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Brighton is a famous seaside resort on the South coast of England in the county of Sussex. Brighton is located on a picturesque range of hills known as the South Downs.

The resorts of New Brighton and Brighton Beach are both named after the town.

The motto of Brighton is À L'eau c'est l'heure ("Time to go to sea") a reference to the city's origins as a seafaring and fishing village


The Beginning

Brighton was founded in the early Saxon period, possibly just a farm as the older name, 'Brighthelmston'. The settlement grew up at the point where the Downs meet the sea, providing easy hill or valley routes to the town of Lewes and beyond.[1]

The Domesday Book of 1086 is the earliest documentary mention of Brighton. The fishing industry was well established at Brighton by this time as a tribute of 4,000 herrings was paid to one of the local manors. The information provided by the Domesday Book would also indicate a sizeable population at Brighton, something in of the order of 400.[2]

The village grew into a town of size and importance, one of the largest in Sussex, and it probably spread onto the cliff top around this time, either through population growth or because of the ravages of the sea.

The Middle Ages

The first fortification at Brighton was the bulwark, which was a tower built next to the town in 1497. Brighton town council consisted of 12 men chosen from 'the most respectable, wealthier and discreeter' inhabitants, 8 fishermen and 4 landmen. They chose one of themselves to be the Constable, responsible for law and order for one year. When one of the 12 died the other 11 selected somebody to replace him.[3]

The 16th Century

By 1580 there were 400 fishermen and 102 landmen living in Brighton. So it probably had a population of around 2,500. By the standards of the time Brighton was a fair sized market town. There were 80 fishing vessels.[4]

The 18th Century

Brighton began to revive and prosper. The first theatre in the town opened in North Street in 1774. A second free school opened in Duke Street in 1779. The first grammar school in Brighton opened in 1789. By 1767 two assembly rooms were built and in 1773 a market house was built so covered markets could be held.

As well as these developments Brighton grew quickly in size. From a population of about 2,000 in 1750 it grew to about 4,000 in 1783, the year of the Prince's visit.

The modern name of the town, Brighton, first appeared in 1660. By 1810 it was the official name of the town.

In 1750, Dr Richard Russell, a resident of Lewes, wrote a book in which he claimed that bathing in seawater was very good for your health. Rich people began to come to Brighton hoping to be cured of some illness by bathing in seawater. At first they were a trickle, but later became a flood. In 1783 the Prince of Wales and his friends visited Brighton which ensured its popularity.

The 19th Century

In 1841 a railway to London opened which made it much easier for visitors to reach Brighton. By 1848 it was estimated that 250,000 people visited Brighton each year.

West Pier was built in 1866, followed by Palace Pier was built in 1899. In 1883 the Volk's Electric Railway opened along the eastern side of the waterfront, the first electric railways in the world.[5]

The 20th Century

When World War II began in 1939 many schoolchildren from London were evacuated to Brighton to escape the bombing. Since Brighton was, of course, a seaside resort rather than a manufacturing town it was anticipated it would escape bombing. Most of the evacuees soon returned home, however. Yet Brighton was not as safe as people thought it would be and the town suffered considerable damage as a result of bombing. There were 56 raids in all and over 5,000 houses were damaged or destroyed.

From the 1960's onward the city slid into decline, as it's tourist tourist trade dipped significantly, as low cost foreign travel boomed. During the hippie era the city became a magnet for young left wingers, bringing to the city many social ills, including violent crime (as portrayed in the film Brighton Rock), drug dealing, rackmanism (eptiomised in the famous trial of local criminal landlord Nicholas van Hoogstraten) promiscuity, and homosexual behaviour, along with other sexual deviations. This hastened the decline of the tourist trade, resulting in the West Pier closing in the 1970's.

The 21st Century

Brighton and Hove was made a city in 2000. In December 2002 West Pier partly collapsed when severe weather hit Brighton, not long before work was due to start on restoring it. Later, the a fire further damanaged the structure, and it was speculated by some of local population to have been a deliberate attempt by the Palace Pier company to put an end to plans for restoration of a competing structure. Brighton's other pier the Palace Pier was damaged by fire in February 2003, but damage was minimal, and the pier opened within 24 hours.

Today the population of Brighton is around 278,000. The city is home to a large homosexual community and is known as the "Gay Capital of Britain".

There is a rich tradition of charitable giving in the town.[6]

Economy and Industry

Recent years have seen a resurgence in traditional tourism, driven by short stay weekend breaks with young people from London and business conferences replacing the traditional family one and two week holidays. A new generation of boutique and spa hotels have sprung up to capture the market, with rates of over £100 a night no longer uncommon. The city is also a centre for the creative industries, publishing, design and the digital media industry.

Both nearby port towns of Shoreham and Newhaven have significant industrial development, which in Newhaven has become a matter of contention with local residents, as they feel Brighton city council attempts to dump it's "dirty" industries in their area, so to maintain it's liberal "environmentally friendly" credentials. Meanwhile, Shoreham also houses Brighton's main source of power, a large fossil fuel power station with a 110m tall chimney, which dominates the local skyline.


The city is also home to two universities, Brighton University and Sussex University, as well as the prestigious Roedean public school, to the east of the city. To the west, just over the border in West Sussex, lies the equally prestigious Lancing College, where all students are required to attend Anglican church services every Wednesday, and 2 or 3 Sundays each term.[7]

Transport and Industry

The city is served by Brighton City Airport, located a few miles to the west of the city in the port area of Shoreham. Flights are available to the channel islands and France. The airport is famous for it's art deco architecture, and is one of the oldest civil airports in the United Kingdom. London Gatwick Airport is nearby, with many domestic, international and intercontinental routes, and is the main airport used by travellers to and from the city, with direct rail and bus services available. The airport is located very near, but not directly connected to, Shoreham railway station.

The city is the southern terminus of the extremely busy Brighton Main Line, which suffers from serious congestion. the line joins here with the West Coastway Line.[8] Commuter and fast express trains to and from London Victoria, Gatwick Airport and Bedfordshire, to the north of London all operate on the main line. Suburban and regional services also operate on the West Coastway and local branch lines.

The city bus system is regarded as one of the best in the country outside London, and has a high frequency "Metro" service on most routes, and digital displays at bus stops giving real time service information. There is a flat fare system in operation. For many years, it was the only bus system outside of London showing sustained growth in passenger numbers. At present there is no integrated ticketing solution for bus and suburban rail travel.

There are port facilities at Shoreham, which handles significant shipping in timber, oil and scrap metal products, and has an enclosed dock system, as well as tidal facilities handling private craft. Newhaven docks lie at the mouth of the River Ouse, and handles ferry traffic from Dieppe in France along with smaller quantities of coastal freight shipping.

Brighton city itself has a very large, purpose built marina to the east of the city centre.

Royal pavilion

In 1787 the most famous building in Brighton, the Pavilion, was built for the first time, although it was originally built in classical style (i.e. it imitated ancient Greek and Roman buildings). The original building looked quite unlike the present oriental one. The pavilion was rebuilt in 1815. This time it was made to imitate an Indian palace. Brighton town council bought the pavilion in 1850. Brighton's Royal Pavilion is a former royal residence, used by three monarchs in the town.