Castle Inn, Castle Square

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.

a) The NEW INN and ASSEMBLY ROOMS: The Castle Inn, one of the town’s two principal meeting places at a time when fashionable society had just started to arrive in numbers, stood on the northern side of the square to which it gave its name. It was originally built as a private house in the 1740s, the first new resort development in the town, but in 1752 it was acquired by Samuel Shergold and converted into an inn; it had its own water supply from a well. Fashionable balls, assemblies and other functions were held at the Castle which was rivalled only by the Old Ship.

To cater for ever-increasing numbers of visitors, the inn was rebuilt in 1766 by John Crunden who added the impressive assembly rooms at the rear in a tall, red-brick building facing west into what later became Palace Place. The ballroom, which was considered one of the most elegant rooms in the country, was designed in Adam-style with a brilliantly decorated ceiling, plaster relief walls, colonnaded recesses, and a musicians’ gallery. It measured 80 feet by 40 feet by 40 feet high.

b) RISE and FALL: The inn became very popular and held regular assemblies and dances. In 1776 Shergold passed control to a Mr Stuckey, but soon resumed control himself in partnership with Messrs Best and Tilt. When Shergold finally retired in February 1791 the inn was run by Thomas Tilt, and by Tilt’s widow after his death in 1809. In 1814 Messrs Gilburd and Haryett took over, improving the buildings and adding a fine organ to the assembly rooms, but by this time the attraction of the Castle was waning, owing mainly to the hostility of the Master of Ceremonies and the availability of other facilities in the expanding town. Indeed, in August 1815 the assembly rooms were closed for the season because of a lack of subscribers.

c) ROYAL PURCHASE and DEMOLITION: In July 1815 the Prince Regent purchased one-quarter of the Castle business with an eye to enlarging his Pavilion estate; he bought another quarter in December 1816 and completed the purchase in 1821 at a total cost of £11,000. The inn was consequently demolished in October 1823 and replaced by a four-storey row of houses later known as ‘Needham’s Corner’, while Castle Square and Old Steine were widened.

The assembly rooms were spared however, and were converted into a Royal Chapel with the musicians’ gallery converted into the King’s personal gallery; a connecting covered passageway was made to the Royal Pavilion. The chapel held over 400 people, with admission by private ticket, and was  consecrated on 1 January 1822; George IV, William IV and Victoria all worshipped there. In 1850, when the Royal Pavilion estate was purchased by the town commissioners, the Church Commissioners claimed the Royal Chapel as a consecrated building. The interior was subsequently dismantled and reassembled in a new building in Montpelier Place to form St Stephen’s Church, now a grade II*-listed building (see “Clifton Hill (Montpelier Place)”).

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.

The following resource(s) is quoted as a general source for the information above: {3,10,14,15,64a,194}

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