With so many different histories to offer, you can feel freer in Brighton than in most British cities to select trips which coincide with your interests – and of course, you’re much more-likely to find Brighton things to do which bring the history you love to life.
The Lanes Armoury
For the lover of militaria, a visit to The Lanes Armoury is a must with a difference. The Armoury’s housed in a three-storey 16th century building and is a real treasure trove – it’s a museum which is not a museum as everything is for sale. It has been nominated and then short-listed for the British Antique & Collectors Awards as the best Antique Shop in Great Britain and is the latest incarnation of a much older business – Hawkins – which was one of the earliest and largest dealers in Antiques and Collectibles within Europe. It’s their specialisation in Arms, Armour, Militaria, and Books which really marks them out and creates such a fascinating and fantastic place to visit. From bronze-age swords, suits of armour, guns, revolvers, duelling pistols, American Civil war swords through to medals and World War II weapons, it’s all there to be viewed and drooled over Guns for sale Europe. It’s not a museum but when you leave, you’ve had the same experience!
History in the Public House
If you’re expecting to find historic pubs in Brighton, the town will not let you down but delight you with its ancient alehouses. The Cricketers on Black Lion St. in The Lanes is reputably the oldest and occupies a site where there has been a hostelry present since 1547. It Lists amongst its most-famous residents a certain Jack the Ripper and the first person who set up as landlord, Derrick Carver was famously burnt at the stake just for holding inappropriate religious beliefs – not a good idea at the time! The pub’s main claim to fame is its immortalisation in Graham Green’s novel ‘Brighton Rock’. Another old hostelry, The King and Queen, in Marlborough Place can be found on the Old Steine, in a large historic building, while having a more modern look and dating back just to the 1930’s, is The Ladies Mile in Mackie Avenue (Patcham) and this still retains some of the original features from the thirties.
Be Guided Electronically
History can really come to life when you get the story from an expert while wandering around the evidence. You can make it reveal its story now as you wander around either The Royal Pavilion area, Regency Brighton or The Laines when you take an MP3 tour. All you have to do is to rent the technology and then get walking. The guide will take you on an exciting tour, explaining the sights as you go.
The Volks Electric Railway
If ‘What the Victorians did for us’ is one of your passions you then you should take a trip on the Volks Electric Railway. This was one of the first electric passenger-carrying railways in the world – the first in Britain – being created in 1883 by Magnus Volk and it is the oldest one still in service. It takes you several miles along the seafront from Brighton Pier (The Palace Pier) to Black Rock. The railway operates a fleet of 10 cars (what we laypersons call ‘trains’) dating from 1883 to 1930 and carrying some 30-40 people apiece. Their quaint and antique appearance makes travelling on the Volks a trip back into the past.
Brighton’s Fishy Past
Being a seaside town it’s not at all surprising to find a Fishing Museum which covers all aspects of the history of the trade – including the tasting! It’s located right in the middle of town and forms a focus for Brighton’s fishing quarter. Within the museum is a reflection of sea-based activities spanning from the Regency period right up to the post-war boom in tourism and pleasure boats. The exhibition features a 27-foot beach boat, along with photographs, prints and memorabilia from Brighton’s fishing industry. During the summer months and when the weather allows, the museum operates a twelve-seater passenger boat, aptly named The Skylark, on which they provide short trips for the public.
For the more-serious student, a computer archive is available and this provides a wealth of information about the local industry and the people involved in it. Right next to the museum are a couple of shellfish stalls and a smoked fish shop, enabling you to actually taste the end product of this still-alive local industry.
Brighton’s Art and History
Brighton Museum and Art gallery is the main museum in the city and this has recently been extensively remodelled. It is located in the Pavilion Gardens, adjacent to the Royal Pavilion and has good disabled access and an educational pavilion which houses comprehensive educational facilities. Its collections reflect both local and national interests and community involvement has enabled new galleries to reflect the lives of the modern local population. The main galleries are: Fine Art, Fashion and Style, 20th century Art and Design, Mr Willet’s Popular Pottery, Images of Brighton, World Art and Discovery, Body and Performance.
The museum is open year round but closed on Mondays, except for public holidays.
The Hove Town Museum
Hove Museum has also been redeveloped in recent years and new galleries of modern design installed. The main galleries of the museum are the Local History Gallery, Toy Gallery, Contemporary Craft Galleries, Film Gallery and Paintings Gallery. The museum is open all year round but closed on Mondays – including bank holidays.
Preston Manor: The Rich and their Servants
Preston Manor provides the visitor with a peek into the life of an Edwardian house of the gentry which houses its strict demarcation between upstairs and downstairs. It was originally built around 1600, rebuilt in 1738 and then extended quite extensively in 1905. The contents of the house, together with the house itself, provide a fascinating, and unfortunately rare, opportunity to look at life during the early part of the 20th century.
More than twenty rooms are open to visitors, these spanning four floors of the building and including the servants’ quarters, butler’s pantry and kitchens which are ‘downstairs’ in the basement, right up to the nursery and attic bedrooms on the fourth floor. Outside the house it is a walled garden and a pets’ cemetery. The house is open from April to the end of September but can be visited by special arrangement for groups at any time.
And when the tourists are gone, Preston Manor keeps its spooky image! In fact, on a recent TV show, it was considered to be one of the most-haunted in Britain. The TV crew who made the film for the ‘Most-haunted’ series reported more mysterious goings on than at any other site they’d visited. One of the presenters, Karl, was convinced that he had been visited by the manor’s White Lady. There’s always been tales of all types of ghostly experiences at Preston Manor, from the mediaeval nun, Sister Agnes, who helped travellers on their way to the White Lady and the Lady in Grey who elegantly glides down the main staircase. In modern times, doors lock themselves, lights to turn off and and on and all manner of bumps and creaks and groans can be heard by those with the ear.
Fortunately, you no longer just have to believe me – you can experience the spooky supernatural for yourself at one of the many special events held at the manor. On Halloween, for example, you can come dressed-up for the part and see what the evening turns up. Later on in the year, at the beginning of December, you can try out the Christmas Ghost Tours or, in October and November sign up for one of the family ghost tours. You need to book, whenever you go along to be scared.