Tuesday, 8 June 2010

A Welcome Change - a Summer`s Day in Brighton

I took these photographs two weeks ago, while we stayed for a few days in Brighton. Friends came to our house in the New Forest and let us escape the daily tasks of home and of caring for our animals. Life in the country is full and rewarding, but it is good to have a change sometimes.

Brighton is often called "London by the Sea". A busy and colourful city where the elegance of Regency architecture provides a backdrop for so many modern lives . Initially a fishing town on the Sussex coast, Brighton grew in popularity as a seaside "Watering Place" in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Sea bathing was said to be good for the health, as was drinking water from springs that emerge from clear chalk in the South Downs sloping up beyond the town.

When King George IV was a young man and the Prince of Wales, he came to love the fresh sea air of Brighton. He illegally married a beautiful Roman Catholic woman, Mrs Fitzherbert, and established a seaside home with her in Brighton. Later, in 1811, when his father ,George III, became incapacitated by ill health, the Prince of Wales became Prince Regent until the old king died. George IV gained the throne in 1820 and continued his long association with Brighton until his death in 1830.

It was during time of the Regency that Brighton grew from a simple fishing town into a grand and elegant resort. Fine, Classically inspired Regency architecture came to dominate the seafront and town houses that were seaside homes for the wealthy and the fashionable London people of the time.

Today, Brighton is alive and vibrant. Still fashionable with London exiles and as the site of two universities , Brighton is home to the young, to artists and writers and to a thriving Gay community. There is a good feeling of tolerance and the excitement of new ideas lives alongside the elegance of Brighton`s historical past.

On the seafront, the ornate Bandstand is lit up against dark night over the sea.

On a hot morning of bright light and blue sea, we walked down onto the crunching pebbles of Brighton beach. Looking westwards, the built-up coast stretches away towards Hove, Shoreham and Lancing across the bay.

Turning to the east and the Pier, where the morning beach was almost deserted.

A tall, Regency house overlooking the sea.

The rusting iron skeleton of the old pier, long since burned down and partially collapsed.

The Grand Hotel. A fine building that lives up to its name. It was here that the IRA exploded a bomb during the Conservative Party Conference of October 1984. The then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher , escaped with her life, but some other Party members were killed or seriously injured.

Cafes and stalls on the lower promenade, where their colourful awnings and the smell of fresh coffee began to attract early morning tourists.

Beachside stalls selling fresh shellfish.

The first ride of the morning for the Golden Gallopers.

Two swimmers heading out towards the pier..

Walking through narrow streets towards The Lanes, we passed this clothing shop where the windows housed a fascinating display of old, often antique, sewing machines.

Below are some views of The Lanes, where people wander for hours and browse in the small and interesting shops.

We stopped for coffee in the roof garden of a stylish , modern cafe . A fig tree provided shade from the hot, late morning sun.

Set in beautiful and natural gardens, Brighton Pavilion was built as the seaside "Pleasure Palace" of George IV and was later used as a seaside royal residence by King William IV and then by Queen Victoria. George, Prince of Wales commissioned Henry Holland to build the first Marine Pavilion in 1787. He then asked the Regency architect John Nash to enlarge and enhance the building, so that the opulent Brighton Pavilion was transformed between 1815 and 1823.

We toured the interior of the Pavilion and were amazed by the finery and extravagance of its decorative style. George IV was fascinated by things Chinese. Carving and gilding, painting and furniture design are all in the richly ornate style of "Chinoisery". A palace designed to dazzle and impress all who visited it.

Brighton and Hove City Council now own and conserve the Pavilion. It seemed fitting that the people of Brighton have now regained a sense of ownership of this special place. They were there in their summer crowds, to enjoy an afternoon in the lush and natural gardens once strolled in by English Kings and Queens on their seaside holidays.


Kath said...

Oh isn't that the strangest thing. I was just thinking a couple of hours ago, that I would love to visit Brighton and here is a perfect Travelogue to save me the trip LOL
I did enjoy the photos, the lanes reminded me of Glastonbury.That pavillion is just breath taking, thank heavens its been retained and now conserved for many more generations to enjoy. Lovely post :D

ChrisJ said...

I've just finished reading "Our Tempestuous Days" by Carolly Erickson. It is an excellent account of the Regency period and historically accurate. It's probably quite well known, but I found it on one of our many bookshelves and have no idea where it came from. Probably picked it up at a Book Fair or Garage Sale. Anyway I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The thing I always remember about Brighton is the pebbly beach. Such a disappointment to me a small child hoping to build sand castles!