Walk 2/5

Virtual walk Page 2/5

Our walk starts in Marine Parade, near the Sea Life Centre, and ends back on the Old Steine (pronounced Steen), diagonally opposite the Royal Pavilion.

A:  SEA AND BE SEEN

Marine Parade is considered one of the finest seafront facades in Britain. During the 'season' - which in its Regency heyday ran from July to March - fashionable society folk would ride along here daily on horseback or in carriages in order to see and be seen. It was said one could get a dozen invitations to dinner on the journey from Kemp Town, in the east, to Hove's Brunswick Square. Many of the houses were built in the 1820s by the celebrated partnership of architect Charles Busby and builder Amon Wilds, who designed some of Brighton's most beautiful terraces. Examples are nos. 41 to 45 and 102 to 104.

No. 76 is thought to be by Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860) who later designed the Houses of Parliament.

 

B:  BOARD AND BODGING

Charles Street, built in the 1780s, was one of the first streets to spring up as Brighton expanded and is now one of the town's oldest. Its houses were rented out as lodgings and their rounded bow windows were designed to ensure the best possible views of the sea.

The small panes of glass were blown, then spun out by craftsmen. The swirled 'bottle glass' panes used today to create mock-Georgian style were in fact the makers' 'seconds' and would never have been used on the front of a building. Houses no. 25 and 26 are modern copies, built in 1996.

Back on Marine Parade, we continue past no. 18, Olivier House - on the corner of Madeira Place - which is thought to be by Busby and Wilds.

 

C:  TRACK OF ALL TRADES

    Camelford Street was built as lodgings and tradesmen's houses and is considered one of Britain's best surviving examples of small-scale Regency architecture.

    In 1800 residents included two shoemakers, a grocer, tailor, carpenter, cow keeper and 'poney' keeper. No. 36 later became home to social reformer Jacob Holyoake (1817-1906), who founded an irreligious sect called Secularism and was the last man ever jailed for atheism. 


 

D:  THE PIER THAT DISAPPEARED

The Royal Suspension Chain Pier, built opposite New Steine, opened in 1823 as a landing stage for ferries to and from Dieppe. Described as 'a great curiosity', it was a stunning engineering feat, consisting of four iron towers supported by eight huge chains.

It was Britain's first pleasure pier. Up to 4,000 people a day paid 2d to stroll the 350-yard length, buying novelties and souvenir china and having their portraits cut out in silhouette.

Other attractions were a saloon lounge, reading room and camera obscura - a live 'cinema' in which views of the sea and shore outside were projected into a dark room through a periscope-style lens in the roof.

Sadly, the pier was badly damaged by a succession of storms. And at 10.30pm on December 4, 1896, in driving rain and howling gales, the entire structure finally collapsed into the sea.

Its two octagonal entrance booths (see inset photo) were left on the shore. They now stand on either side of the main amusement arcade on the Palace (now Brighton) Pier (which opened in 1899) and can be seen from this spot.

A plaque on Chain Pier House at 48 Marine Parade - former home of the Chain Pier's designer Captain Samuel Brown - commemorates his vanished masterpiece.