Lower Town

Photo:Boats at Brighton Beach, Date unknown: This drawing shows Brighton beach at high tide, with people in a sailing boat and a rowing boat. The wooden fence running along the top of the beach reveals that this scene is before iron railings were installed in the 1800s.

Boats at Brighton Beach, Date unknown: This drawing shows Brighton beach at high tide, with people in a sailing boat and a rowing boat. The wooden fence running along the top of the beach reveals that this scene is before iron railings were installed in the 1800s.

Image reproduced with kind permission from Brighton and Hove in Pictures by Brighton and Hove City Council

Photo:Western Side of the Steyne, North of Castle Square, Brighthelmston

Western Side of the Steyne, North of Castle Square, Brighthelmston

Reproduced courtesy of Royal Pavilion, Libraries & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Mentioned in the Domesday Book

Reproduced with permission from the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder, 1990

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

The original fishing village of Brighton was probably situated on an extensive chalk foreshore below the cliffs and above the high-water mark, protected from the force of the Channel by an offshore bar below the surface of the sea. This so-called 'Lower Town' may have been the site of the church mentioned in the Domesday Book, but as the fisheries prospered and the population grew so an upper town on the cliff top, now the Old Town , was developed, perhaps from around the thirteenth century; it is possible that the Lower Town was destroyed by the ravages of the sea, necessitating the development of a safer residential area with the undercliff used by the fisheries mainly as a working area.
The Lower Town was burnt in the French raid of 1514, probably the event depicted in a British Museum drawing of 1545 which shows the town under attack and a row of tenements alight below the cliff. From around the 1640s the foreshore itself was constantly threatened by the sea following a general rise in sea-level; in the latter seventeenth century it was recorded that 22 tenements had recently been lost from below the cliff, including 12 workshops and 3 cottages, but that 113 tenements remained, including about 75 workshops and netshops, 25 cottages, a salt-house, a stable, 22 capstans, and a number of stake places. Most were grouped below the cliff between Ship Street and Black Lion Street , and also at the bottom of East Street .
Most of the remaining workshops, capstans and cottages were washed away in the great storm of November 1703, and the rest were probably demolished by the storm of 11 August 1705 which covered the site with shingle. The last record of any LowerTown buildings occurs in 1704, but in around 1710 a visitor reported seeing the remains of many flint or brick walls on the beach, the inference being that the buildings had had timber superstructures, probably tile hung or weather-boarded. The mouth of a well, the last relic of the LowerTown, remained visible until 1781 when it too was lost under the shingle. In March 1818 some walls said to be from the Lower Town were discovered under fifteen feet of shingle when the foundations of a new building between Ship Street and Middle Street were being dug.
The Lower Town of Brighton was the heartland of the fishing industry so vital to the town, and its loss was a contributory factor to the decline of that industry. It has been compared to the fishing community at Hastings, where the tall, wooden netshops are similarly grouped on an extensive foreshore below the cliff (although, unlike Brighton, HastingsOldTown is not situated on the cliff top).

Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.

The following resource(s) is quoted as a general source for the information above: {1,2,4,6,10}

This page was added on 11/06/2007.

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