Notorious Women of Brighton

For so long the history books have been written by men and about men, and Royal Pavilion guide Louise Preskett aims to correct this imbalance with a 90 minute amble through Brighton sharing stories about the pioneering women in this 'golden triangle of women's history'.

The stories are as rich and diverse as Brighton remains today.

The tour begins outside St. Nicholas church in central Brighton, where, on this particular Sunday, the sun was out and the bells were ringing. It was the perfect day to celebrate some fantastically eccentric historical figures.

The first stop was at Martha Gunn's grave. Gunn is one of Brighton's best-known characters and a famous dipper – someone who helped women bathers in and out of the sea - and her legacy lives on in several businesses still running in Brighton today. From helping to put Brighton on the map as a sea bathing health resort (thank God the NHS doesn't prescribe drinking two pints of seawater with milk) to being depicted single-handedly saving the English from a French invasion with a mop, using the larger-than-life Martha Gunn as the opening act for the tour certainly set you up for the kind of mad, swashbuckling stories you were going to hear for the next hour and a half. Another notable visit is made to the grave of Phoebe Hessel, a woman who served in the 5th Regiment of Foot for 17 years and lived to over 100 years old. From there, Preskett takes you through the Lanes and to the battered Hippodrome where so many famous faces graced the stage, to the Pavilion and Theatre Royal. Without wanting to completely divulge every fascinating fact from the tour, stories touch upon everything from a woman who brought Russian literature to English-speaking readers, Black history being made in law and on the silver screen, cunning Suffragettes and far from sweet chocolate box poisonings. The stories are as rich and diverse as Brighton remains today.

Preskett creates a relaxed atmosphere throughout the tour, and her vast knowledge of and passion for the city and gentle humour make even the most disturbing stories engaging. While it is a real joy to hear these stories about the visionary female figures of the city, it did disappoint me to realise I had lived in Brighton for 25 years without knowing anything of many of these women. Surely the local schools (I had no idea I had been walking past Mount Everest's namesake in my school's churchyard for ten years, for example) should be making more of these brilliant historical figures in their curriculum.

The tour was fascinating from start to finish and Preskett, who also runs tours in Kemptown and Hove, is a brilliant guide and storyteller, with her passion for her subject plain to see.

Reviews by Lois Zoppi

One Church Brighton

Clean! The Musical

Sweet Werks 2

Good Grief

Sweet Werks 1

The Hunters of Ghost Hall

Middle Street Synagogue

Middle Street Synagogue Open Days

MEET: Outside Old Ship Hotel

The Subversive Sussex Walk


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

Wilful princesses, music hall stars, headstrong courtesans, acrobats and entrepreneurs, Brighton has always attracted women who dare to do things differently. Hear some of their stories and other female claims to fame on this gentle stroll.

Most Popular See More

Grease the Musical

From £20.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Back to the Future - The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Come From Away

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets