upper classes that visited Brighton when it became a fashionable resort. Its imposing fascia is an amalgam of grandiose Italian renaissance and classic Victorian architecture.
West pier opens
Opened 6th October 1866. The Pier was designed and engineered by Eugenius Birch to attract visitors and survive in the hostile environment of the seashore.
Originally the West Pier had an open deck with only six small ornamental houses of oriental design, two toll houses and glass screens at the pier head to protect visitors from the wind and sun. In 1875 a central bandstand was added. In the 1880’s weather screens the full length of the pier, steamer landing stages and a large pier head pavilion were constructed. The final building, completed in 1916, was a graceful concert hall.
The Dome Concert Hall opens
The Brighton Dome is an arts venue in Brighton, England, that contains the Concert Hall, the Corn Exchange and the Studio Theatre. Formerly the Prince Regent’s stables, The Dome was converted to a concert and assembly hall, fit to hold 2,500 people on 24 June 1867.
Did you know?
Pink Floyd debuted Dark Side Of The Moon at Brighton Dome, 1972.
On the 6th April 1974, ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo’ at Brighton Dome which launched their career.
Brighton Aquarium and Dolphinarium (The Sea Life Centre)
Brighton Aquarium was the brainchild of Eugenius Birch, the famous pier engineer and designer of Brighton’s West Pier, who conceived the idea following a visit to Boulogne Aquarium.
Erected on the approach roadway to the Chain Pier, the Aquarium necessitated the construction of a new sea-wall and promenade, the Madeira Road, which was commenced in 1869.
The whole project was completed in 1872 at a cost of £130,000, and the Aquarium was inaugurated by Prince Arthur at Easter although there were no exhibits at the time. It was formally opened to the public on 10 August 1872 by the mayor, Cordy Burrows.
Did you know?
Sea Life Brighton is the oldest operating aquarium in the world.
Chain Pier destroyed by storm
The Chain Pier, already closed and decrepit by this point, was destroyed by a storm on 4 December 1896.
The remains of some of the pier’s oak piles, sunk ten feet into bedrock, can still be seen at the most extreme low tides. Masonry blocks can also be seen. The entrance kiosks and signal cannon of the pier are still intact, and are now used as small shops on the Palace Pier. The plaque commemorating this has been removed from the kiosks, but remains on the cannon.
Brighton Marine and Palace Pier
At 1,722ft long, Brighton Marine Palace and Pier opened in 1899 is generally known as the Palace Pier for short, but has been informally renamed Brighton Pier since 2000 by its owners, the Noble Organisation, as it is now Brighton’s only non-derelict pier, a term not recognised by the Piers Society or by the majority of Brightonians. In July 2016 the owners announced it would be renamed Brighton Palace Pier.
During World War II the pier was closed and some decking removed as a security precaution.
Summer shows with stars such as Dick Emery, Tommy Trinder and Doris and Elsie Waters were held in the theatre until the 1970s.
During a storm in 1973, a 70-ton barge moored at the pier’s landing stage broke loose and began to damage the pier head, particularly the theatre. Despite fears that the pier would be destroyed, the storm eased and the barge was removed. The damaged theatre was never used again.
In 1986 the theatre was removed, on the understanding that it would be replaced. This has not happened, and the present seaward end building looks fairly modern in comparison with the rest of the structure, supporting a domed amusement arcade and several fairground rides, including several thrill rides, children’s rides and roller coasters.
Brighton population 123,478
Brighton’s population (not including Hove) reaches 123,478. According to the Registrar General’s annual figures, which are based on births and deaths, the peak population of Brighton was 164,680, attained in 1968.
Goldstone football ground, becomes the home of Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton and Hove Albion were playing at the nearby County Cricket Ground, and as their pitch was unavailable, they approached Hove FC to use the Goldstone and went on to defeat Southampton Wanderers 7-1 in a friendly on the 22nd of February 1902.
The Hove FC committee realised that gate money alone was insufficient to pay the rent, so in the summer they approached Albion with a view to sharing the ground. The Albion accepted, and moved from the County Ground in time for the 1902-03 season.
The War Memorial in Regency Square
The War Memorial in Regency Square was erected to commemorate the 152 soldiers of the Royal Sussex Regiment who died between 1900-1902 in the Boer War. It was unveiled on October 29th 1904 by the Marquess of Abergavenny, Lord Lieutenant of Sussex.
The memorial cost £1,400 which was raised by public subscription and Regimental funds, which also provided additional benefits for the men who served. The bronze statue, modelled on a sergeant sounding the charge, is based on a real incident that took place during the South African campaign at Doornkop.
The Hove Lagoon Model Yacht Club
Formed in 1929 and still very actively sailing model yachts on the lagoon today. There is also sailing and windsurfing on the lagoon.
Pathe Pictorial Goes To The Seaside (1947)
Pathé footage of Brighton and Beach (1950-1959)
Regency Square Underground car park built
An underground car park is built beneath Regency Square
Pathé Footage of Shops In Brighton (1970-1973)
The Brighton Centre is built
Brighton Centre, a conference and exhibition centre designed in a Brutalist style by architects Russell Diplock & Associates made extensive use of textured concrete.
Did you know?
Bing Crosby’s final performance was at the Brighton Centre on 10 October 1977. He died of a heart attack four days later, while at a golf tournament in Spain.
On 11 December 1982, The Jam played their last gig in the Conference Room at the Brighton Centre.
Brighton Marina built and opened
In 1971 huge reinforced concrete caissons each weighing 600 tonnes were fabricated on site and put into place by a giant 600 tonne crane constructed on site. In 1973 the final caissons of the West Breakwater were laid. By 1977 the infrastructure of the Marina was completed and the yacht berths were in the process of installation.
With Land areas below sea level at high tide a sea wall was built for protection. A lock provided access to the inner harbour- this is one of the largest non-commercial locks in Europe. In 1978 the Marina was opened to boats. HM The Queen opened the Marina after a tour with HRH The Dule of Edinburgh.
Did you know?
Brighton Marina is the largest man made marina in Europe covering 127 acres.
Quadraphenia filmed in Brighton
Mods and rockers fighting on the seafront, in East Street (outside the ABC Cinema) and the adjoining twittens (alleyways)—especially that next to 11 East Street, which bear commemorative graffiti—to a soundtrack by The Who (and others).
Other scenes include the Waterfront Cafe next to the Peter Pan playground, the Grand Hotel and the Aquarium. The memorable ending was shot at Beachy Head.
Brighton Marina Superstore and village square with shops and restaurants added, followed by flats and houses.
Construction costs far exceeded the original budget. Backers were reluctant to give further funding so the development stopped.
In 1985 the Marina taken over by Brent Walker and led by flamboyant boxer turned businessman George Walker. He immediately brought in a superstore operator and developed a village square with shops and restaurants, followed by flats and houses built on promontories overlooking the inner harbour.
12th October 1984 – IRA bomb explodes at Brighton’s Grand Hotel
The IRA carried out its most audacious attack on this day in 1984 – bombing the Grand Hotel in Brighton in an attempt to wipe out Margaret Thatcher and her government.
The IRA hatched its plan to assassinate Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – who they blamed for the death of hunger strikers including Bobby Sands – in 1983. The terrorist group chose the following year’s Conservative party conference in Brighton and the town’s Grand Hotel, as the location – and chose explosives officer Patrick Magee as the man to plant the bomb.
Marina cinema complex completed
A 1600 space multi storey car park and cinema complex was completed in 1988.
IRA bomb found and detonated in controlled explosion near Brighton Palace Pier
A bomb planted by the IRA near the pier in 1994 was defused by a controlled explosion.
Goldstone Ground demolished
The ground was sold by the board, who were trying to clear the club’s mounting debts in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy, although no alternative football ground had been lined up, and without consulting the fans. The then chairman, Bill Archer, aimed to profit from the sale of the lucrative development land on which the Goldstone stood. A ground share with Portsmouth never materialised and the club eventually arranged a ground-share with Gillingham at their Priestfield Stadium over 70 miles from Brighton.
The last game at The Goldstone was held on 26 April 1997, in which Brighton beat Doncaster Rovers 1-0. The result lifted Brighton off the bottom of Division Three and meant that a draw or win in their visit to Hereford United the following weekend would prevent relegation to the Conference and preserve their Football League status. Brighton went on to draw the game 1-1 and secure survival – thus avoiding becoming the first former members of the top flight or the first major cup finalists to be relegated to the Conference.
Brighton and Hove is made a city
The switch from town to city is seen as such an accolade, it was reserved for only 17 towns in the previous century (20th). In 2000, Brighton & Hove, Inverness and Wolverhampton were awarded city status, to mark the Millennium.
West Pier burns down
In December 2002, the pier partially collapsed during a storm, when a walkway connecting the concert hall and pavilion fell into the sea. The following month, the concert hall in the middle of the pier fell over, leaving the entire structure close to total collapse.
On 28 March 2003 the pavilion at the pierhead caught fire. Fire crews were unable to save the building from destruction because the collapsed walkway prevented them from reaching it. The cause of the fire remains unknown, since fire investigators were unable to access the site for safety reasons, although it is thought to have been arson.
A more severe fire burned through 11 and 12 May 2003, consuming most of what was left of the concert hall. On 23 June 2004, high winds caused the middle of the pier to collapse completely. The following month, English Heritage declared the pier to be beyond repair.
Opening of Brighton & Hove Albion FC Amex stadium
Home of Brighton & Hove Albion FC, The Amex stadium officially opened on 30 July 2011, hosting a friendly match against then-Brighton manager Gus Poyet’s old club Tottenham Hotspur, the home-side narrowly losing 3–2.
The first competitive match was held on 6 August 2011, when Brighton beat Doncaster Rovers 2–1, after being 1–0 down.
The Brighton Wheel is built
The Brighton Wheel, also known during its planning and construction phase as ‘The Brighton O’ and ‘The Wheel of Excellence, was a transportable Ferris wheel installation, which operated from October 2011 until May 2016 on the seafront in Brighton, part of the English city of Brighton and Hove.
Situated below the East Cliff near Brighton Pier and built with private funding, its promoters anticipated that several hundred thousand visitors per year would experience the 12-minute ride. The wheel’s location in a conservation area with many residential buildings proved controversial.
Brighton & Hove population 273,369
As of the 2011 census, Brighton & Hove is officially England’s most populous seaside resort, with a population of 273,400.
The Brighton wheel taken down – replaced by i360
Sources: For a full list of references used in the creation of this piece of content, please click here
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