Thursday 14 September 2017

Georgian Brighton's Promenade

Where visitors and local people paraded  - the Steine at Brighton 1750-1800

The early story of the Steine, the open space which became one of England's first public promenades.

When the first visitors came to Brighton, the little resort lacked a seafront promenade and so visitors congregated on the open space to the east of the old town called the Steine.  It quickly became the fashionable part of the town.

Look at the two pictures below and you can see how this part of Brighton was transformed in twenty years. But where was it? Budgen's map of 1788 below shows you the area around which the buildings are grouped.

The Steine then stretched from the cluster of buildings on Pool Bank at the south end to just north of the Royal Pavilion. Later, land was enclosed north of the Steine and that became the North Steine. 

James Donowell, 'Perspective View of the Steyne at Brighthelmstone' 1778 looking north up the Steyne from the sea 

In the picture above, you can see Donowell's library on the east side of the Steine with its tower for musicians to play in to entertain walkers.  To the right, the very big buildings facing Donowell's is the  Castle Inn, converted in the early 1750s from a large detached house to which an assembly room and a wine shop and coffee room were added.  Just on the left corner of the picture is the first house owned by the Duke of Marlborough at Brighton. It doesn't look like the Marlborough House today and what can be a little confusing is that the very elegant Georgian facade we see today was added by a later owner (see blog on Marlborough House).

The Pavilion and Grove House by Spornburg in 1796 looking north up the Steine from near the sea end. The original of this is in Brighton Museum and Art Gallery and on the Collections section of their website. 
By 1796, the Steine had changed a lot. In Spornburg's picture, you can still see Donowell's on the right (east side) where St James's Street is) and just in the left lower corner (west side) there is the Castle. The white building north of The Castle is the Pavilion as it looked in its early days and the big red building which dwarfs it is Grove House.  Either side of Donowell's stand lodging houses to let. These were expensive to rent in the season because of the view of the Steine and, those north of Donowells looked towards the Royal Pavilion. Two of the lodging houses which jut out still stand, remarkably. The others were demolished to widen the road in the C20th.

To read more about the two Marlborough Houses see my article - 'A house for Mrs Fitzherbert' which discusses the work of Robert Adam in Brighton in the library.

To read more about the Steine see my article on that subject in the Library.