Putting Kemptown under the microscope
23rd November 2017
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In the 1980s and '90s Kemptown languished, tatty and neglected. Today it's a vibrant, fun area full of exciting things to do, great food, excellent shops, varied entertainment and fascinating architecture as well as home to our city's lively gay scene.

Type 'restaurants in Kemptown' into Google and you'll discover at least seventy five eating places. The area is packed with great 'local' and contemporary pubs, places where locals and visitors can enjoy a wild time, a quiet pint and everything in between. There are countless independent shops selling everything from posh clothes to electrical equipment, jewellery to fine art and antiques. And when you deviate from the beaten shopping path there's some beautiful architecture to enjoy. 

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AKA The Village, it's also the hub of our city's gloriously over the top gay scene, which adds extra flavour to an already potent mix of artists, writers, performers, musicians, actors and the avant garde!

What's the history of Kemptown? A flint dagger dating back 250,000 years stakes the claim, highlighting the importance of the Neolithic camp up on Whitehawk Hill, a little-known archeaological treasure that overlooks the area.

The Romans came, saw, conquered, built roads and villas then finally buggered off again in about 457, followed by marauding Saxons in the seventh century. You can still see their traces today in the city's name: 'Brighton' actually means 'the town of Beorthelm'.

In 1808 a West Indian developer built the magnificent Royal Crescent, followed by Thomas Reed Kemp who built who built the new Kemp Town Estate in open countryside nearby: 106 smart homes in Arundel Terrace, Chichester Terrace, Lewes Crescent and glorious Sussex Square, completed in 1855. Kemp's creation remains one of Britain's finest examples of Regency architecture.

Kemptown saw the railway come and go. These days it lies stranded without a rail conection of its own. All that remains is the tunnel, the mouth of which you can clearly see from the Freshfield Industrial Estate.

Kemptown's gay community grew in leaps and bounds from the 1920s onwards and Brighton's reputation for dirty weekends grew too, as the divorce-hungry flocked here to be photographed by colluding landladies in grotty seaside B&Bs. And the area's artistic community grew alongside it.

Just twenty bombs fell on Kemptown during WW2 and it emerged afterwards, dusty and tatty but mostly undamaged, with the same feisty, artistic, underground spirit as before the war. As Brighton as a whole raised itself from the ashes, Kempton followed suit and soon became the smart place it is today, with all its charm and ecentricity intact.

What's your favourite place in Kemptown and why? We'd love to hear your stories in the comments below...

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Team at thebestof Brighton & Hove

Member since: 10th July 2012

Team at thebestof Brighton & Hove. Working hard to find out and showcase the best that the city has to offer... Events, Businesses and Organisations.

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