Brighton boasted its seafront celebrities, mainly stage actors, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They included Lord Olivier, Dame Anna Neagle and Sir John Clements.

But there was an earlier group of well-known personalities in the town from the 1950s onwards who were almost as famous.

Many of them were gay and were drawn to Brighton because it was a tolerant town. That mattered a lot because homosexual acts were against the law.

Noisiest of them all was Gilbert Harding, often called the rudest man in Britain and the first real TV personality Harding took part in quiz shows such as What’s My Line?

He also appeared on radio and chaired Twenty Questions.

Harding never actually came out - it would have been foolish to have done so – but in a celebrated interview by John Freeman, he all but admitted it.

The TV interview, screened shortly before he died, revealed a softer side to this often acerbic character.

But in Brighton he was a popular figure in pubs and at the Theatre Royal where he often watched plays.

Some of these dramas were written by Sir Terence Rattigan who lived in Kemp Town and enjoyed the slightly camp atmosphere this area already possessed.

Rattigan was a highly skilled but conventional writer who was eclipsed towards the end of his life by a new wave of dramatists such as John Osborne who specialised in gritty realism.

But while Rattigan’s work is now often revived, the same cannot be said for many of the kitchen sink playwrights.

Alan Melville was a witty writer who lived for many years in Clifton Terrace and then Victoria Street, Brighton.

He wrote plays, lyrics for musicals and later appeared in one-man shows on both radio and television which were immensely popular.

It was an open secret that Melville was gay and he was fond of sending himself up but his fame did not long survive his death in 1983 and few have heard of him now.

Hector Bolitho, another writer, lived with his partner Derek Peel for many years in St Nicholas Road where they had many friends.

Bolitho was a biographer of note and his book on Prince Albert was widely acclaimed. He also wrote plays and reviewed others. Peel cared for him in later life when his health was poor.

One of those friends was Robin Maugham, a flamboyant figure who lived nearly. He was the nephew of the novelist Somerset Maugham and wrote a book about him.

In later years Maugham became more famous for his outrageous behaviour and his drinks parties than for his writing but his witty conversation and generosity were legendary.

The greatest survivor of this set was Douglas Byng who was 94 when he died in 1987. A former lover of Noel Coward, he was an actor, pantomime dame and cabaret performer.

Byng, whose stage career lasted 72 years, lived in Arundel Terrace and was outrageous to the end, having seen Brighton become Britain’s leading gay resort.