Brighton is a seaside resort and the largest part of the city of Brighton and Hove situated on the south coast of England.
Archaeological evidence of settlement in the area dates back to the Bronze Age, Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods. The ancient settlement of “Brighthelmstone” was documented in the Domesday Book (1086). The town’s importance grew during the Middle Ages as the Old Town developed, but it languished in the early modern period, affected by foreign attacks, storms, a suffering economy and a declining population. During the modern period, Brighton began to attract more visitors following improved road transport to London and becoming a boarding point for boats travelling to France. The town also developed in popularity as a health resort forsea bathing as a purported cure for illnesses.
In the Georgian era, Brighton developed as a fashionable seaside resort, encouraged by the patronage of the Prince Regent (later King George IV), who spent much time in the town and constructed the Royal Pavilion during the early part of his Regency. Brighton continued to grow as a major centre of tourism following the arrival of the railways in 1841, becoming a popular destination for day-trippers from London. Many of the major attractions were built during the Victorian era, including theGrand Hotel, the West Pier, and the Brighton Palace Pier. The town continued to grow into the 20th century, expanding to incorporate more areas into the town’s boundaries before joining the town of Hove to form the unitary authority of Brighton and Hove in 1997, which was granted city status by Queen Elizabeth II as part of the millennium celebrations in 2000.
Brighton’s location has made it a popular destination for tourists, renowned for its diverse communities, quirky shopping areas, large cultural, music and arts scene as well as a large LGBT population, leading to be labelled the “gay capital of UK.”
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Brighton’s largest private sector employer is American Express, whose European headquarters—the 300,000-square-foot (28,000 m2) Amex House at Carlton Hill—opened in 1977. As of 2008, 3,500 people worked there. Planning permission to demolish the offices and build a replacement was granted in 2009, and work started in March 2010. The £130 million scheme is expected to support 1,000 jobs in the construction industry. Other major employers include Lloyds Bank, Asda (which has hypermarkets at Hollingbury and Brighton Marina), Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company and call-centre operator Inkfish. In 2012, it was reported that about 1,500 of Gatwick Airport’s 21,000 workers lived in the city of Brighton and Hove.
Brighton is a popular destination for conferences, exhibitions and trade fairs, and has had a purpose-built conference centre—the Brighton Centre—since 1977. Direct income from the Brighton Centre’s 160 events per year is £8 million, and a further £50 million is generated indirectly by visitors spending money during their stay. Events range from political party conferences to concerts.
The Lanes form a retail, leisure and residential area near the seafront, characterised by narrow alleyways following the street pattern of the original fishing village. The Lanes contain predominantly clothing stores, jewellers, antique shops, restaurants and pubs. The North Laine area is a retail, leisure and residential area immediately north of the Lanes. Its name derives from the Anglo-Saxon “Laine” meaning “fields”, although the misnomer “North Lanes” is often used to describe the area. The North Laine contains a mix of businesses dominated by cafés, independent and avant-garde shops, bars and theatres.
Churchill Square is a shopping centre with a floor space of 470,000 sq ft (44,000 m2) and over 80 shops, several restaurants and 1,600 car-parking spaces.
The Royal Pavilion is a former royal palace built as a home for the Prince Regent during the early 19th century, under the direction of the architect John Nash, and is notable for its Indo-Saracenic architecture and Oriental interior. Other Indo-Saracenic buildings in Brighton include the Sassoon Mausoleum, now, with the bodies reburied elsewhere, in use as a chic supper club.
The West Pier was built in 1866 and is one of only two Grade I listed piers in the United Kingdom. It has been closed since 1975. For some time it was under consideration for restoration, but two fires in 2003, and other setbacks, led to these plans being abandoned. Plans for a new landmark in its place – the i360, a 183 m (600 ft) observation tower designed byLondon Eye architects Marks Barfield – were announced in June 2006. Plans were approved by the council on 11 October 2006. Construction started in summer 2014 and it is expected to open in summer 2016.
Brighton clocktower, built in 1888 for Queen Victoria’s jubilee, stands at the intersection of Brighton’s busiest thoroughfares.
The Brighton Wheel opened with some controversy, directly north east of the Brighton Marine Palace and Pier in October 2011 after a previous attempt to locate it in a more central location near the Metropole Hotel, at which time it was to have been the “Brighton O” – a special spokeless design rather than the traditional spoked wheel eventually purchased from its previous home in South Africa.
The Brighton i360 observation tower is expected to be completed in 2016. At 162 metres (531.49 feet) high, and with an observation pod rising to 138 metres (452.75 feet), the i360 will be Britain’s highest observation tower outside London – taller even than the London Eye.
Churches and places of worship:
The 11th century (1086) St Nicholas Church is the oldest building in Brighton, commonly known as “The Mother Church”. Other notable churches include the very tall brick-built St Bartholomew’s (1874) designed by the architect Edmund Scott, St Peter’s (1828), and St. Martin’s, noted for its decorated interior. Brighton’s Quakers run the Friends’ Meeting House in the Lanes. There is an active Unitarian community based in a Grade 2 listed building in New Road, and a Spiritualist church in Norfolk Square. There are also a number of New Age outlets and groups.
Brighton has three synagogues: the Middle Street Synagogue is a Grade II-listed building built in 1874–75. It is being gradually restored by English Heritage. There are also several Mosques and Buddhist centres.
Brighton has become known as one of the least religious places in the UK, based upon analysis of the 2011 census which revealed that 42 per cent of the population profess no religion, far higher than the national average of 25%.
Brighton has a 5.4-mile (8.7 km) expanse of shingle (pebble) beach, part of the unbroken 8-mile (13 km) section within the city limits. The seafront has bars, restaurants, nightclubs, sports facilities and amusement arcades, principally along the central section between the West and Palace Piers. This part is the most popular: daily visits exceed 150,000 at weekends in high summer. During a heatwave in October 2011, 200,000 tourists visited in a single weekend and spent about £5 million. Neighbouring Hove is well known for its hundreds of painted timber beach huts, but brick-walled chalets are also available on Brighton seafront, especially towards Rottingdean and Saltdean. Especially east of the Palace Pier, a flat sandy foreshore is exposed at low tide. The Palace Pier section of the beach has been awarded blue flag status. Part of the beach adjoining Madeira Drive, to the east of the city centre, has been redeveloped into a sports complex and opened to the public in March 2007, with courts for pursuits such as beach volleyball and ultimate Frisbee among others.
The city council owns all the beaches, which are divided into named sections by groynes — the first of which were completed in 1724. Eastwards from the Hove boundary, the names are Boundary, Norfolk, Bedford, Metropole, Grand (referring to the four hotels with those names), Centre, King’s, Old Ship, Volk’s, Albion, Palace Pier, Aquarium, Athina (where the MS Athina B ran aground), Paston, Banjo, Duke’s, Cliff, Crescent and Black Rock. Cliff Beach is a nudist beach. Beyond Black Rock, the cliffs (part of theBrighton to Newhaven Cliffs Site of Special Scientific Interest) rise to more than 100 feet (30 m) and there are three small beaches at Ovingdean Gap, Rottingdean Gap and Saltdean Gap. All are connected by the Undercliff Walk, which has been affected by several cliff falls since 2000.
Since the demolition in 1978 of the Black Rock open-air lido at the eastern end of Brighton’s seafront, the area has been developed and now features one of Europe’s largest marinas. However, the site of the pool itself remains empty except for a skate park and graffiti wall. Since 2003 a series of developments have been proposed but have come to nothing, including housing, a five-star hotel with a winter garden, and an 11,000-seat sports arena.
The Duke of York’s Picturehouse, dating from 1910, was opened by Mrs Violet Melnotte-Wyatt. It is the country’s oldest purpose-built cinema and was Brightons first ElectricBioscope, which still operates as an arthouse cinema. The Duke of Yorks Picturehouse has expanded the cinema range in Brighton to include two more screens at the Komedia Theatre situated in Gardner Street central Brighton. There are two multiplex cinemas.
Brighton museums include Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Preston Manor, Booth Museum of Natural History, Brighton Toy and Model Museum, and Brighton Fishing Museum, the long established social epicentre of the seafront, which includes artefacts from the West Pier. The Royal Pavilion is also open to the public, serving as a museum to the British Regency.
Popular alternative rock band The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, alternative rock duo Blood Red Shoes, indie rock band The Kooks, metalcore band Architects, hip-hopduo Rizzle Kicks and dark cabaret band Birdeatsbaby originated in Brighton. Alternative blues rock duo Royal Blood formed in Brighton in 2013 and had a UK number 1 album with their debut in 2014. Indie psych band The Wytches are based in Brighton and signed to Heavenly Recordings in 2014, releasing their debut album Annabel Dream Reader in August which reached the UK top 50. There are over 300 pubs in the town.
Brighton has about 400 restaurants, more per head than anywhere else outside London. A wide range of cuisines is available.
Theatres include the Brighton Dome and associated Pavilion Theatre, the expanded Komedia (primarily a comedy and music venue but also a theatre), The Old Market which was renovated and re-opened in 2010, and the Theatre Royal which celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2007. There are also smaller theatres such as the Marlborough Theatre, the New Venture, and the Brighton Little Theatre. The city has the new purpose built Brighton Open Air Theatre, or B•O•A•T, which is due to open for the Brighton Festival in May 2015. It is unique in that its programme will be chosen by lottery to ensure that it remains accessible and open to all comers.
Various styles of music are popular in the UK from the indigenous folk music of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to heavy metal. Notable composers of classical music from the United Kingdom and the countries that preceded it include William Byrd, Henry Purcell, Sir Edward Elgar, Gustav Holst, Sir Arthur Sullivan (most famous for working with the librettist Sir W. S. Gilbert), Ralph Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten, pioneer of modern British opera. Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is one of the foremost living composers and current Master of the Queen’s Music. The UK is also home to world-renowned symphonic orchestras and choruses such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Chorus. Notable conductors include Sir Simon Rattle, John Barbirolli and Sir Malcolm Sargent. Some of the notable film score composers include John Barry, Clint Mansell, Mike Oldfield, John Powell, Craig Armstrong, David Arnold, John Murphy, Monty Norman and Harry Gregson-Williams. George Frideric Handel, although born German, was a naturalised British citizen and some of his best works, such as Messiah, were written in the English language. Andrew Lloyd Webber has achieved enormous worldwide commercial success and is a prolific composer of musical theatre, works which have dominated London’s West End for a number of years and have travelled to Broadway in New York
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