The coastal city of Brighton has long been a favourite escape of Londoners and other residents in south east England, and a fashionable destination in its own right since its fortunes turned around in the late 18th century.
Brighton’s rise from historic fishing village to beachside favourite was aided in no small part by its popularity with the royal family, particularly the Prince Regent – later King George IV – who had a royal residence built in the early 1800s, the Royal Pavilion. This followed the construction of other regency terraces that had already proved popular with the gentry, and was accompanied by the building of other famous landmarks such as the Theatre Royal, the Brighton Dome and St Anne’s Well, broadening Brighton’s appeal among holidaymakers.
Travel to Brighton was made easier with the opening of the London to Brighton railway line around the same time, and the Palace Pier would become the first such attraction in the city, jetting out into the English Channel with modern attractions to entertain visitors. However, further developments still would come later in the Victorian period, with the construction of the West Pier in 1866 and the iconic Grand Hotel in 1864, completing the postcard image of cultural Brighton.
The city’s reputation across the 20th and into the 21st century has evolved further still, often in ways the sunbathing residents of years past could never have conceived. The most notorious association was the youth gang rivalry between ‘mods’ and ‘rockers’ in the 1960s, later dramatised by The Who in their album and film Quadrophenia, which was filmed in the city, however more recent developments have only further established its appeal.
These include the emergence of Brighton as a major centre of Britain’s gay scene, as well as a site of international relations with the opening of a conference centre in the 1970s. More recently, Brighton and Hove were merged into a single conurbation and the larger area was finally granted city status as part of the millennium celebrations by one of Brighton’s modern royal fans, HRH Queen Elizabeth II.
Brighton remains the most popular seaside escape in the UK and, with the opening of the Gatwick Express service in 2008, it’s now easier than ever for travellers arriving at the nearby airport to make the journey to Brighton, or choose the convenience of Gatwick Airport car hire as soon as they step off their flights.