The hidden attractions of Brighton and Hove

PUBLISHED: 01:15 31 March 2010 | UPDATED: 11:46 28 February 2013

The hidden attractions of Brighton and Hove

The hidden attractions of Brighton and Hove

These tourist spots might not be as famous as the Pavilion or the Pier, but they're every bit as interesting. Jenny Mark-Bell unearths Brighton's best-kept secrets.

Theres a lot to look at in Brighton and Hove. The idiosyncratic Pavilion, the dazzling Palace Pier and the elegant Regency architecture dominate the citys skyline, and they dominate our idea of the place as well. For residents as well as visitors, it seems quite natural to gravitate to these landmarks and neglect the citys hidden gems.

These lesser-known institutions are justifiably proud of what they do, and they shouldnt have to wait for a rainy day. Whether you choose to learn about the grisly murder of Chief Constable Henry Solomon at the Old Police Cells Museum, catch a movie at Britains oldest cinema, or visit Christopher Littledales enormous toy collection, there is plenty here to inspire and engage explorers of all ages.


Opening times

Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm, Sunday 2pm to 5pm, closed Thursdays, 21-28 Dec, 31 Dec and 1 Jan

Admission: FREE

Pioneering naturalist Edward Thomas Booth was a true Victorian: passionate about natural history, especially birds, and a prolific collector, he was one of the first natural scientists to advocate the display of stuffed birds in dioramas which imitated their natural environment. Booth founded his museum in 1874 and bequeathed his collection to the local authority in1890. It became a natural history museum in 1971.

We have a letter from the Smithsonian, who visit us sometimes, saying that we are the home of the diorama, says Dr Gerald Legg, Keeper of Natural Sciences at the museum. If Booth had been born later, he would have been filming the birds rather than shooting them: his passion was for observation. Nevertheless, the vast taxidermy collection holds its own quirky Victorian charm and the Booth, with its gallery of skeletons and Victorian naturalists parlour, is unlike any other museum.

The museum has an interactive room and extensive exhibits on local geology and palaeontology. Dr Legg and his colleagues pledge to answer any natural history enquiry, from Who does this shell belong to? to identifying snake vertebrae.

The Booth Museum of Natural History

194 Dyke Road Brighton East Sussex BN1 5AA

Tel: 03000 290900 Email:

Coming Soon

2 Apr until 24 Sept Plant Portraits

Paintings include flowers, fruits, vegetables and fungi which invite the viewer to appreciate the finer qualities of natures works of art.


Opening times

Tuesday 10.30am, Thursday, 10.30am, Saturday 10.30am, closed 21-28 Dec, 31 Dec and 1 Jan

Access by pre-booked escorted tour. Tel: 01273 291052 to book

Admission: FREE

Councillor Pat Drake established the Old Police Cells Museum in the basement of Brighton Town Hall in 2005, when she was Mayor of the city. I am very proud of the museum now, says Pat. We will be expanding even further this year. The museum commemorates the remarkable history of Sussex Police and includes police uniforms and equipment, graffiti left by mods and rockers and (apparently) the ghost of Chief Constable Henry Solomon, who was brutally murdered in 1844 by one of his charges, John Lawrence, in the station.

Brighton Police had a lot of firsts, so the history is fascinating says Pat. Thankfully, Henry Solomon remains the first and only Chief Constable to have met such a grisly fate in his own station but rather more happily, on September 14th 1933 Brighton became the first police force in the world to issue radios to patrols: the project was a resounding success.

Bartholomew Square



Tel: 01273 291052

Coming Soon

On 3 Apr, when the museum opens to the public for the 2010 season, children will have the chance to meet a working police dog.


Opening times

Usually 1pm to 9pm, depends on films

Admission: 5.50 to 12.50, discounts available for students and those on income support.

The Duke of Yorks Picturehouse is not only a big part of Brighton's cinematic history, but its also the oldest operating cinema in Britain and, since 1981, one of the countrys flagship arthouse venues. Its a Brighton institution, says Jon Barrenechea, cinema manager: There isnt a day when I dont get compliments from our customers on keeping such a historic building going and keeping it vital and vibrant.

The cinema opened in September 1910 on the site of the Amber Ale Brewery, and the building remains largely unaltered, despite the addition of a giant pair of Can Can dancers legs protruding from the roof!

Jon loves the combination of cult, classic, foreign language, independent, British and Hollywood films, which are shown alongside comedy, music and special events: We aim to provide something for everyone, from Silver Screen for senior citizens, to Kids Club for children, through Big Scream for parents with babies.

We put a lot of emphasis on service, which is why weve won Best Customer Service at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards twice in a row.

Duke of Yorks Picturehouse

Preston Circus Brighton


Tel: 01273 602 503


Coming Soon

NT Live: The Habit of Art. On 27 Apr, the Duke of York presents a satellite performance live from the National Theatre. Alan Bennetts new play imagines a meeting between Benjamin Britten and WH Auden and examines creativity, the ethics of biography and growing old.


Open days

3 Apr 2.00 to 5.00

5 Apr 2.00 to 5.00

2 May 2.00 to 5.00

3 May 2.00 to 5.00

29 May 2.00 to 5.00

31 May 2.00 to 5.00

Please see website for opening times for the rest of the year

Fares: Adults 1, children 50p

A trip on the Hove Park Railway is a unique opportunity to experience in miniature the sights, sounds and smells of a real steam locomotive. When Mick Funnell, Chairman of the Brighton and Hove Society of Miniature Locomotive Engineers, began to research the history of the societys origins in 2009, he found that the citys first model engineering club was formed in 1909.

The centenary celebrations will be followed by another impressive landmark anniversary this year it will be 60 years since the first piece of track was laid at Hove Park. Now, at just over one third of a mile in length, the track is one of the longest of its type.Society members are always more than happy to discuss the construction and operation of the locomotives, and we also welcome enquiries regarding membership of the society, says Mick, adding that many locals consider the railway to be Hove Parks best-kept secret.

Hove Park

Nr British Engineerium, Hove


Tel: 01273 501955 (Club Secretary)


Coming soon

On 3 May the railway will hold a special charity run day, when all money taken in fares will be donated to the Martlets Hospice in Hove.


Opening times

Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm, Sunday 2pm to 5pm, closed Mondays, 24-28 Dec and 1 Jan

Admission: FREE

Built in the Italianate style in 1877 by Thomas Lainson, Hove Museum & Art Gallery was originally the family home of the Vallance family. When the house was built it stood in four acres surrounded by farmland, market gardens and open country it was 20 years before New Church Road sprang up around it. After being used as a military hospital and to house German POWs during the First World War, the house was bought by Hove Council in 1926.

Refurbished at a cost of 900,000 in 2003, the museum is notable for its extensive craft collection and local film gallery, which celebrates the Hove film-makers of the 1890s and 1900s. Children will love the Wizards Attic, a collection of dolls, teddy bears, mechanical toys, toy trains and dolls houses, rocking horses and tricycles.

19 New Church Road, Hove,


Tel: 03000 290900


Coming soon

On 15 April, children are invited to explore light and make a perspex light sculpture with artist Jasmine Pradissitto, in Experiments with Science and Art


Opening times

Tuesday to Friday 10am to 5pm (last admission at 4pm) Saturday 11am to 5pm. Closed Sundays and Mondays

Admission: Adults 4, children, senior citizen and students 3.

Family (two adults, two children) 12

Christopher Littledale, Director of Brighton Toy and Model Museum, set up his museum in 1991 after running out of space for his huge collection of model trains: I thought how stupid it was that it was taking up space in my house when it should be on show to the public. Christopher and a group of like-minded people formed a trust and, eventually, found their home under Brightons historic railway arches.

The museum is unique in Europe, says Christopher, because of its huge and priceless collection, which features puppets, Meccano, dolls, model aeroplanes and, of course, model trains. We receive a huge number of school visits, he says, and you can guarantee there will always be a group of children that are absolutely enthralled. I like to think that they might be the collectors or archivists of the future I was only ten when I started scouring junk shops for collectors items.

The Brighton Toy and Model Museum52/55 Trafalgar Street

Brighton Sussex BN1 4EB

Tel: 01273 749494



Coming Soon

The museum will receive a new collection of model trains from a private collector in spring/summer 2010


Opening times

Open from 1 Apr to 30 Sept. Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm, Sunday 2pm to 5pm, closed Mondays (including Bank Holidays)

Admission: Adult 4.70, children 2.70 senior citizens and students 3.70

With more than 20 rooms open to the public, Preston Manor has been carefully restored to its Edwardian heyday, when the Stanford family employed a staff of 17 servants and entertained eminent house guests like Queen Victorias daughters and Rudyard Kipling.

Preston Manors Palladian aspect, with the central villa flanked by two wings, was created by Thomas Western, who had the original villa demolished in 1738. William Stanford, a tenant farmer on the Western estate, bought the Preston estate in 1794,

and the manor remained in the family until it was bequeathed to the local authority in 1932.

The Manor is thought to be one of the most haunted buildings in Sussex. During a sance in the Cleves Room in 1896, a spectral nun revealed herself. She had been expelled from the church in 1535 and buried in unconsecrated ground. Soon after, workmen discovered a 400-year-old female skeleton beneath the south terrace!

Preston Manor

Preston Drove, Brighton


Tel: 03000 290900


Open to the public 1 Apr to 30 Sept

Coming soon

On 15 Apr, children are invited to an interactive performance of Alice in Wonderland bring a drink and snack to take part in the Mad Hatters tea party!


Opening times

10 to 5 every day

Admission: FREE

Brightons past and present as the countys busiest fishing town is celebrated in this delightful museum near the Palace Pier, which opened in 1992 as part of the regeneration of Brightons seafront in the area known as the fishing quarter, where locals offer freshly caught fish and shellfish for sale and a traditional smokehouse operates nearby.

Surrounded by beautifully restored boats, the building provides a shelter for local fishermen to mend their nets and a space for families to take refuge from the more hectic pleasures of the beach. Andy Durr, Chair of the Museum Trust, has been involved with the project from the start and believes that the place is unique: You just dont expect to find a museum on one of the busiest promenades in the country. We have some real treasures here beautiful photographs and steel engravings and, of course, children love to play around the boats.

Brighton Fishing Museum

201 Kings Road Arches, Brighton East Sussex BN1 1NB

Tel: 01273 723064


Coming Soon

On 16 May, local fishermen attend the blessing of the nets at the annual Mackerel Fayre. The day starts with the singing of hymns, and a samba band will play for the remainder of the afternoon.


Opening times

Sunday and Bank Holiday 2.30pm to 5.30pm, May to Sept.

Admission: Adults 1, children 50p

Over the past 33 years, volunteers from The Friends of the Mill group have restored this rare wooden smock mill, built around 1827, to its former glory. This exceptionally attractive and picturesque mill is the subject of

a sketch by John Constable dating from 5 November 1825.

The mill used to provide the flour and animal feeds for Court Farm, but it had to close in 1897 after a catastrophic storm says Peter Hill, Chairman of Sussex Mills Group. Much of the original machinery remains intact and is augmented by acollection of other milling and agricultural memorabilia, availableto view on the six floors open to the public.

West Blatchington Windmill

Holmes Avenue, Hove, BN3 7LE

Tel: 01273 776 017


Coming soon

Sunday 9 May is National Mills Day, and the mill is open from 11am to 5pm, with a Dutch street organ, stationary engines and an exhibition from the Brighton and Hove Society of Miniature Locomotive Engineers.


Opening times

Sunday 1pm to 4pm

Admission: FREE

Set in the 5,000 acre Stanmer Park, once home of the Earl of Chichester, and cared for by a dedicated band of volunteers from Stanmer Preservation Society, this fascinating and overlooked museum displays a variety of rural artefacts, both agricultural and domestic. Exhibits include a forge, a reconstructed bothy, one of the last remaining horse traves, and a donkey wheel house which once supplied water to the whole village.

Stanmer Rural Museum

Adjacent to Stanmer Plant Nursery

Stanmer, Brighton



Coming soon

Stanmer Church is open on Sundays for demos, sales and hands-on activities.

Latest from the Sussex Life