AN ARCHIVIST at The Keep historical records centre in Brighton has sifted through thousands of photographs, letters and images in a bid to find 100 items that shed light on the history of the city.

Andrew Bennett’s selection spans hundreds of years, from the earliest document – a property deed from Aldrington dating from the late fourteenth century – to the i360 media pack from 2016.

Today we look at some of the historic documents that Andrew has chosen about the city from the collection. He will be showcasing one item from the collection each week on Twitter for the next two years. You can follow his updates @TheKeepArchives. 

The Argus:

The oldest document in the collection is the grant of a tenement in Aldrington called Reynestenement, from John Hardyng and his wife Isabel to Robert Hardyng.

It is dated May 24 1394, it is thought to be the oldest document housed at The Keep relating directly to land now in Brighton and Hove.

Andrew said: “There are many other documents of this nature in the archive, but this is the oldest we have. It’s written in Latin in pen and ink on vellum, made from stretched calf skin. It details the transfer of a grant giving someone the rights to stay in a property. 

The Argus:

This is the 1983 FA cup final edition of The Argus. The monumental match at Wembley Stadium went to a replay after Brighton and Hove Albion secured a 2-2 draw. Manchester United won the second game 4-0.

The Argus archives are housed at The Keep, and readers come from far and wide to consult them. As Andrew explained, it’s not just the big headlines they’re looking for.

He said: “We don’t have a hundred per cent coverage, but we’ve got a very good Argus archive here.

"What is interesting to one person might not be to anyone else. You’d think people would come to look at big stories, like the Brighton hotel bombing. 

“But in most cases, people are coming for personal stories. They might be looking for stories about their family, the history of the house they live in, or a picture of their auntie who won a baking competition in 1986. That’s the beauty of it. There’s something for everyone.”

The Argus:

This is an artist’s impression of a proposed conference hall and offices to be built in Brighton’s Pavilion Gardens in 1955.

Andrew said: “It would have been pretty much where the Pavilion Cafe stands now. 
“It was an idea submitted to Brighton borough council for a conference facility in the town. It was turned down eventually. Some might say it was a lucky escape. Others might have loved it.

“In the archive we’ve got a lot of plans for the town that were submitted but never built. They offer an alternate history and an insight into what might have happened in Brighton.

“For example, in the early 1970s, a design for a road scheme was put forward. It proposed building a dual carriageway right through North Lane. I think everyone is glad the four-lane flyover didn’t materialise.

“Other documents coming up in this series include plans in the mid-1960s for a ‘sky deck’, a huge viewing tower on the end of a pier at the bottom end of West Street. It sounds familiar. The i360 is not a new concept.”

The Argus:

This is a 1916 recruitment poster for female munition workers. The poster urges women from Brighton to work at a factory in London.

Andrew said: “Munitions workers were in huge demand during the First World War. This advertisement for a factory in West London was displayed in Brighton, which had its own factories too.

“The women working in these places were priming shells and manufacturing armaments to be shipped off to the Western Front. We don’t have many of these posters at The Keep, and I think this is a one off.”

The poster claims the work was “easy”, but Andrew explained it was high-risk. Women working in munitions factories were targeted by enemy bombs, and in danger of contracting fatal diseases and being stained yellow by toxic chemicals. Children born to affected women were even born with bright yellow skin. 


The Argus:

This is a book of condolence produced after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Ten of these books were placed around the city for the public to record their tributes.

Andrew said: “I think we hold all ten of them in the archives. The messages people wrote are what you’d expect. They express grief and respect for Diana.

“The book reflects the national mood at the time: one of shock and grief. What’s interesting is the way it represents a cross-section of people. There are entries written by children, families, and people from France, Poland and America. It shows this moment was international as well as local.”

The Argus:

This map of Brighton shows where bombs were dropped during the Second World War. Andrew explained: “The majority of dots on the page illustrate where bombs fell.

“But the map also shows anti-aircraft installations and where enemy planes landed.

“It’s a reminder of how the war affected people from Brighton and Hove. It had a huge affect on their daily lives.

“There was one notorious raid on Kemp Town where children were among those killed as they went to the pictures at a cinema on a Saturday morning. It was a direct hit.

“Brighton may not have been flattened like Coventry or Plymouth, but life was still difficult for people in the city.

“The map also shows where other bombs fell, so you can see how streets and buildings were affected.

“Your street may well look the way it does because bombs fell on it during the Second World War, and this map illustrates that.”

The Argus:

This is a diagram of the execution of Edward Cook and Samuel Parish, privates in the Oxfordshire Militia, at Goldstone Bottom, Hove, in 1795.

Militia were reserve military forces, and every English county was expected to raise one – primarily to defend against a possible French invasion. They would also be drafted in to crush any civilian uprisings, which the British government feared at at time when revolution was raging across the channel.

Andrew said the document is one of a kind. “I’ve never seen another, and I doubt there’s anything else in the world that gives this kind of information about this particular incident.

“The items we hold here are by and large unique. Most of these are not published. If something were stolen or destroyed, that bit of history would be lost forever.”

The Argus:

This is a pamphlet entitled ‘Warplan Brighton: the truth about local civil defence’, produced by the Brighton and Hove branch of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, c1984.

Andrew said:”This gives an alternative view to the government’s Protect and Survive public information campaign, which offered guidance on how to survive a nuclear attack.

“It outlined what would happen in much franker terms if there was an attack on London or Newhaven port, which could have been targeted. It didn’t offer such a positive outlook on people’s chances of surviving.”

Andrew said he had included this document because for many in Brighton, the memory of the Cold War is still fresh. He said: “Lots of people can remember the times when the threat of nuclear attack was ever-present. I’m one of them.”