Brighton & Hove is the host city for the Street Choirs Festival in 2018.
Brighton and Hove
Brighton, now the City of Brighton and Hove, is the UK’s largest seaside resort with a population of 273,400. Jane Austen referred to Brighton as a place of frivolity in her novels, and it now also has a reputation for art and culture and is a hub for the creative industries. It is known for its regency squares and terraces, piers, of which only one, the Brighton Palace Pier, now survives intact, King George IV’s “Pleasure Palace” the Royal Pavilion, the Dome concert hall, the National Elm Collection of over 17,000 English elm trees that survived Dutch Elm Disease and the 1987 Great Storm, a Premier League football team, 2 universities, the UK’s only Green MP, Caroline Lucas (along with 2 Labour MPs!), and the i360, a 162 metre high observation tower on the seafront.
Brighthelmstone to Brighton
Brighton was originally a fishing village called Brighthelmstone. The fishing boats, called hog boats or hoggies, were dragged up onto the shingle beach and a central flat area known as The Steine (pronounced “steen”), was used for drying fishing nets. There is more information in the Brighton Fishing Museum down on the seafront below Kings Road.
Brighthelmstone became a fashionable resort after Dr Russell, a physician from Lewes, advocated a sea water cure in 1753. It then expanded with grand Georgian terraces and squares, Brunswick to the West and Kemp Town to the East. One house in Brunswick Square, the Regency Town House, is being restored to its original Georgian state and is open for visiting at certain times. Brighton was officially adopted as the town’s name in 1810.
In 1928 the city grew, and held celebrations to mark the extension of the boundaries: those celebrations are captured on film, available on the BFIPlayer which shows what Brighton & Hove looked like 90 years ago.
The Lanes vs North Laine
There are two areas in Brighton with very similar names but very different histories. The Lanes, in the area now bounded by West Street, North Street and East Street, was the original fishing village made up of narrow lanes and alleyways known as “twittens”. Black Lion Lane and Ship Street Gardens are examples of twittens. The Lanes later became well known for its antique shops but now has mostly independent shops, cafes and restaurants.
The area known as North Laine, to the north of the Lanes, has a different origin. By the 1740s the arable land around Brighton old town had been divided into large fields called laines, of which North Laine was one. The laines were divided into smaller fields called furlongs, which were themselves subdivided into long narrow strips. This field layout influenced the pattern of streets as Brighton developed after the arrival of the railway in 1841, with North Laine becoming Brighton’s commercial and industrial area. Today it is still residential but has independent shops, cafes and a market. There is a plaque in Kensington Gardens where Anita Roddick opened the first Body Shop in 1976.
If you want to know more about the history of the city, then the My Brighton & Hove website is a great community resource. They even have a record about the 2008 Festival that was hosted by Hullabaloo Community Quire in Brighton. Were you there? Can you spot yourself in the photos?