Saturday, April 18, 2015

Life in Brighton - England's royal destination

My current work in progress is set in Brighton, England (plus London) so I've been busy collecting useful and hopefully usable information.

The area, generally, had several encampments dating to around 3500 AD. "Brighthelmstone" existed before the Doomsday Book was written - that's 1086 folks! Here’s a photo of the page written in Medieval Latin and some non-Latin abbreviations. Me? I can’t make out a single word. I just find it interesting.

The Regency and Victorian period were a dazzling time for Brighton. The Prince Regent was known for his love of the area and spent much time there. However it wasn't until 1841 when the London and Brighton Railway made its first run between the two cities that things really took off. The railroad made the “day trip” possible for a mere three and six pence.

The Royal Pavilion is one of the most fascinating buildings in Brighton, which George began building in 1787. At a young age, George suffered from gout (all that rich food) and his doctor recommended he take the seawaters as treatment. The pavilion was a work in progress, extending through three major renovations but the first portion, called the Marine Pavilion, included a fantastic “Great Dome.”

George was partial to the French style which he used at Carlton House, employing French decorators, draughtsmen and craftsmen. “Something of this French influence was to manifest itself in the Prince’s new pavilion. On the ground floor of the north wing the Library was “fitted up in the French style” with a paper of brilliant yellow. The “Eating Room” adjoining was painted in yellow and maroon with a ceiling of sky-blue, and in it were four columns of “scagliola” – imitation marble. The corridors were painted “French blue”. The walls of the staircase were bright green, and the ceiling grey and white.”

Not everyone loved the Royal Pavilion. One critic, Anthony Pasquin, said, “The room in which the Prince usually dines may be compared to a sort of oven; when the fire is lighted the Inmates are nearly baked or encrusted.”

Years later, John Nash, completed additional enhancements to the Pavilion. The look of the structure is one that reflects Indian touches, including battlements and eaves of the Indian chujahs design. The last portions were completed in 1821 which including a new north face and the development of the King’s private apartments.

About the time the Pavilion was completed, there was talk of a railway between London and Brighton. During the 1830’s there were several steam-driven coaches and omnibuses running short distances but in 1833 a fourteen-seater Hancock coach began running between the two cities in eight and a half hours. An improvement but nothing like the efficiency the rail would bring. The approve was novel and appealing but was limited by the number of passengers it could haul along with the coal and water needed to power the coaches.

Finally, in 1840, the Shoreham branch of the railway was operational. It wasn't until the following September, 1841, that the main line opened. The rail was dependent on the Ouse viaduct being completed. At the same time the Merstham and Balcombe tunnels were finished, completing the most difficult part of the line. The project took three years and 2,000,000 pounds to complete.

 The Ouse viaduct was designed by the architect David Mocatta. It is considered one of the finest examples of railroad architecture. The viaduct included “thirty-seven tall arches and eight charming Italiante pavilions, four at each end of the viaduct, and the delightful stone balustrades.”

The first voyage began at 7:00 a.m., with nearly the entire population of Brighton there to watch, and the train arrived in London a little after nine. One hour and fifteen minutes (or longer depending upon the class of train – first class, mixed and “Parliamentary” trains.) Quite a change from the days of horse and carriage.

Both the pavilion and the railway are important to my heroine in 1841. Imogene, a child of the streets, is an observer of London, growing and changing with the times.

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