The History of Brighton’s Most Famous Landmarks
With so much culture, architecture and history embedded in Brighton’s scene, it can be easy to admire what we have without really discovering how it got there. So here we are, offering you the history of Brighton’s most iconic landmarks.
1. Royal Pavilion
According to the website, “The Royal Pavilion has a colourful history stretching back over 200 years.” The outstanding architectural feat was originally built as a pleasure palace for King George IV, although it has served many other purposes since then. It has previously been used as a civic building and a First World War hospital, amongst other things. Its constant use and central location, as well as its outlandish design, has made the Royal Pavilion a true icon in Brighton culture. At the time that George IV came to Brighton, it was still developing from a decaying fishing town to an established seaside retreat for the rich and famous, due to its proximity to London. Apparently George IV was a “vain and extravangant man” so Brighton suited him just fine. Today, the Royal Pavilion (and what the town has done with it) is a living testament to George IV’s “regency dream”. The Royal Pavilion website acknowledges that “it was a major influence on Brighton’s growth and prosperity during the 19th century”. So apparently we have King George IV to thank for why Brighton is the way it is today…
2. The North Laine
Another key part of Brighton’s culture and a huge tourist attraction is the North Laine. The word “Laine” (not lane) is derived from an Anglo-Saxon legal term for land holding, but generally was used as a Sussex dialect term for an open tract of land at the bottom of the (South) downs. According to the official website, “The layout of the streets is based on the access tracks that used to divide the farming plots” – You learn something new everyday! Interestingly, the North Laine nearly got demolished in the 1970s, with plans to redevelop the area in favour of high rise buildings and car parks. Luckily, Ken Fines (the Borough Planning Officer at the time), saved the North Laine as he felt the area had charm. Phew!
3. Brighton Palace Pier
The seafront’s crown jewel, Brighton Palace Pier, opened its doors to visitors in just 1899 after work started on the pleasure pier in 1891. Initially, it played rival to Brighton’s West Pier but unfortunately that was closed in 1975 and was subsequently damaged from fire and storms. Surprisingly, the Palace Pier has gone through a few name transitions too. Despite generally being known as Palace Pier for short, its owners renamed it “Brighton Pier” in 2000 before U-turning just last year and going back to its initial name. Brighton’s Palace Pier is a hugely iconic structure, being grade-II* listed and having featured in many films over the years.
4. West Pier
The beautiful West Pier may be no more, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still an iconic landmark. The West Pier opened over thirty years prior to the aforementioned Palace Pier. It was intended by its creator, Eugenius Birch, to attract visitors and survive in the hostile environment of the seashore. According to the site, the structure was simple and functional, featuring dozens of cast iron threaded columns. Despite opening in 1866, the final project wasn’t completed until 1916, when it resembled a graceful concert hall. The pier embodied “seaside architecture at its finest”, attracting plenty of holiday goers each year. Alas, now it is no more but we can still appreciate the fine structure it once was.
5. The Donut
This strange and eye catching sculpture is located at the end of the groyne, just right of the Palace Pier. Dating back to 1998, artist Hamish Black created this piece of modern art. The title of the artwork is actually called ‘Afloat’ although it is generally referred to as ‘The Donut’. Interestingly this shape has been proposed by scientists as a model of how our universe may look. But mostly, this structure is used for photography opportunities. Although most may choose to pose next to it, the website suggests that “its centre at eye level allows a view of our world through the sculpture”, which may make for better picture perfect moments. Apparently the donut is now even seen as an iconic site for marriage proposals. How romantic…
6. The Clock Tower
Built in 1888, the Clock Tower (sometimes referred to as the Jubilee Clock Tower), is in the centre of Brighton’s town, located near Churchill Square. The structure is freestanding and was built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Despite being listed as a grade-II structure by British Heritage, its architectural merit is disputed even if many residents “retain a nostalgic affection” for it.
7. The British Airways i360
A very new addition to the town’s architectural feats, the i360 popped up just last August on the landward side of where the huge structure has gained a lot of publicity – mostly negative. The i360 was designed, engineered, manufactured and promoted by the team responsible for the London Eye, yet isn’t quite the pretty sight that the London Eye can be seen as. It’s selling point is that from its viewpoint you receive a 360 degrees view of the town and it has previously been described as a “vertical pier”. Many residents have expressed concern that the i360 doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of Brighton’s historic architecture. So what do you think? Will Brightonians in a hundred years or so be marvelling at the beauty of the i360?