Kemptown Secret Garden

Brighton, England

Kempton Secret Garden in Brighton is a hidden sculpture garden in the middle of the city.

Discover Kemptown Secret Garden in Brighton

Once known as No.32 Sussex Square, Kemptown Secret Garden has a rich history dating back to 1840 when it had a resident with connections to the Prime Minister. Initially, the Secret Garden was part of the prestigious Kemptown Estate, home to Brighton's high society. It was graced with magnificent residences like those found in Lewes Crescent and Sussex Square.

While many of these grand homes have since been converted into flats, the plot of land at No.32 has been transformed into a secret sculpture garden. Today it is the perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon away from the city's hustle and bustle.

In this serene hideaway, visitors can admire both the sculptures and the surrounding flora, from towering ferns and colourful wildflowers to fruit trees, including apple, mulberry, quince, and medlar. The garden also provides a secure setting for outdoor art installations, and there are guided walks and tours on offer.

Access to the Secret Garden, previously limited to one-off events or Heritage Open Days, has expanded to include an annual summer exhibition, offering free admission to visitors. The garden's entrance, once accessed through a tunnel, is now marked by a large wooden gate in Bristol Gardens.

Creating a Secret Garden in Kemptown

Kemptown itself is a blend of historic architecture, vibrant village shops, and a lively LGBTQ culture along St James’s Street. The Secret Garden, at the very centre is attributed to the ingenuity of William Ranger, a Regency inventor and builder.

It was originally built as a private retreat for Prime Minister Robert Peel’s brother, Laurence Peel. Today, it is an example of Ranger's innovative use of artificial stone and remains the sole surviving example of its kind in the city.

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Recently, the significance of Ranger's creation was formally recognised by English Heritage, with the Secret Garden being awarded grade II listed status. This designation ensures the garden's safeguarding for generations to come.

Under the meticulous care of resident gardener Nick Dwyer, the once simple lawn has undergone a remarkable transformation, growing to three times its original size! Positioned against the west flint wall, a covered area provides the perfect setting for gatherings, while a bench from the West Pier offers a nostalgic touch.

Preserving Kemptown Secret Garden

The preservation of Kemptown Secret Garden is owed to the foresight and dedication of individuals like Dr. Anthony Dale and his late wife, Yvonne, who purchased the property in the 1950s to safeguard it from development.

Their vision, along with that of Gavin Henderson CBE, former artistic director of Brighton Festival and chairman of the Regency Society, resulted in the establishment of a sculpture park governed by a board of trustees.

Upon the Dales' demise, the garden became governed by this Trust known as the Anthony Dale Sculpture Foundation, a registered UK charity founded by Yvonne Dale following Anthony's passing.

The foundation aims to promote sculpture craftsmanship and community engagement through exhibitions and events held within the garden. Some of the artwork hosted in temporary exhibitions at the Secret Garden includes pieces from renowned sculptors such as David Breuer-Weil.

These collective preservation efforts have ensured that the Secret Garden in Kemptown not only endured but thrived as a beloved arts venue for the community.

Other things to do in Kemptown

Beyond the sculptures, greenery, and peace and quiet, a visit to the Secret Garden in Kemptown allows the opportunity to indulge in an array of other nearby activities.

Hidden Kemptown Walk

This is a self-guided walking tour which commences near Lewes Crescent, takes you through Kemptown Estate and up towards Eastern Road. Wander leisurely westward, concluding your adventure at Brighton’s quaintest tea room tucked away off St James’s Street. Veer off course to uncover the enchanting pastel-coloured Millfield Cottages, known as a 'twitten'.

Beach Box Sauna Spa

Welcome to the ultimate relaxing experience. The Beach Box Sauna Spa allows its guests a one-of-a-kind experience where they bathe outdoors surrounded by the beach and a picturesque view of the Palace Pier.

Accredited by the esteemed Swedish Sauna Academy, visitors can treat themselves to the therapeutic warmth of three wood-fired saunas, including two ingeniously housed within converted horse boxes.

A Night of Cabaret… in a Tomb

At the eastern edge of Kemptown village is an ornate Oriental-style edifice complete with a pagoda that was formerly a mausoleum constructed by a prosperous Brighton entrepreneur. This pagoda now serves as the backdrop for Proud Cabaret. So buckle up for a night of good food and entertainment in the confines of a Grade II-listed former grave. Or partake in the lively Drag Brunch held every Saturday and Sunday.

Brighton Flea Market

The Brighton Flea Market is a treasure trove of vintage finds. With its vibrant pink façade and eye-catching neon sign, this eclectic market offers a serene browsing experience across two floors. From antique glassware to retro bookcases, discover an array of unique collectibles. Or it is possible to explore its sister flea market in Lewes.

Kemptown Bookshop

The Kemptown Bookshop, established in 1976, is Brighton's oldest bookstore. Housed within a quaint Regency townhouse, perusing its shelves feels akin to a cosy home visit. Spread across three floors the bookstore is bursting with new releases, delightful gifts, and a tranquil space on the top floor for aspiring writers.

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