Favourites on Friday - Garish, Charming Brighton

Another weekend away last week, my last for the year.  Chose Brighton, not too far and not too expensive.  Again, its somewhere I’ve never been, and when I realised how close it actually is, wondered why I never had!

Made straight for the pier and sea from the station … the nice thing about Brighton is that most everything you would want to see is walking distance.  The weather was pleasant, and the place still had a ‘summer holiday’ feel about it – not bad for October. 

Brighton Pier is loud and brash.  It was fun to walk around, but some of the music by the rides was way too loud for me, so I didn’t spend too long there.  Armed with an ice cream cone, walked onto the beach.  Even though I always complain about getting sand in shoes, I have decided that I much prefer our sandy beach to Brighton’s pebbly one.  It was most weird walking on it.

I think it was eyeing my ice cream

There were a few images like these etched on the walls, but no explanation

Back on solid ground, walked towards the other end, past the Grand Hotel.  I didn’t realise at that moment, while I was there, that it was almost 31 years since it had been bombed by the IRA – 12 October 1984; I was there on 10 Oct.  It had been an assassination attempt on the then PM Margaret Thatcher; she survived but 5 people died in the bombing.

The morning after the bombing October 1984

Down on the beach, there was, in quick succession, a children’s play area, a very large ‘sandbox’, a basketball/sporty court, and other things which I now can’t remember.  By then I was walking along a long rectangle of grass.  The feeling I got was of a lot of things being crammed into a relatively small space.  I thought it would probably look better in the evening, with the lights.

The prettiest public toilets I've ever seen

Had a tasty fish and chips dinner – very generous-sized fish for something labelled ‘medium’.  It was still pleasant enough so sat outside … and was regaled with the incongruous sight of a man dressed as a flower running past, chased by more men dressed as bees …!!  I didn’t spend too long trying to work that one out ;)

Walked towards the pier again, and it did look better all lit up.  (Apologies for rubbish photos, my camera seems to have an aversion to night-time shots.)  By now, night had descended, and it had gotten much colder.  Nothing could be seen out in the other-worldly, eerie expanse where the sea and sky met, the almost-solid black that stood ready to devour the defiantly lively, too-bright pier.

Wandered away from the seafront towards the Royal Pavilion, thinking that would surely be beautifully lit up.  It was … but in such a subdued fashion.  Walked past little pockets of people sat in the gardens, from a few youths huddled over their phones, to a couple leaning close, heads almost touching, sat right next to … the town drunks!  Talk about strange.

Going back to the hotel, walking along the seafront again, past people getting merrily drunk, and very loud with it.  And the loudest drunks these days seem to be women.  It’s as if they have to prove that they are equal to men when it comes to drinking.  So far, I wasn’t that taken with Brighton …

Potted history time … Following the Saxons landing in the area in the 5th century, it was mainly fishermen and farmers who inhabited the place.  By the Middle Ages, it had become a busy market town, with a daily fish market on the beach despite the fact that the sea was beginning to erode the coast.  The wars with France and Holland in the late 17th century led to a decline in the fishing industry as the enemy navies prevented fishing vessels from plying their trade.  Brighton’s fortunes continued its downward trend following 2 terrible storms in the 18th century.

By the late 18th century, however, things were beginning to look up.  In 1750, a physician, Dr Richard Russell, claimed that bathing in seawater had great health benefits.  At first, only a few were willing to try it until the arrival of George, Prince of Wales, in the mid-1780s.  His physicians had advised him to try Brighton’s climate, which would benefit him, along with the sea water treatments.  Not long afterwards, Brighton was inundated with countless rich folk following the prince’s example.  Having the Prince of Wales live in the town only served to heighten Brighton’s prosperity and social development.

The 19th century saw, amongst other things, the construction of a chain pier in 1823; steam ships sailing between Brighton and northern France; and a railway line linking London and Brighton in 1841.

Fast forward to 2015 … Sunday arrived in an aptly sunny manner.  Had breakfast in a funky little restaurant, and headed back to the Pavilion.  It was warm enough that I took my coat off.  Away from the pier and seafront, the place had a totally different feel, so much more character.  It was busy, but not so busy that you felt suffocated.

'Abandoned' synagogue

Next to the synagogue ...

... sweet little restaurant next to the building in the previous photo ...

... and next to restaurant, 'abandoned' Hippodrome

Middle Street has existed since the 1500s

Just as well it was closed, I suppose ... saw at least one collection of books I'd have happily bought

Interior of restaurant where breakfast was had

The building with the minarets and green dome is the Brighton Dome, arts and entertainment venue ...

Brighton Dome - used to be the stables, along with what is now the Museum and Art Gallery

The Royal Pavilion

Wasn’t in the mood to spend time in buildings, so didn’t go into the Pavilion.  Photography isn’t allowed inside; a lot of the items are on loan, and one of the loan conditions is that no photographs be taken without written permission.  The Royal Pavilion started as the Marine Pavilion, the home of George, Prince of Wales.  He hired the architect, Henry Holland, to transform his home into a villa which would reflect his love of architecture and fine arts.  In 1808, the stables were completed, providing stabling for 62 horses. 

In 1811, George was sworn in as Prince Regent after his father, George III, was deemed no longer capable of serving as monarch.  In 1815, George commissioned John Nash to transform his villa into a palace.  Instead of tearing down Holland’s construction, Nash superimposed a cast iron frame onto the existing construction to support the minarets, domes and pinnacles on the exterior.  The interior of the Pavilion was finally finished in 1823; George became king in 1820, and was only able to make 2 visits to the finished Pavilion, in 1824 and 1827.

George, Prince Regent

John Nash

George IV died in 1830, and was succeeded by his brother, William IV.  As the Royal Pavilion was not big enough for a married sovereign, further buildings had to be added to accommodate Queen Adelaide’s household.  None of those buildings have survived.

After the death of King William in 1837, his niece, Victoria, ascended the throne.  Not comfortable with the Royal Pavilion’s association with the extravagance of her uncle, George IV, Victoria finally sold it to the town in 1850.  The building was stripped of all its interior decorations and furnishings as it was thought the palace would be demolished.  Instead, it was opened to the public.  In 1864, Queen Victoria returned many of the items, and again in 1899.

During the First World War, the Pavilion was one of a number of sites transformed into a military hospital.  Between 1914 and 1916, wounded soldiers from the Indian Army were treated there.  In 1920, restoration work was started on the Pavilion, funded by a settlement from the government for damage done during its use as a hospital.  Restoration continued through the years, pausing only during the Second World War.  If George IV could see the Royal Pavilion today, he would surely feel proud to see his dream still standing for people to enjoy.

Just inside the entrance

The Dome

If I had to choose the one thing I enjoyed most of what I saw in Brighton, it has to be the street art.  Found down side streets, on electric transformer boxes, decorating buildings, I love that it is all displayed so proudly, and in such a vibrant manner.

As it’s not so far to go, similar time-wise as a day trip to London, I’ll go back one day and venture into the Pavilion, and the Art Museum … maybe check out the quirky shops …

Nice idea, shame it's locked