Brighton History Centre
Brighton History Centre is now closed to visitors (from 1 April 2013).
Visitors looking for local and family history study resources should go to Jubilee Library. An alternative service is being offered in the Tony Miller Reading Room on the first floor of the building.
The resources and services of Brighton History Centre will be available in late 2013 at The Keep, a new historical resource centre for East Sussex and Brighton & Hove based in Moulsecoomb.
History Centre Opened in 2003
I am the Senior History Centre Officer and I started work at the Brighton History Centre when it opened in 2003. I will never the forget the day I walked into the search room – I felt quite intimidated by the size and grandeur of the room and the amount of stock I would have to get to know!
Fascinated by local history
I have always been fascinated by local history, particularly by the way in which towns and cities physically change and respond to economic or social circumstances. Brighton is a particularly good example of this – transforming from an impoverished town in the mid 18th century to the vibrant city it is today.
A wide variety of researchers
The archives and resources held at the History Centre reflect these changes very well. We have maps, photographs, street directories, theatre programmes, newspapers and access to oral histories. The Centre is popular with many different people. We have community groups from Whitehawk tracing the development of the area, people looking into their house history, students studying Brighton’s architecture and school groups investigating the development and occupants of Brighton’s Victorian streets with the help of the census and street directories. There are also a large number of people who come in to trace their family history. In addition to helping people visiting the History Centre with their research we also answer many enquiries by email and telephone.
No two days are the same
This variety of customers is what makes the job so interesting. You can never predict how the day will go, sometimes it’s just a case of customers knowing exactly what they want and other times we get all kinds of weird and wonderful requests. We once had a gentleman who was interested in robots and wanted to know if we had any information about the shooting of an inventor by his own robot at the Aquarium in the 1930s. It turned out that the story was true and we included it on one of our blog posts (http://rpmcollections.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/alpha-the-robot/).
A funny story!
Another time, I decided to write a webpage about the tracing of family history and decided to use the Drogrez family who were chocolate makers in Victorian Brighton. Rather than write a dry piece about them I invented a relative who was trying to trace the family’s history i.e. Mary Smith is trying to trace the family – how would she go about it. Shortly after the webpage went up, a woman contacted us asking if we could put her in contact with Mary Smith as she was tracing the family as well!
Maps are one of my favourite resources
One of my favourite parts of the History Centre’s collection is the maps. The maps of Brighton demonstrate so clearly the amazing growth of the town in the last two hundred and thirty years. One of our earliest maps show Brighton as a small town, bordered by West, North and East Street surrounded by fields and open land. The visits of the Prince Regent encouraged the building of houses in Hove and Kemp Town and the coming of the railway meant that people could commute to London. Maps of the 1840s show the huge amount of growth that had taken place. We also have large scale maps of Brighton in the 1870s which record such details as conservatories in gardens and the ground floor plans of the major public buildings including the Royal Pavilion.
Updating the database
Another part of the job that I really enjoy is the updating of our database. In the past we had to rely on an increasingly out of date card index and it was often difficult to locate material. Since the introduction of the new cataloguing system, we have put the whole of the Brighton collection on the database together with its location and added notes about the material.
Discovering new material
One of the best parts of the job at the Centre is working with my colleagues. We are a good team and have learnt a great deal about Brighton and its surrounding area during the time we have worked here. Much of the pleasure of working in the History Centre is that we continually discover new and exciting material when we are searching the collections.
The Brighton History Centre is situated on the upper floor of Brighton Museum & Art Gallery in Royal Pavilion Gardens.
Telephone +44 (0)1273 296972
Opening times: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm (closed Sunday and Monday)