Brighton is an ever-popular resort, as much so “then” as it is “now”. For decades, its easy reach from London and bohemian vibes have made it the destination of choice for day-trippers and holiday makers alike. A lot has changed over the years and I always find it fascinating to look at old postcards of places I know and play spot the difference! Searching through my vintage postcard collection I’ve found some iconic Brighton scenes from the last century to compare with views from now. See what changes you can find.
Compare Brighton scenes of today with postcards from the past
The Palace Pier, Brighton
Brighton is known for its piers, with the original Chain Pier – destroyed over a century ago; the iconic West Pier – lasting for over 100 years until damaged by storms and fire; then the Palace Pier which still stands today. In my collection, I found this eye-catching, artistic postcard of The Palace Pier which dates to the early 1900s. The pier was opened in 1899 with the central pavilion added in 1910 narrowing the date of this image to somewhere in the first decade of the 20th Century.
Comparing the two images, this is probably the first thing you notice – the lack of central pavilion in the older view. The original arch structures have been replaced by stalls and sheltered seating that now run down the centre of the pier. In the older image you can clearly see the ornate Palace Pier Theatre which occupied the end of the pier until the 1980s. This lovely building was damaged by a barge during a storm in the 1970s. Now the area to the end of the pier is home to a fairground, providing a more hair-raising kind of entertainment!
It is clear looking at these two scenes that people are out and about, enjoying a sunny day by the seaside. Present in both images is the stone jetty that runs parallel to the pier on the western side. I like that then and now this is obviously a popular place to sit, relax and watch the world go by. Although I wonder whether fish & chips were quite so easy to come by a century ago!
Brighton Seafront Hotels
Places to see and be seen, the Metropole and Grand Hotels are eye-catching landmarks on the promenade. My vintage postcard of this scene is undated but I believe it to date to around the 1930s. It can be easily compared to Google’s image from recent times. The red-brick Metropole hotel is still recognisable as it retains many of its original Victorian features. In 1959 the hotel was sold and large scale renovations took place including the addition to two new floors. This explains the altered appearance of the roof line, now missing the turrets.
The Grand Hotel retains a similar shape, although the buildings either side have changed somewhat. I couldn’t find an image from today taken on a busy summer day but I am sure there would be many similarities in activities between then and now. Boating, paddling and sunbathing remain as popular today as ever.
More to follow! Watch this space for more Brighton scenes…
Brighton Historic Sources
The website My Brighton and Hove, has lots of interesting content on local history including this article about the Hotel Metropole.