History : 1824 to 1900

The park was originally laid out in 1824 by John Armstrong as a ‘subscription pleasure garden’ to be known as Brighton Park. A Spa was built within the park and by September of that year the Brighton Gazette stated that: “The park above Egremont Place now assumes, as the plants and shrubs start to attain their growth, a most delightful appearance.”

A disappointing start
However the park was not a great success, nor was Armstrong’s attempts to sell the plots of land around the Park for building. The whole venture may have been a failure due to a banking crisis in 1825 and the growing problem of over-building in Brighton.

Plans to develop an exclusive estate
The successful solicitor Thomas Attree then acquired the park. Though it is uncertain exactly when this happened, it was certainly some time between 1825 and 1830. Attree wanted to develop an exclusive estate of villas around a park. He appointed Charles Barry as architect to design the estate but only two villas and the two formal entrance arches were ever completed to Barry’s design.

Named in honour of Queen Adelaide
In 1836 Attree renamed the park ‘Queen’s Park’ in honour of Queen Adelaide, wife of William IV. By this time some of the park’s attractions included an archery club and an aviary. In the 1840s Dr.Granville described the park as “the only decent plantation to be seen near or about Brighton.” However the Park was only for invited guests with the general public being granted access on the occasional fete day which meant the park was really very exclusive right up until Attree’s death in 1863.

Back on the market in 1863
After Attree’s death the estate came on the market and George Duddell, an entrepreneur who made his money in Hong Kong, bought it in auction. Although the Park was still private, by 1875 the archery grounds had been turned into a vast roller skating rink. Duddell died in 1888 and the estate was put back into auction but it failed to sell.

Finally turned into a public park
Two years of acrimonious negotiations between Mrs.Duddell and the Race Stand Trustees finally resulted in the Trustees buying the grounds and presenting them to the corporation for use as a public park. £12,000 was spent on laying out the park following the designs drawn up by Mr. May, the Borough Surveyor and Mr. Ward, the Head Gardener. It was at this time that a lake was built on the site of the old roller-skating rink in the centre of the park and a drinking fountain was erected in the Park in memory of the gift.

The Park was formally opened to the Public on 10th August 1892 with a grand opening ceremony.

Comments about this page

  • My great great grandfather’s cousin, Mary Ann Chadwell, writes on Tuesday 30th November 1875, when she is looking after a friend’s child Henry Monk: “Went to the skating rink in the King’s Road, the first I have seen. Only one man seemed to skate well. The others just rolled along on the wheels; nothing like looking at skating on ice.” Having looked up your website, I see this must have been Queen’s Park (I do not know Brighton). What a good website yours is.

    By Alice Nissen (26/02/2006)
  • The Kings Road Skating Rink was behind the shops and houses on Kings Road between Cannon Place and Queensbury Mews before the Metropole Hotel was built, c1890.

    By Roy Pennington (10/01/2010)
  • I did some research, some years ago, on the park and Cowell’s Villa including the later history of that and I seem to remember that John Armstrong wasn’t the owner but was involved in the marketing and selling of plots for villas and the use of the park, which was originally intended to be just for the use of the owners who purchased plots and subsequent owners of the hoped for villas. Similar to other parks in Brighton and Hove, including what became Victoria Gardens, previously The North or Northern Enclosure.

    As other plots weren’t purchased as expected and only Cowell’s Villa and then Attree Villa were built, the park was later opened up to entry for a fee before being made over to public use even later.

    I would be very interested to see a source for John Armstrong being the owner as I didn’t succeed in finding who owned the land in the 1820s until the records of Thomas Attree and his partner Kemp buying the land from the multitude of owners of what was agricultural land with a few properties including mills on it.

    The plots, as was the case for land in that area, were called ‘Paul’s Pieces’.

    Thomas Attree later became the sole owner. I think that after Kemp died.

    Sales are recorded in the extensive collection of deeds and documents donated to The Keep but had not been individually catalogued when I looked at them.

    I am writing from memory so will need to look at my research to be sure of dates etc. Apologies for any errors.

    I had to stop the research after struggling with health issues but hope to complete it one day.

    I’ve seen mention of the discrepancies in dates of the building of what became Pennant Lodge and later Queen’s Park Villa before it was bought later by Marmaduke Langdale, and then Sir Bernhard Barron, who had it converted into a convalescent home, initially for his employees.

    It had been said it was built in the mid 1800s but Cowell’s Villa dated to the 1820s and though it has been thought it was demolished and rebuilt prior to that time, I disagree. I believe it was altered and there are photos showing it was extended too, with subsequent updating to more modern plumbing and heating during the Victorian era and later.

    I recall reference to the painting in Attree’s offices that was done to show what the park might look like with villas built around it but the only villas that existed at the time were Attree’s and Cowell’s/Pennant Lodge -the whole being an artists impression of the imagined grand homes that may be built. It has been said that the original Villa built by Cowell cannot be that depicted in the painting because it is nearer the road than the original would have been, but I believe the artist painted it that way as it would not have been as visible if it was painted in it’s true location. I cannot prove that and it may not be possible to prove it one way or another but having looked at many images and from contemporary documentary evidence, this seems most likely to me. It is a thought just my opinion.

    I would be more than happy to know of any other sources relating to the park and the early villas. I may already have them but it never hurts to check or recheck.

    There is some of my research that I need to go back to and some I haven’t managed to go through as yet, so there may be something in that throws more light on the history too.

    Whatever the truth of it, It’s all very interesting.

    By Helen Shipley (03/11/2021)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *