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Earliest times


Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

Brighton ‘s economy and early prosperity was based upon the success of its fisheries for many centuries.

a) EARLIEST TIMES: Brighton’s fishery was already established by 1086 when the Domesday Book recorded one of the manors being paid a tribute of 4,000 herrings (a custom continued to some extent as late as the nineteenth century when the manor of Brighton-Lewes could claim six mackerel from each trip). This early fishing settlement was probably a collection of cottages, workshops, netshops, capstans and stake places on the extensive foreshore below the cliff and above the high-water mark (the ‘Lower Town’, q.v.) but, as the industry prospered, the fishermen’s numbers grew and they started to develop the cliff top area, now the Old Town, together with the landsmen; the ancient parish church of St Nicholas was built, or perhaps rebuilt, at this time. Flax was grown in neighbouring Hove to make linen for the sails, and hemp was probably either grown or processed for rope on the ‘Hempshares’, an open area in the Old Town between West Street and the Bartholomews on which Middle Street and later the Lanes , Black Lion Street and Ship Street were developed in the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. From certain customs and names, it is quite probable that a colony of Flemings settled in the town in about the thirteenth century, contributing greatly to the success of the fisheries. {1,2,6,10,18}

Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.

This painting of Brighton beach in the nineteenth century shows several building with red roofs to the left of the picture. On the beach figures can be seen doing standing around baskets of fish and gathering nets. In the foreground several figures sit by the boats. On the right is the sea with several baots and a bathing machine. In the distance there are houses and a windmill against the skyline.
Reproduced courtesy of Royal Pavilion, Libraries & Museums, Brighton & Hove

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