Brighton (St. Nicholas)

BRIGHTON (St. Nicholas), a sea-port, borough, market-town, and parish, in the hundred of Whalesbone, rape of Lewes, E. division of Sussex, 30 miles (E.) from Chichester, and 52 (S.) from London; containing 46,661 inhabitants. This place, in the Saxon Brighthelmstun, in Domesday book Bristlemeston, and now, by contraction, generally Brighton, is supposed to have taken its name from the Saxon bishop, Brighthelme, who resided in the vicinity. It was anciently a fortified town of considerable importance, and by some antiquaries is thought to have been the place where Cæsar landed on his invasion of Britain; an opinion probably suggested by the quantity of Roman coins found in the town, the vast number of human bones, of extraordinary size, which have been discovered for nearly a mile along the coast westward, and the traces of lines and intrenchments in the immediate vicinity, bearing strong marks of Roman construction. From a fortified town, it was, by successive encroachments of the sea, reduced to a comparatively inconsiderable village; and soon after the Conquest the place was inhabited principally by fishermen. It was frequently assaulted by the French, by whom, in the reign of Henry VIII., it was plundered and burnt; and as a protection against their future attacks, fortifications were erected, which were repaired and enlarged by Queen Elizabeth, who built a wall, with four lofty gates of freestone, for its better defence. After the fatal battle of Worcester, Charles II. arrived here on the 13th of October, 1651, and on the following morning embarked for France, in a small vessel belonging to the port, which landed him safely at Feschamp in Normandy, and which, after the Restoration, was taken into the royal navy as a fifth-rate, and named the "Royal Escape." In the years 1665 and 1669, an irruption of the sea destroyed a considerable part of the town, and inundated a large tract of land adjoining; and in 1703, 1705, and 1706, the fortifications were undermined, and many houses destroyed by tremendous storms and inundations that threatened its annihilation.

In the reign of George II., Brighton began to rise into consideration as a bathing-place, from the writings of Dr. Russell, a resident physician, who recommended the sea-water here, as containing a greater proportion of salt than that of other places, and being therefore more efficacious in the cure of scrofulous and glandular complaints. Its progress was accelerated in 1760 by the discovery of a chalybeate spring, the water of which being successfully administered as a tonic, in cases of infirm or debilitated constitutions, the town became the resort of invalids from all parts of the country; and it ultimately obtained the very high rank which it now enjoys as a fashionable watering-place, under the auspices of George IV., who, in 1784, when Prince of Wales, commenced the erection of a palace here.

The town is pleasantly situated on elevated ground rising gently on the east and west from a level called the Steyne, supposed to have been the line of the ancient Stayne-street, or Roman road from Arundel to Dorking. It adjoins a bay of the English Channel, formed by the promontories of Beachy Head and Worthing Point; extends nearly three miles from east to west; and is sheltered by a range of hills on the north and north-east, and by the South Downs. Its form, including the more recent additions, is quadrangular; and the streets, which are spacious, and intersect each other at right angles, are well paved, and lighted with gas: an act was obtained in 1834, for more plentifully supplying the town with water; in 1839 and 1843 acts were procured for the better lighting of the town, and in 1839 one for the establishment of a general cemetery. The houses in the older part are irregularly built, but the more modern part consists of handsome ranges of uniform buildings, many of which are strikingly elegant, and situated on the cliffs. Kemp Town, in the extreme east, contains some splendid mansions: there are also fine ranges of building, with a square, in the extreme west, towards Hove; and in other parts are agreeable squares. The Pavilion, begun in 1784, and completed in 1827, by George IV., is in the oriental style of architecture, on the model of the Kremlin at Moscow. It has a handsome stone front, 200 feet in length, with a circular building in the centre, surrounded by an arcade of elliptic form, with intercolumniations carried up to the parapet, and crowned with a splendid oriental dome, terminating in a slender and richly-embellished finial, and encircled with four minarets of nearly equal elevation. The central range is connected, by corridors of circular buildings, crowned with domes of similar character, but of smaller dimensions, with two quadrangular and boldly-projecting wings, round which are carried arcades similar to that of the centre, with lofty pagoda roofs, and minarets rising from the angles. The interior contains a splendid vestibule and grand hall, a Chinese gallery of costly magnificence, a music-room, banqueting-room, rotunda, and numerous stately apartments, all decorated in the most sumptuous style of oriental splendour. Connected with the palace on the west, is the private royal chapel, consecrated in 1822; and behind it are the royal stables, a circular structure, appropriately designed in the Arabian style, and surmounted by a dome of glass: on the east side of the quadrangle in which they are situated, is a racquet-court, and on the west a ridinghouse.

Hot and cold sea-water, vapour, and shower baths have been constructed in the town, with every regard to the convenience of the invalid: those at the New Steyne hotel are supplied with water raised from the sea, to the height of 600 feet, by an engine, and conveyed through a tunnel excavated in the rock. The chalybeate spring, about half a mile west of the old church, is inclosed within a neat building; and the water, which deposits an ochreous sediment, has been found very beneficial as a restorative, and is in high repute: the German spa, also, near the Park, affords every variety of mineral water, artificially prepared. There are several public libraries: assemblies are held at the Ship hotel, in which are spacious rooms superbly fitted up; and a concert and ball room, in Cannon-place, lately erected, is said to be one of the best adapted to its purpose in the kingdom. The theatre, erected in 1807, is externally an unadorned building, with a plain portico, but is elegantly fitted up within. The races, which continue for three days, are held on the Downs, in the first week in August. The Royal Gardens, to the north of the town, including a spacious cricket-ground, are appropriated to various amusements; and the Downs afford pleasant and extensive rides. The Old Steyne is adorned with a bronze statue of George IV. by Chantrey, erected in 1828, at an expense of £3000, raised by subscription; and comprises the North and South Parades, and several other agreeable walks: the inclosures have been much improved of late, and are ornamented with a fountain, which was completed in 1846. The splendid suspension chain pier, constructed in 1821, at an expense of £30,000, under the superintendence of Capt. Sir S. Brown, R.N., forms a favourite promenade, 1130 feet in length: during a violent storm on the 15th of October, 1833, it sustained considerable injury, but it was effectually repaired by subscription, under the direction of Capt. Brown. The Esplanade, 1200 feet long and 40 feet wide, connects the pier with the Steyne. Among the more recent improvements is the construction of a sea-wall, on the beach in front of the town, extending from Middle-street to Kemp Town, a distance of a mile and a half; it forms one compact and solid mass, presenting a formidable barrier to further encroachments of the sea: a beautiful carriage drive was formed, and the total expense of the undertaking exceeded £100,000. There are barracks for infantry in the town, and for cavalry at the distance of a mile, on the road to Lewes. The artillery barracks on the western cliff, where there is a battery of heavy ordnance for the defence of the beach, are now used as dwelling-houses.

Steam-vessels sail from this place or Shoreham to Dieppe and Havre; but few vessels discharge their cargoes on the beach, the great quantity of articles for the supply of the town being landed at Shoreham harbour, and thence conveyed hither by land carriage or railway. The principal branch of trade is the fishery, in which about 100 boats are employed: the mackerel season commences in April, and the herring season in October; and soles, turbot, skate, and other flat fish, are also taken in great quantities, and sent to the London market. The making of nets and tackle for the fishermen, the materials of which are brought from Bridport, affords employment to a portion of the inhab tants. The London and Brighton railway was constructed by a company, incorporated by act of parliament passed in July 1837, by which they were empowered to raise a joint-stock capital of £1,800,000, and by loan £600,000. The line was opened Sept. 21st, 1841. It diverges from the London and Croydon railway, about 9¼ miles from London, and reaches its termination at Church-street, Brighton, whence there is a branch of 5½ miles to Shoreham, opened in May, 1840: the Shoreham branch has been since extended to Worthing, Arundel, Chichester, and Portsmouth; and a line has been completed from Brighton to Lewes and Hastings. The Brighton station is an elegant structure in the Grecian style, surrounded by a colonnade, above which is a handsome balustrade. The market was established by act of parliament, in 1773: the principal day is Thursday, but there are daily markets for the supply of the inhabitants. The fairs are on Holy-Thursday and Sept. 4th. A new and commodious market-house was built on the site of the old workhouse, in 1829. By the act of the 2nd of William IV., cap. 45, the town was constituted a borough, consisting of the parishes of Brighton and Hove, with the privilege of sending two members to parliament; the returning officer is annually appointed by the sheriff of the county. The town is within the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, who hold meetings every Monday and Thursday. A constable, eight headboroughs, and other officers are chosen annually at the court leet for the hundred; and the direction of police and parochial affairs is entrusted, under an act of parliament, to a corporate body of 112 commissioners elected by the inhabitants, who appoint a town-clerk, surveyor, collectors of tolls and duties, police officers, &c. The powers of the county debt-court of Brighton, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Brighton, and part of that of Steyning. A new town-hall has been erected on the site of the old market-house, near the centre of the town, at an expense of £30,000; it is a very large edifice, ornamented with three stately porticoes, and contains offices for the magistrates, commissioners, directors of the poor, &c., the lower part being used as a market-place.

The living is a vicarage, with the rectory of West Blatchington consolidated, valued in the king's books at £20. 2. 1½.; net income, £1041; patron, the Bishop of Chichester; impropriator, T. R. Kemp, Esq. The parish church is a spacious ancient structure, partly in the decorated, and partly in the later, English style, with a square embattled tower, which, from the situation of the church on the summit of a hill, 150 feet above the level of the sea, serves as a landmark to mariners. It contains a fine screen of richly carved oak, and an antique font, said to have been brought from Normandy in the reign of William the Conqueror, which is embellished with sculptured representations of the Last Supper, and of the miracles of our Saviour. St. Peter's church is an elegant structure at the north end of the town, in the later English style, with a square embattled tower crowned with pinnacles, erected in 1827, at an expense of £18,000, partly by the Parliamentary Commissioners, and containing 1840 sittings, of which 940 are free. The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £350; patron, the Vicar. The Chapel Royal, in Prince's-place, erected in 1793, is a neat plain edifice, containing 900 sittings, of which 200 are free: the living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £180; patron, the Vicar. The church of St. James, in St. James's street, contains 1000 sittings, of which 300 are free: the living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £181; patrons, the Trustees of the late N. Kemp, Esq. The church of St. Mary, in the same street, is a handsome structure in the Grecian style, with a portico of the Doric order, and contains 1100 sittings, of which 240 are free: the living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £100; patron and incumbent, the Rev. H. V. Elliott. The church of St. George, in Kemp Town, is a well-built edifice in the Grecian style, containing 1450 sittings, of which 390 are free: the living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £150; patrons, L. Peel, Esq., and the Rev. J. S. M. Anderson, the incumbent. The church of the Holy Trinity, Ship-street, contains 900 sittings, of which 200 are free: the living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £150; patron and incumbent, the Rev. C. E. Kennaway. St. Margaret's, Cannon-place, was built in 1827, is in the Grecian style, and contains 1000 sittings, of which 200 are free: the living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift and incumbency of the Rev. F. Reade, with a net income of £150. The church of All Souls, Upper Edward-street, erected in 1833, contains 1100 sittings, nearly all free: the living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £100; patron, the Vicar. Christ-Church, in the Montpelier-road, was consecrated April, 1838, and contains 1076 sittings, of which 624 are free: the living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the Vicar; net income, £420. The church of St. John the Evangelist, Carlton-Hill, contains 1225 sittings, of which 625 are free: the living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Vicar; net income, £90. The foundation-stone of All Saints' church, West-street, was laid in April, 1846; the building is in the early decorated style, and was erected partly by the Church Commissioners, partly by the Wagner family, and partly by general subscription. A neat church, with a spire, has also been just completed at Kemp Town; and besides these is St. Andrew's, Waterloo-street, in Hove parish. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, the Society of Friends, the Connexion of the Countess of Huntingdon, Huntingtonians, Scottish Seceders, Wesleyans, and others; also Bethel chapel, belonging to the Mariners' Friend Society; a Roman Catholic chapel, and a synagogue.

Brighton College, opened January 26th, 1847, provides for the sons of noblemen and gentlemen a course of education of the highest order, in conformity with Church principles. It was established by a proprietary, who appoint a patron, four vice-patrons, and a council consisting of a president, four vice-presidents, and twelve other members: there are a principal, a vice-principal and theological tutor, a head-master, and seven assistant-masters. The pupils are divided into two departments, the senior and the junior; and those in the former wear an academical dress: three scholarships of £30 a year each have been founded. The building occupies an elevated site at Kemp Town, near the new church, and is in the Elizabethan style; it is of compact form, and the grounds around it are inclosed by a substantial wall, in some parts very lofty. Of the numerous Free Schools the principal are, the school in Gardenerstreet, for girls, endowed in 1811, by Swan Downer, Esq., with £7100, subsequently invested in the purchase of £10,106. 15. three per cent. consols., producing a yearly income of £303; the Blue-coat school, in Ship-street, for boys, to which William Grimmit, Esq., in 1749, bequeathed property, afterwards invested in Old South Sea annuities, amounting at present to £2330. 11., producing a dividend of £69. 18.; the school near Russel-street, for the children of fishermen; and the Orphan Asylum, for girls, on the western road. The St. Mary's Hall institution, for the education of the daughters of poor clergy, was established in 1838. There are also several schools on the National system, connected with the Established Church, in which more than 1300 children receive daily instruction, and also infant and Sunday schools; appropriate buildings have been completed at an expense of nearly £7000.

The County Hospital and General Sea-Bathing Infirmary, with a detached house of recovery for persons labouring under contagious fever, is a very neat edifice of pale brick, with ornaments of stone, occupying an elevated site near Kemp Town, which, with a donation of £1000, was given by T. R. Kemp, Esq. The Earl of Egremont contributed £2000 towards its erection, and £4000 towards its endowment. At the western extremity of the main building, a wing called "Victoria" was added in 1839, towards the erection of which Lawrence Peel, Esq., contributed £500; the balance of a fund raised for the celebration of the Queen's first visit to Brighton, amounting to £400, was also appropriated, and £1600 raised by subscription. Six almshouses for poor widows are endowed with £96 per annum, under the wills of Philadelphia and Dorothy Percy, daughters of a late Duke of Northumberland: 20 poor men and 24 women are annually clothed from the interest of £5000, left by Swan Downer, Esq.; and there are a lying-in institution, Dorcas, and other societies for the benefit of the poor; for whose advantage, also, Col. Ollney recently bequeathed £500, the interest to be distributed in coal and blankets at Christmas. On White Hawke Hill, near the race-course, on which a signal-house has been erected, are the remains of an encampment, having a narrow entrance on the north, where it is defended by a double intrenchment; and on Hollingsbury Hill, a second station for signals, about two miles north of the town, are vestiges of a large circular encampment, in which are several tumuli. In 1750, an urn containing 1000 silver denarii, of the emperors from Antoninus Pius to Philip, was found near the town; and in the immediate vicinity are numerous remains of altars and other Druidical monuments.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.