Wednesday, 1 June 2011


Brighton, which played a starring role in the 1938 novel Brighton Rock by Graham Greene, is undoubtedly the main rival to Bournemouth for the title of premier south coast resort. It has been described as London-on-sea, due to its relative proximity to the capital. Brighton and the adjoining resort of Hove are essentially one big community, named Brighton and Hove for administrative purposes. The resort used to have two piers, but one of them, the West Pier, burned down in 2003. It subsequently remained in situ, looking rather sad, but there are now plans to install a glamorous new attraction at the site, namely the i360, described as “a slender, elegant observation tower” capable of elevating its passengers to a height of 150 meters above sea level, giving panoramic views of the seafront. The other pier, the Palace Pier, remains in place in spite of having endured a number of mishaps over the years, including an attempted IRA bomb attack in 1994. Viewed from the Palace Pier, Brighton has a slightly depressing high-rise appearance, but behind this modern facade there is a charming labyrinth of streets dating from an earlier age called The Lanes, offering an array of smart little shops, restaurants and pubs. Brighton has a thriving gay community, and each summer there is a massive Gay Pride parade.

Just to the east of the Lanes is Brighton’s most famous landmark, which looks as though it belongs not only to a different age, but to a far-flung country. The Brighton Royal Pavilion was built to look like an Indian palace, and looks comically incongruous with its riot of domes and other exotic Indian features. It houses one of the finest collections of chinoiserie in Britain. It was built by John Nash as a seaside home for the Prince Regent, George, Prince of Wales, later King George IV, and construction commenced in 1787.

In the late 1800s, Magnus Volk, son of a German clockmaker, who was born in Brighton, built a tourist attraction which was a rival in eccentricity even for the Pavilion. Nicknamed the “Daddy Longlegs”, it was a “Seashore Electric Tramroad” consisting of a vehicle with 24-foot long legs, each with four wheels on the end, with two open decks, which could carry up to 150 passengers for 3 miles along the seafront to neighbouring Rottingdean. It was powered by electric cables which ran along a row of wooden poles. Sadly, this bizarre example of 19th century inventiveness was destroyed by a severe storm one week after opening, although it was rebuilt, only to close again in 1910. One of Volk’s earlier projects, however, was much more long-lived, in fact it still runs today. August 1883 saw the opening of Volk’s Electric Railway, the world’s first public electric railway. During the summer months it is possible to travel on this eminent piece of engineering from the Aquarium to Black Rock.  Just beyond the latter is the Marina with an array of shops and restaurants.

Brighton Festival, one of the country’s biggest and most well-established arts festivals, takes place in early summer each year. For other events, see here.

Map of the area.

File:Brighton, The Palace Pier - - 869745.jpg
Photo by Martyn Gorman, via Wikimedia Commons

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