Heritage Category:
Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

The City of Brighton and Hove (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 31458 03878



TQ3103NW MADEIRA DRIVE 577-1/46/411 (North side) 20/08/71 The Brighton Aquarium and attached walls, piers, railings and lamps (Formerly Listed as: MADEIRA DRIVE The Aquarium)


Aquarium. 1869-1872, extended 1874-76, designed and engineered by Eugenius Birch; the exterior completely rebuilt 1927-1929 by the borough engineer, David Edwards. The exterior is of artificial stone cast to resemble coursed ashlaring; Regency Revival style. The interior is of brick and cement walls, with brick webbing to rib vaults; columns of polished granite with capitals of sandstone and marble; most of the materials have been painted. High Victorian Gothic style. EXTERIOR: the exterior of the Aquarium dates from 1927-29. The main entrance is set in a sunken plaza reached by a broad flight of stairs. At the top of Madeira Drive these stairs are framed by 2 square kiosks, each with a curved metal roof. The main and side lobbies are reached through round-arched openings. The corner and side elevations are enclosed by a balustrade, which gradually becomes a balustraded and parapeted wall as more and more of the exterior is exposed by the fall of the site along the south elevation. On this elevation are broad entrances and stairs to the roof terrace, which has 2 levels. At the east end of the Madeira Drive range is a 7-bay elevation articulated by Tuscan pilasters, the broad end bays serving as entrances to the Dolphinarium; further east, the elevation becomes irregular and is given over to shops and restaurants. At its easternmost extent is a flight of stairs which divides, leading, on the left, to the upper roof terrace of the Aquarium, and, on the right, to the terrace of the Covered Walk, Madeira Drive (qv). INTERIOR: the interior dates from 1869-1872. From a large, aisled hall, rectangular in plan, run two 7 bay aisles on an east-west axis. At the far ends of these aisles are vestibules, or narthexes, of one bay in depth. Each aisle bay is, in fact, comprised of 2 square compartments, each of which is ceiled by a quadripartite rib vault. The vaulting supported by wall corbels and a pointed-arch arcade so that each of the aisles leading from the central hall is, in effect, a double aisle. The capitals of the arcade columns are carved with naturalistic forms and representations of sea life. The brick webbing to the bay vaults is laid diagonally to each rib; although most are painted, 2 unpainted cells survive in the 4 bay vestibule of the east narthex: bands of red and black brick intersect a ridge of white stone diamonds, all terminating in a central boss. Many of the latter are carved. The elevation of the aisle bays is identical: transverse pointed arches spring from chamfered wall piers with stepped stops; a projecting corbel supports a simply moulded cross rib; a segmental arch spans each bay and behind it is set a cast-iron tank; the tympanum above the arch consists of alternate courses of stone and brick pierced by a chamfered roundel. The large central hall is ringed by a continuous, rib-vaulted aisle and has a flat ceiling of 4 bays articulated by concrete beams. This hall originally housed Birch's 100,000 gallon tank, one of the largest display tanks then in existence. The original cast-iron tanks at the corners of the hall have been removed to provide increased access to display areas on the north and south. HISTORICAL NOTE: to the north, the steep rise of Marine Parade completely hides the low Aquarium building, which therefore has a front only to Madeira Drive; the only part of the complex visible from Marine Parade is a lift tower and entrance kiosk. To build the Aquarium it was necessary to construct a new promenade and sea wall; when completed the Aquarium stood on the main approach to the Chain Pier. In addition to marine displays, Birch, who was the engineer and designer of the West Pier (qv), also provided a reading room, restaurant, and a conservatory. By 1922 the complex had become vacant and narrowly avoided conversion into a bus garage. The 1927-29 remodelling added a broader range of attractions, including a concert hall, ballroom and bandstand. (Carder T: The Encyclopaedia of Brighton: Lewes: 1990-: 3).

Listing NGR: TQ3145803878


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Carder, T, Encyclopaedia of Brighton, (1990), 3


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 07 Aug 2005
Reference: IOE01/14542/20
Rights: Copyright IoE Miss Esther Harbour. Source Historic England Archive
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