Some of our visitors have heard of the English seaside city of Brighton (where we lived before we moved to France in 1998). South of London, in the county of East Sussex, Brighton is a vibrant place known, amongst other things, for its two piers, its Royal Pavilion palace and for its language schools.
Brighton is sometimes talked of as “London by the sea”, meaning that it’s a cosmopolitan city made up of various “city villages”, each of which has a distinct atmosphere. Fiveways, the Seven Dials, Kemp Town and The Lanes are some of the best-known of these.
With its westerly neighbour, Hove, it is also a city rich in architecture, substantially helped by the royal patronage it enjoyed when the Prince of Wales commissioned John Nash to build the famous Royal Pavilion.
This richness of the city’s architecture is at times breath-taking and a good starting point is to consider the total number of listed buildings that can be seen in Brighton and Hove:
|Grade I buildings are of exceptional interest, sometimes considered to be internationally important. (2.5% nationally)||24|
|Grade II * buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest. (5.5% nationally)||70|
|Grade II buildings are nationally important and of special interest. (92% nationally)||1,124|
With it having 24 examples of Grade I listed buildings, the city really is a haven for lover’s of architecture.
Brighton’s Lewes Crescent
One of our favourites is Sussex Square and Lewes Crescent, to be found down along the seafront as you go east towards the marina. Lewes Crescent is the biggest crescent in Britain, having a diameter some two hundred feet greater than the Royal Crescent in Bath.
Completed between 1827 and 1828, the crescent and square consist of 78 individual houses that are grouped around the “Kemp Town Enclosures”, private gardens for the use of the residents.
Brighton’s history is fascinating. It remained a small fishing village until the 1780s. Then a Doctor Russell promoted the health benefits of bathing in the (even cold) sea. This trend became popular with the wealthier classes. By 1806, after several visits to Brighton, George (the Prince Regent, Prince of Wales) completed his astonishing Royal Pavilion.
Demand by the wealthy for property in Brighton, which could be used in summer, accelerated. Thomas Kemp began to promote a scheme to build a series of grand and elegant houses to the east of Brighton. He initially envisaged building two hundred and fifty houses. The facades of the Crescent and the Square were completed, with individual owners finishing each property to their own taste.
Although Kemp’s plan was fully completed in 1855, the opening of the railway line from London to Brighton changed the town’s fortune. No longer was Brighton the preserve of the rich; it soon became a playground for tourists with much smaller pockets.
By the start of the 20th century, with the enormous cost of maintaining these properties, many of them started to be divided into apartments. Today, although a few of these houses are single homes, the majority are multiple-occupancy properties.
The Visit Brighton website
The French side of The Visit Brighton website (« Pourquoi Brighton ? »)
English Heritage’s page about listed buildings
Grade I listed buildings in Brighton and Hove (Wikipedia)
Grade II * listed buildings in Brighton and Hove (Wikipedia)
Grade II listed buildings in Brighton and Hove (A-B) (Wikipedia)
The website of The Kemp Town Enclosures
The Kemp Town Society: conservation, community and culture