The James Gray Collection


James Gray spent his working life in insurance but his real passion was for the streets of Brighton and Hove.

His vast collection of topographical pictures began in the 1950s with the chance acquisition of a few images showing the Western Road. From then on, he bought, swapped and commissioned a huge range of views of the city and beyond.

After his death in 1998, the Regency Society was lucky to buy the collection, which offers a unique photographic record and provides invaluable insight into the way we were, what we wore, how we enjoyed ourselves, how we shopped and more.

The 39 volumes of the James Gray Collection, containing around 7,500 annotated photographs, have now been digitised. They have been sub-divided by area, so it’s easier for you to see how places and people have changed over time.

We will be featuring a selection of images from the collection every month and building a library of photographs contrasting the historic pictures with the same places in the 21st century.

For a fuller description of the James Gray Collection and to see what areas it covers, download this pdf.

Brighton then...


Top row, l to r:
• The Chain Pier, taken in 1852. This was the world's first pleasure pier, situated opposite Marine Parade a little east of the New Steine. It opened in 1823 and was finally destroyed by a storm in December 1896.
• Stalls selling shellfish and ice cream on the seafront at the foot of West Street, next to the rotunda. The image dates from c1900.
• The west side of West Street in 1878, showing pubs and a restaurant that advertises its coffee.

Bottom row, l to r:
• Brighton racecourse on Easter Monday 1861 during Eastern Volunteers Day. The stand was built in the mid-19th century, replacing an earlier wooden building.
• Brighton's first motor bus. The service was launched in December 1902 and ran from Castle Square to Sackville Road (Hove Street). The fare was a mere 2d – less than a penny in today's money.
• Western Road, 1910. This shows the north side between Crown Street and Marlborough Street.

For more information and thousands more images, visit the James Gray Collection.

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