Brighton, 14 November 1827

On this day, exactly 193 years ago, a dapper 46-year-old Frenchman attended an elegant ball in the Assembly Rooms of the Old Ship Hotel, Brighton. What a splendid affair.  The rooms had recently been redecorated by Frederick Crace following his successful work at the Royal Pavilion.  The officers of the 52nd Infantry and the 7th Hussars were in their dress uniform (although the latter disgraced themselves by dancing while wearing their swords).  The ladies were magnificent in their ballgowns and jewels.  Even elderly Mrs Fitzherbert graced the event with her presence.

Hospitality is the fertiliser of the soul

In 2002, when the organisers of the Golden Jubilee Party in Regency Square (of which this blogger was one) invited the Orchestre d’Harmonie de Dieppe to play, they did not realise that they were following a long tradition.

In 2002, when the organisers of the Golden Jubilee Party in Regency Square (of which this blogger was one) invited the Orchestre d’Harmonie de Dieppe to play, they did not realise that they were following a long tradition.

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Jack Brown or the living parcel

On the 18 March 1895, this strange tale appeared in more than a dozen French newspapers.

Gil Blas 18_3_1898

[Jack Brown or the living parcel

An elderly man, whose strong English accent left no doubts as to his nationality, appeared last evening at the post office in the rue de Choiseul.  He asked for hospitality overnight, saying that he was penniless and reduced to vagrancy.

When he was taken to the police station in rue Marsollier yesterday morning, he gave more or less this account, in a mishmash of English and French:

“Name of Jack Brown.  64 years old, retired non-commissioned officer in the English army, two stints in the dragoons of Her Gracious Majesty …

At this point he saluted respectfully and continued:

“Live in Brighton, three shillings pension a day.  Two nights ago, in Brighton with friends, drank more than usual.  My friends – played a joke, très common in the England – sent me to Paris as a parcel; sewed label on my back: ‘Jack Brown en route for Paris’; Brighton – Paris ticket stuck in my buttonhole.  Me completely drunk …”

“It’s disgraceful, getting that drunk on gin …” exclaimed the police inspector.

Non” he replied, “it was whisky, très bon… ]

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Brighton goes to the Paris Exhibition

As far as is known, no Jemima ever went from Brighton to the Paris Exhibition of 1867, but if she had, these might have been her letters to her friend Emily.

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Brighton,March 1867

Dearest Emily,

At last! Father has said we can go to the French Exhibition in Paris in September.  First, he says we must all improve our French.  Father is a little distrustful of the Parisians, so he says we must at least know what they are saying.  Mother and I will go to Mlle Witter in Holland Road (such a nice safe area of Hove, Father says) but Father has chosen to go to Mons. Lamette in East-street. Continue reading

D’Aubigny Road

D’Aubigny Road is a pleasant street to the west of the Lewes Road in Brighton, not far from a large junction known locally as the Vogue Giratory.  The streets neighbouring D’Aubigny Road carry ‘good, plain’ (at that time) British names:  Round Hill Crescent, Richmond, Princes and Mayo Roads.  And tucked away at the eastern end of the estate, the relatively exotic D’Aubigny.

Roundhill Park Estate. Brighton

Plan for the Roundhill Estate. Image reproduced courtesy of the Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The 1853 plan above makes clear that, when the Round Hill Park Estate was first laid out in 1853, none of the newly-traced roads had names, with the exception of Round Hill Crescent itself.  Lennox Road was never built and Ashdown Road, which was built later, is not on the plan.

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The Old Folks of Brighton

Les Vieillards de Brighton Saint-BrisOne fine day in 1953, a Frenchman brought his five-year old son to Brighton.  The father said Au revoir, gave the boy a peck on the cheek – at most – and then left him.  In an old people’s home.  These are the facts given at the beginning of Les Vieillards de Brighton [The Old Folk of Brighton] written by Gonzague Saint Bris and published in 2002.

The narration is set in the former French Convalescent Home in Kemp Town. However, the text shows that it is unlikely that Saint Bris knew the building well.   It seems more likely that he saw the Convalescent Home once, perhaps only fleetingly, but was so impressed by it that he determined to set his novel in and around the building.  There is little doubt that Les Vieillards de Brighton is a work of fiction, but an imaginative and absorbing one at that.

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