Brighton Vat

Old Ship Hotel, 31-38 Kings Road, Brighton.

Monsoon F. S. Sharpe.


Brighton Vat 5

Photograph made available by Sussex On Line Parish Clerks.

The Old Ship is claimed to be the oldest hotel in Brighton. Its origins are said to date from the mid 17th century when it was situated at the end of Ship Street, which took its name from the Inn. However, it possibly began life as a private residence, dating from as early as 1559. Its name is thought to have derived from the use of ships’ timbers used in much of the early construction.

The building has acquired many additions over the years. Major development occurred in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when Brighton prospered as a fashionable seaside town and health resort. Today, the hotel’s Victorian facade bears little resemblance to the original structure. The hotel was, for a time, a place of great importance, housing meetings for the town’s commissioners. It has also been frequented by nobility.

In the mid 18th century a huge ninety foot long ballroom was added with spectators’ and musicians’ galleries. Within the hotel is a plaque to one of its most celebrated guests; the famous violinist Niccolo Paganini, who played in the ballroom in 1831. The hotel has also had notable literary references in William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair and in Old Court by William Harrison Ainsworth.

in 1930 the Veteran Car Club was formed at the Old Ship Hotel . The rally, which has never been a race, was then made an annual event with only cars of 1905 or earlier eligible. It is run on the first Sunday in November.