July 20-25: A Visit to North Carolina
June 12-13: A Weekend in New Salem and Springfield, Illinois
Return to the Index for 1982


July 3-17, 1982
A Week in Brighton, England

 

I got my next overseas assignment in July. I was to conduct a class for some McDonnell-Douglas people who were working on a long-term project in Brighton, England, at American Express. I had met a number of the people assigned to that project when I did classes for MDC for Sarson and Gane, so I was looking forward to dealing with people that I already knew.

 

The Trip to England

Steve got me a flight on British Airways to Heathrow just outside London, and I left on the 3rd of July.


I left Chicago late in the afternoon on the 3rd of July, and would get to London on the morning of the 4th. This would give me some time to wander around before driving over to Brighton for my class on Monday morning.


This kind of schedule is very common for flights from the United States to Europe. Depending on where in the United States they leave from, they try to time the flights so that arrival in the European city is early in the morning. For business travelers, they can then start a work day if they wish, or lay over a day (particularly if they have been crammed into coach) and rest up to start work a day later. Vacation travelers are less persnickety.

 

Hampton Court

I am not a frequent traveler to Europe; if I were, I probably would not have had Steve reserve me a car. I would have taken a train from Heathrow Airport outside London down to Brighton; but I thought I might see more on the way to Brighton and around that town if I did have one. I was somewhat correct, as it turned out, but I could probably have seen all that I saw without one.


With Steve's help, I'd laid out the routes I would need to follow from the airport down to Brighton. And then we discussed what I might see on the Sunday before class. I wondered whether I should drive into the city, but Steve thought that if I were going into the city, I should definitely take the train from Heathrow to Victoria Station, and then walk where I wanted to go.

I have been to London before, and while I certainly did not exhaust the things there are to see and do there, I didn't think that six hours or so was going to be enough time to justify the train ride in and back. So we looked around for things outside London- but not too far away.

We made a short list, and the most obvious candidates were Windsor Castle, which is actually quite near Heathrow Airport out to the west (the Kings and Queens of England certainly didn't have to consider jet noise when the castle was built). The other choice was Hampton Court, a bit south and east of Heathrow. Either would be easy to get to but I would probably not be able to do both without really pushing it. In the end, when we looked up both of them in Steve's travel guides, we found that when the Queen is in residence, tours, particularly inside each castle, are sometimes cancelled, and we learned that the Queen spends a great deal more time at Windsor than at Hampton, so we thought that Hampton would be the better choice. It was also more on the way towards Brighton, which is almost due south of London on the English Channel coast.

So I made Hampton Court my primary tourist stop of the afternoon; this was good, because even though I arrived at Heathrow fairly early, by the time I had my luggage and had hired the car, it was ten o'clock in the morning, and I wanted to be in Brighton by dinnertime (certainly before it got dark).


As you can see, the distance from Heathrow to Hampton Court is about six miles. You can figure it out by looking at the airport itself. At major international airports, the runways are usually about two miles long, and if you compare that to the distance you will see it is about three runway lengths. You can't drive directly, of course, you can only get on the motorways from a couple of the airport access roads, and then you have to wind around and cross the Thames River twice to get to Hampton Court. (I might point out that the map is, of course, current; I don't remember driving quite so much on motorways to get to Hampton Court; I think a couple of new ones have been built or old ones extended since my visit in 1982.)

The royal palace of Hampton Court is located in the town of Hampton, Richmond upon Thames, in the southwest part of Greater London. The palace was taken for an expanded by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in 1515. A favorite of King Henry VIII, Wolsey fell from favor in 1529, when the King seized the palace for himself (later enlarging it). Along with St James's Palace, it is one of only two surviving palaces out of the many owned by King Henry VIII.

In the following century, King William III's massive rebuilding and expansion project, which destroyed much of the Tudor palace, was intended to rival Versailles. Work ceased in 1694, leaving the palace in two distinct contrasting architectural styles, domestic Tudor and Baroque. While the palace's styles are an accident of fate, a unity exists due to the use of pink bricks and a symmetrical, if vague, balancing of successive low wings. King George II was the last monarch to reside in the palace.

I was looking forward to seeing the castle; I did not have a chance to visit one on my previous trip to London, so this would be a first for me. The only fly in the ointment was that there were no indoor tours available today (or so I was told when I arrived). All you could do was to go into a few of the public rooms. I have no pictures of them because, like a dummy, I forgot my camera flash attachment (although I am not sure that would have been allowed anyway).


Here is an aerial view of Hampton Court; the town of Hampton surrounds it on three sides. Hampton is a suburban area, and includes the Palace. The Anglo-Saxon parish of Hampton converted to secular use in the 19th century included present-day Hampton, Hampton Hill, Hampton Wick and hamlet of Hampton Court surrounding Hampton Court Palace which together are called The Hamptons. About 25,000 people live here; the name "Hampton" may come from the Anglo-Saxon words "hamm" (meaning: an enclosure in the bend of a river) and "ton" (meaning: farmstead or settlement).

From 1514 through 1521, Wolsey spent lavishly to build the finest palace in England; the existing manor house was his nucleous. Today, little of Wolsey's building work remains unchanged. The first courtyard, the Base Court, was his creation, as was the second, inner gatehouse which leads to the Clock Court (where Wolsey's seal remains visible) and the clock tower containing his private rooms. The Base Court contained forty-four lodgings reserved for guests, while the second court (today, Clock Court) contained the very best rooms – the state apartments – reserved for the King and his family.

Wolsey was attempting to create a palace suitable for a cardinal, but, more than that, he wanted it to be a reflection of the power and wealth of his sovereign. Architecture critics see it as an excellent and rare example of a thirty-year era when English architecture was in a harmonious transition from domestic Tudor, strongly influenced by perpendicular Gothic, to the Italian Renaissance classical style. Wolsey was only to enjoy his palace for a few years. In 1528, knowing that his enemies and the King were engineering his downfall, he passed the palace to the King as a gift. Wolsey died two years later in 1530.


The first picture I took was of the West Front- the main entrance to the palace. It is marked with an "A" on the aerial view above.

The King began immediately to expand the palace. His court consisted of over one thousand people, but while the King owned over sixty houses and palaces, few of these were large enough to hold the assembled court, and thus one of the first of the King's building works (in order to transform Hampton Court to a principal residence) was to quadruple the size of the kitchens, a task accomplished in 1529. King Henry did follow the design precedent set by Wolsey: perpendicular Gothic-inspired Tudor with restrained Renaissance ornament. This hybrid architecture was to remain almost unchanged until the reign of the Stuarts.

Between 1532 and 1535 Henry added the Great Hall (the last medieval great hall built for the English monarchy) and the Royal Tennis Court. The Great Hall has a carved hammer-beam roof and during Tudor times was the most important room of the palace; here, the King would dine in state seated at a table upon a raised dais. The hall took five years to complete; so impatient was the King for completion that the masons were compelled to work throughout the night by candlelight.

The gatehouse to the second, inner court was adorned in 1540 with the Hampton Court astronomical clock, an early example of a pre-Copernican astronomical clock. Still functioning, the clock shows the time of day, the phases of the moon, the month, the quarter of the year, the date, the sun and star sign, and high water at London Bridge. The latter information was of great importance to those visiting this Thames-side palace from London, as the preferred method of transport at the time was by barge, and at low water London Bridge created dangerous rapids. This gatehouse is also known today as Anne Boleyn's gate, after Henry's second wife. Work was still underway on Anne Boleyn's apartments above the gate when the King, who had become tired of her, had her executed.

(Picture at left)
Here is my picture of "Anne Boleyn's Gate, and you can see (although not in much detail) the astronomical clock that is mounted high above the gate entrance. This Gate is marked as "B" on the aerial view above.

 

 

(Picture at right)
This is Fountain Court ("C" on the aerial view), designed for the Stuarts by Sir Christopher Wren. He intended to emulate the repetitive Baroque style used at Versailles (everybody was trying to copy Versailles. What he achieved, critics have said, was "Startling, as of simultaneous exposure to a great many eyes with raised eyebrows".

I was able to walk through some of the rooms along the way from one court to another, and if I had remembered to bring my flash, I would have taken many pictures (assuming that was allowed). I continued walking east, and came out on the East Front (marked as "D" on the aerial view) of the palace.


Wren replaced VIII's state rooms and private apartments with new wings around the Fountain Court; these were for the King and Queen and each was accessed by a state staircase. The royal suites were of completely equal value in order to reflect William and Mary's unique status as joint sovereigns. The King's Apartments faced south over the Privy Garden ("F" on the aerial view) while the Queen's looked east over the Fountain Garden. The suites are linked by long state gallery running the length of the east façade- another reference to Versailles, where the King and Queen's apartments are linked by the Galerie des Glaces. Hampton Court's gallery was both simpler and smaller.

The grounds as they appear today were laid out in grand style in the late 17th century- again by Wren. To my right in the picture are the East Gardens. From a water-bounded semicircular parterre, the length of the east front, three avenues radiate in a crow's foot pattern. The central avenue, containing not a walk or a drive, but the great canal known as the Long Water, was excavated during the reign of Charles II, in 1662. The design, radical at the time, is another immediately recognizable influence from Versailles.

On the south side of the palace is the Privy Garden bounded by semi-circular wrought iron gates. This garden, originally William III's private garden, has been replanted in different styles over the years; it is currently a geometric system of paths lined by manicured hollies.

I enjoyed walking through Hampton Court a great deal, although it would have been nice to have had the time to visit Windsor Castle as well, as it is, of course, the residence of Queen Elizabeth and her family. Both are major tourist attractions, much like Mount Vernon or Sagamore Hill. These castles are actually possessions of the Royal Family and of the monarch; they, like many other castles, buildings and tracts of land, is part of the family's billion-dollar fortune. I find the relationship of modern English royalty to the State itself a curious one. If or when Queen Elizabeth or her family members cease to be the rulers of England, what will happen to all these iconic sites? But then again, I am just not used to this system of hereditary rule (although I completely understand that the English monarch today has only a fraction of the authority that the position once had. The days of "off with his head" seem to be quite gone.


I went back to the entrance via a different route around the south side of the palace, and came out into the town of Hampton. Across from the castle entrance, I found this pub, where I stopped in for a soft drink. It was quite near the car park where I had left my small car.

Had Hampton Court continued as a center of State functions as it was under the Tudors, perhaps the town of Hampton would have become larger, but its population remained fairly stable at about 2500 up until the middle of the 19th century. From 1850 to 1910, the population increased to almost 10,000, with another 3,000 added in the 1920s. Writing between 1870–72 his national gazetteer, John Marius Wilson described the town as a hamlet of 3200 acres, with a total value of real property of some £25,000 (a couple of million pounds today). Since World War II, the town has grown steadily, if slowly, until now most of the land area is built out.

I walked around town for a bit and then returned late in the afternoon to the car park for my 90-minute trip down to Brighton.


Here is another large English residence, south of Crawley on the way to Brighton. I did not see a name as I pulled off to take this picture. If your family can stay together for five hundred years, it is probably easy to amass enough wealth to build a family manse like this one.

This is the English Coast near Brighton. I made a wrong turn when I arrived, and missed the center of town where my hotel, right on the coast, was located. I am heading back to town to find it.

 

The Town of Brighton, England

Late in the afternoon of Sunday I arrived in Brighton, England. Steve had made reservations for me at a hotel right on the ocean, so I went there immediately to check in.

Steve usually finds me interesting places to stay overseas; when I travel domestically, I stick to Holiday Inns or other chains because I can usually get reward points or something like that. But overseas, such places can be very expensive and even though the client is paying for it, I hate to waste their money.


Wheeler's Sheridan Restaurant & Hotel is an old Brighton landmark, and, as Steve promised, it was right on the English Channel. On of my days here this week, I took the picture at left. My memory was that the long side of the hotel, its front, faced the channel, and so when I went looking for it on an aerial view, I at first couldn't find it.


I finally found it, at the corner of West Street and King's Road; King's Road and Marine Parade together form the Brighton portion of the shore road that runs all the way along the southern coast of England.

When the hotel was built in 1882, it was described as a "highly attractive, six-storey building with much terracotta decoration on both facades". It was built as the fashionable Orleans residential club, and in 1898 became the Victoria Hotel. It became the Sheridan Hotel years later, and finally Wheeler's Sheridan Restaurant and Hotel. The right side of the hotel fronts on King's Road, and right across that thorofare, on the Promenade, stands the former summer tourist information bureau, a delicate ironwork rotunda built as a promenade shelter in 1887; a shelter hall was constructed on the Lower Esplanade below at the same time. The Promenade, a two-mile boardwalk, turned out to be an ideal place for me to do my jogging.

This hotel, although it had quite a few rooms, was much different from any larger hotel I had stayed in before. It was run almost like a large home; the woman who ran it knew who all her guests were, and if she were at the desk when you returned in the afternoon, she would greet you by name. The public rooms were not as extensive as in this country, probably because there were no meeting rooms or ballrooms. There was a restaurant and a bar, but that was it. The facility was old, but well kept up, and the rooms were typical for England- quite small. I had a room with a single twin bed, a desk and chair and a bath. I was on the second floor from the top behind one of the gabled windows. There was no air-conditioning; had I been British, I might not have missed it since I wouldn't be used to it, but there were a few days where the temperature made the room somewhat uncomfortable and made it somewhat hard to sleep.


I had the car for the week, although Brighton is small enough that I could walk from the hotel to the offices of American Express. I remember their offices being in an older building, but when I looked for the building (I still have the address from my 1982 Day Timer), I found that there is a new one at that address. I have labelled it as AMEX on the aerial view at right, but in the 30+ years between my visit and the aerial view (probably acquired sometime around 2014) they may well have moved. During this week it was pretty warm for England, so I drove to work a couple of times and took a bus one day- walking on a couple of them. The class started on Monday, and went well, although the classroom was quite small. Office buildings in England are a lot like the ones here, so there is little transition that one has to make.

Unfortunately, English hotels are a bit different; two staples of American hotels were missing: soda and ice machines and airconditioning. I had to go down to the desk to get ice (and I like to use a lot of ice); they weren't used to one person using so much, and I think that the bellman didn't like traipsing back to the kitchen all the time to the one ice machine that there was. One time when I went back there myself late in the evening to get some, I met the bellman coming back. He didn't seem pleased that I was trying to save him a trip. I had to order sodas from the restaurant, or go out and by them at the little stores, but then they couldn't be kept cold very long. The hotel was nice enough, but just not the kind of place I have become used to, but then that is my fault, since the English probably find it to be a great place to stay. It is right in the middle of things, right on the boardwalk along the beach.


I found the location of the hotel ideal. Being right on the shore road, it was easy for me to get out and take a drive north or south. I could jog on the Promenade, and if I walked up West Street, shown in my picture at right, there were all kinds of restaurants and amusements (this being a resort town).


About two blocks up West Street from Wheeler's (see aerial view at right) is the Clock Tower, Located in the heart of the city centre, it was built in 1888 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The Clock Tower quickly became one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city and features carvings of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, their son Edward, and four boats which point towards the seafront. As I said, Brighton is a resort town; there are lots of amusements and stores catering to vacationers, and at this time of year there were lots of them. I visited all kinds of stores, most of them just like at home, and a couple of large amusement arcades, with pool tables (actually snooker, I think) and video and pinball games.

Since I had the car, I thought that I should take the opportunity to get outside of town and see some of the countryside. One of the class members who lived in Brighton told me that the best scenery was east of town along "the white cliffs of Brighton" (the same cliffs of white chalk that are so famous along the southern coast of England).


Here you can see the "White Cliffs of Brighton", and this is typical of the coastline that I saw as I drove as far as about twenty miles east of Brighton along England's southern coast. They are the remnants of dry valleys in the chalk South Downs, which are gradually being eroded by the sea. What's the connection to the White Cliffs of Dover? They are part of the same geologic formation, although the cliffs at Dover, east of here around the point at Beach Head, are higher and so more photographed. I didn't want to drive all that way, though. There were at least a couple of places where I saw that walkways and promenades like this one had been built up on the cliffs and down by the water. This particular location was part of the Saltdean Lido, and right across the road were some of the newest houses that I saw here in the area.

Archaeological evidence of settlement in the area of modern Brighton dates back to the Bronze Age, Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods. The ancient settlement of "Brighthelmstone" was documented in the Domesday Book (1086). The town's importance grew in the Middle Ages as the Old Town developed, but it languished in the early modern period, affected by foreign attacks, storms, a suffering economy and a declining population. Brighton began to attract more visitors following improved road transport to London and became a boarding point for boats travelling to France. The town also developed in popularity as a health resort for sea bathing as a purported cure for illnesses.

In the Georgian era, Brighton developed as a fashionable seaside resort, encouraged by the patronage of the Prince Regent, later King George IV, who spent much time in the town and constructed the Royal Pavilion in the Regency era. Brighton continued to grow as a major center of tourism following the arrival of the railways in 1841, becoming a popular destination for day-trippers from London. Many of the major attractions were built in the Victorian era, including the Grand Hotel, the West Pier, and the Brighton Palace Pier. The town continued to grow into the 20th century, expanding to incorporate more areas into the town's boundaries.

I took the picture above, left, across from the Saltdean Lido Pavilion. I thought the little hotel in the residential area was kind of neat, but this was before I learned about B&Bs. I have found an aerial view of the Saltdean Lido as well as the White House Hotel, and it is above, right.


I continued east along the coast for maybe ten miles, enjoying the nice late afternoon drive. Although this is summer here, it still got dark a good deal earlier than in Chicago, as London is farther north. I thought the cliffs were really, really interesting; I had not seen anything like them before. Out in the country I thought it was even nicer, although that you can see here that even some distance from Brighton there are promenades built along the shore for use by the area's many visitors.

Brighton's location has made it a popular destination for tourists, renowned for its diverse communities, quirky shopping areas, large cultural, music and arts scene and its large gay population, leading to its reverence as the "unofficial gay capital of the UK". Brighton attracts 4 million day visitors a year, and the vast majority of these day overnight, resulting in quite a need for both large hotels, like Wheeler's, and small hotels, like The White House. Aside from its popularity with Britons, it is the most popular seaside destination in the UK for overseas tourists. Brighton has also been called the UK's "hippest city" (even now, long passed the "hippie" era) and "the happiest place to live in the UK".

There were other little towns along the coast, and all the homes near the coast all seemed nice and neat. They also looked like they might be expensive by English standards (or our own, for that matter). They were mostly built in the style that one would expect to see in Southern California- low and white, rather than the multi-story houses one might expect on the New England coast. The roads were well-maintained and well-marked. Every so often there would be walkways down to the beach, as well as many nice restaurants.

On the way back to town, I stopped to walk over to the edge of the cliffs to take a picture of an area that seemed to be enclosed by two curved breakwaters. It seemed to be some sort of commericial marine area, with a few private boats docked around. It was very much a working area. When I tried to find this place on Google Earth, just for fun, I couldn't find it. But what I did find, and confirmed by emailing one of the businesses now located there, was that the entire area had been reconstructed; it is now residential as you can see:

I have to say that I had a really good time during my week in Brighton. The class went well, the food was good and the scenery was excellent. What made it even better was that for two days of the week I had a local guide, and the story of how I met him is one of those personal notes that are sprinkled through this album. The note, as usual, is password protected; if you'd like to read it and don't already have the password, just email me at "website" at "rondougherty" dot "com" and I can send you one. If you are all set, then just click on this link: Meeting Neal O'Brien.

I returned to London Saturday morning and caught my return flight to Chicago on British Airways about ten in the morning. With the time difference, I was back in my condo by dinnertime.

 

You can use the links below to continue to another photo album page.


July 20-25: A Visit to North Carolina
June 12-13: A Weekend in New Salem and Springfield, Illinois
Return to the Index for 1982