Friday, March 25, 2011

The Joys of Brighton
by Guest Blogger Janet Mullany

I get up every morning at half past six and goes out on the beach looking at the boys catching crabs and eels and lookeing at the people batheing. There are numbers of old wimin have little wooden houses on wheeles, and into these houses people goe that want to bathe, and then the house is pushed into the water and when the person has undressed they get into the water and then get into the wooden house again and dress themselves, the house is drawn on shore again. (Diary of William Tayler, footman, 1837)
Even for a servant Brighton was a holiday resort, and William’s diary is full of sea bathing, rowing, an account of an election and a visit to Brighton Races. There was plenty to do in the town even if you were only a (privileged) servant. And if you were wealthy … chances are you’d spend a lot of time undergoing a rigorous sea bathing (and drinking) regime, as well as indulging in other fashionable but more pleasant pursuits.

I used Brighton as one of the settings in my most recent book, Mr Bishop and the Actress, since I’d visited the town in 2009. Of course I went to the Royal Pavilion but my main objective was to visit the Regency Town House, a house undergoing meticulous restoration in Brunswick Square, with a basement annexe/servants’ quarters a few doors down which has barely been touched for almost two centuries.

First, I have to share what I learned about the appearance of the town since so many writers get it wrong (and I would have, too). It was not always white and gleaming. In fact, the early developers, with an eye to those who visited for health as much as fashion, left the natural stone, the same as that of the sidewalks, its soft gray-brown color. Railings were dark green, not black. The whole effect was one of softness and harmony with nature.

The architect of Brunswick Square, Charles Augustin Busby (who visited the USA in 1817 and may have been inspired by Boston architecture), designed not only vacation houses for the rich and powerful visiting the town, but also more modest housing—and a church (above left)—nearby to support the huge support staff needed for their luxurious accommodation. The square, built in the 1820s, had running water, gas lights, and the latest in elegant, well proportioned rooms.

The Regency Town House, number 22, is the only house in Brighton that still boasts the complete set of original storm shutters, seen here from the first floor salon (or second floor in American).

Its kitchen is highly sophisticated, matching the technological advances of that of the Pavilion, where superchef Antonin Careme spent an unhappy, homesick year in 1817. You can see here the reconstructed skylight that brings ventilation and light into the basement kitchen.

I finished my visit with a nice of tea and a toasted teacake at a beach cafe. And, yes, the entire beach consists of pebbles. No sand in sight, but it’s part of Brighton’s charm.

Janet Mullany is an award-winning, multi-published author who writes books set mainly in Regency England. Janet is originally from England but now lives near Washington, DC. Visit her at her website here

Janet's most recent book is "Mr. Bishop and the Actress", available now from Little Black Dress :
I had a great title. I had a great scenario, a woman being dropped by her protector, and a great first line:

Sorry, darling, it’s either you or the horses.


Janet Mullany said...

Thanks for having me as a guest! I really recommend visiting Brighton, particularly if it's a bright sunny day.

Wendy La Capra said...

Beautiful Pictures Janet!

My husband and I took a honeymoon ride on the Brighton pier roller-coaster in November 01. Chilly but a blast! (Tea and toasted tea cake sounds much more civilized, however.)I remember the ocean was a lovely misty grey-green.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Janet and Lesley,
Thanks for the tour of Brighton and the great pictures. Best of luck with your newest release, Janet.