When I hear the word Brighton, I immediately think of the East Sussex town that I grew up loving. Memories of ice creams on the beach, dragging reluctant friends onto the pier’s rides and wandering around North Laine all come to mind.
But with around 50 towns and communities worldwide also called Brighton, chances are the name will spark thoughts of a different place to people around the globe.
What follows is a selection of those other Brightons – and a taste of the memories the name may inspire.
Brighton, Victoria, Australia
A tourist to the Melbourne seaside suburb of Brighton would most likely remember it for the iconic brightly coloured bathing boxes that line the beach. Records of the bathing boxes go back to the 1860s, with their construction probably motivated by concerns to preserve public decency. Today, residents of Bayside City, of which Brighton is a part, can obtain an annual licence for a bathing box. They can also be hired out for events or weddings.
Brighton was founded by Englishman Henry Dendy in the 1840s and is now home to around 20,000 people. With its beach, public golf course and wealth of cafes and restaurants, it has a lot to offer to inhabitants and tourists alike.
“The atmosphere here is fantastic.” said Brighton resident Sophee Smith. “It is so old school…Pedestrian crossings are not necessary as locals just stop and let you cross the road.
“If you feel like a coffee or meal on the beach, you can go to Brighton Baths. They have a boardwalk along the beach so you can soak up the glorious autumn sunsets. It is close to the city but you feel a million miles away.”
Brighton, Vermont, USA
The Vermont town changed its name to Brighton in 1832 after residents decided the previous name, ‘Random’, was doing nothing to attract settlers or business.
It now has around 1,300 residents, most of which live in the Island Pond area.
A big attraction is Brighton State Park, with its beautiful lakes and mountains. Visitors can go walking, fishing, canoeing or relax on the sandy beach at Island Pond. In winter, the area is known as the ‘Snowmobile capital of Vermont’, with miles of trails for enthusiasts to explore.
New Brighton, Canterbury, New Zealand
The Christchurch suburb boasts that it has the largest oceanic pier in Australasia. The structure is 300m long, six metres wide and stands seven metres above high tide. The suburb also has New Zealand’s oldest surf lifesaving club, which was established in 1910.
New Brighton is further notable in that it was from the 1960s until the 1980s, the only place in New Zealand where Saturday trading was allowed.
Rebecca Nolan, who grew up in Christchurch, said: “New Brighton had that small community feel about it and there is always something to do.
“You can’t beat a hot summer’s day in New Brighton (as long as there is no easterly wind), sitting on the beach eating an ice cream. There are the surfers enjoying the waves, groups playing beach cricket, rugby and frisbee and sun-seekers enjoying the sun.”
The community feeling that Rebecca refers to was evident in the aftermath of the devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Christchurch on February 22, 2011. The suburb’s Grace Vineyard Church set up a distribution and care centre to provide people with vital supplies including clean drinking water, food and toiletries. They also sent volunteers out to help vulnerable people in their homes.
A spokesperson from the Church said: “We are getting huge help from the New Brighton Police, Civil Defence, the NZ Army, the City Council, different church groups and other volunteers.”
As Shanta Webb, a beneficiary of the Church’s assistance, told the New Zealand Press Association: “The support from the community is amazing.”
Their community spirit is inspiring and something that the people of New Brighton can justifiably be proud of.
Brighton, Ontario, Canada
Brighton is situated on Lake Ontario, one of the five Great Lakes of North America, and has a population of around 10,200 people. The town prides itself on its small town charm, quaint bed and breakfasts and unique bird-watching opportunities.
It is known as the ‘Gateway to Presqu’ile Park’. The park is located on a spit of limestone and sand which juts out from Brighton into Lake Ontario. It attracts birdwatchers and butterfly lovers, with over 333 species of bird and 67 species of butterflies having been seen there.
Brighton’s Applefest is an annual celebration of the apple harvest held since 1975. The event is another tourist draw for the town, with highlights including a street fair with over 150 vendors, a parade and a car show.
Brightons around the world
Looking at the communities above, colour and natural beauty appear to be hallmarks of Brightons worldwide. Personally, I find it difficult to imagine that any of them could beat the Brighton of my childhood. Still, I would like to visit them all to discover which would be my second best…it looks like a world tour of Brightons has become yet another addition to my list of travel plans.