Brighton Blockhouse

Has been described as a Certain Artillery Fort

There are no visible remains

NameBrighton Blockhouse
Alternative NamesMiddle Street
Historic CountrySussex
Modern AuthorityBrighton and Hove; City of
1974 AuthorityEast Sussex
Civil ParishBrighton

The town's chief defence, the Block-house, was not built till 1559, when the lords of the manor granted to the inhabitants of the town a piece of land, measuring 30 ft. × 16 ft., on which to build a storehouse for arms. (Add. MS. 5683, fol. 57) Its site was on the cliff near the southern end of Middle Street. At the same time fortifications were erected, which in 1730 consisted of 'four strong gates (From east to west, they were known as the East, Portal, Middle, and West gates) of free stone and arches, three of them very copious, being 12 or 13 ft. high, but the most notable of them was the East Gate to which (is) joyn'd a Wall 14 or 16 Foot high, extending about 400 foot to Westward. There is also another Wall 3 foot thick facing the Sea, and in it are many Port holes for Cannon. About 250 feet to the West end of the wall stands the Town hall (on the East of which is the Market House); it is a very strong Aedifice in the form of a circumference, built in stone, and 7 or 8 feet thick and about 18 foot high, and 50 in Diameter. The Hall is about 30 foot broad and under it is a Dungeon. It faces the Sea, and in its Walls are several arched rooms, where the Magazines are kept. Before it near the Sea is the Gun-Garden, capacious enough for 4 Cannon. This Hall stands in the Middle Front of the Town, and upon the Roof is a Turret, in which stands the Town Clock.' ( Magna Britannia, v, 510).

In 1580 the Town-house stood on the eastern side of the Block-house and their proximity perhaps accounts for the confusion in the names of the two buildings in the account of 1730. At the earlier date the armament consisted of four great cannon, sent from the Tower of London, besides two belonging to the inhabitants and ten callivers, with the necessary ammunition. (Add. MS. 5700, fol. 73 d.) After the under-cliff had been washed away, the sea undermined the foundations of the Block-house, part of which fell down in 1748

(Grose, iii.) Its ruins are shown in an engraving published in 1773, standing at the extreme edge of the cliff. The town wall had completely disappeared, and as early as 1726 it had been necessary to guard the edge of the cliff with a paling. (J. G. Bishop, op. cit. 7). (VCH 1940)

Gatehouse Comments

The rest of the blockhouse had probably been lost to coastal erosion by the early C19 and the associated town wall, running along the cliff top, appears to have been lost by the time S. Cooper drew the remains of the blockhouse.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTQ309039
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  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 157 (mentioned as town defence)
  • Brown, Martin, 2003, 'War and Rumour of War: The Defence of Sussex 1530-1990' in Rudling, D. (ed) The archaeology of Sussex to AD2000 (Great Dunham: Heritage Marketing and Publications) p. 191-202
  • Salter, Mike, 2000, The Castles of Sussex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 31
  • Carder, T., 1990, The Encyclopaedia of Brighton (Lewes: East Sussex County Council)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 475 (reject as Henrician)
  • Jamison, C., 1940, VCH Sussex Vol. 7 p. 245-6 online transcription
  • Bishop, J.G., 1895, A peep into the Past: Brighton in 1744-61
  • Horsfield, T.W., 1835, ‪The history, antiquities, and topography of the county of Sussex‬ (Lewes) Vol. 1 p. 119-22 online copy
  • Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 5 p. 141-2 (as Henrician) online copy

Primary Sources

  • Add. MS. 5683, fol. 57
  • Add. MS. 5700, fol. 73 d.


  • Harris, R.B., March 2007, Brighton & Hove Historic Character Assessment Report: Sussex Extensive Urban Survey Download copy