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which, after receiving its royal freight, is thus described by Colonel Gunter:
"At eight o'clock I saw them on sayle, and it was the afternoon before they were out of sight. The wind (O Providence!) held very good to the next morning, till ten of the clock brought them to a place of Normandy, called Fackham (Fécamp), some three miles from Havre de Grâce."
Likewise must we pass over that memorable epoch in the annals of London-super-Mare, when the first gentleman in Europe, as Regent and King, let the light of his radiant countenance shine upon the beaux and belles congregated on the Steine, and whose predilection for the place is, perhaps, the only thing for which we can offer him our very best thanks; and when, a little before Waterloo, as we know, Jos. Sedley, Lieutenant Dobbin, and Captain Osborne, gave the ladies of their company, Becky and Amelia, a "pleasant little outing," and "swelled" it right royally on the Brighton Parade.
No! we date our retrospect from somewhere about the period, when triumphal arches were erected, at intervals, along the London Road, in honour of Queen Victoria's entry into the town; when it took seven hours to reach it from London, unless, undeterred by the frightful accident to the "Quicksilver" coach, you were inclined to risk your neck on one of those rapid "four's-in-hand," which accomplished the journey, at full gallop, under five hours; when Sir Vincent Cotton drove the "down" "Age" coach, and Mr. Brackenbury the corresponding "up" one, until these aristocratic whips, changing seats half way, indicated, by a polite touch of the hat, that a gratuity was expected by the coachman on parting from his passengers; when the great sensation sight of the place was the departure from the corner of Castle Square of the aforesaid "Age," with its magnificent team of bays, an ostler to each horse, ready, as the last stroke of eleven rang from the neighbouring Pavilion clock, to whip off the clothing, but one moment before the impatient animals, so skilfully tooled round the corner by Mr. Brackenbury, dashed along the Grand Parade, that gentleman's large whiskers and pleasant smile delighting the eyes of many an admiring Brighton belle.
These good old coaching days take us back a long way-so long that we don't care exactly to specify dates. The gaping crowds, the admiring belles of that time, the trim coaches, and glossy teams, are gone and passed away.
The royal residence and its grounds are town property. Castlə
Square has still a so-called "blue coach-office," which now means a railway parcels-depôt; but the corner house of Steine Lane and East Street, that starting-point of those old steady-going coaches, the "Union" and "Alert," which, disdaining the short cut by Redhill, travelled through Reigate, and took eight hours for the journey, has, for many a day, with all the numerous coach-offices that studded this quarter, been converted to other purposes than the making-up of waybills and booking of places.
Fashion, however, revolving in a circle, has once more declared in favour of a solitary four-in-hand, which, during the summer months, plies successfully over the well-known ground.
We have, in our day, been sent down to Doctor Blimber in an omnibus, and advised of a visit from our "pater" by the receipt of a newspaper, directed Master "Alert," "Union," or "Age" Jones, and from which we understood by what coach we might expect the governor; for, save the mark! (post-mark) it cost eight pence then to send a letter from London to Brighton, and no one was above avoiding that penalty.
The mere mention of the Blimberian epoch naturally suggests cricket, which here flourished in all its glory. Boasting as it did of two magnificent fields, Brighton was the head-quarters for the Sussex players, and was second to none for the skill displayed on the bright green turf, when such matches as "Sussex versus Kent," or Sussex, with Pilch, the great Kentish batter, versus all England," drew thousands of enthusiastic spectators to the town. The names of Tom Box, the wicket-keeper, and Lillywhite, the old underhand slow bowler, will for ever be associated with the spots where their respective cricketgrounds once flourished: that of the former, with its fine open "fives court at the north end of the level, and now covered by Park Crescent; and that of the latter, at the top of the Montpelier Road, then clear of buildings, and free to receive the bracing air, which came straight from the Dyke, across the breezy Downs. Those Downs, over which we used to scamper sometimes on a half-holiday, on our pilgrimage to the graves of the two mutineers in Goldstone Bottom, who were shot at the time when a camp, under the command of the Prince Regent, lay facing the sea, with its left resting on the Bellevue field, now Regency Square.
The opening of the railway as far as Hayward's Heath, whence the journey was finished by the coaches, happened just before our school days ended, when steam, like a victorious army, drove back into the
sea our ancestral conveyances. But they died hard, disputing the ground mile by mile; some few continuing the through journey, for the benefit of conservative old women of both sexes, who pertinaciously refused to have anything to do with these new-fangled notions. But the guards and coachmen gradually got employment on the railway, the old ladies died, the Clayton tunnel was "bored," the iron way completed to the top of Trafalgar Street, the present station erected, and opened with a grand banquet, and London placed, to the amazement of everybody, within two hours of the coast.
The sea-wall, from the Chain Pier to Kemp Town, afforded much gratification, and engineering instruction to our youthful intellect, as we watched its progress, and the consequent widening of the road, which owes its present proportions to the filling up in front of the cliffs, which, although surmounted by detached blocks of stately mansions, were being gradually undermined by the sea, as is the case still on the way to Rottingdean. Of very much later date is the completion of this road-widening process to the westward; but bit by Lit has been accomplished, even till it has extended over the beach fish-market, and rounded the once narrow corner, by Brill's circular bath.
Brill's bath! Ah! what a host of memories mingle with the vapours that hover above that tepid pool! Where, shivering on its brink, we were ruthlessly made to take our first headers, and where the amphibious swimming master, whose chest and arms, tattooed with all kinds of marvellous marine devices, evoked at once our wonder and our awe. Don't we remember how we have nearly dashed our brains out against the fountain which then stood in the centre of the bath, as, in mortal terror, we tried to dive across it, and were afraid at first to open our eyes under water; and don't we remember the jolly swims we have had there at intervals ever since; and can't we remember, too, as we write, the smell of the place, the taste of the water, the touch of the hot towels, the resonant sounds made by splashing, hallooing, and shrieking, as we madly persisted in having the cold shower to "top up" with; and, finally, do we not gratefully recognize how, by the addition of two new swimming baths, the establishment has been perfected, under the surveillance of Mr. Brill.
Hove was in those days a rural village, suburban Cliftonville, with its stucco and red brick, existed not; Mills' Terrace was the only
block of seaside buildings of the lodging-house type, west of the then, and, for many years after, incomplete Adelaide Crescent.
Palatial Palmyra Square rises on ground, to us haunted by a mysterious vision! Gaunt and weird, it stood for years, a skeleton of iron frame-work of some never finished dome or round tower, inspiring us however with but little curiosity when, almost under its shadow, we sailed our toy boats over the long since filled up Wick pond.
Now, we wonder very much what that ghostly frame-work could have been. The neighbouring chalybeate spa is also historic ground to us. The inky flavour of its water yet lingers on our palate, and is only removed, as we think of the gingerbread nut, dispensed at the adjacent thatched cottage.
Changed and brick-surrounded, all this quarter is unrecognizable by the old Brightonian, and one is driven down on to the cliff again, "to make" a land-mark of early days. The toll-house, at the end of the Esplanade and commencement of Brunswick Terrace, still retains its weighing-machine, where the weight of every cart-load of coal coming from Shoreham, continues to be tested.
The Esplanade, now widened to nearly twice its original width, takes us to the New Pier, and there, as we pay our twopence, we can look back, and mentally recall the aspect of those funny old seats and steps, which opposite Regency Square, led from the upper to the lower walk.
Red-bricked and stuccoed, with a scanty sloping grass plot, they formed a curious relic of watering-place decoration of the Georgian So, on to the bottom of Cannon Place, where Blacklock, the chemist's, was formerly the solitary shop, standing prominently out from the houses; and then the battery, the old battery, with its flagstaff and its two conical piles of cannon balls, the disused cannons themselves, the iron railings, and the sloping green face to the useless fortification; then the old yellow-bricked battery-house itself, the artillery man, the one fat artillery man? Who cannot remember them? and, remembering, does not in a measure grieve for their disappearance? For they are all gone, swept away by improvements, unlimited hotels, town council edicts, time, and death!
"Changed," or "disappeared," is written plainly at many a street corner, and over many a well-remembered shop.
Their owners, too! where are they? together with all the eccentric characters which we can recollect as much part and parcel of the
place, as the Chain Pier itself! Very long ago we used to shrink trembling from a poor gentleman, who, from some dire convulsion of nature, had turned completely blue! A semi-sort of mariner there also was, who had for years been in captivity amongst the savages, and, as the story ran, thrilling us through and through, had only escaped with his life, by consenting to be tattooed. Then there was Colonel Eld, the master of the ceremonies; who, remembering Brighton, cannot at once bring to their minds that tall, gentlemanly figure? his high cravat, round shirt collar, his polite salute, his gait, his gaiters, his well-pointed and carefully turned-out toes! His occupation and himself, alike are gone! A relic of a past fashion, which, with a few sedan chairs, lingered until quite recently.
Curious old ladies of the Miss Flite stamp out of number there were; given to wondrous costumes and queer propensities; likewise, notoriously, that butt of the street boys, the crazy old gentleman of military aspect, who, shouldering his walking-stick, and muttering ever and anon brief ejaculations, as if they were words of command, devoted his life to the closing of all the area gates.
These, with many more familiar signs, street cries, and sights, are passed away, with certain years of enjoyment spent in the gay and spirit-stirring watering-place. Well! it can't be helped, we must make the best of it! We have had a fair innings, we are not bowled out yet, and let us hope we have still more runs to get off our own bat.
Through every seven years, the doctors say, we undergo an entire change-a gradual renewal of the whole frame-work takes place; and doubtless cities, as well as men, require the like renovation. Let us, then, not repine or grumble, as one by one we see our old landmarks carried off. Some compensations undreamed of in our early philosophy are continually "cropping up;" advantages which have reached us in the form of easier garments, cooler heads, tried friendships, durable loves, purer tastes, and, let us hope, longer purses, and which, in the shape of grand hotels, new piers, wide roads, quick transits, and better drainage, have healthfully affected the town. Advantages, which it is but a truism to say, would astonish our grandfathers could they but look in upon us, and compare them with those which they possessed, when, in the pursuit of health or fashion, they also thought of running down to Brighton.