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.
On the 18 March 1895, this strange tale appeared in more than a dozen French newspapers.
[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… ]
I have just signed for Fleury 91 in my native country of France, but I shall be sad to leave The Seagulls and Brighton. I arrived in Brighton in August 2019, but in March 2020, at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown, I became very homesick and decided to go back to Paris, back to my partner and my lovely cat Newton.
In January 1923, the Huband family was advertising in the French press for a governess for their little boy. Initially, the stipulation was that the lady should be about 40 years old. She had to be able to teach piano. And she had to be of the Protestant faith. The address given was 11 Clarence Square, Brighton.
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.
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.
“Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Duchess de Noailles, and many other ladies of distinction, were present at the Cricket match, and dined in a marquee pitched on the ground, for that purpose. The Prince’s band of music attended, and played during the whole time the ladies were at dinner. In the evening, Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Duchess, Lady Clermont, and Miss Piggott, walked round the ground, seemingly the better to gratify the spectators with a sight of the French lady. The Duchess de Noailles appears to be 21, or 22 years of age, is very handsome, and her figure and deportment are remarkably interesting.”
Imagine the grand sight of two thousand musicians and choristers in “a daylight procession [starting] from the Pavilion at six in the evening and having marched with music and banners along the Kings-road to Brunswick-terrace, will return by the same route to the Pavilion grounds.” (Daily Telegraph and Courier).
What the advert above does not highlight is that almost each one of these two thousand performers was a Frenchman (with a few French-speaking Swiss and Belgians in the mix for good measure). Conference delegates descending on Brighton en masse is nothing new, for this event took place in 1881.
The following ad appeared in the newspaper Field on 5 December 1908.
Apart from an inaccurate spelling of Withdean, this was an intriguing advert.
On Friday 23 August 1816, Captain Cheeseman, master of the Neptune packet boat, returned to Brighton. He brough disturbing news for all his fellow mariners, for their passengers and for trade with France. During the night of 19-20 August, Captain Thomas Partridge of the Nancy had been shot by French customs officers just outside the port of Dieppe.
Was this the shortest-lived Brighton periodical, ever? Edition #1 appeared in May 2007. Was there ever a #2?
The magazine was bilingual and covered topics such as Que visiter à Brighton [What to visit in Brighton]; Tu tires ou tu pointes [petanque enthusiasts will recognize the reference]; Quoi de neuf en France with all the latest news about the hit parade and the 2007 presidential elections.