East of the city centre, stretching as far as Brighton Marina, Kemp Town is a flamboyant mix of grand seafront crescents, elegant squares, and a bustling High Street shopping area with a lively village feel. Through the late 1990s and 2000s, Kemp Town was an essential part of Brighton's cultural and community revival becoming a centre for artists, writers, performers, musicians, film-makers, web-publishers and numerous other professions. This fashion and economy-driven influx of new people has served to broaden horizons and add to the cultural melting pot that is the Kemp Town of today, leaving a fascinating architectural mix in its wake.
Kemp Town began life as an upmarket estate developed by Thomas Read Kemp in 1823, completed in 1855. Kemp built the estate to provide high-class housing for affluent society members wanting homes near the Prince of Wales’ seaside palace. The estate consisted of grand houses in Arundel Terrace, Chichester Terrace, Lewes Crescent and Sussex Square, the latter boasting a number of famous residents over the years including Lewis Carroll who frequently stayed with his sister at No 11, and the actress Dame Anna Neagle.
Lewes Crescent, together with Sussex Square, is larger than London’s Grosvenor Square and the crescent is the biggest in Britain with a diameter two hundred feet greater than Bath Royal Crescent. Kemp's original estate remains one of the finest examples of Regency architecture in the country.
Ironically, the completion of this grand project coincided with the beginning of a general decline of the entire Brighton area throughout the late nineteenth century. Many of the larger houses on the Kemp Town estate progressively emptied because of huge overheads and a dwindling economy. In 1903, Lord Rendell pioneered the trend of buying large houses and converting them into flats, by purchasing twenty houses in Sussex Square. Today there are many beautiful mansion apartments in the Grand Squares overlooking the sea.
One of Brighton and Hove's architectural gems, Kemp Town offers a diverse range of properties from the bijou to the ultra-grand, which makes the area very popular with young professionals as well as families. Much of the housing is slightly later but still of the Regency style, although there is also Victorian architecture and more modern buildings. Conversions of grand Regency buildings into apartments and bars has provided Kemp Town with some distinctive properties; one club being housed within the Sassoon Mausoleum, former burial chamber of Edward Sassoon! Royal Crescent has a special place in Kemp Town's history as it was the first terrace built facing the sea. It is one of Brighton's most prestigious crescents and the actor Lord Olivier and his family lived there from 1961 until 1987.
Kemp Town has been the main shopping area in this part of Brighton since the late 18th century, reflected in the many independent businesses still thriving. From long established names to recent gems you can buy anything from a tiara for a pet poodle to an oriental carpet or homemade sausages to a portrait in oils. The noteworthy commercial streets of Kemp Town village are St. James's Street, the main thoroughfare from Brighton to Kemp Town proper, and St Georges Road. Here there are supermarkets and many independent food stores including one of Brighton's few independent butchers. Fresh fruit and vegetables are always available as are freshly baked bread and cakes.
Social life within Kemp Town is rich and varied being home to some of the best bars and restaurants in town as well as the city’s thriving ‘gay’ quarter. The Ranelagh, Brighton's best-kept secret pub, presents live Blues most Sunday nights and the unique Laughing Onion, almost invisible behind its apparently closed exterior and with its interior trapped in 1950s Paris, opens its doors one Saturday a month, serving food and entertainment courtesy of Parisian chanteur, Jean-Jacques Jordane. The whole area is rich in community spirit even holding its very own annual Carnival. Beautiful green spaces and parks are easily accessible on the outskirts of the village to the north and east and of course the sea and all it offers in the way of leisure, sport and scenic walks is minutes away.
Communication links to the city centre and areas east and west of Kemp Town are excellent with a number of bus routes servicing the region. The A259 runs along the coast joining east to west and access to the A23 and London by car is quick and easy. Brighton main line station to Gatwick and the Capital is a short walk or bus ride away and the quirky Volk's Electric Railway passes the area along the beach.
As for amenities, two of the world’s most famous private schools are in the locality, Brighton College and Roedean; the Royal Sussex County hospital is located along Eastern Road and there are many medical practices and dentists of repute in the area.
Steeped in rich, exciting history juxtaposed with modern 21st century living, there is something in Kemp Town for everyone.
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