JOHN HOARE'S FAMILY HISTORY
19, Brunswick Terrace photographed in 2004 from the seafront looking across to Brunswick Square.
Was this the first house of Regency Brighton, and who built it?
Brunswick Square was where Regency Brighton started, but who built it? The received wisdom amongst local historians is that the records are incomplete and unclear. However, there are contemporary references to suggest that the Cheesman family of builders were responsible for at least some of the work.
When I was researching George senior's life I came across his obituary in the Brighton Gazette for15 February 1866. (Available on microfilm at Brighton History Centre) (The whole obituary is on my 'George Cheesman Senior' page.)
Here is an extract -
'Mr Cheesman built the house at the south-east corner of Brunswick Square, known as 19, Brunswick Terrace, and it is a remarkable fact that, whilst the excavations were being made for the foundations, the sea washed into those foundations across the road, and we have the authority of our present Mayor for saying so, he being an eye-witness to the fact This shows how the sea has receded at that part of the town, and which can he easily accounted for by the erection of groynes. Mr Cheesman was the greatest benefactor to the fishermen of Brighton that we ever remember to have heard of.'
A quick look on 'Autoroute' shows that 19, Brunswick Terrace is to this day in exactly the right position. Furthermore, it is architecturally as much part of Brunswick Square as Brunswick Terrace
Porter's History of Hove' (1897) includes -
'First house at the south-west corner of Brunswick Square, built by Cheesman 1823''
Later historians have dismissed Porter as being unreliable, but it is unlikely that the entry is total fiction. If we surmise that he may have slipped up in his orientation, and the entry should read 'southEAST' corner, the entry fits better. It seems likely that the plans were put forward in 1823, and construction of this massive project took place over the next few years.
Dale's 'Fashionable Brighton' quotes Bishop's 'Peeps into the Past' as saying that building started on the South East corner, and also refers to the story that the sea overwhelmed the site as work was starting. This ties up neatly with the report in George's obituary. The inundation of the site by the sea would have been seen as particularly relevant in view of the Cheesman family's later involvement in the building of groynes on the adjacent beach.
All in all, it seems very likely that my distant ancestor George Cheesman senior was the builder of the first house of possibly the greatest Regency square in England. Of course I might be biassed!
I would welcome comments.
© John Hoare Nov 2004/2005