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Protection of the old town from encroachment by the sea

The Old Ship Hotel c. 1845
Taken from the book Brighton in Olden Time by J. G. Bishop, published 1892 (copy owned by Peter Groves)

1845 View of the Old Ship Hotel

Probably like me, most people will be surprised by the 1845 view of the Old Ship Hotel, and how close the sea is to the building.  The first reaction is disbelief and the impression that significant “artistic licence” has been used.  However, on reflection, it’s clear that in the past the sea did almost encroach on the old town!

Encroachment by the Sea

By the early eighteenth century, with little or no protection, the old town was under threat from the encroaching sea.  Daniel Defoe described Brighton as an old and poor fishing town in imminent danger of being completely swallowed by the sea; the proposed expense of £8,000 on groynes was, in Defoe’s opinion, more than the whole town was worth!

Early Protection

The first wooden groynes were constructed in 1723.  Further wooden groynes were built in the 19th century, and so effectively had the shingle built up, that in 1854 the widening of King’s Road between Ship Street and West Street was possible. Further widening was made possible in the Ship Street area between 1864 and 1867 by the promenade being extended over arches.

Build up of Shingle

It’s clear that due to the construction of groynes and the build up of shingle, the sea is now further from the Old Ship Hotel, than it was many years ago, however I still suspect that a tad of  “artistic licence” has been used in the 1845 view!

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