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Brighton: Introduction

84km (52 miles) S of London

Brighton was one of the first of the great seaside resorts of Europe. The Prince of Wales (later George IV), the original swinger who was to shape so much of its destiny, arrived in 1783; his presence and patronage gave it immediate status.

Fashionable dandies from London, including Beau Brummell, turned up. The construction business boomed as Brighton blossomed with charming and attractive town houses and well-planned squares and crescents. From the Prince Regent's title came the voguish word Regency, which was to characterize an era, but more specifically refers to the period between 1811 and 1820. Under Victoria, and despite the fact that she cut off her presence, Brighton continued to flourish.

But earlier in this century, as the English began to discover more glamorous spots on the Continent, Brighton lost much of its old joie de vivre. People began to call it "tatty," and it began to feature the usual run of fun-fair-type English seaside amusements. Because of its boardwalk and pier world, it still has a Coney Island type of ambience, although much of its historic core has been gentrified. Holiday makers flock here on day trains for a rowdy time spent at "London-by-the-Sea," and this clientele still makes Brighton a bit tawdry.

As Betty Kemp, publican, said, "But that's all right, ducky. We've always been a place where Londoners can slip off for some hanky-panky. Now, who would ever want to change that state of affairs? Brighton will always be the goal of the off-the-record weekender." A huge number of Londoners have moved in (some of whom now commute), and the invasion has made Brighton increasingly lighthearted and sophisticated today. It also attracts a fair number of gay vacationers, and a beach east of town has been set aside for nude bathers (Britain's first such venture).

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