The people of Brighton and Hove were deeply shocked by the loss of ‘Titanic’ and a number of benefit concerts were held to provide aid for the widows and their children of those who had drowned.
Billy Boardman, famous showman of the Brighton Hippodrome, held a variety show to raise funds. A ‘number of society ladies took the collection’, amongst whom was the Polish Princess, Irene de Aveirino Wiszniewska, who ‘was elegant in black with flowing sleeves of pastel blue chiffon’. Alfred G Vanderbilt, owner (and sometimes driver) of the horse drawn coach ‘Venture’, which ran for a number of years from London to Brighton, was also in the audience. Ironically, he was to drown when the liner ‘Lusitania’, on which he was travelling, was sunk by a German U-boat in 1915.
A large concert was also held at the Dome on behalf of the Titanic Relief Fund on 17 May and included many of the town’s musicians and vocalists, among whom was Madame Lillian Ginnett who had married into the famous circus family.
Brighton Society (2 May 1912) reported :
‘On behalf of the Lord Mayor of London’s Titanic fund, the 4th Brighton Troop of Boy Scouts turned out with collecting boxes. The band paraded along King’s Road making a splendid noise … the big drum and bugles attracting great attention’.
Church services were also held in Brighton and Hove. St. Peter’s, Brighton’s Parish Church, was reported to be ‘packed to overflowing’. Among the congregation was the Mayor, Alderman Charles Thomas-Stanford. Handel’s ‘ Dead March from Saul concluded a very impressive service. £72 was collected’. A service was also held at St. John’s Church in Hove attended by the Mayor, Alderman Barnett Marks. Just over £46 was handed over to the Mayor’s fund.
There appear to be few Brightonians with direct links to the sinking of the ship.
The Argus reported that David Reeves, a second class passenger on the ‘Titanic’, was ‘widely known in the building trade in Brighton’. The ship’s passenger list described him as a carpenter and joiner. He was amongst those drowned.
Amongst the crew lost was a George Frederick Turner or George Frederick Taylor, born in Brighton in 1880 (There is some confusion about his true name). If the surname was Taylor, he might be George Taylor whose father ran a lodging house at 16 Cannon Place, Brighton. By the time of the 1901 census this George Taylor was listed as a ‘draper’s clerk’ at the store of Peter Robinson in London. In the 1911 census he was again listed as a draper’s clerk. The George Taylor on the crew of the Titanic was employed as a stenographer and did not survive the sinking. Although a G F Turner, of Brighton, is mentioned in the local press as being drowned, there seems to be no further mention of him or his family in the following weeks.
More fortunate were Brighton brothers Charles and Alexander Thomas whose family lived at 42 Portland Street. They had signed up to be tailors on the ‘Titanic’ but misread the sailing date and thereby missed the departure of the ship.
As part of the Brighton Fringe Festival, events will be taking part at Brighton Town Hall to mark the centenary of the sinking of the ‘Titanic’.
Paul Jordan, Senior History Centre Officer