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Display of theatre posters.

Images of Brighton

Detail of portrait of Sake Dean Mahomed.

Dip into Brighton’s rich and diverse history. Explore its development from a medieval fishing town to a resort favoured by royalty, before becoming today’s tolerant, progressive city.

Step in to the Images of Brighton gallery and you’ll discover vibrant, themed displays tracing the history of our fascinating city. Once an important fishing town, Brighton reinvented itself to become a fashionable health and leisure resort and, after the arrival of the railways in the 19th century, a popular destination for day-trippers.


Detail of portrait of Sake Dean Mahomed.
Lambretta scooter with photo of mods and rockers in background.

Thriving sub-cultures

Known for its fine Regency architecture, flamboyant Royal Pavilion and Victorian pleasure piers, the town later developed a ‘naughty but nice’ identity, thanks to its nudist beaches and opportunities for a ‘dirty weekend’.

During the 20th century, its reputation for tolerance and its sub-culture of pubs and tea dances made Brighton one of the gay capitals of Europe. For a time in the 1960s, it was also characterised by violent clashes between mods and rockers on Bank Holiday weekends – an original Lambretta is the focal point of one display.

Using paintings and photographs, oral histories and exhibits from our collections, we explore these and other contrasting aspects of the city’s history, challenging perceptions and bringing stories to life. We highlight prominent local people, including Martha Gunn, the celebrated 18th century ‘dipper’ who assisted female bathers, and Minnie Turner, the Brighton-based suffragette whose Holloway brooch designed by Sylvia Pankhurst is on display in the gallery.

Nights to remember

Brighton has always been a place where people love to have fun, and our displays document grand Regency balls, 1920s dance halls and the modern club scene. Displays also feature programmes and flyers advertising entertainment on the piers, reminding us how previous generations might have spent their free time.

Lambretta scooter with photo of mods and rockers in background.