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Written by JulieW
(6/2/2007 1:11 p.m.)
I thought you might like to see some images etc of early 19th century Brighton and why Lydia might consider it a place holding the prospect of every possible earthy happiness.
Here is a detailed map of Brighton dating from 1808:
Brighton is in the country of Sussex, on the southern coast of England.
Here is a description of the general situation of the town from John Feltham’s Guide to the Watering Places and Spas (1816):
This delightful p1ace which within the memory of some of ourselves, was only a small insignificant town,-in a corner of the coast little frequented, has now become fashionable, elegant, and universally known.
Till lately it had the name of Brighthelmstone; but, like low persons rising to eminence, who are often ashamed of their origin, it has now assumed the title of Brighton which certainly has a more genteel sound, and " passes trippingly o'er the tongue."
Brighton is only 52 miles distant from London; and as the crow flies, it is not above forty-three. Coaches now travel in six hours. It is situate in50 degrees 55 minutes north latitude, and about 3 minutes to the westward of the meridian of London, close by the sea; and gives its appellation to a bay formed by Beachy
Its name is said to have been derive from Brighthelm, a Saxon bishop, who lived in the vicinity; but this is a point I do not pretend to discuss, convinced as we are that it is evidence. impossible to settle it on any satisfactory.
Brighton stands on an eminence which gently declines toward the south-east, with a _regular slope to the Steyne, a charming lawn so named ; and thence rises with a moderate ascent to the eastward along the cliff to a considerable distance. It is protected from the north and north-easterly winds by an amphitheatrical range of hills; and on the west it has extensive corn-fields, which slope from the Downs toward the sea.
The hills round Brighton are of easy access, and covered with an agreeable verdure. From their summits the Isle of Wight may be plainly seen, with a pleasing view of the weald of Sussex. The soil is naturally dry, and the heaviest rains that fall here seldom prevent the exercise of walking or riding for any length of time after they have ceased; a circumstance not unworthy of regard, in a place of pleasurable attraction.
What earthy delights would the town hold for Lydia? The answer is most things: she could go celebrity spotting……and also sea bathe ,which would of course ‘set her up for ever”:
It must be allowed, indeed, that independently of the celebrity it derives from its royal and noble visitors, no part of the kingdom enjoys a more salubrious air. It is considered as an extraordinary case for the natives or constant residents to be troubled with a cough, or any pulmonary complaint; but experience has proved that the air is too sharp for strangers who are liable to those attacks. In cold weather it is sheltered by the hills from chilling blasts; and in the hottest season of the year, the breezes from the sea are refreshing and salutary. The sea-water is highly impregnated with salt; and the beach, being a clean gravel and sand, with a gradual descent, is peculiarly favourable for bathing.
Brighton’s history was interesting:
Brighton was formerly a fishing-town ; and many of it, inhabitants still depend principally on the fisheries for a subsistence. It contained even at that period several narrow streets, besides several lanes; and was defended by strong fortifications; having been several times attempted in the French, but without effect. The ruins of a wall are still to be seen on the beach under the cliff which appears to have been built by queen Elizabeth. This wall was fourteen feet high, and extended 400 feet from the east o the west gate of the town, In 1758 the eastern gate was taken down, to allow space for constructing a battery; but this being demolished by the seas another has been erected, on the west of the town, in a situation likely to secure it from the annoyance of the waves.
During the 18th century and early 19th century it rose to prominence as a place for sea bathing, and the health benefits of sea bathing were promulgated by Dr Russell, a native of nearby Lewes who practised medicine in Brighton.
From the 1740s, and perhaps even before, Dr Russell was prescribing bathing and even the drinking of sea-water for many ailments, and the popularity of sea-bathing rapidly increased.
His is a picture of the first Irish edition of his influential work.
Bathing-machines appeared on the beach by 1750, and although bathing was mixed initially, separate beaches for the sexes were later established, the ladies' beach being just east of the Steine with the gentlemen's to the west.
This picture by Rowlandson, form his work An Excursion to Brightelmstone(1790) shows the first bathing “ machines “ on Brighton beach , with the seaman and fishermen of the old trade which dominated the town, mending their nets to the right of the picture ;-)
In 1776 Dr Samuel Johnson bathed at Brighton, and when the Prince of Wales expressed his pleasure at the practice during his first visit in 1783 the future of sea-bathing was assured. In the early nineteenth century some doctors even advocated bathing in cold water throughout the winter.
Here is a picture of a ladies bathing ensemble from 1800: a Circassian Ladies Corset and Seaside Bathing Dress Invented and to be had exclusively from Mrs Bell 26 Charlotte Square, London. You can see the hooded bathing machines in the background of the picture.
This is a picture of the rather formidable Martha Gunn a very famous “ dipper’ whose job was to dip the female bather vigourosly into the sea water. ( Gentlemen were similarly plunged into the sea by “Bathers”)
She was a favourite of the Prince of Wales and she has free access to his kitchen at the Pavillon. (She was also rumoured to be a procuress…..)
The Presence of members of the Royal family and their mistresses leant a certain raffish air to the place. Long before the Prince of Wales decided Brighton was the place to be ,the town had been very popular with two of his uncles, the Dukes of Cumberland and York. The Prince of Wales mistress( or rather morganatic wife) Mrs Fitzherbert had a house on the Stenye not far from the Prince’s home, the Marine Pavillion. So , in addition to bathing Lydia could gaze at members of the Royal family and speculate on just what type of relationships the prince had with his lady friends.
The Marine Pavillion- which was originally a modest building designed by Henry Holland, eventually became the fantastical building, The Royal Pavilion , but at the time P+P was written/published it was not the crazed and opulent place it eventually became. Below is a picture of the Marine Pavilion in 1813 as drawn by J P Neale in his book Beauties of England and Wales (1813). So that is how Lydia would have known it ;-)
Cobbey’s Brighthelmstone Directory of 1800 lists the following additional attractions for visitors.
There were two assembly rooms: one at the Old Ship Inn and one at the Castle Inn. Balls were held on Mondays a the Castle and Thursdays at the Old Ship. Card evenings were on Wednesdays and Fridays at the Castle and on Tuesdays and Saturdays at the Old Ship.
There were many coffee hosues along the Steyne, the lovely green space fronting the Marine Pavilion. John Saunders had a billiard room above his coffee house and Mrs Kent in her elegant four storyied house on the Styene also offered the delights of a shop selling “toys” and jewellery.
Two Circulating libraries were also to be found. Donaldson’s on the Steyne was a famous one. There was also Woodgate’s.Both were popular meeting places, where the subscription books could be examined rather like the subscritpn books at Bath’s pump room for news of the newly arrived to town
There was also a threate in Duke Street( the old one in North Street closed in 1792),and the manager often managed to attract famous actors from London to grace the stage: the players from the playhouse at Lewes ( which he also managed)often performed there too. Students of JA nomenclature might be interested to note that the manager of this theatre( who was also the manager of the Haymarket theatre in London) was a Mr Palmer ;-).
There were also blood sports to watch: the town had its own pack of hounds and dates of meets were advertised in the local newspapers. Bull bating and cockfighting matches were often arranged in the yards of some of the inns in Brighton . These inns also held boxing matches.
There was also a race course, “the best in England with the exception of Newmarket and York” : races were held once a year either at the end of July or at the beginning of August. Just in time for Lydia’s visit ,I think.
Pleasure boats could also be hired from Mr Wallis at the Rising Sun Inn in East Street at a cost of “one guinea a day or half a guinea for a short excursion.”
And of course, it was not only militia soldiers Lydia would encounter in this town:
At about a mile from Brighton on the road to Lewes are situated the principal Barracks: in which are generally stationed each description of force, horse and foot and artillery
A whole camp full of soldiers indeed……..in comparison to a small place like Meryton, with only its one circulating library a few shops and a small assembly room Brighton would indeed contain many earthy delights for Lydia. No wonder she was desperate to get there.And quite a differnt place altogether compared to Ramsgate,I am sure you will agree.......
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