THE BOOK OF BRIGHTON AS IT WAS & AS IT IS by Chas H Ross (Queenspark Books, £10.99 + p&p; queensparkbooks. org.uk) SUSSEX INDUSTRIAL HERITAGE
An author’s note proclaims that “this book is not intended to be quite exactly a guide to Brighton... I can hardly tell what it is supposed to be, but of one thing I do feel quite certain – you ought to buy it.”
These words were printed in 1881, and taken seriously by Queenspark Books, who have produced a facsimile of this witty take on Brighton, complete with advertisements and illustrations.
Writer and cartoonist Chas Henry Ross pays tribute to historians before him and retells many famous Brighton tales, but it is his own Victorian view of local characters, places and habits which make this book so entertaining. Whether positing that “shingle is somewhat uncongenial to the toe” or describing the Royal Pavilion’s “cold bare rooms”, his thoughts are as readable now as then. With its shapely Downs, river valleys and breezy coastline, Sussex is rightly celebrated as a place of rural beauty and coastal charm. But it has a significant heritage of industrial activity, too.
While the county was never in “the vanguard of industrial progress”, says author Colin Tyson, the old craft industries flourished, until changing economic realities saw their gradual decline. Now, he argues, Britain is “firmly in a post-industrial phase” and links with the working lives of our ancestors are distant.
That’s why this splendid book is so valuable, not only for its detailed recollections of Sussex industries past, but also for its magnificent collection of photographs showing surviving and accessible industrial sites – from malthouses to watermills, chalk quarries to brickworks, workshops to warehouses, and many more.