Royal Crescent: first developed in 1798
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.
c) ROYAL CRESCENT : This is a particularly notable resort development in the town as it was both the first unified composition, and also the first development to face the sea. Construction commenced in 1798 in a then quite isolated position on the East Cliff for a West Indian merchant and speculator named J.B.Otto; the architect is unknown. However, Otto left the country after only three houses at either end had been erected and did not return to complete the crescent until 1807. The fourteen houses, which are listed grade II*, are timber-framed but faced with black glazed ‘mathematical’ tiles to resemble brick. They have four storeys, balconies, verandahs and angular bays, except no.1 which has lost its verandah and nos.12 and 14 which have narrow bows. At the top of the central houses is the name of the crescent, originally painted by a Mr Leggatt who, while leaning back to admire his handiwork, unfortunately fell and was killed on the railings below. Royal Crescent Mews at the rear has a row of small cottages.
In 1802 Otto erected a statue of the Prince of Wales in the garden in an attempt to curry favour with H.R.H. It stood seven feet high on an eleven-foot pedestal and was designed in artificial Coade stone by Rossi. However, the stone did not wear well; the left fingers were broken off in November 1807, and when the right arm broke off a little later, the statue was said to have borne more of a resemblance to Nelson. The Prince was evidently not amused, refusing even to allow Otto’s name to be mentioned in his presence, and the statue was eventually removed in November 1819. The garden was vested in the corporation following the 1884 Brighton Improvement Act.
No.4 Royal Crescent (and later no.5 as well) was the home of the actor Lord Olivier of Brighton from 1961 until 1979, while another knight of the stage, Sir John Clements, lived at no.7.
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.