Old photographs and topographic prints of Brighton, Hove and the surrounding areas in Sussex.

Photographs

Fishermen on Brighton Beach by Edward Fox Jnr, early 1860s. Sepia photograph showing three fishermen standing by a capstan.
Fishermen on Brighton Beach by Edward Fox Jnr, early 1860s

Our photographic collection ranges from seaside postcards to studio portraits and provides a fascinating record of Brighton’s history.

The collection includes more than 100,000 individual images as a variety of photographic media. These include negatives, prints, magic lantern slides, and 35mm slides. It also includes thousands of postcards, many of which date from the Edwardian era.

Highlights of the collection include: 

• Architectural views from the late 1920s to the early 1970s
• Examples of the work of local Victorian studio photographers
• Postcards written by visitors to the town

Although concentrated on views of Brighton, the photographic collections also document some fascinating episodes in the city’s history, such as the Royal Pavilion’s use as a military hospital during the First World War.

The collections also contain some unusual curiosities,such as a unique collection of spirit photographs by the famous 19th century medium, William Eglinton.

Topographic Prints

Topographic prints are etchings or engravings which show landscapes or buildings. Although our prints are formally part of our Fine Art collection, they show how Brighton and Hove looked in the days before photography. Together the topographic print and photography collections provide a visual record of the town spanning over 200 years.

The earliest engraved view of Brighton is Lambert’s ‘Perspective View of Brighton’ dating from 1765.

Lambert's Perspective View of Brighthelmston and of the Sea Cost as far as the Isle of Wight, 1765
Lambert’s Perspective View of Brighthelmston and of the Sea Cost as far as the Isle of Wight, 1765

As Brighton grew to become Britain’s largest seaside resort, many such prints were produced to show the changing town. The majority of our topographic prints date from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, before outdoor photography became more popular in the late 1870s.

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