Brighton is and always has been a city of many facets. Throughout its history, it has worn a succession of different identities, introduced by the disparate groups of people who have come to know Brighton as home. This influx of culture, with all its artistic intricacies, has played a part in the creation of the city’s flourishing antiquities industry.
Far removed from the bustling, international business done in London, Brighton’s antiquity trade has a personal level, with a focus on community involvement and the combination of national and local history. All this contributes to Brighton’s status as a hidden hotspot for antique enthusiasts.
Despite the modern, sun-bleached aesthetic that has come to typify the Brighton of 21st century Britain, the town’s history stretches much farther back then its iron piers and whitewashed storefronts might suggest. There is evidence that prehistorical man has lived there since the dawn of time, with bronze age settlements and burial mounds found in the area. As the years progressed, it became a major site for the Roman Empire as one of their first outpost on Britannia, as the treasure troves of roman artefacts uncovered over the years show.
Developing and growing through the time of the successive Kings of England and then Great Britain, Brighton exploded in prominence during the Victorian Era thanks in part to the commonly held belief of the time that bathing in seawater, or “taking the cure”, was a remedy for illness and disease. The expansion of the railway network saw in develop yet again into one of the country’s first holiday destinations.
Since then it has gone from strength to strength. The influx of a younger, open-minded, vibrant workforce from London and the northern cities has buoyed Brighton’s growth as a contemporary city where modern art and music marry together with its rich history.
Art and antiquities have become two differently coloured sides of the same coin in Brighton. The flamboyant, explorative murals, street-art and boutique galleries of its art scene appear in stark contrast to the street-corner antique dealer shops and open-air flea markets. But, in truth, it is these differences that have allowed Brighton to develop such a unique identity. All tastes are accommodated, whether you’re looking to find the next Banksy at artrepublic or show your support for the community at Phoenix Gallery, the largest artists-led arts organisation in South East England, Brighton has something to suit everyone.
Its antiques scene, often overlooked, has flourished and endured throughout the many stages of the city’s history. The Lanes, a portion of the city that has existed in one form or another since the original settlement of Brighthelmstone, plays host to several beloved local antique shops. Some of which cater more to tourists in search of a quaint trinket to take home as a memento, but of greater importance is the abundance of professional dealers that cater to all manner of specialists and hobbyists.
Brighton’s antique dealers are among the most knowledgeable members of the industry outside of London, counting published authors and renowned collectors among their numbers. Forget home-clearances and second-hand knock offs; these businesses deal only in genuine treasure, featuring some of the rarest pieces and most delicate antique jewellery in the country.
Prominent names such as Sue Pearson, the Lanes Armoury and us here at Patrick Moorhead Antiques make homes and bases down the twisting streets and darkened back alleys of the Lanes, cultivating the area’s reputation with expertise and quality of merchandise. For novices and veterans of the craft alike, Brighton’s antiquities scene is one of the city’s unmissable highlights. If you’re visiting this vibrant area, make sure to check out these places and you’ll discover the town really is a hidden hotspot for antique enthusiasts.