Brighton & Hove History

Brighton & Hove History

The Brighton and Hove area has enjoyed a long and varied history dating back to an original settlement in Neolithic times. By the 11th century the area was a fishing settlement and home to around 400 people.

In the early Medieval period the small village of Brighton developed into a town known as Bristelmestune thanks to a charter passed by King Edward II. This period was also the first time that Hove appeared in historical records. Earning a living from farming and fishing, the people of the area were mostly poor.


Under the rule of the Tudor monarchs the area continued to struggle with Brighton being almost destroyed twice, once by French raiders and then again by a fire. As well as these catastrophic events there were also several plague epidemics which swept across Sussex throughout the late sixteenth and early seventeeth centuries which hit the population hard. Despite these setbacks, Brighton had still become one of the most important Sussex towns by the start of the seventeeth century with a particularly important event taking place in 1651 when Charles II stayed in the town on his way to exile in France.

By the eighteenth century, the area had once more entered a period of decline, with a population of only 2000. The first decade of this century saw two powerful storms which caused widespread destruction and terrible damage to Brighton. It was not long however before the area would enjoy a renewed boost with the arrival of Dr Richard Russell. 1750 saw the rise of Dr Russell’s famed seawater cure – a rather unpleasant concoction of seawater mixed with cuttlefish bones, woodlice, crabs eyes, milk and bicarbonate of soda. Although it was no doubt revolting, people from all around were drawn to Brighton by promises of its healing properties.

Prince George, the Regent, particularly loved Brighton and after visiting the city in 1783 decided to make it his home. Around this time, Hove was also on the rise with family estates being built in the area. The Regency period was a time of great success for Brighton as the aristocracy and jet setting friends of the Prince Regent flocked to the newly fashionable area and many of the city’s iconic squares were built as well as the famous Royal Pavilion palace.

Queen Victoria brought an end to the royal connection to the area when she sold the Royal Pavilion in 1841 however the spread of the railways meant that the Victorian era still saw massive growth in tourism leading to the building of the aquarium and the piers among other structures.

Into the 20th century the area continued to develop as a tourist zone although this period is especially known for the mods and the rockers clashes of the 1960s. Brighton and Hove finally merged in 1997 and became a city in 2000. The area has recently invented itself with a quirky cosmopolitan image and although still popular with tourists, it has plenty to offer its resident population too.